Industry Insight

Technology is Moving at Warp Speed

WHEN you reflect upon the past few decades of the security industry, it's apparent that technology has played a significant role in the development of products and in the advancements within the industry. There has been a growing trend to increase the level of sophistication within security systems -- to move away from disparate components that do not work in tandem with other security equipment and, therefore, are unable to provide a more cohesive security system.

Looking back on just the past 10 to 15 years and comparing it to the way technology is viewed within the industry today, there is an apparent shift from implementing technology at a normal pace to one that is now watching technology accelerate, enabling many product developments.

Several industry players, from dealers and installers to distributors and manufacturers, realize that end users are looking for security systems and components that are much more interlinked and that provide the most advanced products with the best return on the security investment. Technology is impacting all of these stakeholders, and as an industry, we need to embrace these technological advancements to keep pace with this growing demand.

In the past, manufacturers were independently building sensors or alarm panels and tried to integrate them together to form a system as best they could. Today, the end user is looking for integration and product advancements, such as IP technology, to ensure that their security system is the most reliable, and operating in the most efficient manner.

Resistance is Futile
IP technology has started to dramatically alter the way security systems are developed, deployed and maintained. But with this new technology comes new challenges. Dealers, system integrators and manufacturers alike are being forced to rethink and relearn how to approach a security system, from tactics to terminology and components, to completed systems.

IP technology is fundamentally different than its analog predecessor in that it transforms all video into data that is then transmitted via a network and is accessible from virtually any PC located anywhere in the world. Video is not sent along a path predetermined by a fixed cable to one, set location. Security systems now need a network to carry the data, as well as software to manage and view the data.

We need to become familiar with this new landscape, as well as its new vocabulary, such as multicasting, firewalls, port blocking and SNMP -- words that are foreign to most in the industry -- making it hard to leave our comfort zone steeped in the analog world. Those able to embrace this paradigm shift are moving forward, acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to understand this technology, implement it into security systems and ultimately give the user the full benefits IP technology can provide.

Boldly Going Where Technology Has Not Gone Before
IP has already brought significant achievements to the table. Implementation is easier for the installer. The end user realizes significant cost savings, as well as increased system reliability and better access to security data. But there have been some obstacles in migrating to IP-based systems, making users reluctant to make the initial investment to switch to IP. Manufacturers are combating these problems by developing solutions to reduce the load on the network or eliminate it all together, as well as to provide recording during system downtimes, so no data is lost.

Bandwidth, or the ability to move data along the network, has been lacking, and many users feel they just don't have enough to support their security networks. Recording at the edge is one way manufacturers are enabling those who have limited bandwidth networks, such as a T1 line sharing eight cameras, to provide better bandwidth efficiency. This approach locally stores video footage at the encoders and sends the data over the network to the central station on demand. For example, Bosch has combined the benefits of centralized recording via NVRs with recording at the edge using DVRs by creating IP video encoders with storage inside the box. It is a simple, yet pragmatic, concept, but something that has been overlooked in the rush to deliver video-over-IP technology.

Reliability is another major factor in deciding whether an end user is willing to make the shift to an IP-based security system. What will happen if the network goes down? Will the cameras still record my video? Will the user have access to that video?

Bosch's solution includes a unique, patent-pending automatic network replenishment technology incorporated into all of its encoders. Working with an NVR, the ANR continues to record video, even when the network is down. So the network can go down and the video footage is not lost. It is merely stored until the network comes back up and can then be sent to the central station for viewing. While conventional NVRs experience gaps in recordings caused by network interruptions, the combination of NVR using ANR to automatically replenish those gaps enables each encoder to locally buffer recordings and send the data across the network once it is back up.

As the industry continues to overcome these obstacles, more users will take advantage of the many benefits IP technology offers. For example, in the CCTV arena, IP technology is enabling security personnel to access real-time data from virtually anywhere in the world instantly. It works with existing analog systems so administrators can implement the technology as needed and as budgets allow. Overcoming the issue of bandwidth noted earlier, the technology also increases the quality of security data transmitted while maximizing the bandwidth efficiency of the network.

Users also have the advantage of selecting image quality based on needs. IP technology has made available many different formats of video from powerful, broadcast-quality MPEG-2 to the more bandwidth-efficient, MPEG-4 compression algorithms to suit specific needs of a user's application. Best of all, there is cost-effective flexibility when switching among formats for optimum efficiency.

The networks can cover larger distances and more challenging terrain than what can be covered by using physical cable, especially with the giant strides being made in wireless IP networks. The systems can link together cameras located in remote locations, as well as cameras from different branches of the same business, giving users a comprehensive view of the security system. In a recent instance, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles installed an IP-based system to enable monitoring of its 68 locations throughout 46 counties. This enables the DMV's central office access to real-time video in any field branch for both staff and public security.

In addition, it is estimated that using CAT-5 cables instead of coaxial cable can save up to 60 percent of new system construction costs, since it is more economical than laying thick bundles of coax, fiber, audio wires, PTZ control wires, alarm input wires, relay output wires and power cables. And power over Ethernet can provide power to the cameras, so all that is needed is an uninterruptible power supply for the switch, increasing system reliability while saving on costs. The growing use of commercial off-the-shelf products in security systems make it easier for users to obtain components at a lower cost, and from vendors with whom they may already have established relationships with, helping decrease some anxiety associated with adopting this new technology.

The Final Frontier
In its short life, IP technology has helped push the security industry towards taking a more integrated approach and providing better systems. The people who will survive in this new arena are the ones who proactively incorporate IP technology into their strategic vision, and not merely react to the advancements that this technology brings to the industry. By installers, manufacturers, dealers and users taking this type of action, our industry as a whole will benefit, and security technology will continue to provide even greater peace of mind to the people responsible for managing commercial and residential security systems.


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