Will free VMS open up the low-end market?

IMS Research says camera costs, more than a free VMS, might be the key


[Editor's note: UK-based IMS Research recently published a report, "The World Market for CCTV and Video Surveillance Equipment -- 2010 edition" which examines growth of video management software and video surveillance equipment. Folowing the announcement of XProtect Go from Milestone Systems this morning, the research firm submitted this brief opinion on what it could mean for the video surveillance market.]

Wellingborough, UK (August 26th, 2010) -- Today sees the announcement by Milestone Systems that it will start supplying XProtect Go, a free eight channel version of its video management software (VMS) platform. But what does this mean for the video surveillance industry? Free VMS is not a new phenomenon -- a number of network security camera vendors supply VMS for free, bundled with their cameras. So is this announcement significant to the VMS market?

Unlike other free VMS products, two of the key differentiators that the free Milestone product offers are openness and functionality. Much of the software bundled for free with network security cameras is proprietary, it only works with one particular vendors' hardware. Whilst the adoption of open standards, such as ONVIF and PSIA, will increase the openness of vendors supplying free VMS products; currently the percentage of available ONVIF compliant hardware is relatively low and these vendors will still lack support for non-ONVIF compliant hardware. Secondly, much of the free software currently available has poor or limited functionality. Whilst XProtect Go does not contain the full feature set of its more advanced siblings, its feature set is more expansive that other free VMS offerings and is potentially better suited to the residential and small business market.

Offering free or "lite" software has been an incredibly successful business model in other software application markets. Customers get a taste for the product and upgrade the software as their requirements and/or installation size increases. Furthermore, the availability of free open platform VMS may entice the existing installed base of low camera count deployments to part with their existing, and typically proprietary, system and embrace an open platform VMS.

The network video surveillance market has, to date, not been successful in the low-end of the market (the 8 to 16 channel camera market). When compared to an analogue DVR system, the high price of VMS licenses, coupled with the higher price of network cameras, has served as a deterrent in this highly price sensitive market segment. Currently, the low-end market is serviced by inexpensive and low cost analogue CCTV products. "The rapidly declining cost of network cameras, free VMS and open standards will all play key factors in network video surveillance equipment beginning to penetrate the low end market", states video surveillance analyst Gary Wong. Wong continues, "However, even free open platform VMS may not provide the key to penetrating this market segment as customers may continue to favour the familiarity of existing analogue systems."