A Great Investment
IP surveillance delivers ROI on multiple fronts
- By Hedgie Bartol
- Jun 01, 2015
When it comes to IP video, too many customers base their
buying decisions on the sizzle and not the steak. While the
sizzle may tantalize, it’s the steak that satisfies your hunger.
So, before you get distracted by all the bells and whistles
you might add to your surveillance system in the future,
first focus on the core benefits you get simply by migrating to IP technology. That’s
where you’ll find the most ROI satisfaction.
You can pretty much count on surveillance technology always moving forward.
But if you start with a solid, open-standards IP video foundation, you’ll be able to
leverage those advancements as they come along. Or, in the words of my mentor:
“Sometimes you have to lay out a roadmap for the roads that have yet to be built.”
That’s what makes IP video such a great investment. Not only is it future-proof,
it delivers great ROI on a number of fronts right from the onset.
So, let’s examine the core values inherent in IP technology that can justify replacing
your aging analog systems: higher video quality, efficient PoE connectivity,
infrastructure flexibility, onboard intelligence and lower total cost of ownership.
VIDEO QUALITY IS HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE ANALOG
The most important thing about a surveillance system is that the video has to be
useful or “actionable.” If you can’t identify individuals and their actions, what’s
the point in recording the scene? We’ve all seen analog surveillance footage on
newscasts that looks more like pixelated blobs than actual individuals. It makes
you wonder: how is anyone supposed to recognize the perpetrator from that? The
truth is: they can’t.
Thanks to advances in imaging sensors and lens technology, IP video cameras
have changed all that. With image usability as their mantra, IP camera manufacturers
are incorporating a wide range of features to handle all sorts of environment
challenges. Here are just a few:
Progressive scanning technology. Progressive scan image sensors correct the
problem of image distortion that interlaced image sensors face when recording
movement. Because interlacing generates two fields of alternating lines (odd and
even) and combines them to form an image, the slight delay between odd and even
line refreshes can create artifacts or distortion on the video footage.
They’re especially noticeable when analyzing a
freeze frame of a moving image because only half
the lines keep up with a moving image while the other
half wait to be refreshed. However with progressive
scan sensors, instead of splitting the captured image
into separate fields, each line in the image frame
is scanned sequentially and sent over the network in
perfect order. This ensures that you’ll be able to see
critical details of moving objects, such as a person
running away without distortion or ghosting.
High resolution image sensors. Back in the days of
analog, 4CIF was considered top of the line for video
resolution. Today, thanks to advances in consumer
electronics spilling into the physical security world,
the minimum expectation for IP video quality starts
with HDTV 720p resolution and goes up from there.
Because HDTV conforms to standards, when you
buy an HDTV IP camera you’re guaranteed a specific
resolution, aspect ratio, frame rate and color fidelity.
Some HDTV cameras support corridor format,
turning the 16:9 aspect ratio 90o so that you can capture
long hallways and aisles with fewer cameras and
more effective coverage. Whether you choose megapixel
or HDTV-quality IP cameras, the more pixels
you have in the image area the more details you can
capture. Plus, the details don’t degrade as you digitally
zoom in for a closer look.
The payoff for more actionable video can be significant.
Several companies have said that they’ve been
able to increase their case closures and restitution by
25 percent simply due to better image quality.
Wide dynamic range technology. This feature solves
the problem of variable lighting conditions within the
same frame. Using sophisticated algorithms, the camera
sensor processes the dark and light areas to reveal
details with exceptional clarity and sharpness that
would have been washed out or hidden in shadow.
Low-light sensitivity. Today’s IP video cameras
take day/night recording to the next level. Combining
highly light sensitive image sensors and lenses with
advanced image processing, these cameras can record
in full color fidelity with minimal noise in environments
with lighting levels as low as 0.1 lux. Details
that would have otherwise been lost in the darkness
are suddenly brought to light.
Thermal imaging. Cameras equipped with thermal
imaging technology are able to detect people, objects
and incidents in complete darkness and difficult conditions
such as smoke, haze, dust and light fog. The
heat signatures recorded on the video are generally
sufficient to distinguish humans from animals and
inanimate objects, which makes them a great surveillance
tool for locations where artificial illumination
would be impractical and extremely costly, such as
shorelines, remote power stations and empty stretches
of country borders.
POE CONNECTIVITY REDUCES
Most IP cameras support PoE, the ability to power
the camera and transmit the video through the same
cable. This generates savings on two fronts: the amount
of cabling needed for the project and the amount of
man-hours needed to install the cable. With the PoE
and network topology, there’s no need to “home run”
all your camera cables back to your recording device
like you would in an analog system. You only need to
run the cables from the cameras to a centralized switch
that runs a single cable back to your recording device.
