Get Outsourced! A New Monitoring Concept Comes to Town

There’s a new monitoring service in town and it has nothing to do with motion detectors and keypads and the response calls to the local police. It’s not even about video verification, though it does deal with video systems.

March Networks, an Ottawa, Ontario-based tech company which has made its name selling DVRs and DVR software packages, is expanding its offerings with a new service designed to monitor not the video or the alarms, but to check to make sure the network itself is operating correctly.

According to Peter Wilenius, vice president of strategic planning for March Networks, the idea to offer a network monitoring service came right out of the IT tech sector, where network monitoring has been an offered service for years now by companies such as NUVO and IBM's Tivoli system.

Beyond the fact that these kind of services have been part of the status quo in the IT industry for years, Wilenius adds that it's not just enough to do something because it's been done before. He says the company is offering the service because video system users are changing the way they see surveillance.

"The basic idea is that video recording and IP surveillance is now considered to be mission critical," says Wilenius, "so we want to be sure it's available as close to 100 percent of the time as possible."

The concept is that the company will be able to monitor the working status of the networks, as well as the DVRs, cameras and other drives attached to that network.

"It gives alerts of loss of synchronization, loss of network, etc.," says Wilenius. "On a 24/7 basis, we monitor for these, and we make sure the data is being properly recorded. It's really an early warning system - identifying errors and notifying the users."

Asked how the company expects to make the transition from being considered a DVR company to a company that also offers network services, Wilenius explained that the market and the affiliated manufacturers are already changing from being solely commodity-based providers to solutions and management providers.

"Really what we provide is the solution to manage video effectively," he explains. "End users spend a lot of money on this equipment and they expect a payback. A lot of these companies are using the technology for investigations. These customers count on the video systems but don't want to create an internal staff to maintain their system; they often don't have the resources for that."

The service isn't a snowball yet. It's a fairly new concept and the company's services are designed to work only with March Networks video systems, and that propietary system nature may limit who can use and who can provide this kind of service. But Wilenius and his crew have already signed on one major client, the chain of Sheetz convenience stores based out of Pennsylvania.

Of course, it may not be long before competition drifts in from the traditional monitoring community. High-profile companies like IPC International and Westec Interactive have recently made their footprint in video monitoring, and if they decide to not only monitor what's to be seen in the cameras with what's happening to the entire IP-based video system, then March Networks might have some competition.

But for right now, says Wilenius, that doesn't seem to be the case. He notes that the monitoring companies, in order to stay competitive within their industry, have had to focus on their core business. To get other monitoring companies involved, there would need to be a market for the service, and Wilenius adds that most potential users of this type of service would likely be companies that monitor or store the video in-house as an evidence trail, rather than outsourcing to a video monitoring firm. The monitoring companies, he adds, would also have to breach a cost issue instead of offering it as a "value-added" service.

And that means March Networks probably has some breathing room and may be the sole player in this market for some time. The breathing room gives March Networks some time to advance their service before other players enter the market, and Wilenius is already on that task.

"We're looking at ways to monitor camera status," he notes. "We are developing analytics for alerts when cameras cease to function, but we're also looking at alerts for when a camera is spray painted, or someone bumps a camera and it gets pointed at the ceiling."

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