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Competition is driving lower costs; technology evolution is here to stay

The video surveillance and physical security industry has been anything but quiet recently. Consolidation via merger and acquisition activity, competitive pressures driving costs lower and technology evolution are forces affecting trends both now and into the future.

COMPETITION DRIVING VALUE OFFERINGS

With video surveillance product lines maturing and fewer features being added, product differentiation is turning toward price reductions, particularly with cameras, and “takeover” offerings, most notably with VMS. More recent lower-cost entrants to the market of VMS and camera products may not have rich feature sets common in traditionally popular product brands but are sometimes seen as “good enough” for price sensitive deployments. This effect is further driving the cost-cutting trend as compelling offerings are trying to win back and increase market share.

The impact for consumers in the near term is beneficial. High-end products are now often available at a lower cost. This translates into lower technology costs for organizations or better video coverage for the same cost as compared to what could be accomplished as recently as a year ago.

If consolidation continues, and product manufacturers offer more components of a total security solution, this trend could be further influenced. For instance, a product manufacturer offering cameras, VMS and access control separately could offer a discount on purchasing a bundled solution of the components at a discount compared to purchasing components separately.

Longer term, competitive pricing pressure could stifle innovation by shifting focus from R&D to promotional offerings, and has the potential ultimately to reduce the technology options available to consumers.

H.265 AND BITRATE REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES

Video requires a lot of bandwidth and storage to transmit and retain as compared to many other types of information. As such, bandwidth and storage reduction technology continues to be popular in video surveillance. As bandwidth increases and storage costs are reduced, camera resolution continues increasing, offsetting the aforementioned effect and keeping the camera bitrate concerns as a major design consideration for some time to come.

H.265 is reputed to deliver approximately 30 to 50 percent reduction in bitrate compared to H.264 under similar circumstances. H.265 capable product offerings from camera manufacturers has been steadily increasing and support from major VMS providers will follow suit as consumers adopt cameras with H.265 support.

H.265 decoding requires increased CPU consumption. Consumers of H.265 surveillance cameras may find their NVRs required more CPU power, but more likely the client workstations used for monitoring video will also. Over time VMS vendors would benefit from integration of GPU (video card) based processing for H.265 video streams to reduce the overall cost of processing and decoding the streams as compared to CPU based decoding.

While H.265 is promising, offerings like Zipstream from Axis and several technologies from VMS providers such as resolution scaling, multi casting and multi streaming all draw significant interest and can lead consumer product selection as a top criterion.

SOCIAL MEDIA AGGREGATION AND ALERTING

Access control, video and even point of sale are common types of security information to integrate.

A new technology is emerging impacting physical security: social media monitoring. Using this category of technology opens a new world of information relevant to an organization’s security program. Social media monitoring services allow for monitoring of social media activity from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets. The best products offer search and filtering capability, mapping of connections to see a person-of-interest’s social contacts and most importantly, filtering by geography so only content in a certain area is displayed and alerted on. For example, a school system may use this to learn of drug activity, weapons on campus and more by filtering for target keywords.

Cameras in a facility can be mapped and a social media in a particular area can be associated to live video feeds allowing the digital information to be correlated to real time video.

This emerging category of security technology provides some obvious benefits and also some drawbacks. Concerns over privacy could spur controversy related to the perception of ‘big brother’ style monitoring. It is important to note however, social media data from cooperating social media platforms is publically available and not shared outside of the terms of service.

That being said, social media monitoring provides the first type of security data that can tell security monitoring professionals what may happen in the future. Video, access and other traditional types of security technology tell you what has happened or what is currently occurring. Social media data can dramatically heighten the ability to respond to upcoming events and allow for appropriate preparation.

BODY CAMS

A trend in policing related to video surveillance is the expansion in the use of body worn cameras. Their use, which is often related to justification of police action and validation of events claimed in public interaction, makes them a powerful tool in times of heightened scrutiny.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced $20 million of funding for the purchase of police worn body cameras, the first installment in a 3 year program with a budget of $75 million. The entire program could result in the issuing of tens of thousands of body cameras, heightening an already expanding market for potential VMS applications. Integration of body worn cameras may require special features like synchronization of video, association of officer information to video data based on the time and person wearing the unit and more.

Departments choosing to integrate with VMS can benefit from a central store of video surveillance data and advanced search and investigation capabilities.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Security Today.

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