On The Job

How new devices are helping security network installers get on and off job sites faster

The adoption of IP-based video surveillance cameras is driving the growth of the overall video surveillance market. More than 98 million IP cameras were sold in 2017, according to industry analyst IHS Market. These cameras run on Ethernet networks, which means, in many cases, scrapping old network cabling and installing new copper or fiber network cabling. IP network cable distances and jack terminations are age-old cable installer problems that can make network installations take longer than anticipated.

These problems are exacerbated by the increasing use of PoE, which has its own installation and operational rules that need to be considered by the installer. PoE has had a big impact on security network installer’s lives by making it much easier and more cost effective to connect multiple types of remote network devices to the network. The simplicity to connect and power Wi-Fi access points, security cameras, biometric readers, and other remotely located devices is a huge advance.

However, installing these systems presents management challenges as their inconvenient remote locations make access difficult and exacerbates common network cabling challenges. Device Management System (DMS) helps to change this by providing management of powered devices that are connected to PoE+ switches. DMS is similar to the universally used SNMP network management standard, in that it is not vendor proprietary, but does provide unique management of connected network devices that is complementary to other management systems.

DMS helps installers solve a different set of network problems, including:

  • Cable length too long for PoE: PoE performance can be impacted if the total direct current (DC) resistance in the cable is too high resulting in a significant power drop for cables that are too long, or where the cable quality is poor.
  • Cable breaks/kinks: Cable installation or handling can result in cable breaks or kinks that can impact Ethernet connectivity and PoE functioning.
  • Cable jack termination: An unreliable connection in a jack can disrupt both Ethernet and PoE by reducing the current to insufficient levels.
  • Network mapping: Creating the map of the just-installed network, including documenting the device IP and MAC addresses is a significant, manual effort that can mandate extra effort and hours.

EVOLUTION OF DEVICE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

DMS may not be well known, but it is not new; it has been a component of VMS for years. VMS are used in medium to large security and video surveillance camera installations to manage the video viewing, access and storage of large numbers of video feeds. DMS was created to manage the IP-connected cameras. Now, PoE+ switch suppliers are implementing just the DMS technology in their switches to provide installation benefits as well as ongoing management benefits for security system installers.

The DMS capabilities and diagnostics enable the switches to provide valuable information for diagnosing problems and resolving simple issues like resetting power to remote devices. DMS functionality is built into a PoE switch and is viewed via a web browser. There are no changes required for the powered devices.

The key features of DMS include:

Configuration and device management. Once installed, the DMS will automatically discover all IP addressable PDs attached to a switch and display these devices in either a topology view, a floor view, or in a geographic view using Google Maps.

Most DMS systems include the ability to configure a device, including specifying the device type, name, MAC and IP address, and understanding how much power is being consumed. The installer can easily log into the device management interface to access device- specific configuration functions. This enables the installer to use a single tool to configure a wide range of powered devices. Some advanced features include setting operating hours, which turns off the PoE power for equipment that doesn’t need to run during nonbusiness hours.

Troubleshooting. With DMS, the installer can perform a simple reboot or power-cycle of a camera in the ceiling or other remote location without the need for a ladder or other equipment. A standard diagnostic capability includes Auto Power Reset (APR), which enables the remote rebooting of a non-responsive or malfunctioning device. Other common troubleshooting features include diagnosing cable status and device alive or device connectivity status as well as automated alarms for critical outages. This last feature is critical in security camera applications because if a camera malfunctions, loses a connection or is without power, it’s crucial to know where the problem is located as soon as possible to mitigate safety and security risks.

Traffic monitoring. Traffic monitoring adds value to network planning and provides another means of spotting abnormal traffic levels that could indicate a malware infection. For installers, this isn’t the highest priority, but it does provide value if the installation company has contracted for ongoing maintenance. Typical traffic monitoring features include tracking packet counts with analysis that can be performed by day and week as well as by port and device. Alarms can also be set to signify abnormal traffic levels.

DMS is a valuable tool for installers, which dramatically simplifies the network installation process for all PoE-based security networks. But with DMS features being enabled in an increasing number of PoE+ switches, this technology is more widely accessible and can make PD installation significantly easier and more cost effective.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Security Today.

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