Video Surveillance Reality Check: Part 2

Industry thinkers weigh in with current perspectives on surveillance industry trends

Why is this trend significant? Simple. The cheaper CCTV gets, the more ubiquitous it will be.

We're already approaching 100 percent penetration in small retail applications. To open a candy store, newsstand, or gas station and not install CCTV is nearly unthinkable now, especially in high-crime areas. But as CCTV gets cheaper, more flexible, and easier to use, more and more market segments will open up. Already, a large chunk of my business comes from non-traditional uses. An IP camera is just a way of broadcasting video over a network, after all. The camera itself doesn't care what you use the video for. And so I've had inquiries from churches seeking to broadcast services, museums wanting to showcase their artifacts on display, and even artists doing visual arts installations.

All of these present new markets. That not only affects the manufacturers but also the integrators, who may increasingly become more than system mechanics. They will become concept consultants who explain how inexpensive, small cameras can solve problems in applications which we may as well just mark as being in the category known as "other".

What customers really want in CCTV

I know there is a lot of marketing hype out there, but based on my personal experience, here is what your customers really care about:

First and most important is image quality. Customers don't really know "lines of resolution", or "megapixel", or any of the other hair-splitting buzzwords. They want the picture to look pretty; that's all.

This is frustrating for salespeople just getting into the industry because it goes to the basics of video. No amount of talking will make a customer satisfied with a red that looks orange. Customers do not care what your lux rating is but they care very deeply if the image is so noisy it looks like there's a snowstorm inside the warehouse. And that goes back to the salespersons' knowledge of lenses, light, compression, frame rates, and other fundamentals.

Customers will not pay for buzzwords, but they will pay extra for benefits. Saying "H.264" won't impress anyone, but saying "you can squeeze more video onto the same amount of hard drive space without sacrificing image quality" is worth an extra hundred bucks.

Megapixel is intriguing to the customer, especially since the customer thinks that when shopping for a point-and-shoot digital camera, more megapixels equates to a better camera. Some may understand the megapixel concept, but "digital PTZ" and "forensic video" using "rectilinear lenses" are all hefty concepts that have to be introduced and explained. And if you don't explain those, the customer may just decide that VGA is good enough.

Everyone who is looking for analytics, video management and storage management is chasing a chimera. None of my customers care about analytics or PSIM but they all care very deeply that the system can identify unknown subjects in a court of law. Buzzwords serve a noble purpose, which is to pad sales literature with lots and lots of numbers and acronyms, but at the end of the day, all the customer wants is a good, usable image.

About the author: Ari Erenthal works at electronics retailer/distributor B&H Photo Video in New York where he handles video surveillance sales for large and small customers. He is a blogger (see his blog) and a very active Twitter user (ari_erenthal) and has been a long-time member of the SIW Tech Corner discussion forums.

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