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A Glimpse Into The Future Of IP Video

A Glimpse Into The Future Of IP Video

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the world’s first IP network camera, a technology that eventually revolutionized the video surveillance landscape. When IP video was still an emerging technology skeptics wondered whether it would gain any traction, let alone take over the whole video surveillance market. A decade ago video analytics was discussed as the biggest promise for the industry, with estimates that it would become a billion dollar market on its own within a few years. Cloud services were rarely talked about in the context of physical security. IT security and physical security were mentioned in the context of “convergence,” but no one really considered the cyber threat that IP video equipment on a corporate network could potentially present to a large organization.

Fast forward to 2016. Today’s IP cameras are light years ahead of their analog predecessors. They are not only vastly better in terms of resolution, low light capability, forensic information and built-in intelligence, but also in the way they are mounted and installed. Tools and technology like PoE, outdoor readiness and remote focus adjustments have greatly simplified installation. These advancements, as well as IP video’s enormous scalability and open-standards design, are the reasons why IP-based systems have become the only consideration for enterprise-level installations. Today, you can find systems with more than 10,000 network cameras integrated into a single surveillance system, and even some with more than 100,000 cameras. This level of scalability and seamless integration with other systems such as access control could only be possible using IP technology. Now, thermal technology has entered the arena giving another dimension to IP surveillance.

One projection that has yet to reach fruition is video intelligence, also known as analytics. The current market is much smaller than initially predicted. The sluggish growth to date stems from the general immaturity of the technology, the lack of video analytics vendors of relevant size, unclear patent situations, and the poor accuracy and value experienced by many end users. There are, however, a few solid applications like people counting and license plate recognition that are becoming mainstream.

The two newest IT technologies to impact physical security industry today are cyber security and cloud computing. With a growing number of high profile data breaches and cyberattacks between nations over the last few years, cyber security is becoming a high priority for every corporation and government institution. Physical security systems running on the IT networks by necessity have had to adhere to stringent cyber security protocols. As for cloud computing, also known as hosted video, issues with bandwidth and storage scalability still need to be worked out to achieve its great advantages. Furthermore, multiple business models for hosting and service providers are still being tested.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE FUTURE

It does not take a crystal ball to figure out that innovation will continue to reshape the surveillance landscape as we know it. In the last decade we watched the security industry migrate from analog to all digital IP-based as IT departments became more accepting of video surveillance traffic on the network. The next 10 years of change are likely to be even more dramatic, with the number of network camera installations expected to escalate rapidly.

Technological improvements. Storage and bandwidth costs will drop so low that system designers will be free to build solutions that deliver full frame rate, live video to every user, along with months or even years of archived recording. Video quality will continue to improve, with HDTV becoming the de facto resolution standard. First centering on 1080p, it will eventually migrate to 4K resolution. With mobility and cloud offerings, access to video from anywhere on any smart device will become commonplace.

Small and mid-size systems transitioning to IP. While most enterprise systems being installed today are IP-based, there are still millions of analog cameras being sold globally – primarily to small and mid-size businesses. Industry analysis indicates that eventually all system sizes will become digital and IP-based. But there are different drivers that come into play in the small and mid-size markets. In those markets the more important factor is upfront cost as most of those buyers are only looking at the acquisition cost and not evaluating the cost of operation and maintenance. Many new digital and IP-based systems are addressing those concerns which will be changing the value conversation. As technology and business practices mature, video as a service will prove a cost-effective entry point to IP for many small-to-medium size businesses.

Consolidation of market. The physical security equipment manufacturing market is very fragmented. In video alone, the top 15 manufactures make up less than 50 percent of the market, atypical for most other markets. With the increasing migration to IP-based systems and the rapid evolution of technology, manufacturers will be pressured to invest greater resources in R&D to keep pace. This will likely force the market to consolidate either through acquisitions or vendors opting to leave the video surveillance market.

Consolidation is both good and bad for the end customer. Fewer vendors might make it easier to select the right partner, but it could also might mean that some companies you partnered with a few years ago will no longer exist or no longer offer support for their older products and services.

Continued market growth. The surveillance market has enjoyed healthy growth for many years due to the many threats we continue to face both in our personal lives and our business activities. In response, companies and governments alike are spending time, money and effort to provide security measures to mitigate those threats. According to research conducted by ASIS (American Society for Industrial Security), the USA spends nearly $300 billion a year on security, or two percent of our GDP. The vast majority of those funds are earmarked for human resources such as is security guards, police and other public protection services. Only a very small fraction is spent on electronic security equipment such as video surveillance cameras. That is likely to change as the market becomes more “automated” with technology.

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY IN 20 YEARS

When surveillance cameras first came on the market, their job was to simply provide an extra pair of eyes. But now we’ve harnessed their processing power as well, giving them both brains and a memory. In a contest between man and machine, it quickly becomes evident that intelligent network video can amplify security well beyond what human intervention can achieve alone. From visual acuity to attention span, from memory capacity to situational analysis, surveillance technology continues to help raise the bar for the security industry as a whole.

Public opinion has radically changed over the last two decades regarding the prevalence of surveillance technology in our lives. In light of recent events there is a growing need for people to feel secure – whether at work or out shopping, on public transport or in a critical infrastructure facility. This has led to a burgeoning business at both ends of the spectrum: from mega-large surveillance systems to small-scale surveillance installations.

Cities now deploy thousands of IP cameras within their borders and retailers install hundreds of cameras in their stores. That trend will continue to accelerate. A growing number of surveillance cameras will be hosted and managed in the cloud. Finally, video intelligence will eventually deliver on its promise and drive IP video acceptance even further and faster than before. In the years ahead, you can expect to see other physical security markets such as access control, intercom and audio to become fully scalable and integrated IP-based systems adding further value to physical security and information management systems.

This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Security Today.

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