A California-based rail system contains up to $30,000 worth of product per rail car. Trucks are constantly adding and extracting the expensive product from hatches atop each cargo holder. Sometimes, the hatches are mistakenly left open, allowing dust in the air to enter and damage the product. In the past, several on-site guards patrolled the area but didn’t always check the hatches, which resulted in lost product and money.
Today, CCTV cameras watch the perimeter of the rail yard and a 24-hour video monitoring center, B.A.S.I. in Irvine, Calif., periodically checks the hatches using a video transmission system and camera pan/tilt/zoom capabilities. Since the installation of the system, the rail company has been able to decrease the number of on-site guards, and ultimately, decrease their spending on security by 40 percent, while increasing efficiency.
While this kind of savings is not necessarily common, this type of cost justification formula is exactly what helps B.A.S.I. sell the system and the monitoring.
Unfortunately, because video monitoring is such a new and fairly unknown technology, the cost is high. However, dealers wanting to get a piece of the future in their pockets today are targeting specific markets.
Companies who want video monitoring generally have an excess of expendable income, a desire for the latest and greatest security products and an existing system that, while effective, doesn’t provide exactly the type of detection and deterrence they really want.
Dealers who sell video monitoring predict it’s the future of security. Today, monitoring is mainly done by end users, but as technology progresses and more people purchase systems, more and more video monitoring centers will be standing in line to offer this added service to existing CCTV clients. But, before video monitoring becomes mainstream, dealers say equipment prices have to drop, phone lines must become more accessible, especially ISDN lines, and pictures need to be transmitted in real time.
Because video monitoring technology is so new and virtually a mystery to end users, dealers are finding a niche, developing specific selling techniques, and expecting a lot of support and training from the equipment manufacturers.
Video Monitoring Managed By User, Monitoring Center
One of the main selling points of video monitoring for ATMs, banks, retail chain stores, restaurants and such, is the end user’s ability to monitor his or her own facilities. For example, a retail chain store owner may own six stores in several areas. Rather than visiting those stores on a regular basis, wasting valuable time driving, the owner could call up several cameras every so often and watch the store’s activities. However, when dealers get into selling to industrial and high-tech facilities, those end users want someone else to monitor the area.
“I got started in video monitoring two years ago because a customer asked for it. He wanted to watch his store without having to drive there. He also wanted to keep employees on their toes,” says William Wilson, president of Wilson Security Systems in Northridge, Calif. “It’s still a small part of my business, but once people see it, they’re hooked on it.”
Wilson’s market mainly consists of franchise restaurants and retail chain stores.
Tech Systems, Inc. in Roswell, Ga., hits the same niche markets, but also has expanded its reach to include manufacturing facilities, correctional facilities, and hospitals. “Some of theses facilities only go on line periodically to watch particular areas while others are on line all the time,” says Darryl Keeler, president/owner of Tech Systems.
Jerry Clark, senior vice president of Tech Systems continues, “With the systems we install, end users monitor their own video. We haven’t tried it any other way. It’s so new to them though, that it’s almost alien.”
The newness of the video transmission system is debatable. It’s fairly new in the United States; however, many townships in Europe have been monitored this way for years. ““I think they use it in Europe simply because it’s so much less expensive than having a police officer wandering around. Cameras see more and the recall is perfect,”” says Laurence Harper, president of B.A.S.I. “In this country, we’re more concerned about the intrusiveness of cameras. This is all a process of getting people to a point of saying they’re more concerned about their security than their privacy.”
B.A.S.I. is an installing company with a video monitoring station that cost several hundred thousand dollars to set up.
Holmes Protection in Stanton, Calif., has an alarm monitor terminal that sits next to a visual alarm verification (VAV) terminal, so an alarm will come up on one screen and the video on another simultaneously. In one restaurant chain, Holmes has video cameras and the VAV system connected to a transmitter. The monitoring is done on an as needed basis. For example, when an alarm is triggered or someone hits a panic button, an alarm and video signal are sent to the California central station. One difference in this video monitoring system is that it also allows customers to monitor their own areas.
““Though the video is monitored by Holmes, software is given to clients so they can check out their accounts when they want to,”” says Livanios J. Pilitsis, vice president of central station services and western region for Holmes in Stanton, Calif.
Finding Niche Is Essential to Selling Video Transmission
Video transmission hasn’t taken off in the United States as quickly as most proponents thought it would. Sure, part of the reason is the privacy issue, but there’s also the cost, the “unbelievability” because it seems so futuristic, and the lack of demonstration ability.
Versatech Industries, Inc. in Bixby, Okla., started installing video transmission systems four years ago. “I had a client ask us to do some research and development in the area. We had no connections with the equipment, and we crossed paths with Gyyr who was just getting into video transmission,” says Gene Randall, president of Versatech. “Since then, we’ve learned a lot and Gyyr has learned a lot.
““Now we target a niche market that most people don’t tread. Every installation is different,”” he says. Versatech specializes in industrial jobs, such as pipelines, hazardous materials containers and facilities, and railroads.
““The [transmission] equipment was originally designed to be basically plugged in, but that doesn’t work in an industrial environment. We do a site survey, suggest what clients might want, and we customize the system to fit their needs,”” says Randall.
Twisted Pair Creates Inexpensive, Short-Range Video Transmission
Short-range video transmission doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. For some applications, it can be as simple as adding twisted pair video adapters to each end of a phone line.
“For example, Jim Utzerath & Associates in Milwaukee has installed a video transmission system for the Racine Police Dept. In Racine, the police sometimes move into houses in certain high crime areas to police the neighborhood. To protect these police-owned properties and watch activity in these neighborhoods, CCTV cameras were installed and the monitoring is done over standard phone lines. The police watch the scenes from the dispatch area. The department is using the V-Link system from Northern Information Technologies to monitor over a three- to four-mile radius and is receiving video at two to four frames per second. According to Hebert, the end user cost for the receiver and transmitter system is about $2,500. Then, of course, the equipment costs are tacked onto that.