The Real Value in IP Video

The advent of IP systems and their relatively slow adoption rate -- comprising only 27 percent of the market today -- points to the fact that widespread acceptance of any product must be driven by the value it brings to its users.

This can be highlighted by the speed of the transition that took place from VCRs to DVRs in the 1990s. It was driven not by the technology, but by the value derived from that technology.

The DVR captured high-resolution images and retained them for significant amounts of time, at a price point that allowed them to compete in a typical VCR-style application. The value was obvious to industry stakeholders, and within a short period of time, the DVR became a critical component in almost every application.

In recent years, IP video has been one of the most talked about technologies in the security industry; however, the market remains dominated by analog systems. Early adopters of IP video systems found value by leveraging their internal network. The value was not in the IP CCTV system itself, but in the means of transmitting signals.

Historically, IP systems were challenged when compared to analog systems for several reasons:

IP camera images were not significantly better, yet they commanded a significant price premium.

  • Performance in low light was a challenge.
  • IP systems required an investment in IT infrastructure (servers, storage and bandwidth).
  • Most video management systems focused on large scale systems and didn’t scale down well.
  • IP systems were designed from an IT perspective and were far more complex to design, install and support than the typical analog system.

In other words, the security-conscious end user could not find much value in IP systems -- nor could the traditional CCTV integrator. And the hype surrounding IP over the past several years has simply not resulted in rapid adoption because of this critical value equation.

If IP is to achieve its promise, it must deliver real value to integrators and end users that is easy to see and to understand. A winning IP value formula is to provide high-quality video in an easy-to-use system that does not have a large adverse impact on network.

Technology That Drives Value
Do customers ask for IP, analog or hybrid systems? Or are they looking to solve issues in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible? The typical end user is searching for a solution to their problems -- but they’re not looking for a specific technology. Integrators and manufacturers tend to put technology first and value second.

Today, IP is beginning to drive value. The advent of 720p/1080p technology is introducing cameras that provide a quality of picture that is simply better and more easily demonstrated. Suppliers are developing technologies that can maintain this high-quality image in low light -- normally a significant barrier to adoption. In addition, compression technologies are driving the cost of network infrastructure and storage down dramatically. And all of this is occurring as market prices begin to seriously compete with analog systems.

As manufacturers find ways to improve the performance of IP cameras, it is important to remember that they are only part of the solution. Video management software also plays a critical role in driving value.

Upon review of most video management systems on the market, it appears they have grown out of the IT industry.

The setup, programming and maintenance feel like other IT products. This does not translate well into the security space, whose players have been raised on analog systems that are easy to install.

Additionally, end users with a working knowledge of an analog system or DVR may not have the skill-set required to make a smooth transition to IP video management solutions. We face competing choices; either sell and use the product you know you can manage efficiently, or invest in the training and certifications necessary to install, manage, support and use an IP video management system. The migration from analog to IP can be daunting in many arenas that are key to end users.

In mass market style applications, how many end users have IT departments suited to support IP systems?

The best way to overcome these challenges is for suppliers to provide video management systems that are so easy to set up, install, support and use that they blur the line between analog and IP. Usually, users do not care how the data is transmitted. They care much more about the quality of the data and their own ability to use and manage it effectively without an IT specialist.

Most video management systems are designed for large-scale solutions at organizations with IT departments. The security world has been challenged to adopt technologies that drive costs up, but effectiveness -- and profits -- down.

And the largest portion of the surveillance market is not large-scale systems. Attempting to fit a large-scale system into a scaled-down market is difficult, time consuming and expensive.

Creating video management solutions that incorporate wizards, pre-set configurations, self-enrollment of cameras and other ease-of-use software is commonplace in other arenas, but not security. The adoption of standards such as ONVIF and PSIA also will dramatically reduce the complexity of the installation and affect an integrator’s ability to offer long-term support.

We are in a time when integrators and end users can find video management systems designed as security platforms instead of IT platforms, and IP cameras can provide a total cost of ownership that rivals analog systems.

And we’ve entered a time when IP systems finally deliver on the hype.

A solution for an end user should never be technology for technology’s sake; it should drive real, demonstrable value. This is when technology drives rapid adoption. The transition from analog systems to IP systems begins with finding the real value in IP video.

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Scott Harkins is the general manager of Honeywell Systems Group.

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