Video Continues to Enhance Its Security Image

Clearer pictures, higher intelligence, more intuitive interfaces, expanding applications, descending costs – these are just some of many compelling factors propelling video surveillance forward. A dozen top technology providers encapsulate where the market stands for 2011.

[IMAGE]11932[/IMAGE]“Any time you’re looking at trying to answer customers’ needs, you have got to give them something they’re going to be able to see very, very clearly,” adds Westfall. “It’s a challenge in terms of resolution; it’s a challenge in terms of angle of view; it’s a challenge in terms of sensitivity. These are things that all make a difference in terms of the performance of the camera.”

As is typical with selecting a security solution, the most important consideration is the particular application. What is the specific need and ho
w can the technology/system be most effectively used to solve it?

“The key point is that they need to be able to match the lens to the assignment they have,” says Westfall. “There are basically two major types of environments to deal with, one being the external environment where you need the power of a lens to be able to zoom in, and the other being a very tight space in an internal area where you need to be able to have wide-angle coverage to see as much as possible.”   

VMS Makes Systems Easier to Use
As video surveillance systems have migrated to enterprise networks, become more sophisticated, expanded in scale and complexity, and more frequently integrated with other systems such as access control and intrusion, the need for a unified user interface has become paramount. These trends have led to the emergence of video management systems or software (VMS) and the open or nonproprietary platforms to facilitate interoperability.

“Capabilities of video management systems continue to expand, many of them driven by the benefits of open architecture,” says Gadi Piran, president of OnSSI. “Collaboration with third-party vendors helps to extend the core benefits and functionality of video management software to include cutting-edge technologies such as video analytics, and to expand networks using wireless mesh and broadband networks to enable viewing of live video anywhere from a mobile device.”

End users find VMS appealing because it simplifies using and interacting with the video surveillance system. In addition, many are discovering the wealth of operational efficiencies beyond traditional surveillance or security that can be gained by allowing the VMS to facilitate overall enterprise management tasks.

“Video systems can provide a new and effective management tool useful throughout modern companies,” says Piran. “Video can be easily made available from anywhere the corporate network extends. Video can help with process control, personnel management, inventory tracking, quality control, customer service and a range of other uses.”

More specifically, VMS-based solutions play especially well into several vertical markets. These include education, government, health care, transportation and homeland security.

“Real-time video coupled with the reach of corporate networking are a powerful combination for a diverse range of organizations that are only now beginning to understand and embrace these expanded benefits,” says Piran. “This exciting, untapped potential also relates to another challenge in the enterprise environment, which is the need to show a return on investment [ROI] for any technology purchase.”

Edge Devices Cut Network Load
One of the most substantial wrinkles since IP-based video came into vogue has been moving away from centralized system architectures toward so-called “edge” devices, especially the cameras. Where cameras had been little more than image conduits networked to NVRs or DVRs, decentralized topologies include intelligent cameras with built-in features like recording, storage, analytics and more.

“IP cameras are kind of an integration of the camera itself plus analog video encoders. In one piece of equipment, you have both the video, the camera itself and the video compression board,” says Guy Shahmoon, a product manager for Verint. “The devices are becoming smarter. With the storage and analytics on the edge they are really starting to become almost self-contained devices.”

Sending less data less often from camera locations fulfills the objective of avoiding bandwidth constraints and overburdening the network. However, as Shahmoon points out, there are numerous other advantages to edge devices, including a secondary reason for decentralized storage.

“Not only can edge devices compress the video and send it over the network, but in cases where the link is broken for different reasons, they will start to record the video locally. This is a very powerful solution,” he says. “In addition, being IT-friendly provides easy maintenance for these devices. Another plus is lower power consumption, meaning edge devices are more ‘green’ and environmentally friendly.”

Edge devices place an incumbent challenge on integrators to convince clients that the typically higher cost for  the equipment can be offset by long-term gains. Another hurdle is that the complexity of the hardware and software can make it difficult to integrate the devices such that all features and advantages can be fully realized. Two organizations — ONVIF and PSIA — have been established to contend with this issue.

“We’re still not there with the ONVIF/PSIA protocol,” says Shahmoon. “It’s kind of on the side where usually the protocol that is being used to integrate the edge device to the VMS is still the proprietary one from each manufacturer. But this will evolve. In the future, we will definitely see more edge device manufacturers supporting ONVIF and PSIA. This will eventually help and ease the integration, and should make it more reliable and seamless.”

Storage Solutions Maintain Data
Early on in the introduction of digital video and later networked video, where and how to store all that data presented numerous challenges. The capacity of hard drives was limited with the largest ones being very expensive. There were also the issues of failure rates and backup or redundancy. Today, capacity has risen dramatically to keep pace with increasing storage demands while prices have continued to plummet.

“Appliances delivering integrated IP- storage area network [SAN] technology are now a mature part of the physical security market,” says Jeff Whitney, vice president of marketing for Intransa. “Appliances, properly executed, can simplify the effort and reduce the cost of installation and ongoing operation of a physical security solution, while improving overall system performance.”

One of the key developments in the area of storage has been the introduction of solutions specifically designed and engineered for the functionality and rigors of video surveillance. Much trial and tribulation transpired attempting to use devices intended for computing or other purposes rather than security. Today’s storage appliances aim to cover many bases.

“The best appliances are designed to offer the simplicity of a DVR, eliminating hundreds of potential commodity server and storage choices, and optimized specifically for physical security requirements,” says Whitney. “Appliances continue to grow in power and can simultaneously support other applications like access control and video analytics on a single platform. That further reduces complexity and cost.”

In many projects, storage can represent as much as half the cost of a video surveillance system, which means it is also where an integrator can save their customers the most and/or realize the highest margin. As Whitney describes, there are a host of other benefits to be had with storage appliances as well.

“Eliminating the bench time needed to integrate servers, storage, components, operating systems and application software into a single, functioning platform with an appliance, integrators are able to reduce their installation costs and chose whether to pass on some or all the savings to their customers,” he says. “Appliance solutions are also able to b
e easily upgraded, plugging in additional capacity without halting operations.”

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