The Big Picture

Budgets remain flat, security directors asked to increase surveillance

For many businesses wanting to transition from analog to digital networks, the numbers seem daunting. Although they want to migrate to an IP video solution, can they afford to do so?

Finally, there is good news. Yes, at first glance, IP surveillance seems too pricey. Buying an IP camera is more expensive than an equivalent analog video camera and its recorder. When budgeting for network recorders, switching devices and other related IP security hardware, it’s more of the same.

Nonetheless, even with the higher costs of the hardware, the total cost a networked IP solution system is less. There are many reasons for this trend, most importantly, reduced installation time. However, that’s not all. Other benefits include the use of presently installed network systems with lower cable costs, using network storage for video archiving and being able to implement integrated solutions.

A Dramatic Reduction
Very few will argue that the most noteworthy cost in a surveillance system is the actual installation. However, with IP surveillance systems running on established network infrastructures, the total cost of ownership of a networked IP system can be far less than an analog system. For instance, on a shared network, the cost of maintenance and diagnostics is split amongst all of the users. Even better, network installation is a competitive environment and is far cheaper than a proprietary wiring system.

Expanding an existing networked IP system is simple. Just add more hard drives to the storage array or plug a few extra cameras into the present network loop. The facility’s cameras no longer must feed back to a control room. With IP technology, the control room can be located wherever it most benefits the end user -- even in another facility thousands of miles away.

Since it takes fewer people to operate an IP surveillance system that has been integrated with other security systems, personnel costs are lowered. Additionally, operator efficiency is heightened. That’s because a networked system can be monitored 24/7 with different employees around the world.

Even small users can monitor flexibly, viewing their systems from anywhere they have Internet access, whether at home, the office or while traveling.

Lower Cabling Costs
In analog video surveillance systems, cabling is dedicated to the system and runs from point to point. Conversely, the standard networked IP system uses standard LAN/WAN/Internet technology to transport images and information. Most organizations already have such networks, and most companies are using Ethernet as the primary network. An IP video surveillance system simply leverages what the organization already has, amortizing its costs, to provide yet another application.

There are many benefits. The company eliminates the cost of laying much of the ordinary required cable. One Cat-5 run to the nearest wiring closet replaces a much longer point-to-point run of up to three cables -- video, power and PTZ data. Putting cameras and video surveillance equipment on the Ethernet network provides easy, quick access to the Internet, increases opportunities for additional applications for the video system and provides remote video monitoring and control to any camera on the network to any authorized person accessing the network, whether via the internal LAN/WAN or through a laptop via the Internet.

Recording Flexibilities
With the resulting digital recording of IP video, anyone authorized to access specific images can do so from anywhere. No longer does security have to physically go get the videotape or struggle with providing Internet access to a DVR. IP video lets images be called up from wherever one is on the network.

As with analog, there is always the possibility that either an IP camera or the network itself can go down. This highlights another advantage of IP video. IP video cameras can provide on-board storage. Video associated with an alarm event can be stored to the local memory for later retrieval. Since network power is almost always provided by a battery backed UPS, the odds of your camera actually capturing an event are much higher than with an analog system.

Since it is so easy to record and store IP video, it becomes easy to become wasteful. Integrators must be aware of where the customer will be storing the video. Trying to put a camera on the edge of the network and bringing it all the way back to the central station is doing the customer no favors. This simply overloads the network with the constant stream of video that could have been absorbed by the recorder.

Instead, store video as close to the camera as possible. With multiple sites, consider a recording device at each site. Even in a single facility, put a recorder in the closest possible closet to a camera. This isolates video streams, keeping them off the general network. The only video on the general network is the video needing to be viewed.

Today, most video management systems that record and display IP video consist of software that runs on a standard PC or server. The good news is that this approach can lower your overall cost by using standard IT hardware and your company’s existing expertise on running and maintaining it. That said, there are many times when the use of a full server is overkill and becomes difficult to justify, especially when you are trying to put the recording devices near the camera. In those cases, there are solutions available that provide VMS functionality on an appliance device dedicated to the task. These products are simpler to install and maintain, and they provide a lower price point for a somewhat smaller capacity. This configuration flexibility is unmatched in the analog world.

