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.
Selling the concept
Part of the challenge may also come in trying to explain or illustrate the benefits to the end-user, according to Scott Etess, general manager, Idesco Corp., New York City. Etess said that currently about 60 percent of the company’s camera installations are IP and the remaining analog.
“What we have found is that upon completion of the installation during the training phase is when the end-user sees the advantages of an IP system. We try to demonstrate the advantages during the sales process, however, when it is their system and we turn it over to them is when they truly ‘get it’. We are starting to see some monies being made available from the IT budget but these monies are typically limited to storage and not the system itself,” Etess added.
The challenges of IP installations come from every angle. Educating the end-user as to the advantages, benefits and reduced total cost of ownership is part of the battle. Another is educating sales staff on how to sell it. Knowing everything you can do with IP security and how it can extend to other parts of the business is another mountain to climb – but well worth it. Once you can extend IP camera security into the realm of business intelligence, management, control, automation and accountability, you’ve entered the next generation.
Choosing New Technology
5 tips for integrators
By Fredrik Nilsson
The real challenge for systems integrator in today’s market is how to sort through all the “noise” of new products and services and choose the right technology and the right company for your projects. At ISC West alone this year, there were more than 900 vendors touting their latest products and technology. So where do you begin in your vetting process? There are some simple steps to do the job right.
Consider these five factors to evaluate before making your decision:
1. Technology … Is the product based on open standards or is it proprietary? Proprietary products will limit your choices for other system components comprising your solution.
2. Real life performance…Can you field test the product before making a purchase? It’s hard to determine from a data sheet exactly how the product will operate in your particular environment.
3.Number of installs… How many products has the company installed total with this new technology? Talk to actual customers about the real pros and cons in a live environment and how responsive the vendor is to their needs.
4. Warranty and service… How long will the vendor back the product and what level of support will they provide? How large is the field support team and how quickly can it respond in your area?
5. Financial health of company… Especially in these economic times, make sure that the vendor is on a firm financial footing and will stay in business for years to come.
About the author: Fredrik Nilsson is General Manager of the Americas for Axis Communications and author of the book Intelligent Network Video. He is a regular expert contributor on topics of networked video surveillance systems and cameras.
The Stepping Stone Approach
Dr. Bob’s lessons on migration
Many in the industry know Dr. Bob Banerjee, product manager, IP Video, Bosch Security Systems, Lancaster, Pa. He’s a one-man ‘poster child’ for the adoption of IP systems, and he can tell integrators how to get there—from an analog and coaxial infrastructure and without ripping everything up and starting over. Banerjee educates integrators on how to use encoders, decoders and the network infrastructure to implement a hybrid solution that can migrate to full digital when the time is right.
He’s a proponent of a stepping-stone approach to the migration to IP cameras and transmission systems, and believes taking it one step at a time “can take the terror out of it.”
“You can incrementally learn what to do and deploy it at the same time,” Banerjee said. For example, using encoders (which can be attached to external storage or with storage built in), decoders, digital DVRs (recording at the edge) and hybrid NVRs/DVRs integrators can implement a solution that can include a mix of analog and digital IP, over coaxial.
He stresses that a key consideration is learning that bandwidth is limited. “That thinking results in more recording and storage at the edge of the IP device, rather than transmitting everything and clogging up the network,” he said.