A Systematic Approach to Surveillance Specification
As we left our heroes last month, they were grappling with the paradox the writer posed of SELLING LOW in a highly charged technology market that pushes IP megapixel cameras and HDcctv solutions (cameras, streamers, DVRs) toward customers. What to do? Well the puzzle will become even more perplexing with my recommendation to now SELL HIGH! I know, make up my darn mind already.
To clarify, these phrases are acronyms for approaching how to select the best possible high definition video surveillance system (or whether to select HD at all) for a client. Let’s continue the discussion initiated in last month’s column by highlighting critical questions to pose, defining and explaining the SELL HIGH acronym, and busting a myth or two in the process.
8 Important Questions to Answer
I find it best to ask the right questions, and apply a healthy dose of skepticism toward all marketing claims while using your intelligence and experience to guide your solution path for your customers. Here are eight questions worth asking as you venture forth:
- Will this system be manned or unmanned and what is the experience level of that person?
- How important is the quality level of the video (general surveillance or evidence in court)?
- Does every camera need the same quality and amount of recorded video?
- How much support will this customer expect from me after the installation?
- Is the implementation cost more important than long-term cost?
- Who is involved with the decision-making process and how technical are they?
- How am I going to transport the video signal from end to end and to other users in the future?
- Will the current wiring or network infrastructure work effectively for the loading expected?
‘Sell High’ Given Greater Meaning
All right, so now back to that acronym, SELL HIGH. It stands for: Scope; Edge; Latency; Listen; Help; Involve; Gauge; and Hybrid. Let’s take a closer look how this pneumatic device can help you remember essential considerations.
Scope of your solution — Do you typically offer single or multiple solutions with your scope of work for your customer? This is of course a two-edged sword that must be wielded with experience. To use effectively, you must know both the customer and your competition. If you offer too wide of an option range, you can confuse, as well as delay (perhaps forever) a decision. Narrowing the choices may allow a competitor to undercut you in price and quality. A good-better-best scope approach to your customer will typically open up meaningful dialogue; be prepared to explain which choice you would suggest and why. With new HDcctv technology, you have additional choices to add to your recommendations.
Edge intelligence — This must be addressed by the designer and understood by the customer. This has a serious impact on long-term solution performance, flexibility, versioning control and obsolescence. The decision criteria should include how much processing power, communication capabilities (LAN and WLAN), analytics and storage might be required, if any at all.
Latency of video — This applies to reviewing, recording and response. Application-specific designs such as handling cash, granting conditional access with high throughput requirements, performing remote guard tours, and verification of remote intrusion detection activity should be carefully considered in the design phase. HDcctv provides near-zero latency in the delivery of video signal, based on the fact you have dedicated coaxial homeruns. IP camera video must be “routed” to viewing and recording appliances. The quality of that routing and bandwidth can make latency negligible at best and of concern if poorly done. I recommend hybrid parallel networks with fiber routing for the video that leverage existing network infrastructure assets.
Listen carefully — This will tell you how and who at your customer’s location will be using the video solution. The experience level of the individual using the system should be carefully evaluated, as well as how the recorded or live viewing of video will be used. If the purpose of the system is to view video on a live basis and make security or operational decisions based on that video, information latency is an issue.
Help your customer — So they can make the best decision based on their experience level. Regarding technology, I find most customers default to a price decision when they can’t differentiate the forest from the trees. Take care to talk about technology at the end of a good-better-best recommendation, and not at the front end of the discussion. Stay away from acronyms and security industry terminology whenever possible. It’s your job to know the technology, not theirs. If you are working with an engineer, disregard this entire point; they will want to know everything about the technology.
Involve IT people — Do this very early in the evaluation process when appropriate. If your solution involves their network infrastructure, gaining IT support is critical to a successful long-term solution. This customer will require you to talk about the trees and the forest. The existence and experience level of IT personnel will often dictate your design strategy. Good luck selling these people coaxial-based solutions! With smaller customers, you may turn out to be the IT department regarding your IP solution.
Gauge receptivity — Having the customer on board with your solution recommendations is a key part of both designing the right solution and selling it. This process is easier if you are upgrading an older CCTV system since they have a frame of reference to suggestions you will make. If this is a first-time buyer, HDcctv may have an infrastructure edge. You will have some challenges separating their perception of reality; the “CSI” factor vs. how affordable video actually works. IP video may have the advantage in this situation.
Hybrid approach — This may be your best economical solution when proposing a digital migration path for your customer. It requires you to focus on future cost and performance factors, while starting that journey in a cost-effective vehicle. I typically focus my design attention on the edge devices first, and the amount of intelligence needed now and in the future. This approach allows me to work through current suboptimal system elements to better understand performance/time/cost impact on the customer. Most customers appreciate a phased approach to migration to leverage existing, serviceable equipment in tough economic times.
CCTV Remains Anchored in Analog
OK, enough of the acronym stuff. Let’s talk about myth busting, or more accurately, clarifying the questions to gain a clearer picture for you and your customer.
Assertion: HDcctv/IP megapixel cameras (go ahead, you pick) is the answer to high quality video at a reasonable cost that the industry has been waiting for, and will become the de facto video standard in the future.
Reality: A few years ago, the gloom and doom prophets predicted the demise of analog video and the new age of IP video. The fact is analog/digital coax-based systems are still alive and thriving with a prog
nosis of extended life with HDcctv. Today’s claims by HDcctv manufacturers sound eerily familiar to their IP video brethren just a few short years ago. The challenge, as in any new technology movement, is stability, availability and track record, which is a matter of time. You have a responsibility to your clients to be an active learner of product technologies and solutions. So always ask the right questions.
Paul Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is principal of Canfield, Ohio-based Matterhorn Consulting. He has more than 35 years of diverse security and safety industry experience.
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