- Lower cabling costs. Structured cable - specifically CAT5/6 - is less expensive than coax cable. It weighs less, is far less bulky and has a faster transmission speed. Cabling is also simplified with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) - where power is supplied to cameras over the same cable as video and data signals, eliminating the need for a separate power source to the camera. As a result, there is no longer a need to provide localized power at each camera location, which can result in significant cost reductions in manpower, equipment and service.
- Smarter systems are less expensive to operate (and easier to use). Networked systems with high-resolution megapixel cameras capable of capturing great amounts of data are ideal for server-based video analytics to create smart systems and improve overall security while simplifying operations. Megapixel cameras are great tools for situational awareness applications requiring monitoring of vast areas while providing superior forensic recorded information. Paying personnel to watch banks of monitors - often with hundreds of cameras - is expensive and impractical. With megapixel cameras, smart systems can do a much better job of detecting changes in a video frame based on user-defined parameters and automatically notify the appropriate personnel. This allows for fewer employees (lower payroll), yet still realize the real-time benefits of IP video systems.
Overcoming Megapixel Misconceptions
A productive discussion of the business case for megapixel video requires that we put to rest some common misconceptions about the technology. Several come to mind.
- Misconception: Megapixel cameras are too expensive. To compare the price of a megapixel camera with the price of an analog or standard IP camera does not tell the full story. To compare apples to apples, you need to cost out and compare the total number of cameras along with the total infrastructure needed to support them. This approach to cost assessment clearly reveals the efficiencies and cost savings of megapixel cameras. Furthermore, today's megapixel cameras also cost less; in some cases, prices are comparable to IP VGA cameras or analog cameras with encoders.
- Misconception: Megapixel video takes up too much bandwidth and storage. H.264 video compression has eliminated bandwidth and storage concerns related to megapixel video, which can lower costs of a high-quality, megapixel video system. H.264 produces equivalent video quality to the familiar JPEG compression method. The main difference between the two is that H.264 enables a major reduction in bandwidth while providing the same video quality. Bandwidth reduction translates to lower cost of security installations; requirements for networking equipment and disk storage are accordingly reduced. H.264-based cameras produce smaller file sizes which means the VMS server uses less CPU capacity for greater system efficiency.
- Misconception: H.264 compression has a "hidden cost." A common myth about H.264 is the so-called "hidden cost," an erroneous belief that because the computational complexity of the H.264 encoder is high, the required decoder resources must also be high - even more so for megapixel video. In reality, the opposite is true: H.264 streams can actually require less computational power to decompress. The computational complexity of encoding H.264 is located in the camera; and, decompression of H.264 megapixel video by the VMS software is similar to JPEG.
Making the Business Case
A challenge for security professionals is to demonstrate the value of high-quality video to their company's executives using management and security metrics that are specific to their company and to their industry. Expressing the technical capabilities and benefits of new technology to company management in terms of bottom-line benefits is at the heart of a security professionals' job in today's corporate world. Knowledge is vital - both knowledge of the technologies and their capabilities and the knowledge of how they can impact the company's profitability.
When dealing with corporate spending constraints, security professionals should consider carefully both the initial cost of new technology and what the ongoing expenses are projected to be. Above all, one should focus on the value technology can bring to their enterprise. Technology can pay back its purchase price through cost avoidance or better efficiencies such as superior imaging quality and better forensic information. These technologies prove their worth by protecting corporate assets, improving loss prevention, defending against expensive liability lawsuits and making simple security operations more efficient.