Convergence Opportunities
When companies switch from analog to digital video systems, they aren't just shedding the shackles of storing and reviewing endless feet of videotape or hundreds of DVRs. They’re also gaining more options for their surveillance systems by making the move to digital technology.

In addition to being integrated with the data network, the surveillance system also can interface with the alarm system, alarm sensors and/or access control system. If the access system or alarm sensor detects unwanted activity, the NVR can be programmed to capture more images of the incident. In addition, security guards, managers, administrators, business owners and even law enforcement can be notified upon an alarm via a PC, laptop, PDA, cell phone or pager, notifying them of the type of alarm and where it is located so they can remedy the problem immediately. They don’t need to waste time by first checking the surveillance system for such details.

During set-up, the user can program the NVR with conditions that count as alarms, based on motion within a scene or on external events, such as door openings. Once the alarm is triggered, the NVR displays images from multiple cameras associated with the alarm area and sends a message to preselected e-mail addresses. Hardwired alarms, such as an open window or door, also can activate such e-mail messages, but IP has the advantage. Hardwired alarms go to the camera and travel over the network to the NVR.

For instance, a hospital will want to secure the exits so in the event of an infant abduction or a disaster, they have the capacity to secure the perimeter of the hospital to prevent someone from leaving unnoticed. Thus, the access control system must integrate smoothly with the NVRs. In alarm situations or unauthorized entry attempts, the video should be tagged automatically so incidents get located instantly. This tagging is one of the biggest advantages of a converged system and saves hours of investigative time after an incident.

With the digital system, administrators can quickly locate an event, create an evidence CD and turn it over to police for further investigation. That ability has led to many cases being solved and, in addition, lowered the hospital's liability.

An IP video platform also helps create full-package business solutions that include both software and product suites for specific security and business productivity needs. These solutions are wanted by scores of vertical market applications, ranging from point of sale to traffic flow, digital guards, virtual fences and others found in the creativeness of security professionals and the new departments with which they will partner.

Don’t Throw Out the Analog
Integrators and end users want to be sure their system choices provide an upgrade path that is forward-compatible with a future of fully digital IP/digital architecture, without throwing out their investment in perfectly good analog equipment. To maximize technology choices at the camera, the transmission system and the head end, leading video system suppliers provide products that “connect the dots” between installed analog and digital equipment.

The ability to join analog equipment with the digital future is facilitated by the adoption of unshielded twisted pair cable as the transmission medium. In fact, most facilities already have UTP cable for their phones and datacom needs. If the customer is not yet ready to move to the world of IP cameras, at least install the system using UTP because it supports today’s cost-effective analog systems while providing the IP-ready cabling infrastructure when a switchover does occur.

For integrators who want to implement a digital-ready structured cabling system that easily supports a wide variety of existing analog products, a power/video/data solution supports all of the cabling needs of cameras using a single UTP cable. Integrators can deliver a high-quality picture over the same type of infrastructure used by Ethernet datacom systems.

IP Means Working with IT
One key advantage of IP-based video is the ability to use network infrastructure, providing adequate bandwidth and availability of switching and routing, rather than coaxial cabling. However, running bandwidth-intensive surveillance video over corporate data networks can be a point of organizational contention, depending on the design of the video application and the quality of the network. If there is not enough spare bandwidth in the network to handle the data from network cameras, you can expect an instant call from the IT group. Rather than starting off on the wrong foot this way, the right answer is to team with IT before buying the first camera. They bring a valuable layer of expertise and support to a video project, which is one of the big advantages of using IP equipment.

Choosing an Installer
IP video must be implemented by an installer with considerable experience, using good design practices. Without full knowledge of IP video and network practices, the customer will be unhappy, which will make the installer unhappy.

We encourage our channel partners not to spec everything on their own. Talented professionals in IP surveillance systems can help with everything from product/system operational guidance, specification clarification, pre- and post-sales support, troubleshooting, integration assistance, on-site training, firmware updates and system design to service, repair and replacement coordination.

Indeed, there are specific markets -- for example, education, law enforcement, transportation, water treatment and new construction -- that will specify nothing but an IP/digital video solution. The manufacturer is every bit as interested in selling IP/digital video to these markets. That is why leading IP/digital video manufacturers want to work hand-in-hand with end users to design, specify and, ultimately, assist with the installation of the system.

About the Author

Rich Anderson is chief technology officer for SAMSUNG | GVI Security.

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