A Great Investment - IP surveillance delivers ROI on multiple fronts

A Great Investment

IP surveillance delivers ROI on multiple fronts

When it comes to IP video, too many customers base their buying decisions on the sizzle and not the steak. While the sizzle may tantalize, it’s the steak that satisfies your hunger. So, before you get distracted by all the bells and whistles you might add to your surveillance system in the future, first focus on the core benefits you get simply by migrating to IP technology. That’s where you’ll find the most ROI satisfaction.

You can pretty much count on surveillance technology always moving forward. But if you start with a solid, open-standards IP video foundation, you’ll be able to leverage those advancements as they come along. Or, in the words of my mentor: “Sometimes you have to lay out a roadmap for the roads that have yet to be built.”

That’s what makes IP video such a great investment. Not only is it future-proof, it delivers great ROI on a number of fronts right from the onset.

So, let’s examine the core values inherent in IP technology that can justify replacing your aging analog systems: higher video quality, efficient PoE connectivity, infrastructure flexibility, onboard intelligence and lower total cost of ownership.

VIDEO QUALITY IS HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE ANALOG

The most important thing about a surveillance system is that the video has to be useful or “actionable.” If you can’t identify individuals and their actions, what’s the point in recording the scene? We’ve all seen analog surveillance footage on newscasts that looks more like pixelated blobs than actual individuals. It makes you wonder: how is anyone supposed to recognize the perpetrator from that? The truth is: they can’t.

Thanks to advances in imaging sensors and lens technology, IP video cameras have changed all that. With image usability as their mantra, IP camera manufacturers are incorporating a wide range of features to handle all sorts of environment challenges. Here are just a few:

Progressive scanning technology. Progressive scan image sensors correct the problem of image distortion that interlaced image sensors face when recording movement. Because interlacing generates two fields of alternating lines (odd and even) and combines them to form an image, the slight delay between odd and even line refreshes can create artifacts or distortion on the video footage.

They’re especially noticeable when analyzing a freeze frame of a moving image because only half the lines keep up with a moving image while the other half wait to be refreshed. However with progressive scan sensors, instead of splitting the captured image into separate fields, each line in the image frame is scanned sequentially and sent over the network in perfect order. This ensures that you’ll be able to see critical details of moving objects, such as a person running away without distortion or ghosting.

High resolution image sensors. Back in the days of analog, 4CIF was considered top of the line for video resolution. Today, thanks to advances in consumer electronics spilling into the physical security world, the minimum expectation for IP video quality starts with HDTV 720p resolution and goes up from there. Because HDTV conforms to standards, when you buy an HDTV IP camera you’re guaranteed a specific resolution, aspect ratio, frame rate and color fidelity.

Some HDTV cameras support corridor format, turning the 16:9 aspect ratio 90o so that you can capture long hallways and aisles with fewer cameras and more effective coverage. Whether you choose megapixel or HDTV-quality IP cameras, the more pixels you have in the image area the more details you can capture. Plus, the details don’t degrade as you digitally zoom in for a closer look.

The payoff for more actionable video can be significant. Several companies have said that they’ve been able to increase their case closures and restitution by 25 percent simply due to better image quality.

Wide dynamic range technology. This feature solves the problem of variable lighting conditions within the same frame. Using sophisticated algorithms, the camera sensor processes the dark and light areas to reveal details with exceptional clarity and sharpness that would have been washed out or hidden in shadow.

Low-light sensitivity. Today’s IP video cameras take day/night recording to the next level. Combining highly light sensitive image sensors and lenses with advanced image processing, these cameras can record in full color fidelity with minimal noise in environments with lighting levels as low as 0.1 lux. Details that would have otherwise been lost in the darkness are suddenly brought to light.

Thermal imaging. Cameras equipped with thermal imaging technology are able to detect people, objects and incidents in complete darkness and difficult conditions such as smoke, haze, dust and light fog. The heat signatures recorded on the video are generally sufficient to distinguish humans from animals and inanimate objects, which makes them a great surveillance tool for locations where artificial illumination would be impractical and extremely costly, such as shorelines, remote power stations and empty stretches of country borders.

POE CONNECTIVITY REDUCES INSTALLATION COSTS

Most IP cameras support PoE, the ability to power the camera and transmit the video through the same cable. This generates savings on two fronts: the amount of cabling needed for the project and the amount of man-hours needed to install the cable. With the PoE and network topology, there’s no need to “home run” all your camera cables back to your recording device like you would in an analog system. You only need to run the cables from the cameras to a centralized switch that runs a single cable back to your recording device.

