Do the DVRevolution

As digital video recording systems has changed, so has the face of the security industry

The digital video recorder has revolutionized the entertainment industry – the average consumer has upgraded from antiquated, analog VCR systems to robust DVR systems capable of flying through recorded video at never-before-seen speeds. Now, DVR systems are being offered by all the major satellite and cable providers.

The security industry has seen the same revolution: As digital video surveillance has become more commonplace in the average installation, the need for a DVR system to sort through hours and hours of video became paramount.

Today, DVR systems can offer security end-users a quicker, more reliable way to search through all that video. The DVRs are also moving from standard to mobile environments, enabling users to record video on site, play it back on demand and store it for future use.

The Evolution

Over the past five years, the DVR industry has taken giant leaps forward in the technology's ease of use. According to Bill Durno, product manager for Honeywell, trends in the North American market for digital video recorders have clearly shown an increase in the following areas:

* Increased use of the Internet as a link to access the surveillance system;

* Improvement in video compression techniques resulting in more (often double) the storage time per GB for at least the same quality video;

* More use of audio combined with video;

* Less differentiation between the feature sets of PC-based and embedded DVRs;

* Higher ips (images per second) capture rates address the needs of more applications;

* Hybrid DVRs enabling connection to both analog and digital cameras; and

* Improvements in ease of use – for example, video clips are often saved with a viewer, thus eliminating the need to install viewer software on a computer to view the clip. This makes it much easier to hand over video evidence to the authorities.

In the early days of the DVR, one of the main issues was the source of the video data, and how the video was stored and transitioned to a digital format, says Mark Provinsal, vice president of marketing for Dedicated Micros.

“DVR technology has moved from first generation, standalone DVRs with a range of compression technologies, to third- or fourth-generation recorders standardized on MPEG-4 and even H.264 technology,” adds Steve Langford, director of product management for March Networks. “These recorders are fully networked and can be deployed as part of a video management platform that may also include encoders, networked storage, IP cameras and sophisticated management and application software.”

As with many technologies, as time passes, the price of the average system decreases. “With the evolution of the DVR the consumer has many more choices,” says Bill Lavasque, information technology manager with Crest Electronics. “As with any explosive growth, there is always a good and a bad side. The increase in DVR manufacturers has driven prices down, but has caused many manufacturers to be more concerned with price than quality.”

Security managers have realized other benefits of DVR systems, including:

* The elimination of “tape management” – a large periodic cost for any business that maintained a VCR-based CCTV system. Tape management required a person to ensure that VHS tapes containing video evidence were properly filed for a month so they remained easily retrievable. In addition, DVRs provide more efficient search mechanisms than VCRs – previously, a search for video evidence using a VCR system could take up to 48 hours.

* Increased storage technology, which according to Durno, has evolved from 20 GB per hard drive to 2 TB per hard drive.

* More efficient compression schemes – the transition to MPEG-4 has resulted in substantially more storage time per unit.

* Remote access over digital networks. Initially, DVRs were accessed over phone lines because it was perceived that a phone line provided additional security compared to digital networks, Durno says. Today, it is rare for a user to access video networks over a phone line.

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