Video Surveillance has its Eyes on Sustainability

Security and sustainability are two aspects of modern buildings that don’t often overlap. Security evades sustainability by being more important in many respects, protecting people and assets today, while sustainability protects them for the future.

However, as the number of video surveillance products in action proliferate rapidly, the environmental cost of such security has become a problem to be addressed.

Total global revenues for video surveillance equipment and software at factory gate prices, reached an estimated $30.4 billion in 2022, a healthy 4.5% growth rate. For the 6-year period between 2022-2028, the market is projected to expand at a 5.7% CAGR, reaching $44.8 billion by 2028. The sheer number of cameras attached to that kind of growth is starting to raise environmental concern across the video surveillance supply chain, according to our latest research.

“Manufacturing surveillance systems utilizes natural resources, often mined in unsustainable ways, as well as toxic materials like lead and mercury. The power consumption required to operate growing numbers of cameras, storage systems, and data centers represents a significant and growing energy demand,” explains our new Global Video Surveillance study. “Furthermore, disposal of obsolete video surveillance systems including cameras that have relatively short lifecycles adds to the electronic waste problem, with toxic materials leaching into landfills.”

Sustainable Video Surveillance Manufacturing

Leading video surveillance manufacturers are now beginning to make public sustainability commitments, such as supply chain transparency, green product design, and measurable corporate sustainability goals. Major Chinese video surveillance players Hikvision and Dahua, for example, now publish annual sustainability reports and have set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity and energy consumption.

Axis Communications, meanwhile, has a goal of cutting Scope 1 and 2 emissions 50% by 2030 and intends for new products to be brominated and chlorinated flame retardant-free by 2025.

Others, like Panasonic, Canon, Bosch now report on metrics like water usage, carbon emissions, and waste disposal, as well as addressing unsustainable packaging. As no single sustainability standard or certification process has taken hold for security, manufacturers have instead sought to certify their products with a wide range of general green programs.

“Manufacturers cite competitive and reputational pressures as motivators for pursuing sustainability certifications and ensuring ethical sourcing in Asia where most production takes place,” our new research report states. “However, increasing demands for ever higher resolution cameras, longer video retention, and growing reliance on cloud computing may undermine efficiency gains made in production and device power draws. More progress is still required to develop truly sustainable end-to-end surveillance solutions.”

Video Surveillance Sustainability

Sustainable Camera Operation

Efforts are being made to improve the energy efficiency of modern IP-based surveillance cameras versus older analog units. For example, Axis estimates that a single 8MP camera can replace up to six lower-resolution cameras, thereby reducing overall energy demands. Others have included low power modes during downtime as well as in introduction of renewable energy generation at the device level.

Sustainability also requires systems to be designed for maximum resilience and longevity. Device lifecycles can be extended using component modularity to prolong serviceability, as well as regular firmware updates and maintaining backwards compatibility with new recording formats. Many companies are also expanding recycling programs for old equipment and pursuing eco-friendly product designs. Despite these efforts, the sustainability challenges posed by rapidly expanding global video surveillance networks remain substantial.

“Many argue that transitioning to cloud data storage with dynamic scalability can act as an enabler for system resilience and sustainability. This transition can not only reduce the hardware footprint associated with on-premises video surveillance but also capitalizes on the energy-efficient infrastructure of dedicated data centers,” our comprehensive report reads. “These data centers are often engineered with advanced cooling systems, renewable energy sourcing, and sophisticated workload management algorithms to optimize power usage effectiveness, thereby lowering the overall environmental impact.

Video Surveillance as a Sustainability Tool

In addition to improving the eco-friendliness of equipment, video surveillance vendors are highlighting the potential use of surveillance for sustainability initiatives. A variety of smart city applications have emerged to optimize traffic flows, identify sources of pollution, improve waste collection routes, and monitor environmental conditions.

AI-enabled cameras can be trained to identify illegal dumping sites and help route waste collection trucks more efficiently. Traffic monitoring can adjust signal timing to minimize congestion and vehicle idling. Air quality sensors combined with surveillance networks can pinpoint sources of excessive emissions for regulators. While video systems can also help enforce regulations around illegal dumping, pollution permit violations, unauthorized access to protected conservation areas, and so on.

“As we have explored extensively in our reporting on market opportunities for the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) and Occupancy Analytics, in facilities, analytics insights on usage patterns, occupancy, and operating conditions can support better energy management and equipment optimization,” explains our new report. “Data gathered on room occupancy and equipment utilization helps better schedule HVAC, lighting, and other systems.”

While video surveillance technology is an important aspect in personal and asset security, it cannot completely escape the universal drive for sustainability, especially considering its rapid growth. As competition grows, conscious consumers will increasingly adopt video surveillance products and services that support their own sustainability ambitions, which will inevitably force the whole market to go green or be left behind.

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