Talktech: The real potential of video analytics

The real potential of video analyticsVideo surveillance systems have become much more than mere investigative tools for public safety.

Across the financial services sector, more banks, insurance companies and trading houses are starting to realise the full potential of video analytics and are adapting their services accordingly.

Services such as robo-advisors and digital tellers are constantly creating more unstructured data, like video, that is critical for business insights. At the same time, video footage has become a key element of financial transactions, customer interactions and compliance, and archiving video is now viewed as a means of managing growth, risk and liability.

Monitoring a high volume of daily interactions still remains a challenge, but storing and retrieving mountains of video footage adds a whole new level of complexity.

At the recent Talktech Executive Meeting organized by Computerworld Hong Kong and IBM, panelists from digital surveillance provider SecuRex, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and IBM looked at the vast potential of video analytics, as well as the best practices for data storage and protection.

Retaining and retrieving video for compliance

According to Chris Mo, senior manager, risk assurance at PricewaterhouseCoopers Hong Kong, financial institutions are required to keep a record of transactions and customer interactions, and video recording is considered one of the acceptable media.

Regarding privacy, he said no compliance issues should arise from simply using CCTV in public areas for surveillance. But once an organization starts recording videos and retaining it, the footage is considered personal data and privacy data protection principles apply.

“Two main challenges then arise,” he said. “One involves securing that data from inappropriate access such as external hacking. The other challenge is identifying the people captured in the video footage, as the individuals are entitled to retrieve the information you hold about them.”

If a customer requests video footage of themselves, finding it among thousands of customers could be a major challenge, according to Roy Tsang, head of storage & software defined infrastructure, IBM Systems Hardware, IBM China/Hong Kong.

“There’s no single answer because awareness is continually evolving and when customers are aware of their rights [to retrieve the video] it can create a can of worms,” said Tsang. “It used to take a day or a few days to retrieve just a few minutes of footage. But technology has improved, allowing us to obtain information in just a few minutes.”

Mo added that another challenge is deciding the retention period, which varies depending on the purpose of recording and the related regulators. For example, if the video footage is used as supporting evidence to ensure no misconduct during the selling process of a banking product, the HKMA requires a retention period of seven years.

With regards to China, Mo added that the new cybersecurity law in China also brought new dynamics in the processing and management of video footage.

“Now, if you collect video footage within China you can’t save it on any cloud servers,” he said. “You need a centralized server inside China. If you are trying to centralize the storage [on premise], maintaining your own server could also be a problem.”

Video moves beyond security

The advanced development in video technology and analytics has also opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the financial services sector. Mo said traditionally, all surveillance footage was used for security purposes. But it can now be used to enhance customer satisfaction by analyzing who is coming into the bank when and why.

“Banks can then adjust their human resources accordingly,” he said.

From a security perspective, CCTV system architecture has improved considerably over the past five years. But Alex Kwan, general manager and founder of SecuRex Solution, noted that there is also a lot more awareness of what video can do beyond aiding security.

“A lot of people are using video to better manage data and improve services across the sector,” said Kwan. “We can see what age groups are using banking services at particular times, and use that data along with transaction records to paint a better picture of what is really going on in the bank.”

He added that video used to be stored and managed in local branches only. Thus, it used to take hours to find a minute’s worth of content. But tapes can now be centralized and automatically edited, which is a huge improvement.

The next generation of digital banking

Rapid development in analytics, big data and IoT has also greatly aided the use of intelligent archiving for different purposes. According to Kwan, video analytics technology can now support indexing based on color, motion, and facial recognition.

He added that the benefits will be huge moving forward, adding that higher resolution recording and greater storage capabilities are constantly evolving. The price of storage is also relatively low and will only get cheaper.

Mo added that video management tools are also likely to play a foundational role in next-generation financial services like digital tellers, robo advisers and digital loan centres. He said one insurance company in Hong Kong is already taking advantage of video for compliance purposes.

“Certain insurance products are limited to customers located in Hong Kong, in order to perform that underwriting process, the insurance company offers a digital channel for potential customers to record a video of themselves,” he said. “They also leverage GPS technology to ensure the person’s location, making it easier for the insurance company to ensure it complies with the regulatory requirement.”

With advanced development of storage architecture and networking speed, Tsang said CCTV video has great potential in the area of fintech.

“CCTV video recordings used to be the sole responsibility of the security department, but now more companies are actively thinking about how to use the data for a wider purpose,” he said. “We need to be ready to leverage the data for future services– this is how IBM is helping our customers.”

But he noted that great potential comes with great responsibilities. As CCTV cameras are increasingly being connected with centralized storage, they may also expose the corporate network to cyberattacks. 

“You need to think about how to encrypt your [video] data and plan better for your video investment moving forward,” Kwan added.

Tsang added that it also means best-practice network management and security will be more vital than ever.


“Cybersecurity and fintech are continually evolving. You need to employ systems that you can future-proof for the next wave of technology development,” he concluded.