Ten Steps to a Successful IP Surveillance Installation: Step 3

What to look for in a video management system, plus how open and closed systems differ

Video management platforms in IP surveillance systems can be likened to what VCRs did for pure analog systems and what digital video recorders (DVRs) do for hybrid analog and digital systems. However, unlike a simple hardware upgrade, today's video management platforms also add new possibilities in functionality, scalability and integration.

A video management system is a very important component of IP surveillance systems because it effectively manages video for live monitoring and recording. Video management requirements differ depending on the number of cameras, performance requirements, platform preferences, scalability, and ability to integrate with other systems. Solutions typically range from single PC systems to advanced client/server-based software that provides support for multiple simultaneous users and thousands of cameras.

No matter the type or size, there are common features in almost every video management system including:

  • Motion-Based Recording: Video motion detection (VMD) defines activity by analyzing data and differences in a series of images. VMD can be performed at the camera level, which is preferred, or reside in the video management software. Video management software can provide motion detection functionality to network cameras not equipped with this feature.
  • Alarm Generation: Video management systems permit users to generate alarms based on motion. For example, parameters can be established so that alarms are not sent during hours of normal activity, such as from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Therefore, if motion is detected at 3 a.m. on a Saturday, the system knows that this activity is not normal, and can send e-mails or text message alerts to the proper authorities.
  • Frame Rate Control: Video management allows for frame rate control - meaning that video is monitored and recorded at pre-determined frame rates. It can also be configured to increase frame rates if activity is detected, or to reduce frame rates if there is no motion.
  • Simultaneous Camera Monitoring: Video management makes it possible for multiple users to view several different cameras at the same time, and increase the resolution for cameras with activity or alarms. This enables the system to be utilized for different purposes and even different departments (such as a system in a retail space used for both security and store traffic studies).
  • Camera Management: Video management systems allow users to administrate and manage cameras from a single interface. This is useful for tasks such as detecting cameras on the network, managing IP addresses, and setting resolution, compression and security levels. Cameras are often located in distant or hard-to-reach locations, making it impractical for the administrator to visit every location and individually upgrade every camera. Video management systems provide access to every camera on the network and will automatically administer firmware upgrades.

Open and Closed

One of the first considerations when designing a video management system is the type of hardware platform that is used. Just like with DVRs, there are closed systems in which the software and hardware come bundled. These are typically referred to as Network Video Recorders, or NVRs.

Although they are networked, NVRs are dedicated to the specific task of recording, analyzing and playing back video. They do not allow other applications to reside on them, so the hardware is essentially "locked." This means that it can rarely be altered to accommodate anything outside of the original specifications, such as virus protection or intelligent video. NVRs are easier to install, however the number of cameras is often limited to four or 16, and upgrading functionality or security is not normally possible.

Network video systems also allow for open systems with video management software that can be installed on a PC server platform. Most video management systems are available for the Windows operating system, but there are also options for UNIX, Linux and Mac OS.

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