PoE streamlines system configuration because the
cameras can take advantage of centralized power
backup. The cost savings continue to mount because
the system is based on industry standards and best
networking practices, which makes it both easier to
install and easier to service.
CHOICES DRIVE DOWN COSTS
As we all know, coax cabling for analog
cameras can be expensive and proprietary.
Furthermore, the longer the
run of cable the more the video image
degrades. And, don’t get me started on
how complicated it is to add power, I/Os
and audio to a coax cable-based system.
IP technology solves that problem by
enabling your IP cameras to piggyback
on your existing network infrastructure
like any other network-attached device.
No more image degradation from long
cable runs. Adding backup power, audio
and I/O capabilities is a simple plug and
play. If there’s no fixed cabling available,
instead of expensive trenching out to the
location you can use onboard batteries
to operate the cameras and wireless
technology to stream the video.
Being network based, IP video
doesn’t rely on fixed-channel, failureprone
DVRs. So, you can add cameras
in any increments you choose whenever
you choose. At the end of the day, IP
video gives you better image quality,
greater flexibility, scalability and reliability—
all at a lower cost than analog.
PROVIDES SO MUCH MORE
Because IP cameras are basically computers
with eyes, they contain a lot of
processing power and built-in intelligence.
They can do a lot of things that
analog cameras can’t. I’m not talking
about integrating third-party video analytics
applications—although at some
point you can do that, too—I’m talking
about native capabilities that you can
use just by taking the camera out of the
box. For instance:
Basic motion detection. You can
program rules for an IP camera that
change throughout the day, such as
during or after business hours, or when
someone crosses a virtual line or simply
enters the scene when a light turns on,
etc. You can set rules to trigger an audio
message telling an intruder that the
area is off limits. You can even program
the camera to trigger an email alert
when motion is detected.
Pixel counter. This feature measures
the pixel density within the field of view
to ensure it meets your surveillance objectives.
For instance, for facial identification
you’d need a density of 80 pixels.
You can use the in-camera pixel counter
to verify the pixel density in the event
you need the video for a court case.
Remote Focus and Zoom. Separate
from PTZ features, IP cameras have the
intelligence to drive motorized lenses
for adjusting and focusing varifocal
lengths at the touch of a button—without
you having to be on site. Think
about how often cameras get bumped
away from their intended direction or
vibrate out of focus. With the onboard
intelligence, there’s no more waiting in
the queue for a service technician to
make an onsite service call while your
cameras stream useless video. With an
IP camera you can adjust the focus
remotely from anywhere you have network
connectivity and be back in peak
IP BEATS ANALOG FOR LOWER
TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP
Fewer cables, greater scalability, easier
maintenance and superior image quality
already make IP surveillance a great
choice. But like the Energizer Bunny,
the cost savings for IP video keeps going
and going and going. In case you’ve
forgotten, IP video is based on open
So, you’re not locked into expensive,
proprietary hardware. You can shop
for best of breed components from any
manufacturer or opt for affordable common-
off-the-shelf components. Open
standards mean you can add third-party
analytic software to the system and/
or integrate the IP cameras with other
open standards security systems such as
access control and fire detection down
the road whenever you’re ready.
Because the same network infrastructure
is shared across all business
units, IP video costs less to deploy. But
another area where IP video outshines
analog is in system maintenance and
Remote diagnostics and service. Because
IP surveillance systems can be
accessed over a secure Internet connection,
technicians can diagnose and correct
problems, update software and perform
other maintenance tasks remotely
without the expense or delay of making
an onsite visit. Some of the businesses
I’ve spoken with have cut maintenance
costs by as much as 30 percent just from
servicing their systems online.
Hosted video. To reduce cost of
ownership even further, IP surveillance
systems are ideal candidates for hosted
video services. The only upfront capital
investment is for the cameras on site.
The service provider takes care of the
rest (servers, secure web portal, system
upgrades, maintenance, etc.) for a fixed
monthly fee. This moves surveillance
from a capital expense to an operating
expense. And if you share the video
with other departments—merchandising,
marketing, HR, facilities management—
to glean valuable insights into
all facets of the business—you can amortize
the operating costs across their
budgets as well.
JUSTIFY THE SWITCH TO IP
VIDEO ON TODAY’S ROI
There are a host of compelling reasons
for migrating to IP video technology:
exceptional video quality, simplified
POE connectivity, easier maintenance
and service, lower total cost of ownership
and more. Focus on the significant
value you can realize today simply by
choosing an open-standards solution.
No one can predict the future of technology
with any certainty. But with an
IP video solution, you’re assured substantial
ROI today and for many years
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Security Today.