Hybrid video: The next evolution in convergence

Dec. 4, 2009
Surveillance sitting in an analog world - hybrid solutions take it the next step in integration

Take a look all around you. You are part of a revolution—the convergence revolution.

In every segment and vertical market systems are integrating and converging with each other. Access control works with video and on the network to affect occupancy, energy management and more. Door controls are automated and on the network. Wireless brings it all together in a more robust package than ever. But hang onto your hats, because we’ve only begun to feel the effects of integration and convergence—and especially—life on the network.

Video is one area in particular that continues to see sweeping changes, especially as the economy gains speed and company’s begin to grow. With the current base of analog cameras in the 80th percentile or even more, what better place for integrators to start? Now, thanks to innovation from the supply side, IP is finally attainable and not far off.
Learning curve

But that doesn’t mean it’s easily obtained. It takes engineering expertise by the systems integrator—and a knowledge of encoders, transmitters, decoders, DVRs, software, PoE and how these components work—to be able to apply these types of solutions.

In the interim, we’ve reached a phase in the industry where, partly because of the economy and the existing infrastructure, the end-user wants to extend what they have and see if they can make it work—but still migrate to the advantages of IP video. Problem is, in addition to analog cameras, we have DVRs, coaxial cabling and overall an infrastructure nothing like the world of networks. That’s where bridge or cross platform devices come in to create hybrid solutions.

So it comes as no surprise that the industry’s manufacturers have been hard at work creating products that systems integrators can use to get their devices on the network, offering customers the ability to maintain their current investment but still carry the advantages of operating over the network.

Some in the industry are calling these solutions hybrids, because they use analog cameras and one way or another convert that signal to a digital one. And, there are a lot of different “flavors” of hybrid solutions emerging from the manufacturing side.
Look within the pages of this publication, or on the Web sites of manufacturers who offer cameras, recording, software and even structured cabling. You’ll hear the word hybrid often, or bridge products or open communications and the likes. So here’s the bottom line: it takes a host of different products talking to each other to add value to security—take it out of the narrow focus on security and bring it into the realm of a networked global service offering that equals convenience, remote connectivity and safety and security—all in one.

Different flavors of hybrid technology

Some manufacturers are using encoders or DVRs which take an analog signal and through software convert it to a signal that can run on the Ethernet. Transmitters/receivers may also come into play, depending on the solution. Software plays a big role in hybrid solutions.

Manufacturers understand about the well-entrenched landscape of installed analog cameras and what it will take to move the industry deeper into the realm of IP surveillance. Rich Anderson, a 25-year veteran of the security industry and chief technology officer for SAMSUNG|GVI Security, Carrollton, Texas, said he believes the installed base of analog cameras could be as high as 90 percent, so it makes sense for companies to help integrators and their customers make the switch.

“The power of the installed base of analog and CCTV cameras is something people don’t think of,” Anderson commented. “You’ve got all these analog cameras and DVRs out there, and a good deal of the installer community isn’t yet comfortable with IP, so in many instances they will just stay with analog and even install more of those products. But the real question they have to ask is: if the site has analog, why do they need IP?” he queried. “What do they want to accomplish with the camera?”
Anderson admitted “the move to IP in a mixed system is not painless. You can take a DVR that’s analog only and buy a hybrid recorder that converts an analog system. You can buy an NVR and put it next to the DVR, or you can buy software and put it on a PC and use an encoder. But you have other factors, such as that most hybrid DVR recorders are limited to CIF or resolution which is probably not a good resolution for positive identification.”

As such, the strategy more companies are moving to, he said, is IP-based software with encoders that talk to the old DVRs and NVRs. “Those old DVRs are really big encoders. You can save the end-user’s investment and move forward to another year’s budget, “he said.

Infinova is another manufacturer helping bridge the gap to IP, building a complete line of hybrid solutions, as well as an award-winning Universal Security Platform (USP) that configures and manages the network via network management software. The USP system is specifically designed for dedicated network users, in which one universal security platform provides access to video, audio, data, 1000M Ethernet, intercom and alarm.

“We integrate our technology with the existing infrastructure and equipment and it doesn’t matter if it’s from different manufacturers,” according to Dr. Jeffrey Liu, Ph.D. and president of Infinova. “Our hybrid solutions extend the use of existing equipment and protect the end user’s investment,” he said.

The USB is a blade server software solution which digitizes the analog signal so it becomes transparent to the end-user, said Mark Wilson, vice president of Marketing for Infinova. “The idea is to extend the life of the system, cameras and cabling and delay high costs of replacing cameras.”

