Ask the Experts: IP-Addressable Video Technology

A roundtable discussion featuring CCTV, IP and security experts

ST&D: What should physical security end users know about bandwidth to help them talk intelligently to IT professionals?

Nilsson: They should know that it is available and cost efficient and that any system can be accommodated. The largest system we have seen to date is 700 cameras on one site, and the largest total system is 8,000 cameras over several sites. Also, any professional video surveillance system should not attempt to put the surveillance video on the existing office network. The video network should be specifically designed to the video surveillance application.

Telders: Have your installer give you specific information regarding bandwidth utilization. The corporate network may not have the horsepower for extensive streaming video unless you have carefully coordinated with the IT staff. There are many ways to balance the throughput for a system. Have your network and installer staffs work together to design a system that meets both your needs and the network needs.

Silverstone: Just the bare minimum: how wide, switched or not, and acceptable delay.

Brahms: Know the bandwidth requirements of IP hardware and software you are working with. Bandwidth is always at a premium, and this is a question most IT people will ask when discussing addition of new IP products to their networks. Also, most products' performance over a network will vary depending on the available bandwidth. For instance, a browser-based Web camera performs well on the local network, but when accessed from a remote location the image refresh rate is painfully slow.

ST&D: What can an end user do to future-proof their solution when technology moves so fast?

Gorovici: A software-based system with frequent and cost-effective upgrades is the very definition of future-proof, and it certainly beats bringing in the forklift to replace all those DVRs every two or three years.

Taylor: End users should look for a technology vendor who has a long history of innovation and customer service. Much of the innovation that occurs from one year to the next is available in the form of software upgrades, so end users should make sure that their system is capable of accepting software upgrades as they become available.

Nilsson: End users should look for technology where they can re-use as much of the existing system as possible. If for example, 100 analog cameras were installed two years ago, most of the cameras will probably have another couple of years left. Video servers can then be used to digitize those cameras and bring them into an IP surveillance system. End users should also look for products using standard compression, e.g. MJPEG, MPEG2 and MPEG4, which are compatible with several video management systems.

Friborg: The management software is a very important piece, since it ties everything else together; it therefore needs to be flexible enough to suit the needs today and tomorrow. Among other things, make sure you can run the management software on standard computer hardware. If possible, buy management software that allows for the use of both MJPEG cameras and MPEG4 cameras.

Telders: Focus on non-proprietary systems whenever possible. Proprietary systems are rarely as flexible to changes as you would like them to be. It limits your ability to use other components. I like the commodity approach to components as long as you also focus on quality.

Silverstone: Use fiber instead of copper, install multiple storage drives or rely on a SAN-based solution (Yes, share with IT!) and plan on PTZ down the road if not already installed.

Brahms: Stick with products that use standardized compression technologies and access methods. Use hardware products that can be updated via firmware. Consider the use of video Web servers, which allow upgrade of existing CCTV systems for IP transmission and should they become obsolete allow for replacement of a single component rather than the entire system. Most Web servers allow for the loop through connection of analog video signals, allowing continued use of existing quads, multiplexers and recording systems such as DVRs and VCRs. If combined with off-site recording of digital video, this provides a level of redundancy in the system, helping to prevent loss of evidence.