For those in the IP surveillance business, the benefits of choosing network video over analog technology seem self-evident: open architecture that enables the end-user to choose best-in-class components, the ability to save installation costs by piggybacking on existing network infrastructure, the freedom to monitor cameras remotely, exceptional image quality and color fidelity, advanced analytics, and more.
From that perspective, IP video seems like a perfect match for high-risk environments like banks and credit unions; yet, in North America, the financial sector has been slow to embrace this more advantageous technology. Why?
To gain some insight into the barriers of adoption, I spoke with Michael Dewalt and Tom Poiner, two product managers from Diebold Inc., a national systems integrator with extensive experience in the financial sector. What I learned about the surveillance issues that banks wrestle with went far beyond the obvious reluctance of financial institutions to abandon their heavy investment in legacy analog surveillance equipment. Here’s what they said:
Nilsson: What makes banks such challenging video surveillance environments?
Diebold: The lighting — so many bank lobbies are glass-fronted; and ATM kiosks are glass-walled, too. In the interior, a lot of banks have light-colored marble surfaces, which create a lot of back-lighting challenges and glare at certain times of the day. You also have drive-up windows and drive-thru ATM lanes that need coverage. So, in addition to extraneous sunlight reflecting everywhere, you need cameras that can capture images in low-light settings and at night. While IP cameras have a number of advantages, analog cameras historically had a slight edge when it came to cost-effectively handling a wide range of lighting conditions. To make network video more pervasive, IP camera manufacturers need to improve true day/night cameras that feature the best in wide dynamic range. There were some IP products shown at ASIS this year that incorporate both wide dynamic range and day/night capabilities, so that’s a promising development.
What about megapixel and HDTV-quality cameras? We’ve seen growing demand in most other vertical markets, but do they make a convincing argument for transitioning to IP video in the banking world?
There are some misconceptions in the banking sector about the capabilities of megapixel and HDTV-quality cameras. We’ve had customers come to us with the expectation that they could replace 15 or 20 standard-definition cameras with a single megapixel IP camera — but that’s just not realistic. Field of view is still field of view; but, maybe if you said it is replacing 15 presets — that would be a more accurate selling point.
Procedural crime shows, such as CSI, are compounding misconceptions, too. We have customers believing they can put up a megapixel camera and spot a speck on a suspect’s face from 600 feet away. They saw it on TV, so it must be true. If network video companies want to create a compelling story, they need to dial back on the hype and instead focus on the real advantages of the technology, including achievable image detail and higher color fidelity that contribute to better forensic evidence.
This is a major reason that we have been pushing the importance of HDTV video, which is an industry standard for resolution, frame rate, aspect ratio and color fidelity. There is a lot of hype around the bigger and better megapixel camera, but 720p and 1080p HDTV video make a lot of sense in these applications. If the “using fewer cameras” pitch doesn’t hold true, will the ability to piggyback on the bank’s existing network infrastructure — which lowers total cost of ownership — matter?
There are a lot of misunderstandings about system reliability and whether running video on the bank’s network is going to wreak havoc with data transaction activity. So, before we discuss the total cost of ownership value proposition, we have to do a better job of educating the IT department on how to best minimize the impact of video traffic over the network.