Will Digital CCTV Send Analog Technology to the Scrap Heap?

The promise of digital CCTV is enormous. With it, a user can archive clear video that can be easily searched, won’t degrade and can be viewed remotely, all without the unwieldy bulk of aging VHS tapes. But if it’s so great, why isn’t everyone already using it?

There’s a simple, one-word answer to the question, beginning with the letter “E,” but it isn’t expense, it’s education.

More than any other system they handle, dealers are saying that selling digital CCTV requires sitting down with prospective customers, listening to their needs, and then educating them on how digital CCTV can help them meet those needs.

Educate Yourself as Well as Your Customer

According to many dealers, much of their CCTV business is already going to digital.

A key part of any sales pitch is overcoming objections; taking the time to properly inform a customer about the format can be the key ingredient in making a sale. Mark Weiler of Cambridge Security in Omaha, Neb., says many of his customers don’t fear the technology so much as the format. His customers have said, “I don’t want to be the one who buys Beta,” comparing digital to the superior (to VHS) videotape format, now out of circulation for nearly 15 years. As a result of those fears, Weiler says digital CCTV still isn’t a significant part of his business.

At Certicom Security in Beaverton, Ore., Doug Jarvis’ experience has been a little different. “Companies that have multiple sites, that have done more research, are the ones that understand it better and are more likely to buy it.” For that reason, he says, most of what they do is still analog; only their very largest customers are going digital.

Sell the Customer on Convenience, Reliability

All of the dealers spoken with agreed that digital CCTV is still more expensive than analog. However, most insist that digital systems give their customers better value through increased convenience and more reliable performance.

The fact that digital video recorders (DVRs) have few to no moving parts is making it easy to explain to customers how they won’t be susceptible to the same failures as VCRs. Without tapes to change (or forget to change), DVRs are simpler than VCRs to operate.

Many dealers contend they simply don’t wish to service broken VCRs anymore. Selling a new DVR is, across the board, considered to be a better service to the customer, giving them a far superior product to the ticking time bomb of a repaired VCR.

For Some, Convenience Means Accessibility

Not everyone measures convenience the same way. For some dealers and manufacturers, convenience is measured in the ability to access images once they are stored. Viewing recorded video through random access and remote access is having a revolutionary effect on the use of CCTV at some companies.

Dealers and manufacturers alike are quick to cite that, with event tagging, what used to take hours to find can take mere seconds. The ability to search by event not only makes searching quicker, but it has increased the usefulness of CCTV.

Be Careful What You Call a Digital System

Defining just what a digital system is can be a difficult thing, depending on where you draw the line.

This gradual transition from analog to digital componentry means customers have seen great advances in quality, functionality, convenience and reliability, but a logjam looms on the horizon, says Pierce. “The industry is definitely going digital; you can’t stop that. It’s a good thing to do, but the industry isn’t really ready for full digital systems. Cabling will have to be upgraded to go truly digital. You’ve got all this coaxial cable in these buildings, and when the next generation of digital cameras comes out, [that cable] won’t work with it; heck, those cameras are already out there.”

Predicting the End for Analog Systems

Opinions vary for the demise of analog CCTV technology. Just how soon the end will arrive remains the stuff of speculation, but everyone has an opinion.

The market does not yet favor digital CCTV. Statistically, it is still in the minority, one that represents less than 20 percent of all recorders sold. The industry has a vested interest in seeing the market go in that direction, though.

Digital CCTV’s combination of high-end features (networking, searchability, convenience and reliablity) are very attractive to corporate end users. If only one detail of the digital CCTV market is certain, it is that as new features emerge, increasing the technology’s usefulness, more and more customers will go digital.

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