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

Open platform solutions run on "off-the-shelf" hardware, with components selected for maximum performance. This allows end users to work with their preferred equipment suppliers and makes it easier to upgrade or replace damaged parts. The systems are also fully scalable because cameras can be added one at a time, and there is no limit to the number that can be added or managed. Open systems are suitable for scenarios where large numbers of cameras are deployed. They also make it easier to add functionality to the system, such as increased or external storage, firewalls, virus protection and intelligent video algorithms.

Some video management systems use a Web interface to access the video from any type of computer platform. Web interfaces allow video to be managed online from anywhere in the world, using the proper safeguards such as password protection and IP address filtering.

It is also important to consider whether a video management system is proprietary and only works with network cameras from select vendors. Video management software should support network cameras from multiple vendors to ensure flexibility. However, even if a system claims to work with many or all network cameras, the system may still not provide the same functionality for all types of cameras, and integration may not be as seamless.


Video management systems based on open platforms have another advantage in that they can be more easily integrated with access control devices, building management systems (BMS), industrial control systems and audio. This allows users to manage video and other building controls though a single program and interface. Integrating a video surveillance system with access control systems allows video to be captured at all entrance and exit points and for pictures in a badge system to be matched against images of the person actually using the access card.

A prime example of integrating video with access control systems is the Michigan State Police's Forensic Science Lab. When the lab moved to a new facility outside of the police compound, it installed a network video system integrated with the building access systems. This allows off-site police officers to visually verify that the person entering a secure area is authorized to do so. As employees use their cardkeys for access, officers are able to match live images of the people against pictures stored in the access control database. This also saves officers from manually verifying false alarms, which saves time and manpower.

Video management systems also enable video to be integrated into industrial automation systems or BMS, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC). To do this, digital inputs and outputs (I/O) provide data to the system or the network cameras for functionalities like controlling the heating or lighting in a room when it is not in use.

I/O can be configured to record video or send alarms in response to external sensors. This allows remote monitoring stations to become immediately aware of a change in the monitored environment.

Device type



Door contact

Simple magnetic switch detecting opening of doors or windows.

When the door is opened the camera takes action sending full motion video and notifications.


A sensor that detects motion-based on heat emission.

When motion is detected, the camera takes action sending full motion video and notifications.

Glass break detector

An active sensor that measures air pressure in a room and detects sudden pressure drops.

When an air pressure drop is detected, the camera takes action sending full motion video and notifications.

Chart A. The range of devices that can be connected to a network camera's input port is almost infinite.

Device type



Door relay

A relay that controls the opening and closing of door locks.

The locking/unlocking of a door controlled by a remote operator (over the network).


Alarm siren configured to sound when alarm is detected.

The camera activates the siren either when motion is detected using the built-in VMD or using “information” from the digital input.

Alarm/intrusion system

Alarm security system continuously monitoring a normally closed, or normally open, alarm circuit.


The camera acts as an integrated part of the alarm system serving as a sensor and enhancing the system with event triggered video transfers.

Chart B. The output port's function is to allow the camera to automatically trigger external devices by remote control from human operators, or software applications.