Great Systems Start with Great Planning

Great Systems Start with Great Planning

To ensure that new and enhanced systems best meet expectations, one of the most critical steps in the design process is in the initial planning stages

The sophistication of today’s video surveillance and security systems technology has delivered significant gains to end users tasked with ensuring the safety and security of people, property and assets. A prime example of this evolution is with management and control platforms with open architecture enabling numerous integrations that result in improved situational awareness and operational ease.

Simultaneously, the complexity and ongoing evolution of integrated systems has also created new challenges for system designers. To ensure that new and enhanced systems best meet expectations, one of the most critical steps in the design process is in the initial planning stages. Clearly identifying surveillance and security objectives, priorities, budget parameters, potential installation/construction issues and future expansion plans are critical considerations. By taking the time at the start of the project to address these questions clearly – and gain agreement – users and/or integrators will be better ensured of developing and implementing a more innovative and comprehensive solution.

The Fundamentals

What are the operational goals of the system?

While this question may appear to have a simple, straightforward answer the reality is often different. Cameras can be used for reactive (i.e. audited, prosecution, etc.) recording purposes or for proactive (intelligent analysis capability) real-time surveillance. Determining the camera’s purpose and the problem to be solved leads to asking additional questions that will help clarify the situational needs. Some of these may include: How much resolution is needed? How long will records need to be retained? What areas need to be covered and when?

How will the system be staffed?

This is an important question because the answer will have a bearing on camera and video management system selection. For example, casinos require 24/7 live monitoring of the system while perimeter or parking lot surveillance may be unattended. Automation and analytics may also play a role in the solution. Analytics are now available that can support a wide range of recognizable events, including License Plate Recognition (LPR), heat mapping, simple motion vectors, as well as some very advanced demographic recognition functions such as gender, ethnicity, approximate age, and clothing colors. In unstaffed situations, analytics can even alert staff that events may need to be reviewed.

What are the environmental conditions?

Conditions such as extreme heat, cold, humidity, corrosion, and high dust levels will play a part in determining what equipment can be considered for the installation. Other environmental factors also can play an important role, such as ambient light levels, the availability and reliability of existing power and network infrastructure.

The Specifics

Based on answers to the above questions, the conversation can move on to determining more specific details of the system. These might include the number and type of cameras needed; data storage requirements; existing infrastructure capability and training needs. With these answers in hand, more advanced considerations can be addressed, including:

Integration Needs. The most common example is access control. Most current systems have an IP-based interface that can easily be integrated into VMS systems but it is important to know any limitations and to work with an integrator and a manufacturer that support a wide range of 3rd party integrations.

Redundancy. For the vast majority of systems, simple RAID5 or RAID6 redundancy in storage is sufficient. Planners should also consider budgeting for “Failover” recorders and other server hardware on the VMS back-end, as well as spare cameras.

System Security. Cybersecurity is a critical issue in a network environment and smart planning now can help eliminate some of the risk. Any network-connected software or device in the security system could potentially serve as an open door for an attacker to access networks and sensitive information. By ensuring at this stage that system contains hardened architecture, software and devices, the vulnerability can be reduced.

Licensing. Today, most VMS systems have licensing requirements as well as Software Upgrade Plans (SUP) or Service Level Agreements (SLA) to cover everything from higher tiers of support to future upgrades. It’s an important aspect of the design stage because if allowed to expire, out-of-date software can become a significant expense to bring the system back into compliance or to obtain the required support.

Support. Beyond the capabilities of the end-user to support its installations, how is support escalated? Does the installer have personnel that are trained and able to support the planned installation? If support issues exceed the installer’s capabilities, what are the manufacturer’s responsibilities for resolution?

The Pitfalls

It’s easy to get caught up in the lure of the technology. Specification creep and glossy brochures can distract from core planning discussions. Integrators and manufacturers who take the time to understand the application, its assets and limitations, and who have a history of providing a solution that meets the end-user’s needs, don’t need to indulge in these embellishments. Rather, by probing what is needed, what the challenges are and what problems the customer is trying to solve, many pitfalls can be avoided.

Having these discussions at the start of the project, and considering the full range of factors, will help to ensure the final result is a successful project.

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