Interrogate The Integration Expert: Misuse of the Term “IP Camera”

Oct. 27, 2008
Know What Customers Expect

Q: We are getting calls these days from clients who are requesting IP cameras. Most of them do not really know what they are asking for other than wanting the ability to view the camera from home or a remote location.

A: The misuse of the term “IP camera” is resulting in wasted time and no system sale. For example, one client requested a fixed outdoor IP camera be installed that could be viewed from a number of locations on the client’s LAN. I rushed a quote out but the client had a few more requirements which basically trashed the first proposal. The client added details, like eventually planning to add 30 cameras and wanting to be able to record 48 hours. I had to start over. Where did I go wrong?

AIP and network-based surveillance equipment do not process the same way that analog systems do. However, they ostensibly provide the same output—an image. What this particular customer meant when requesting an IP camera was that he wanted to use the network to view the entry gate from the guard station.

I’ve had similar experiences as you. For instance, a commercial client recently wanted security and four IP cameras to protect a sprawling multi-acre facility. I visited the site and saw several installation obstacles, which included 200 foot derrick towers. They crush rock at this place. The rock goes up a conveyor belt to the top of the derrick, and then gravity helps bring it back down through crushers until it is the desired degree of pulverization. There were about two miles of extremely rough terrain between the security system’s head-end and the other remote camera and alarm monitoring locations.

I noticed a high quality wireless network tower was already in use at one of the remotes and there were matching high-end routers in the main building. Instead of typing up a proposal, I now had to independently open negotiations with the IT person, research whatever other infrastructure was on-site and which would be of possible value. Then I created a proposal. It had to be approved by four managers and the CEO.

If you have not noticed, there is currently a gold rush occurring in the video and access control markets. With the variety of digital video equipment available, there are as many variables to be taken into consideration before the very first camera can be properly specified.

Additionally, clients want the lowest price. Adding to the mix, with the misleading hype about IP cameras and digital signal processing, customers assume that the image quality will compare or be better than the best HDTV they’ve ever seen. Resolution, frame rate and pixels are unknown parameters to them. All they know is an IP camera is the answer to their dreams.

Clients should be thoroughly interviewed prior to your inspection. After carefully surveying the site with the client, more information is usually disclosed. Even after all your attention to specifics and a proposal is submitted, you can often expect more changes—it’s the nature of your customers not completely understanding the new technology.