Do the DVRevolution

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

After compression issues were addressed, the next major innovation was permitting the data to be viewed remotely, using a network connection, Provinsal says. “In order to accomplish this, the DVR had to become a server,” he says. “Software had to be developed that allowed users to remotely connect to the unit.”

That remote connectivity has become the backbone of many a security system. It enables security staff to view and sort through video remotely, and to share that video with the appropriate sources. “It is much easier now to share video evidence with the police,” Durno says. “Eliminating the need to install a viewer on a computer became an important feature.”

The hybrid DVR is the bridge between analog and digital. “The newest trend in the market is that the DVR is now a ‘hybrid' device that can accept video from network camera sources,” Provinsal says.

Sanyo, for example, recently introduced a hybrid DVR at ISC-West that offers both analog and IP functionality to integrate with standalone and networked systems. "Many users with legacy analog systems would like to expand or update their systems while introducing networked functionality," says Frank Abram, vice president and general manager of the Security Products Division of Sanyo Fisher Co.

The NVR: A Logical Progression

IP-based video surveillance uses private and public networking to allow access to real-time video – anywhere there is a network connection. A network video recorder (NVR) offers all the features of legacy DVRs, including recording of video and audio, fast image retrieval time, encryption of all digital information, wireless viewing from cell phone or PDA, system control via a map or a camera list, and automatic, event-driven pop-up screens and audio clips. It also offers complete matrix functionality, a software-only solution, virtual redundancy using the network, and the ability to add a single camera simply by adding a software license.

NVRs offer the advantage of scalability. “You can add as many cameras as you like to the network,” says Jeff Kiuchi, marketing program specialist for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America. “NVRs can provide centralized control of multiple cameras connected on the network simultaneously.”

As with traditional DVR systems, many industry suppliers are integrating intelligent video applications into the NVR. “New technologies like video search, biometrics and analytics can connect people and their surveillance information in ways never before imagined,” says Tim Ross, executive vice president of 3VR.

What's next for the NVR? “What will come next is standard, Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) – meaning non-proprietary – servers,” March Networks' Langford says. “The industry will move from the DVR/NVR world to the all-IP world, where there is a relatively small amount of hardware and a much larger amount of software.”

But NVRs aren't for every organization. “A disadvantage of NVRs is that if the network goes down, then your security system is blind and not recording,” Crest Electronics' Lavasque says. “This is a major concern of the medium to small companies that do not have an IT staff to maintain their network.”

Taking DVRs on the Road

After selling the commercial security industry on the technology's value, DVR manufacturers and suppliers have tapped the mobile market. Companies like RAE Systems and ICOP digital are marketing mobile DVR systems mainly for use in law enforcement – although mobile applications can range from school buses and commuter trains to police cruisers.

“We bought 100 units – it was the department's first experiment with in-car video,” says Lt. John Barber of the Mobile , Ala. , Police Department, a customer of ICOP. “We went from nothing to high-tech, in-car digital video.”

The Mobile , Ala. , system, which was installed in January, includes a DVR unit and two cameras in each of the equipped police cruisers. Barber says that having the video on hand is essential to maintaining evidence. “There are a lot of instances where people make frivolous complaints of excessive force, etc.,” Barber says. “Since we started using the video, there is definitive evidence of whatever happened, hopefully clearing the officer of any wrongdoing.”