Network Questions & Answers with Bret McGowan
- By Security Products Staff
- Sep 10, 2009
Many people I've spoken to outside the security industry
believe, regardless of the overall economy, that our
market should always be experiencing growth due to the
unrelenting need for better security. However, the truth is
that security is still a capital investment and the budget
for security gets reduced or removed just like any other
expense during tough economic times.
Companies are taking a closer look at everything
they do these days; however, in the security industry,
the choices between analog and IP-based video make
decisions a little tougher.
I challenged Bret McGowan, vice president of
sales and marketing at Vicon, to answer a few questions.
Here are his views.
Q.The security industry has been transitioning toward
IP-based video and security solutions for
the past several years. How has the current economic
climate affected the willingness of security professionals
to invest in this technology?
A.When deciding between an analog or IP video
system, the choice is still a matter of weighing
performance needs versus costs. For instance, if price
is the most important factor and a facility already has
usable analog cabling installed, an upgrade to the latest
high-quality analog cameras and DVRs probably
makes the most sense.
From a performance perspective, megapixel cameras
represent a technology that is shifting the decision-
making equation. Megapixel cameras may only
be used as part of an IP system and, in order to take
advantage of their higher-quality images, you need to
install a robust network at the edge.
More users also are opting to pursue the hybrid
route, an approach that allows them to take advantage
of previously installed analog products, but employ
only IP-based products for any new system additions.
In these installations, it is critical to select a
system that will seamlessly support both analog and
IP devices with the same features and capabilities.
Q.Are customers willing to sacrifice performance
for cost savings? Have you sensed a change
in priorities among customers when evaluating
A.In many of the markets we serve, we've noticed
an increased willingness on the part of buyers
to sacrifice performance for cost savings. This is true
even in public bid situations where the products selected
don't really meet the specified requirements.
In today's economy, the opportunity to see raw
cost savings represents an attractive option to corporate
and municipal buyers who are charged with
saving money. These buyers will give up higher-end
capabilities in order to cut the bottom line.
To address the dueling needs for both performance
and cost savings, Vicon intends to release a line of
products this fall that will offer the quality and performance
our customers have come to expect, while
delivering significant cost savings.
In addition, we are witnessing a greater cognizance
on the part of both dealers and end users that—regardless
of which type of system is purchased—the
system's manufacturer must be there to support it in
the long run. During the past decade, the industry has
become populated with many new security system
providers, funded by private equity investment, and
many of these may not be in position to last as the
private equity and venture capital money dries up.
The public is increasingly aware that it should
look for companies that are well established and open
about their financial situation, as these are the companies
that are most likely to be around to support
their systems for the next five or more years.
Q.What are the significant factors that are
making today's IP systems more cost-competitive?
Are integrators now able to handle more
A.I think there are a few influencing factors. The
installation of robust networks, which used
to be the exception rather than the rule, is becoming
standard procedure in most facility development plans.
Network switches and cabling have come down in price
while their performance has increased dramatically.
Installing dealers have become more familiar with network
topology and, therefore, can handle the complexities
of the installation without having to subcontract
the work to expensive network specialists.
IP cameras and storage prices have decreased from
a few years ago. Every camera manufacturer today
makes IP cameras; that's where research and development
investment is going. We'll continue to see the
price of IP cameras drop significantly as component
technology improves and competition grows. This
also is true for megapixel cameras. A year ago, there
were only a handful of companies offering megapixel
cameras. Today, every major video security manufacturer
offers some options in the megapixel range.
Q.Competitive pressures alone will drive prices
down. What about the costs associated with
A.The conversion by most manufacturers to
H.264 compression will lower overall system
costs by reducing bandwidth and storage requirements
that are sometimes expensive deal breakers. In
particular, H.264 will facilitate the transition to megapixel
cameras, which currently require high systemwide
bandwidth and are known to gobble up storage
at an astounding rate.
When selecting an IP system, users need to be
aware of the differences in long-term costs associated
with using IP software rather than DVRs. Many
IP software companies charge ongoing licensing fees
for each camera within the network as a requirement
for accessing system support and upgrades. They do
this mainly because they don't sell the IP cameras and
need to compensate for the lost revenue.
Q.What industry-related trends do you anticipate
in the coming year?
A.This might sound strange, but I believe that
while we will see an increase in IP specifications,
we also will see a steady demand for lower-cost
DVR systems. That's why we continue to invest in
both topologies. The demand for better performing,
lower-cost DVRs will not disappear anytime soon.
Megapixel products will continue to be the deciding
factor for those who might not have gone IP before.
Frame rates for these products will increase and, therefore,
so will the demand for better storage solutions.
iSCSI-based SAN storage with RAID protection
should become a standard in consultants' specifications
when secure video storage is critical. We see
many system designs in which the price has been cut
by eliminating the RAID protection. Today's hard
drives are more robust than in the past, but they still
fail, and recovery of stored video is often difficult,
if not impossible. The potential loss is then exaggerated
by the size of today's hard drives. The failure of
a single 2 TB hard drive can mean the loss of months'
worth of stored video.