Fredrik Nilsson is general manager of Axis Communications and an authority on IP surveillance.
[Editor's Note: The following is the second in a series of articles looking at the "myths" that surround the world of IP surveillance. Fredrik Nilsson, the general manager at IP surveillance manufacturer Axis Communications, has authored 10 articles dispelling these myths. Look for them monthly in SecurityInfoWatch.com and in the Security Frontline newsletter, and in the months of March, June and September in Security Technology & Design magazine.]
Myth #2: Network cameras cost more than analog cameras, making IP Surveillance too expensive.
It is true that network cameras are more expensive than comparable analog cameras. However, to get the true picture, you need to compare not only the price of the camera, but of the whole system, including cabling, recording and monitoring. Consider the fact that network cameras include functionality normally found in the DVR, such as digitalization, compression and intelligence. It then becomes clear why the cost of a network camera is higher than that of an analog camera. But cameras aren?t the only cost in a video system. In fact, the total IP video system cost is normally comparable and often lower than an analog camera solution with DVR recording.
In an even broader perspective, when you include installation and maintenance costs, the surveillance landscape can favor the network camera-based solution even more.
Cost Efficiencies of IP Surveillance
First, the cost of the system components must be analyzed and understood. The initial price for a network camera can indeed be higher if one compares only the camera. But compare the cost-per-channel, and the network camera with its superior flexibility and performance quickly becomes comparable with an analog system anchored by a DVR.
In many system configurations, the upfront cost for a surveillance system based on network cameras is even lower when compared to analog options. This lower total cost for the network camera system is mainly a result of back-end applications and storage that can be run on industry-standard open systems-based servers, and not on proprietary hardware like a DVR. This radically reduces management and equipment costs, particularly for larger systems where storage and servers are a significant cost portion of the total solution. Added cost savings come from the infrastructure used. IP-based networks such as the Internet, LANs and various connection methods such as wireless can be leveraged for other applications across the organization and are much less expensive alternatives than traditional coax and fiber.
Secondly, the installation cost of an IP Surveillance system with network cameras compared to a DVR system with analog cameras differs a great deal. Analog video is typically transmitted by expensive coax, which rarely exists in facilities. Distance also influences image quality. Adding power inputs/outputs and audio further complicates this situation. Standard IP-based networks surmount these obstacles at much lower cost and with many more options. Like viewing website images from anywhere in the world, the network camera produces digital images, so there's no quality reduction due to distance. IP-based networking is an established, standardized technology meaning the resulting costs are comparatively low. Unlike analog systems, IP-based video streams can be routed around the world, using a variety of interoperable infrastructures. Many different streams can be transmitted over the same line because it works through packet-based communications. New construction now has low-cost Category 5 data wiring, and a single wire can carry video streams from hundreds of simultaneous network cameras when running at 1 Gigabit Ethernet speeds.
Lastly, the maintenance aspect is important to understand. The video from network cameras is recorded on standard PC servers using standard hard disks for storage. These can easily be serviced and upgraded just like any other IT equipment within an organization. Also, when higher performance or larger recording capabilities are needed, the server can be upgraded with the latest and greatest offerings from the fast-moving PC industry.
The Next Era
Respected industry analysts J.P. Freeman and Co. have forecasted that network cameras are the fastest growing segment in surveillance and will pass the sales of analog cameras in 2008. As security management over the IP network expands in understanding and implementation, it represents the next era in advanced security management. The analog camera represents a lack of flexibility and performance that does not meet the demands of this new era. As network cameras move the frame-grabbing and intelligence capabilities out and away from the DVRs, systems can scale much more easily. Customers will be able to use cost-effective industry standard servers for recording and storage, and they will be able to choose from a wide variety of video management and analytics software. This move towards open systems and away from proprietary DVRs, combined with the benefits of networking, digital imaging, and camera intelligence will constitute a strong impetus to the market's rapid adoption of the network camera and its many advantages.
About the Author: As the general manager for Axis Communications, Fredrik Nilsson oversees the company's operations in North America. Mr. Nilsson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.