PoE streamlines system configuration because the cameras can take advantage of centralized power backup. The cost savings continue to mount because the system is based on industry standards and best networking practices, which makes it both easier to install and easier to service.

FLEXIBLE INFRASTRUCTURE CHOICES DRIVE DOWN COSTS

As we all know, coax cabling for analog cameras can be expensive and proprietary. Furthermore, the longer the run of cable the more the video image degrades. And, don’t get me started on how complicated it is to add power, I/Os and audio to a coax cable-based system.

IP technology solves that problem by enabling your IP cameras to piggyback on your existing network infrastructure like any other network-attached device. No more image degradation from long cable runs. Adding backup power, audio and I/O capabilities is a simple plug and play. If there’s no fixed cabling available, instead of expensive trenching out to the location you can use onboard batteries to operate the cameras and wireless technology to stream the video.

Being network based, IP video doesn’t rely on fixed-channel, failureprone DVRs. So, you can add cameras in any increments you choose whenever you choose. At the end of the day, IP video gives you better image quality, greater flexibility, scalability and reliability— all at a lower cost than analog.

ONBOARD INTELLIGENCE PROVIDES SO MUCH MORE

Because IP cameras are basically computers with eyes, they contain a lot of processing power and built-in intelligence. They can do a lot of things that analog cameras can’t. I’m not talking about integrating third-party video analytics applications—although at some point you can do that, too—I’m talking about native capabilities that you can use just by taking the camera out of the box. For instance:

Basic motion detection. You can program rules for an IP camera that change throughout the day, such as during or after business hours, or when someone crosses a virtual line or simply enters the scene when a light turns on, etc. You can set rules to trigger an audio message telling an intruder that the area is off limits. You can even program the camera to trigger an email alert when motion is detected.

Pixel counter. This feature measures the pixel density within the field of view to ensure it meets your surveillance objectives. For instance, for facial identification you’d need a density of 80 pixels. You can use the in-camera pixel counter to verify the pixel density in the event you need the video for a court case.

Remote Focus and Zoom. Separate from PTZ features, IP cameras have the intelligence to drive motorized lenses for adjusting and focusing varifocal lengths at the touch of a button—without you having to be on site. Think about how often cameras get bumped away from their intended direction or vibrate out of focus. With the onboard intelligence, there’s no more waiting in the queue for a service technician to make an onsite service call while your cameras stream useless video. With an IP camera you can adjust the focus remotely from anywhere you have network connectivity and be back in peak performance instantly.

IP BEATS ANALOG FOR LOWER TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP

Fewer cables, greater scalability, easier maintenance and superior image quality already make IP surveillance a great choice. But like the Energizer Bunny, the cost savings for IP video keeps going and going and going. In case you’ve forgotten, IP video is based on open platform standards.

So, you’re not locked into expensive, proprietary hardware. You can shop for best of breed components from any manufacturer or opt for affordable common- off-the-shelf components. Open standards mean you can add third-party analytic software to the system and/ or integrate the IP cameras with other open standards security systems such as access control and fire detection down the road whenever you’re ready.

Because the same network infrastructure is shared across all business units, IP video costs less to deploy. But another area where IP video outshines analog is in system maintenance and overall management.

Remote diagnostics and service. Because IP surveillance systems can be accessed over a secure Internet connection, technicians can diagnose and correct problems, update software and perform other maintenance tasks remotely without the expense or delay of making an onsite visit. Some of the businesses I’ve spoken with have cut maintenance costs by as much as 30 percent just from servicing their systems online.

Hosted video. To reduce cost of ownership even further, IP surveillance systems are ideal candidates for hosted video services. The only upfront capital investment is for the cameras on site. The service provider takes care of the rest (servers, secure web portal, system upgrades, maintenance, etc.) for a fixed monthly fee. This moves surveillance from a capital expense to an operating expense. And if you share the video with other departments—merchandising, marketing, HR, facilities management— to glean valuable insights into all facets of the business—you can amortize the operating costs across their budgets as well.

JUSTIFY THE SWITCH TO IP VIDEO ON TODAY’S ROI

There are a host of compelling reasons for migrating to IP video technology: exceptional video quality, simplified POE connectivity, easier maintenance and service, lower total cost of ownership and more. Focus on the significant value you can realize today simply by choosing an open-standards solution. No one can predict the future of technology with any certainty. But with an IP video solution, you’re assured substantial ROI today and for many years to come.

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Security Today.

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