As of this writing, the “Linsanity” sensation is sweeping America, China and other parts of the world. It refers to the inspired play of Jeremy Lin, a rookie point guard of Chinese descent who injected new life into the NBA’s New York Knicks. Although his exploits on the basketball court have been sterling, the overblown coverage is another example of today’s media circus. This month, I aim to bring some sanity to another overhyped topic: IP video.
I think I just heard the collective gasp of some (especially manufacturers and distributors) who may point their accusatory fingers at me and exclaim: “Blasphemy!” However, I believe many more (especially dealers and integrators) are nodding affirmatively and saying, “Finally, a voice of reason!” Allow me to further clarify the premise.
Are the capabilities and technology of IP video fantastic? Absolutely. Is IP video one of the industry’s leading growth drivers? Undoubtedly. Does it represent great opportunities for all segments of the security channel? Without question. Is analog video extinct and ready for the scrap heap? Um, well that is where we need to begin to slow our roll a bit.
When networked video surveillance was pushed to the electronic security industry some 10 years ago it came from outside the circle of familiar suppliers. IP video was new to established manufacturers and the skill set required for its deployment unfamiliar to security contractors. Plus the technology was not yet fully mature, and so the industry collectively dug in its resistant heels.
Shift forward several years, however, and technological advancements and competitive pressures induced those manufacturers to do about-faces and proselytize networked video. IP system components had become better, networks more secure and reliable, and bandwidth more readily available and enhanced by new compression methods. An onslaught of IP video marketing and promotion ensued. The revolution was at hand!
Only the revolution has been stymied by a series of revelations. These include the extent of legacy systems, existing cabling infrastructures, command centers and trained security personnel; analog solutions continuing to be adequate and cost effective, particularly in lower-end applications; and ongoing technical challenges and inertia across the marketplace. In addition, today’s economics have made forklift upgrades especially difficult to justify.
As a consequence, although IP video is growing faster, analog remains viable and continues to be more prevalent (estimated two-thirds of the market) in the field. So while some had forecasted analog all but vanishing by 2012, 10 years in we must now view this as an evolutionary transition (one that could take another decade to reach conclusion). Making the progression as smooth as possible will require realistic expectations, and careful coordination, cooperation and collaboration all along the line from suppliers to integrators to end users.
Some manufacturers have reassessed and realigned their approaches. As a result there is a greater emphasis on products and systems that allow analog and IP devices to coexist. This trend is giving integrators and their clients migration paths with so-called hybrid solutions that will keep them moving toward what most still believe (including yours truly) will ultimately be IP ubiquity. Some suppliers have also ramped up providing integrators networked systems sales & marketing and technical training.
For their part, integrators must take advantage of these opportunities to ensure the long-term success of their businesses, and even more importantly to enable doing what’s in customers’ best interests. It’s essential to know and understand what is available and achievable, and never stop growing personally, professionally, organizationally and profitably.
End users must be reasonable in what they envision technology accomplishing, be as flexible as possible and trust in their integrator’s consultative advice, and not allow price sensitivity to trump common sense.
This continuous feedback loop will help all industry participants get where they need to be — and uphold the sanctity and sanity of IP video.