The Road to IP
More enterprises are hitching a ride on the IP bandwagon
- By Dr. Bob Banerjee
- Oct 02, 2007
The growing popularity of video surveillance over the past 10 years has been fueled by lower costs and user-friendly systems. More and more, enterprises are beginning to employ IP-based components as part of their surveillance systems, and recent numbers suggest this growing trend will become the rule, rather than the exception.
Most owners of legacy surveillance systems are implementing IP when expanding the system for new construction or replacing non-functioning equipment -- not in a rip-and-replace scenario. Analog investments, which include those waiting to make the leap from analog VCRs to digital DVR-based recording systems, are widespread, generally reliable and easy to maintain.
Analog cameras, at least for now, retain popularity in new sales, as well. In North America, IP camera sales still hover around 10 percent of the CCTV camera market, although in recent months, IP video products saw a jump in sales of more than 70 percent.
IP video is a wise investment for those who want to use the reach of the IP network and benefit from the flexibility it brings. By consolidating operation centers, IP video systems can allow a single operator to monitor cameras from anywhere on the network. Conversely, remote and occasional users have a variety of ways to access live and recorded video without requiring a significant amount of dedicated CCTV hardware.
Many of the original concerns associated with IP video have been eased with advancements in the technology. Top-of-mind issues include bandwidth requirements and the perception that all analog elements of an existing CCTV system need to be replaced with the newest IP technology.
Considering the Transition
Beginning the transition to IP video requires a careful examination of the risks involved with introducing new technology to an otherwise proven and reliable analog system. The advantages of IP technology are clear, but each organization must determine if the timing and timeline of the transition to a network-based system is right. Do the advantages of IP technology outweigh retraining operators on PC-based workstations or ripping out the existing analog matrix switch for a PC server and software replacement?
Incremental adoption of IP by layering new technology on top of the existing system minimizes the impact on budget, as well as on operator training. Organizations where even a transitory interruption to the security and surveillance system is totally unacceptable have no choice but to implement a new IP system in phases and run the two systems in parallel until a hot swap over to the IP system can be achieved.
One of the biggest changes in the approach to video systems over the past few years has been the replacement of the analog matrix switcher with the virtual matrix -- a combination of the network, PC and software -- as part of an IP network-based video system. However, just as predictions of IP cameras sweeping the industry have borne out more slowly than anticipated, analog switches have retained popularity because of the reliable and efficient viewing of live video when compared with some newer technologies.
With a network switch, however, video can be viewed at multiple locations at the same time because the switch can clone video and use the same data multiple times. Smart network switches have become the digital equivalent of the ubiquitous distribution amplifier.
While IP video is where the industry is headed, one way to harness the tremendous amount of installed infrastructure already in place is with hybrid analog and IP systems. This type of solution helps meet the needs of customers who want to leverage existing analog camera investments when upgrading or expanding video surveillance systems.
IP encoders are the bridge between analog cameras and the network. They create streams of digital video that traverse the network, so they can be viewed using video management software or a Web browser or can be recorded to NVRs. Unlike their DVR predecessors, NVRs can be positioned anywhere on the network because they are not tied to coaxial cabling.
Recording at the edge, or storing video at the edge of the network instead of transporting it to a centralized NVR, is a bandwidth-friendly option in today's IP video systems. This decentralized approach only uses the network to replay video at a workstation. This renders recording independent of other network conditions, such as congestion and downtime. It is similar to a DVR but adds the power of streaming pure video over IP to countless users in different locations with large, shared plasma display video walls, PCs, Web browsers and banks of monitors and that is where the similarity with the DVR ends.
Either at the edge or centralized, direct-attached iSCSI RAID 5 storage or storage area networks offer high-density, fault-tolerant storage devices instead of a single hard drive. This system design, without the use of any NVRs, can help reduce storage and maintenance costs for end users.
Pure IP Video Solutions
Where does IP video make absolute sense? Security personnel involved in new construction projects, where there are few legacy equipment concerns, can cut some of the costs associated with installing a video surveillance system by leveraging the new network being installed instead of adding coax. The widespread availability of IP wireless networks also is driving adoption.
"Pure" video over IP is still far from commonplace. Security directors must ensure that systems integrators are equally well-schooled in installing a managed network switch, as they are an analog matrix switcher; however, a shortage of skilled technicians with both security and networking expertise remains. Security directors should seek integrators who are familiar with enlisting the support of IT departments to ensure projects meet the needs of all network stakeholders.
The reality of IP video is that it requires new technology, new training and new departmental collaborations. While the promises are powerful, many in the industry are only beginning to understand IP video. It will be some time before IP video overtakes analog cameras and DVRs, and it's likely that the simple and age-old concept of recording at the edge will serve as the missing link -- eliminating the concerns of bandwidth, network reliability and complex installation.