As director of network solutions for Tri-Ed/Northern Video Distribution, Jeffrey Stout travels extensively throughout North America conducting IP-based training sessions for the company as well as speaking at industry-related forums. He joins the Hot Seat to lend his expert insights and advice for installing security contractors that haven’t exactly jumped headlong into the IP waters as yet.
What do you project in 2012 for IP video opportunities?
The IP video market is growing exponentially. A greater number of manufacturers are entering this space than ever before and traditional analog suppliers continue to expand into the IP video arena. The markets that have already adopted IP video as a standard will continue to offer tremendous opportunity. These include government, K-12, colleges-universities, health care and transportation.
The retail market will begin to adopt IP video as a standard because of the ‘business intelligence’ analytics that are available or being developed. Retailers will be able to count people, determine age and gender, and monitor traffic flow in their facilities. This will provide valuable information to a store owner for marketing purposes as well as the traditional video security benefits. Also, the residential video marketplace is continuing to see strong growth. With the addition of mobile apps and fee-based cloud storage, dealers can meet the ever-changing needs of the residential customer by utilizing IP-based video systems.
The biggest challenge looking forward will be to understand and recognize an IP video opportunity and having personnel on staff who feel comfortable installing a network-based system.
If the future is a mix of analog and digital video, should dealers that want to provide the cost-conscious end user with a future migration path stop installing coax?
The cost of upgrading cable from a labor standpoint can make it prohibitive for an end user to upgrade to IP video. By using Category cable — Cat-5e, Cat-6 or Cat-6a — the dealer can future-proof the cable plant and make the upgrade path to IP video less costly. While there are media converters on the marketplace that can transmit data over coax, Category cable and video baluns offer an easier and less expensive migration path to IP video from an analog installation for the end user.
What do you see as a common denominator among those dealers that are hesitant to make the leap into IP?
The most common roadblock to making the leap into IP video is the fear of the networking component. To overcome this, invest in your staff by giving them basic network training. Most manufacturers are offering products that help eliminate many of the pitfalls, so a basic understanding of networking is typically enough. For larger systems, learning how to work with your customers’ IT departments will help in the installation process. If a dealer gets ‘buy in’ from the IT department prior to the sale, the installation process will be much smoother and they will encounter far fewer headaches. As your company installs more IP-based systems, it may become necessary to hire a network-certified professional.
Can video analytics now be deployed by the traditional security dealer in an efficient and profitable manner?
Video analytics vary in its complexity and its ease of deployment. Most dealers would be able to deploy basic analytics such as loitering, fence-line monitoring, color matching and others without much difficulty. Some of the more complex analytics like facial recognition, license plate recognition, or age-gender determination may require some specialized training from a manufacturer, but still should not be out of reach for almost any dealer.
Analytics allow a dealer to customize and enhance the effectiveness of any IP-based video system so that the end user achieves the highest level of protection with a minimum of nuisance notifications.
HD cameras and megapixel cameras seem to be competing for the attention of buyers today. Does one have an edge over the other? Does either technology matter to the installing dealer?
All HD cameras are megapixel cameras - 720p = .9 megapixels and 1080p = 2.1 megapixels. The main difference between HD and megapixel cameras is that HD cameras are a widescreen [16 x 9] format. A 3-megapixel camera may only provide a 4 x 3 video format but will have a higher resolution than a 1080p camera. The installation should really determine which type of camera should be used. One small advantage of HD cameras is that due to the change from analog to digital television, most end users will understand 720p and 1080p as high resolution and high quality video.
With so many IP cameras and other IP-based CCTV products now on the market, how can dealers make the best choice for which lines they can support?
As always, dealers should look at the manufacturers and distributors that currently provide them with great support and training. The second factor is to consider the types of installations and the market segments they will be quoting. The level of product required for residential installations will differ greatly from those required for large commercial/industrial installations. Also, as more and more customers demand mobile connectivity, make sure that the products selected offer mobile apps or, at least, have mobile connectivity on their product roadmap.
Is there anything else you’d like to express to the dealer community in regards to jumping on the IP bandwagon?
Network-based video systems are a reality. The advantages and opportunities continue to grow with the improvement of the hardware and software that make up an IP video system. While analog video still has a strong place in a security dealer’s arsenal, IP video is a tool that must be considered. The marketplace will continue to drive more and more video business to reside on a network and the dealers that are ready for that shift will have a distinct advantage over those who are unprepared. Manufacturers and distributors are great sources for training, information and assistance in determining the best way for your organization to compete in the IP video market.