The Big Bang

The transition from analog to IP is gradual, but certain

AS the technology drums continue to beat in support of Internet Protocol video security solutions, many may wonder about its impact on the business community -- most notably, on those organizations that have invested heavily in their legacy analog components. To hear most advocates, not only is IP the wave of the future, but those who do not make the complete and immediate transition to IP are doomed to certain failure.

To hear most advocates, not only is IP the wave of the future, but those who do not make the complete and immediate transition to IP are doomed to certain failure.

But, is making an abrupt transition to IP technology really, as most supporters would suggest, the "only way to go"? Is there a way for businesses to leverage their existing analog equipment while growing their system and making a more gradual transition from analog to IP?

Analog vs. IP
In retrospect, the enormous success that analog video has enjoyed over the years can be largely attributed to the stable, cost-effective nature of the technology itself. Analog-based equipment is relatively inexpensive and adheres well to industry-defined standards.

A proven technology, it does not suffer from the same issues of differing sync values, multiple scan rates and varying frame rates, which have affected IP. In fact, strict industry standards have afforded analog the kind of stability and affordability that IP, as a relatively new and innovative technology, has not yet achieved. For these reasons, vendors are reluctant to completely relinquish their legacy analog components for a less-stable, higher-priced technology.

In recent years, however, security providers have started promoting IP standardization and open source architecture. Increased standardization has translated into greater stability and lower risk factors for business owners who choose IP. With these uncertainties being addressed, retail business owners have begun to look to the advanced capabilities offered by IP. For example, the intelligence of IP video security solutions allows users to go beyond simple video display and storage, and more towards intelligent, sophisticated searching and capabilities that can handle large amounts of data.

Other benefits include reduced cabling and wiring, increased flexibility and instant access to data from virtually any location in the world.

Leveraging Existing Equipment
A major drawback of IP video security solutions is that they fail to address those businesses that have heavily invested in analog components. What's more, they fail to consider technology cycles that must first be satisfied in order to realize a breakeven point in return on investment.

For example, i3DVR recognizes that many grocery industry vendors do not have the resources or the technical infrastructure to immediately transition from analog to IP. In fact, most vendors would prefer to add channels and upgrade their network at their own pace and within their own budget restrictions. They want flexible IP technology without having to sacrifice their existing analog-based infrastructure. For these reasons, IP should not be viewed as a separate product, but as a slow, migratory process.

The industry requires an alternative solution for businesses caught between the proven reliability of analog and the innovative capability of IP. Rather than advocate full-blown IP solutions, the solutions should allow users to leverage their existing equipment while gradually migrating from analog to IP. A true hybrid solution represents the best of both worlds, offering both a reliable, real-time video system and viewing access to remote locations across the network.

At any time, vendors can begin upgrading their network and adding channels incrementally, recording their analog cameras while adding IP cameras and encoders at whatever pace they desire.

Rather than forcing vendors to choose between analog and IP, a hybrid technology would offer businesses the benefits of incremental growth and the ability to extend the lifespan of their existing equipment. By allowing vendors to continue using their existing infrastructure, this kind of hybrid solution would generate a considerable savings on equipment investment.

The ability to replace existing cameras with either IP cameras or encoders at their leisure is a luxury most organizations cannot do without. For those vendors struggling with the knowledge that they will likely have to switch to IP at some point down the road, a hybrid solution would present a welcome opportunity for easy transition.

This article originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 26.


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