New Windows IP camera stirs futurists and technologist alike

Is it the height of technological innovation or marketing hype — or is it perhaps a little of both? For those attending the first day of ISC West in Las Vegas, one of the more compelling stories is that of Innovative Security Designs, an IP video surveillance solutions start up out of Irvine, Ca.

ISD is featuring the industry’s first IP camera built on the Microsoft Windows platform at the show. For Ian Johnston, ISD’s president and CEO, the camera represents the culmination of at least two years of development that he says brings edge-based surveillance solutions for storage, the cloud, and security to the market.

“Most of the of Fortune 500 companies in the world today are running Windows. The problem we encounter is when non-standard devices are attached to the network,” Johnston says. “Then the IT department goes a little crazy — they can’t manage it like any other Windows device. The IT department wants new devices to join the Windows domain, that way they can push security and other group management policies to those devices.”

Johnston contends that traditional physical security cameras that run on Linux are standalone embedded devices, and are typically not designed with security in mind; instead they are built to be cost-effective and fast to market. “That creates a hesitant and skeptical IT manager when it comes to hanging these cameras on their networks,” Johnston says. “With the Microsoft DNA now inside the device, it can respect and join the domain. The camera is now treated like any other network device.”

When Microsoft began asking video surveillance vendors to deliver a Windows-based compatible IP camera to the market back in 2010, Johnston and his team accepted the challenge. Several manufacturers made overtures to Microsoft to deliver one, but ISD was the first, building and delivering one in four months from the time of inception. “We went in with the mindset to get this done,” Johnston says. “We are the first physical security camera that has adopted Microsoft as their base operating system.”

Johnston successfully launched ISD’s first product in June of 2012, followed by a smaller-footprint camera in November. And since January it has been working with Microsoft to launch a Windows version. The introduction of the ISD’s Window OS camera reflects Microsoft’s business evolution. While software is its dominant solution, Microsoft has spent millions developing its device and services options, such as the MS Windows phone, the RT Tablet, Microsoft Connect, X-Box, and now the ISD Windows security camera. Microsoft hasn’t officially entered the security market; however, ISD has tapped into Microsoft’s growing device and services model to provide a new user option. “Microsoft has spent billions in cultivating this Microsoft stack that consists of all the technologies they have built,” Johnston says. “They recognize if people are already using their storage and cloud solutions, then this would be a very efficient way for them to provide services for their customers. Providing video along with other services offered on the stack is purely a value add.”

It is that focus on delivering new value to the end-user that is driving ISD’s future growth. “Imagine a camera natively joining the active directory domain that can help unify identities across the enterprise,” Johnston says. “Or, imagine a new suite of applications for video surveillance such as the Prism SkyLabs application we will be showing at ISC West — business analytics that can be deployed in retail. Or imagine video management and access software on the edge. It really is going to change the market’s current scorecard for a camera.”

Or is it? Some of the industry’s leading technologists, while praising the forward-thinking and development flair of ISD, wonder how innovative this solution will be. Ray Bernard, a leading industry consultant and monthly columnist for Security Technology Executive magazine (www.securityinfowatch.com/magazine.stec), thinks ISD is poised for success based on its current roadmap and how industry trends are evolving. “SD card and hard drive capacity is going up while costs are coming down per GB of storage,” he explains. “Applications are moving to touch-screen and cross-monitor for multi-monitor usage. The need for secure video has been highlighted at hacker conferences, and demand is rising in general for more secure applications and connections.

“End-users expect devices to be both intelligent and easy to interact with, and software development tools are making this easier to do,” Bernard continues. “Analytics improvements and the persistent desire of end-users to benefit from them are also positive drivers here. All these trends favor a megapixel camera with a real-time OS on a device that is capable of running multiple analytics and can also provide video streams and configuration capabilities in a highly-usable interface.”

While impressed with ISD establishing a new technology beachhead, Bernard is cautious when he perceives hyperbole trumping reality. “What threw me was the use of the word ‘innovative’ to over-simplistically hype the Windows tie in,” he says. “Nothing Microsoft, ISD and its software developers would be doing with cameras is new for cameras. No IT department at any company is demanding Microsoft solutions as implied.”

Bernard is impressed with several aspects of the ISD solution, but again he treads lightly when talking about innovative superlatives. “ISD’s edge storage solution is an outstanding idea, building two microSDXC (latest standard) card slots into a camera to support 512GB of storage,” he says. “That’s half a terabyte, meaning that 50 cameras could bring 25 TB of storage to the table. I expect most camera manufacturers to provide high storage options (up to 1 TB) for megapixel cameras in the future. So this positions ISD as somewhat of a leader with regard to edge storage.”

Bernard concludes with positive words for ISD emphasizing security and capitalizing on the advantage of a real-time operating system. “The ISD cameras use Windows Embedded Compact 7 (formerly known as Windows CE). So that does make it a real-time operating system. I did some homework on Windows embedded, which has advanced considerably from its WinCE days, and there is a lot of promise there. A real-time OS makes a more stable platform to run the basic camera software AND video analytics software.”

Jeff Slotnick is Chief Security Officer and Founder of OR3M, and he is also the Chairman of the ASIS International Physical Security Council. His analysis of the ISD solution is not as tempered as Bernard. He says that the Microsoft Stack fulfills a desperate need in providing the promise of a common operating platform which integrates not just physical security device information but operational information as well. “Consider the accepted definition of an effective physical security system: Effective physical security is the integration of people, procedures and equipment for the protection of assets or facilities against theft, sabotage or other malevolent human attacks,” he explains. “Current one-off custom designed systems and most Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) systems provide integration of equipment but oftentimes they minimize or completely leave out the other two legs of the chair which are people and procedures.

“By running an IP camera on the Microsoft Stack of products we open up a whole new world of possibilities where we can take physical security devices and couple them with processes, policies and procedures and join them with human ‘edge devices’ to provide a common operating picture which had been previously unrealized,” he continues. “Envision the ability to import and export information from various devices and make use of the data in ways that several years ago were unimaginable. Sharing the information across an enterprise effectively removes silos of information and obtains a scale of economy by eliminating duplication of effort. Additionally as more devices integrate with other business systems, we can look at Big Data in ways that will provide additional cost savings.”

Slotnick says that a level of organizational resiliency that has been elusive in many companies can flourish by simply improving the capture and flow of information to near real-time. The quicker a company can move from incident onset to response, recovery, and mitigation the less expensive the event becomes. “I feel that a physical security device capable of operating on the Microsoft Stack is a real game changer for the industry. In short, vendors can stay proprietary and go the way of old printer technology or integrate and collaborate and engage in a whole new business model.” Slotnick concludes.

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