Deployed to integrate hybrid into the network, the USP does not change the look or functionality for the operator. “There is no retraining of operators, which can be a significant part of an installation, and everything is managed through a GUI,” Wilson continued. “You don’t need to put encoders in front of the cameras.”

Wilson added that having a blade-type solution is something the IT department is familiar with and this helps security sell the solution. “Finally, it’s not what IT folks refer to as a forklift, dump-everything upgrade,” he said. “When the user wants to go all IP in the future, they can change out a card in the server and deploy IP cameras as they find necessary.”

Dr. Bob Banerjee, product manager, IP Video for Bosch Security Systems in Lancaster, Pa., has long advocated the hybrid approach. And he also believes in educating installers to look carefully at the installation and decide what will work best for the end-user. Banerjee believes in using DVRs with software that allows them to become hybrid units that can capture analog signals.
“I would recommend integrators become familiar with at least one hybrid recorder,” Banerjee commented. “Something like this allows you to reuse your existing cameras and add some IP cameras as well. A good hybrid recorder will allow you to mix and match cameras. These units have BNC connectors to connect the coaxial cabling.”

Banerjee said organizations such as ONVIF will also help the industry migrate to IP, especially as standards are created. “That’s where the beauty of organizations such as ONVIF comes in. As soon as a DVR is ONVIF compliant, any IP camera or encoder will work with it. Installers are waiting for the complexity of IP products to come down, so I don’t think the price is the problem. IP is complicated. It takes a step by step approach but hybrid solutions can work.”

Hybrid or bridge products are giving integrators the skills they need to progress to the next IT-centric level in security. By learning from the ground up how all these components work, how the digital signal and network operates and the end results, integrators will be better prepared to deploy these systems. In all, in the end the goal is to bring all systems and services together into the network-leveraged world.

As always, in everything you do, let the application or end-use be your guide. Take some time to check out all that manufacturers have to offer, because they have been hard at work creating hybrid solutions to make your video come alive on the network.


A Contrarian View - Do We Need Another ‘Spork’?

Some in the industry may believe hybrid solutions are not a good idea—that we should just graduate to the next full solution suite. Here’s one opposing view to the proliferation of hybrid video systems.

“All-in-one products always seem like a good idea on the surface but the reality rarely meets the promise. Let’s take an example that is pretty close to the hybrid concept: remember the TVs with an integrated VCR? Why didn’t that take off? Why didn’t you buy one?
Here’s why it didn’t work: First, you could buy a better VCR and a better TV if you bought them separately. Second, connecting the VCR to the TV was simple and standards-based. Third, the parts bought separately generally cost less than the integrated product. Lastly, if you wanted to upgrade one of the two or if one part broke, you didn’t have to throw away the entire system.

It’s rarely a good idea to integrate technologies moving at different paces into a single product. The hybrid idea is a throwback to the proprietary systems that ruled the last 20 years of the physical security industry. Forward-thinking integrators continue to move towards open-system solutions and customers will reward them with long-term business and higher margins.

When it comes to a hybrid, I’d say put a ‘spork’ in it.” – Lee Caswell is the founder and chief marketing officer for Pivot3, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

-Sidebar 2

In The Field
Integrators Engineering Hybrids for Some Time

Rick Matoy, chief executive officer of GSI Security in Fort Worth, Texas, said the end-user is driving demand for hybrid solutions. “When you go into an existing analog infrastructure, many times they don’t have the budget to replace everything,” he said. He’s been installing encoders and hybrid solutions for quite some time. In fact, some 90 percent of his installations are some type of hybrid solutions, many software-based and allowing the end-user to grow with them.

Operational Security Systems in Atlanta is also addressing the large landscape of installed analog products with bridge and cross-media devices. “A lot of the new installations we are doing are IP, especially where the end-user can afford it,” said Richard Lee, integrated systems consultant. “In retrofit with a large base of cameras installed with coaxial cabling we recommend a hybrid DVR with both analog and IP capabilities. There are a couple of methods to install good analog cameras and use encoders; you can also use a software program for NVR solutions. Companies like Veracity have converters that run Ethernet using the existing coaxial. You can also do a combo hybrid installation with IP cameras of higher resolution and analog cameras. We started engineering hybrid systems in 2004,” Lee continued.

Marcus Moreno, director of business development for ATCI Security Solutions in Miami, Fla., has also been migrating analog cameras to the network for the last two years. Currently, about 60 percent of his installations are analog and 40 percent are IP cameras.

“The end-user is beginning to see the benefit of going to IP and we go case by case and talk to the user about what they want to accomplish,” Moreno said. “Customers who want megapixel technology want IP cameras and they don’t want two systems.”