Video Surveillance Reality Check: Part 4

Industry thinkers weigh in with current perspectives on surveillance industry trends

[Editor's Note: asked four industry notables to blow away the hype, roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and not pull any punches when it comes to where they see the video surveillance industry today. The result was honest, open takes on our business. Their columns will be appearing consecutively on Part 1 featured Bosch's Dr. Bob Banerjee. Part 2 featured the ideas of Ari Erenthal of products distributor B&H Photo Video in New York. Part 3 featured Guy Apple from NVT. In subsequent parts, each written by a different guest columnist, we'll continue to link all these stories together and promote the heck out of them on the site (all will appear on the "columns and features" segment of our Video Surveillance section; click the "products" navigation drop down and choose "video surveillance"). We hope we stir up some feelings. The comments area is open, so share your perspectives, too!]

What sells in outdoor IP wireless video surveillance?

The question should really be "What hasn't been sold?" It seems that the space is filled with wireless companies promising the sun and the moon. The biggest challenges are not the interference or throughput; it's the technologies that overpromised and under-delivered. It's also the integrators who -- let's be honest -- bought into the vendors' hype and embarked on wireless video surveillance projects without proper wireless expertise and product knowledge.

Slim Margin of Error

Compared to wired IP video installations, wireless deployments provide a much slimmer margin of error. Just a critical oversight or an effort to save a few bucks can undermine an entire project. One of most common ones is specifying antennas that aren't even manufacturer-approved. You can have a flawless design, a great set of equipment, but the install will be toast if the antennas do not match the specifications that the manufacturer requires. The first two questions out of our tech support engineers' mouths are always (1) have you done a site survey; and (2) are you using the recommended antennas? (Site surveys are a whole other tale of woe. Integrators may not specify a formal site survey under the misguided assumption that a budgetary estimate they received from their presales personnel - which are sometimes based on Google maps -- is a "site survey.")

Vendors, integrators and especially the end-customers do not like to dwell on these deployments, of course. It's embarrassing to have wasted your company's or taxpayers' money on a project that does not work. We (as technology providers) cannot refer to these past "issues" even though we were brought in as a second or even third vendor to fix prior problems.

Public Safety as a "Safe Haven"?

Many wireless providers are now setting their sights on public safety. Even during the recession, these projects continue to get funded; you need security even when budgets are tight, right? Homeland security funding continues to flow, and the Fed's stimulus measures are expected to make an impact soon.

The rush to public safety is understandable, but success there can hardly happen overnight. The reality is that municipal video security projects take months, if not a couple of years, to get off the ground. Grant applications have to be written, budgets appropriated, projects reviewed by city councils and public safety commissions, mounting locations secured, access to power arranged, etc. (Power can be the Achilles' heel of a deployment, especially if the municipality does not own the light poles where cameras are to be deployed.) On a positive note, the installation itself is possibly the least painful or protracted part of the process; that's where wireless really shines; no trenches to dig, streets to close, or sidewalks to bring up to code.

Lingering Doubts

This content continues onto the next page...