Standing out as standards emerge

March 18, 2010
Panasonic takes initiative in the year of video standards

For 2010, the security industry’s most significant development is not a new imaging capability, compression algorithm or technology breakthrough. Those are all important, of course, but this year’s big story can be summed up in one word: standards.

We have all known for years that the video surveillance industry would need to develop standards at some point. Interoperability, along with open systems, is of great benefit to integrators and users, providing more flexibility and products that are easier to install. End-users will have the opportunity to use best-in-breed technologies for products that will be interoperable. Standards make systems both scalable and upgradable, since future products will also adhere and thus integrate with current systems. Another resulting advantage is the reduction of total cost of ownership (TCO), a critical consideration given today’s tightly controlled corporate spending climate and return-on-investment (ROI) accountability.

Why is now the moment when these long-worked-for standards are becoming a reality? It really is a natural result of timing in the evolving IP video market. As the IP video market has grown, so has innovation, to the benefit of end-users who implement these technologies. Developing and insisting on the adoption of standards too quickly would risk limiting innovation and creativity. On the other hand, adopting standards too late in the market development cycle could increase the risk that companies would commit substantial resources to specific and incompatible formats, making it cost-prohibitive to change course when standards are finally defined and they do not conform. The fact that so many companies have joined in the drive for standards this year is a strong indication that 2010 is the right time for this development.

At Panasonic, we have taken the initiative to help make standards a reality for our customers. Our commitment to open systems goes back many years to our launch of the Panasonic Solution Developer Network (PSDN), now with more than 150 global members. Together with these companies, we are taking the necessary steps towards interoperable solutions. We use our Panasonic Security-Application Programming Interface (PS-API) to openly share a suite of development tools and programming samples with PSDN members. It is a platform that is compatible across product lines and promotes development and availability of interoperable products for the benefit of integrators and users.

Panasonic is also dedicated to our participation in the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF), which was launched to promote interoperability of network video devices including automatic device discovery, video streaming and intelligence metadata. We are on both the steering and technical committees of the organization. We have also been active for years in the Security Industry Association (SIA), another source of standards. It is a very positive sign for the industry that so many groups, including the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA), are now working towards the objective of standardization.

Helping to drive Panasonic’s investment in creating and adopting standards is our recognition that we as suppliers also benefit from standards adoption. In addition to increased customer satisfaction, there are broader market opportunities created. In-house development costs are lower because there is already a basic framework for the technology. In fact, we have found that joining together with other manufacturers to create standardization is especially useful in a highly fragmented industry such as security and video surveillance.

Interestingly, one of the benefits of a standardized industry is the opportunity for greater product differentiation. As I mentioned, interoperability has great potential to drive technical advancement and facilitate innovation. Once components or protocols are standardized, we can focus research and product development efforts on maximizing the benefits of our unique product attributes. Applying the same resources to fewer variables yields a more efficient use of our development dollars, helping to keep costs down for our customers. The resulting products also now have wider applicability in the marketplace, as better interoperability accelerates implementation.

Additionally, by virtue of Panasonic’s range of products across many business and consumer markets, we have access to technology expertise and intellectual assets that may have been developed for previously unrelated products or systems. One example is the applicability of megapixel imaging (a core technology in Panasonic’s broadcast and consumer cameras) to security and surveillance applications. Product line breadth also enables a company like Panasonic to provide application-specific and/or enterprise-level solutions for virtually any size venue.

As mentioned, standardization does not mean that Panasonic and other manufacturers are undifferentiated from one another. In addition to customer service and support, Panasonic will continue to work to stand out with superior image quality, low light performance, dynamic range and advanced features and functionalities. In this year of standards, we believe that true best-in-breed will still be anything but standard.

Bill Taylor is president of Panasonic System Networks Company.