Watch Your Step

IP is the way of the future, but has the future arrived for you?

A major new advantage of digital video systems is the development of what some people call artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Some digital video systems go well beyond just recording. Sophisticated new capabilities include the ability to discern motion in a particular direction, detect packages left stationary for a prescribed length of time, detect when the video image has been blocked, count the number of people or vehicles in the video scene, and read vehicle license plates. This leads to video systems performing functions outside security.

To illustrate these design concepts of new digital video systems, I have selected a few project examples.


Campus Applications

Schools have increasingly been including security video systems in their facilities. They generally have little live viewing activity; instead, most are interested in recording video for viewing at a later time, usually after the detection of an incident. For local systems, a set of video cameras strategically located within the school and sending analog signals to a local video recorder has traditionally been sufficient. However, some schools have upgraded their DVRs to NVRs and have allowed video signals to be viewed outside the school. Concern about student privacy issues has encouraged many such school districts' law enforcement or security departments to partner with IT to develop encryption and access control configurations that provide adequate security over the video signal.

This type of implementation allows school district or public law enforcement agencies to view video signals from any school in the district. Some school districts have central command centers that monitor the status of systems in all district schools. With remote video, officers can view and control the video signals to determine the status of the facility without having to send an officer to physically perform a tour. There are also law enforcement vehicles equipped with laptops that are capable of viewing the video signals from the schools via wide area radio frequency (Wi-Fi) digital signal communications networks. These officers find it invaluable to be able to see what is happening inside the building before entry or to assist in the appropriate response.


Non-Security Functions

Security departments are constantly battling the budget crisis. Some security departments have used video creatively to create joint cost justifications for their systems with other departments.

In one instance, the security department of a certain company could not get management to sign off on a plan to purchase additional cameras for a certain area. To get the buy-in, the department created a plan to use the proposed cameras to count the number of customers in a check-in or check-out line. The customer count information would be used to redirect customers to less dense lines or areas. The data information would be taken from the video system and sent to another server, which would prepare the information for display to customers looking to get through the wait process as quick as possible. The video images provide a useful customer service and throughput tool while also providing security with additional eyes on the target.


Law Enforcement WANs

Several major cities are introducing video surveillance to their streets for the use of law enforcement agencies. The signals are being transmitted over Wi-Fi or other WAN systems—impossible without digital signals. These cities have visions of receiving video signals from participating and willing building owners that would assist law enforcement in their response to an alarm condition. The desired outcome is creating a force multiplier in the fight against crime.


IP video transitions have produced both success stories and disappointing results. Be careful in considering the video system for your business. The good news is, the security industry can at times be very nimble in bringing new technology to the market. The bad news is, not all new technology is good for everyone right away. IP-addressable cameras were introduced several years ago, but there still are some features on these devices that need to be further developed to meet the standards set by analog controllers. Network IP cameras will still go blank when the network is down. The same concepts hold true for DVRs and NVRs. Yet there are also features and benefits to these systems that may be invaluable to you. Consider the needs of your business and consult with professionals you trust to provide good advice. I will not be going back to tube cameras for our designs, but our designers are not always jumping on the latest innovation until the device is tested and evaluated.