If you’re chuckling to yourself after reading this headline you’re not alone. Selling, servicing and installing IP cameras isn’t as straightforward as wiring a control or sensor. These network skill challenges will turn quickly into opportunity for integrators who can master the technology.
Current estimates put the installed base of digital cameras at about 12 or so percent, but as high-resolution megapixel camera costs drop and compression become more sophisticated those numbers could shift upwards significantly—and quickly. Add a sprinkle of an economic upturn, a boost in construction and a dab of additional capital funding and the sky’s the limit.
Evolution and solutions
The challenges of IP installations are real. Ask any integrator who has moved from security to become an IT and networking specialist and value-added reseller about the specific challenges and they rattle off a long list of problems/solutions. They’ve learned how to maneuver the ins and outs of analog cameras and coaxial infrastructures into the digital space—with compression technologies, switches, encoders, decoders, power over Ethernet, NVRs, DVRs, storage at the edge and much more. It’s in their blood—they know how to engineer systems solutions—from their roots in the security hardware side of the business. For those folks who have already begun to change and migrate to networking disciplines, it’s one less challenge for sure.
NAVCO, North Hampton, N.H., is one such company. They purchased a networking company several years back because they saw the writing on the wall, according to Malcom “Skip” Cole, senior vice president and regional sales manager for NAVCO Networks and Security.
“We could see the way the industry was headed and started to move in that direction, purchasing a network company,” Cole continued. “As far as challenges, one is overcoming a fear of complexity of IP cameras, and another, a lack of standards in IP cameras on the market. One of the big factors driving the interest in IP is the megapixel camera and there are considerations with that. It takes a lot more bandwidth and you have to have a DVR or NVR that’s compatible,” he said.
NAVCO’s Angie Barnes, director of marketing and regional sales manager said many of the current infrastructures are not on networks. “A lot of facilities are still not running networks, like retail and C stores,” Barnes said. “When they are not on a network and are running surveillance off coaxial, you have to know how to use the existing analog equipment,” she said.
Other IP challenges come in the pre- and post-implementation stages. According to Christian Colburn, senior sales executive, Siemens Building Technologies (SBT), Blue Bell, Pa., IP has to be actively managed, so working with the IT department, architects and engineers to properly develop the network is critical. “There’s an additional player you have to consider, the IT director. They might not want you to stream video over the network or have concerns over that. You have to be able to cap the bandwidth, because that’s a chief concern of IT,” Colburn said. More than half of SBT’s installations are currently IP, especially in new facilities, he added.
Colburn said that SBT, as a larger player, has a depth of resources and shared expertise to overcome problems and share solutions. “Another challenge is operating heaters and blowers and other camera controls over the IT switch,” he continued. “It requires a large amount of wattage and that’s where knowledge of power over Ethernet is essential.”
Colburn said integrators should do the following:
- Discuss maintenance up front at the inception of the project, establishing where the security department responsibility starts and ends and what IT handles.
- Inquire if the IT department can provide storage at a more responsible cost (they often can) and push that cost to the IT department.
- Get the manufacturer’s rep involved early in the planning process to meet with the IT, integrator and end-user.