Keeping costs down when installing IP videoe

At What Cost?

Keeping overall costs down and driving value up when installing video analytics

It is widely accepted that video analytics provide value to the end user, especially in security applications such as perimeter protection and the identification of vehicles versus humans in unauthorized areas. But at what cost? The real answer lies beyond dollars and cents and is found in the realm of costs in terms of manpower, engineering, training, deployment design and implementation method.

Today, many analytics vendors market and sell proprietary solutions that consist of software that must be hosted on a server or on servers the customer must supply; edge devices of the provider's own manufacturer, like IP cameras and encoders; or on a combination of the two.

The commonality is the closed-end approach to providing intelligent functionality— basically it's an additional system on top of systems you already have. And an additional system means more engineering, another GUI to learn, additional time to implementation and, consequently, higher costs.

This perceived value of analytics causes potential buyers to remove them from their purchases because they would rather not expend all that effort.

Real Savings

We can easily conclude that any customer solution will ultimately cost less if it does not require as much manpower, engineering or training in order for users to become productive. But let's talk about implementation method for a moment, because the only true path to real savings in the analytics world is to not buy an analytics system but rather a system with analytics inside.

What does this mean?

Today, intelligent functionality doesn't have to come from a proprietary stand-alone system. Rather, it can be a small but effectively applied ingredient to the overall solution. All within the same video surveillance system, analytics can reside at the edge where network bandwidth may be a concern. They can exist in back-end servers or storage devices so the analytics can effectively be cross-assigned to different video channels based on alert level. And intelligence can even exist in the middle of the network, in a router. To increase quality of service on the network, intelligent routing of alerts and analytics functionality could be needed based on time of day or a requirement to push alerts to additional responders.

From an increasing number of software providers, the analytics and/or alerts are accessed using the GUI of the video management platform or physical security information management tool. With this significantly shorter learning curve, implementation is completed far sooner and users move quickly to the business of solving problems instead of worrying about how long it will take to learn a new system. Already having chosen a management platform, video analytics functions possess equal standing with many of the other management tasks your platform provides.

Back to Basics

What are the building blocks of these kinds of open, analytics-enabled solutions?

The analytics must be flexible. That is, they must be available to the integrator to spec into the solution in a wide variety of form factors. To get the most efficiency from the ingredient approach, the solution provider should be able to acquire analytics not only in cameras, encoders and DVRs/NVRs, but also in servers, enterprise storage devices, routers, other network devices, PCs, snap-in daughter cards, USB dongles and discrete intelligent appliances.

With these device choices, along with a requirement that the analytics be available in capability packages designed specifically for the customer's vertical market needs, the user achieves high value while the integrator can price accordingly, since he or she can sell the customer only the functionality and performance they initially need. Additional analytics capabilities can be upgraded in the field via new license keys, further enhancing the value of the solution.

Practicality is key, or the customer won't see any return on investment. There are still too many analytics vendors out there who tout features and functions that would be truly innovative if they actually worked reliably outside of a controlled lab environment. But practicality and cost dictate we face the facts of realistic, not lowered, expectations of analytics. What would be preferable: features that only work in PowerPoint with an unfamiliar GUI, or the reliable and straightforward capabilities we're already accustomed to working with, presented within the management platform you're already using?

Bring these building blocks together. The interoperability of disparate parts, through the execution of an industry standard for analytics configuration, rule definition and alerting, will allow users to gain real value from their solution sooner and at a lower cost. The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance has already taken the first step toward realizing a world of pre-integrated solution components by forming a specific committee to work on a video analytics standard. The net result would be much greater adoption of analytics, which would, in turn, drive down costs.

Users must keep demanding practical, easy-to-implement analytics-enabled solutions from a trusted installer or integrator. Ask them to take a look at what's available today—the building blocks are beginning to show up in good numbers from manufacturers and software providers. These manufacturers are trusted names in the industry, and they understand full well the importance of delivering open-architected solutions. Integrators should push OEM suppliers and distributors to offer a greater selection of intelligent devices, with the feature packages and licensing flexibility they know they can sell.

Video analytics as a high-value ingredient in the video solution renders the popular edge versus central debate completely moot. To achieve the lowest cost of ownership over time, analytics should reside wherever they represent the greatest value to the end user.

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