Shop Customer Satisfaction

For IP manufacturers, the production line is the beginning of service

With ISC West coming up on the docket, it will be interesting to see what video vendors will be emphasizing. Odds are that we will see scores of messages about better widgets -- higher-resolution cameras, unique VMS software, clever storage schemes and the like.

You can take it to the bank that the word “ONVIF” (Open Network Video Interface Forum) will be highly displayed. And it should be. After all, end users want the increased benefits of digital and IP video surveillance, but end users and integrators alike run into big roadblocks on the journey from analog to digital. With digital surveillance, it is no longer simple to mix and match analog cameras and DVR brands. The basic components of a digital network video system are often non-standard, including the IP camera, NVR and VMS.

This is the crux of ONVIF’s importance. ONVIF-certified products work with other ONVIF-certified products. If a product carries ONVIF certification, integration is standardized. If the integrator and end user agree on using only ONVIF-certified products, we are on our way back to the plug-and-play world.

Reading the Blogs
Increasing compatibility is the type of thing that dependable manufacturers are undertaking. But their responsibility doesn’t stop with product improvements.

If you have been reading video surveillance blogs recently, you’ll know that some bloggers have been castigating video manufactures on their lack of service and commitment to their customers. Their point is simple: Video manufacturers are very good at introducing the latest and greatest products, but they seem to believe that is where their responsibility ends. After accepting the purchase order and delivering the product, the rest -- working out the specifics of the individual system -- is up to the integrator and their customer.

It is these types of “products” -- service and individual attention -- that one doesn’t see in a trade show booth. For instance, if you want to migrate from analog to digital, what is the cost of doing so? And how much does it cost to add encoders to your analog cameras?

What about tearing out the analog control center and totally replacing it? What if it’s not yet fully depreciated? Can’t systems coexist for awhile? What if you decide the digital system doesn’t work for you and you want to return to analog? Ask some school districts that had to grapple with these questions when they found, per state law, that they needed to store 30 days of highresolution video. The answers to those types of questions won’t be highlighted in tradeshow booths.

Does Your Integrator Understand IP?
That’s a very important question to ask. You need to know what type of training the manufacturer is providing its integrators. Does the manufacturer provide hands-on technical productcertification classes that train integrators and dealers to install and optimize IP surveillance cameras to deliver the best evidence to their customers?

As a result of completing such training, dealers, integrators and installers will know how to install, configure and support IP cameras. Working with others in the class, they will be able to leverage new networking opportunities for working together on future projects and have new insights into the functionalities their organizations will need to successfully compete in the future.

They also will leave with resources for additional training after their certification session.

Additionally, by actually working with the products, dealers, integrators and installers gain an increased understanding of IP technology, meaning they obtain confidence in installing and configuring IP video products, and receive verification of their knowledge through certification testing.

Here’s one question you might ask your manufacturer to determine if it provides the type of training you would want your integrator to have: Does your training program provide BICSI and ESA members with credits?

What If Things Don’t Work?
Remember the last system you put in -- that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach when it was time to “turn it on,” that sinking feeling when it didn’t work? Were you and the integrator left alone to try to figure it out? Bloggers have again been noticing this.

Let’s face it: Sometimes things go haywire. For instance, the architect drops in and the camera mountings don’t match the interior. But they are available only in black and white. A contractor made a mess of the wiring.

He’s not to blame; nobody told him about the surveillance system. The customer comes in midway during the project and alerts everyone that her boss also wants to be able to add a new feature to the application, one the VMS doesn’t support.

Here’s a real-life example: When a major metro system needed to add more cameras and alarm management to its existing surveillance system, it also wanted to ensure it would have flexible system priority management; powerful, network-centric alarm management; a synchronous system for all devices; and a pathway to future upgrades.

There was one big problem: The solution comprised components from multiple companies.

The manufacturer was able to help the integrator solve the problem with some product tweaks. First of all, a 20 priority level was placed between the keyboard and camera. Without getting technical, this meant the system could quickly denote changes in conditions and respond to them, ensuring priority conditions would be executed first.

If there were an accident, the system could focus on the trains involved, their location and the points leading to it.

The manufacturer also corrected the system so that alarm signals could be sent to the central control server via the installed Ethernet and customized the solution so that all devices would have a synchronous system. As a result, the metro’s surveillance system’s components are more compatible with each other, and the customer got what it wanted.

That’s the type of effort that integrators and end-users want to see from manufacturers. The problem is that you can’t see this “product” in the exhibitor’s booth; you need to dig deeper.

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Security Today.

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