Designing a Hybrid Video System

A guide for making the migration

What would it be like to have a video system of the quality you want, that could retain recorded video for as long as you needed to? A “hybrid” video system — one that supports both analog and digital video — is often the best way to get there; however, many security practitioners start off on the wrong foot when considering a hybrid system, by delving into the technology aspects first. The right way to start out is to have two things in hand: a clear picture of the risks that you need to address, and a good assessment of the functional value of your existing video system and its components.

How well does your existing system help you recognize a situation, identify its threat elements, make a coordinated and effective response and document the events through recordings of sufficient quality? That’s the functional value of your system. Does the system fail to capture every incident? Are faces recognizable when needed in live and recorded video? Are the camera frame rates sufficient to catch all the action that should be captured? Does the system have any other shortcomings?

Scope of Improvements
Fixing the aspects where existing systems falls short often requires more than a technology upgrade. Strategic repositioning of cameras and improvements to lighting are also usually needed — these affect the functional value of the system.

A camera’s field of view, lighting intensity levels, maximum light-to-dark ratio, scene reflectance, daylight-to-darkness transitions and the camera’s spectral response should all be taken into account. While it is true that advanced camera technology can overcome lighting limitations, remember that security officers and other responders depend on plain eyesight when on patrol or responding to an incident.

Another element that is often out-of-date is the monitoring center or security operations center (SOC). New video display technology generally warrants modifying and sometimes completely redesigning the SOC, as well as upgrading policies and procedures to take advantage of new technology capabilities.

Beyond Security ROI
Many organizations, especially retail and manufacturing companies, are using network video for non-security purposes, such as training, supervising, marketing research and quality control. Networked video systems provide a means to share video data, and the ROI from such new applications can go a long way to justifying and even funding video upgrades. All such application avenues should be explored first, prior to selecting technology.

Examine New Technology Last
Examining new technology is not likely to reveal all of the shortcomings of a current video system, and it certainly will not provide a list of risks that need to be addressed. These things should already be in mind when reviewing technology capabilities. New video technology should also enable improvements in security operations; however, practitioners who haven’t fully thought out the risk and existing system elements ahead of time are caught up with those considerations, and don’t usually realize all of the operational improvements that can be gained.

Migration vs. Full Replacement
Video systems older than 10 years usually warrant full replacement for the cameras, display monitors and recording equipment. Newer systems are likely to have components that are not at their end-of-life and that do provide the needed functional value. The most commonly asked question when designing a hybrid system is: “What equipment stays and what goes?” This should be expanded to consider a step-by-step approach: “What equipment stays and what goes, on what schedule?”

Migrating one step at a time to the desired end-state for a hybrid system can reduce operational risk, synchronize purchases with budgetary cycles, and synchronize deployment of IP-based video technology with IT projects and schedules. Additionally, new situation management applications (formerly called command and control) offer ways to significantly improve security operations. Thus, security planning and related personnel training are often part of the overall picture as well. These are reasons why migration planning is a key element of implementing a hybrid system.

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