Ask the Expert

Another year is drawing to a close, and 2007 has remained just as consistent as the past few years in the security industry, with new players, new products and burgeoning technologies arriving at an incredible speed. This industry—as is the case with many others—has and will continue to be radically altered by computerbased technology.

ISSUE: What will be the hottest topic in security in the next year?

SOLUTION: The word for 2008 will be video. Video surveillance is hardly new to our industry, but the desire of large and small businesses to have live, recorded images of their operations is really intensifying. The demand for camera systems extends to schools, government facilities and even upscale homes.

Part of the demand is fueled by highly publicized events in the United Kingdom, where camera systems have helped prevent terrorist attacks and led to the quick arrest of suspects following successful bombings. Local newspapers and news shows also routinely report on surveillance systems, leading to the arrest of shoplifters, vandals, burglars and a host of other criminals.

The systems installed today are often very different than what was installed as recently as five to 10 years ago. That can be contributed to the computer. IP cameras that run over a network are moving closer to becoming the norm, rather than the high-end exception. And that means network servers, capable of storing massive amounts of video, will become a leading choice for recording images.

The methods of getting the images from the camera to the recorder also are changing. Wireless cameras allow systems to be set up where terrain, distance or other issues make standard cabling impossible. Point-to-point and point-to-multipoint networks are relatively inexpensive to set up and work well.

ISSUE: What other innovations do you foresee being popular in 2008?

SOLUTION:Video transmission can be a challenge with cities looking to monitor entire neighborhoods, seaports managing their perimeter security or universities looking to keep watch over a campus of 1,000 acres or more. That is where mesh networks can come into play.

Mesh networking is a relatively new way to transmit video data between nodes, which may number in the hundreds for a large network. The video reaches its destination by moving from node to node. If one node goes bad, the video takes a new path, keeping the network operating.

The use of video analytics also is growing, and that should continue next year. It seems as though every month there is a new provider entering the market with a new way of making the technology work better. I expect we will see some of the best make their way to the top and some others drop by the wayside. And as the demand for the technology grows, the price—which has been high—is beginning to fall.

READER QUESTION: We just installed a small access and video system (four doors and eight cameras) in our office and adjacent warehouse. Our integrator installed the equipment as promised—on time and within budget. But now we are having some problems operating our system. The integrator said he will send a trainer to our site for $200 an hour. We assumed training would be part of the job. Were we wrong to think that?

SOLUTION: One of the areas where integrators and customers sometime fail to plan for is training. You can install a state-of-the-art system, but if you don’t know how to use it, the value of the system drops precipitously.

When it comes to training, some integrators will have the technician who did the installation “go over the system” with the end user for little to no cost. However, often the “tech instructions” don’t take into account the day-to-day operation of the system and/or speak the language of the end user.

A certified trainer that provides formal system training is needed. The rate of $200 an hour is reasonable for quality training. Attorneys are paid $300 an hour or more because of their training and knowledge. The integrator has invested significant time and money in his trainers and therefore should be entitled to a reasonable billing rate.

Prior to formalizing a final agreement, it is important to make sure all aspects of the system are included. Training is a vital part of any new system, so make sure it is included in the final price right at the beginning. Get the training. The investment is needed to ensure you get the most out of your systems.

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