14 Tips for Implementing IP-Based Security Systems

Last week I had the chance to attend a ScanSource Security Distribution traveling roadshow that featured vendor partners HID, DvTel and ProCurve Networking (from Hewlett Packard). They made a stop in Atlanta (not far from ScanSource's home in South Carolina), the first of many locations that will take them from Philly to San Francisco to Miami, plus a lot of stops in between.

With an attendance that was well split between IT VARs and traditional security channel integrators (and a few end-users in the mix, too), the discussion was poignantly focused on the migration to network solutions. That is, after all, DVTel's primary strength, and ScanSource likewise comes more from the telephony and IT distribution space than the traditional POTS-alarm-system arena.

Being a vendor-sponsored event, clearly a number of attendees were there to hear why they should be dealing or buying certain technologies, but I'm going to spare you the sales pitch and move right into what I think were the more interesting and universal points made during the half-day program on March 8.

So, let's hit on some of the tips that speakers like Steve Rice and Shahar Zeevi from DVTel, Kyle Candler form ScanSource, Steve Harrison from HID Global and Rodney Turner from ProCurve Networking gave:

Tip #1: "The security industry is not limited by technology; it is limited by imagination." This was a quote Kyle Candler attributed to industry consultant Thomas Norman, CPP, PSP, CSC. I agree with Candler and Norman that these are words our industry can live by -- whether we're using the available technologies or hired to integrate disparate systems.

Tip #2: The physical security market for 2007 is worth $6 billion. Rice (DVTel) lobbed this number into the air and tacked on the statistic that some 70 percent of that $6B number is credited to integration and consulting services.

Tip #3: IP-type security systems need to be designed to allow fail-over. Let's face it: everything made by man will eventually fail. It wasn't easy to create systems in analog video to automatically allow for things like recorded video failover. But in the IT systems world, failover is part of the standard process for operational continuity.

Tip #4: The industry needs to be able to move from hardware replacement to software updates. No longer are we at the point where to upgrade your system you have to "replace the box". Going IP/IT has allowed us to separate software from hardware -- the brains from the storage -- and it means that we can keep technologies current by managing them like traditional information network systems.

Tip #5: There's a difference between buying usable storage and raw storage. Shahar made the great point that integrators and end-users need to think about what they're being sold in video storage when you set up the mathematical models to record X number of frames per second for Y number of cameras for Z number of days. Drive attributes like embedded software, formatting, and even meta information can reduce video surveillance storage capacity, so buyers should think about the usable, rather than the raw number.

Tip #6: Video analytics isn't widespread in demand...yet. Asked to raise their hands to say whether their customers were considering video analytics, only two of some 30-40 top integrators said that was the case.

Tip #7: Watch out for latency. Latency has a way of sneaking into some networked video systems, and it only takes between 400 and 500 milliseconds of latency before the human eye and mind can begin to perceive that latency.

Tip #8: Your power supplies will die. In electronic systems, often the first thing to fail is the power supply. To keep your systems online, you need redundant power supplies, something which is tough to find in the traditional DVR market, and even tougher in the old VCR realm.

Tip #9: There's a difference between hot swappable and hot spare drives. Hot swappable means that if a drive fails, you can load a new drive without having to shut the machine down. Hot spares, however, swap themselves automatically and start rebuilding the system - something you'd still have to do yourself in a hot swappable design.

Tip #10: Networked access control will change the cost of securing doors. Steve Harrison made this excellent point that the old model of analog access where a secure door would cost roughly $2,500 is changing as analog panels are switched to networked devices.

Tip #11: The business network of tomorrow will require complex specs and design. Rodney Turner of ProCurve noted that good network design isn't just getting devices and PCs to talk together. Today's system designers need to be able to offer design parameters on enforcement of speed policies, quality of service, bandwidth limits, and more.

Tip #12: Don't bother buying switches without PoE. With the number of devices in our industry going to PoE delivery models, you might as well save yourself the power-delivery requirements and put the power over the Ethernet if the device will allow that.

Tip #13: End-users can budget data traffic upgrades with a VoIP phone system. With so many corporate customers upgrading their network backbone to support VoIP, you can piggyback video or access control upgrades on top of that VoIP program to save on installation costs.

Tip #14: Video compression is about to change. It's moved from JPEG to MPEG-4, and now will begin to make its way from MPEG-4 to H.264. However, H.264 will catch on only when the processing power catches up and DSP chip designs allow. However, DVTel's Shahar Zeevi says that moment is a lot closer than you might think.

Sure, there were more than 14 points of discussion during the program, but if you can get a handle on what these 14 mean for your business or your security department, I think you'll be better off than 90 percent of your peers. Good luck staying on top of the trends -- and if you liked this article, you may want to hear our 20 tips on network video from another recent vendor roadshow.

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