Video From the Top

Oct. 27, 2008
Prominent industry experts discuss choosing a solution, migrating to IP, and industry-leading technology features.
This month, ST&D editor Steve Lasky caught up with the bigwigs at seven leading video technology companies to discuss the current state of security video and their ideas for the future. Their opinions vary widely in some cases, but all expressed two common desires: to work with security executives to find the best solutions for individual needs, and to educate them on new technologies. Want to hear more? Read on.

ST&D: Security executives are faced with a barrage of options for cameras, storage, and video management solutions. What advice do you have for users trying to choose the right solutions for their applications?

Allan Lamberti, director of U.S. Sales for TOA Electronics Inc: The first questions we always need to ask are: What are you concerned about? What are you trying to observe? Has a risk assessment been completed? The answers to these questions determine what solution is developed and recommended to the security executive. Selling technology for the sake of technology is not only foolish; it most likely will not offer the client a usable solution. The responsible supplier will always seek to first understand the application before developing a system recommendation.

William L. Stuntz, CEO of BroadWare: Build in flexibility. Surveillance technology is changing rapidly and new capabilities are constantly being developed and refined … Choose a system that allows you to plug in new technologies and to integrate products from multiple companies—a system that will expand as your operations or requirements grow … Given that there are so many choices in the marketplace, it's equally important that security executives look for solutions that promote vendor independence. Proprietary technologies are a problem that most manufacturers try to sweep under the rug. This ends up costing end users a lot of money, since they end up being locked into one manufacturer or standard.

Frank Abram, deputy general and vice president of Sales and Marketing for Sanyo Security Products: Use the services of a trusted dealer or consultant. Their first priority should be to provide the end user a solution to the application rather than representing a particular product and/or product line. Look for expertise in the dealer's or consultant's ability to draw best-of-class product from different manufacturers and industries and bring these products together into a complete systems solution that is designed to address a unique application.

Frank DeFina, president of Panasonic Systems Solutions Company: Professional security systems integrators and/or dealers can be valuable resources to help with needs analysis and to provide practical solutions. It is also important to research the dealer or systems integrator who will be selling and installing the system to ascertain that they have the capabilities and solutions you need. Ask for references of similar installations to help you select the company that's most appropriate for you. Another great resource available to security professionals is manufacturers of pro security equipment. At Panasonic Security Systems, we have a staff of professionals who can assist with systems planning and design, and we also offer extensive training and education on the latest technologies and developments affecting the industry. Information is readily available on these education programs on most manufacturers' Web sites.

Jon Mitchell, marketing manager for Crest Electronics Inc.: The first thing that I would recommend to a security executive is to stay away from the cutting-edge, unproven technologies. Remember, we are talking about security, not consumer electronics. If you buy the latest TV, PC, or MP3 player for your personal use, and it does not meet your expectations, no big deal. However, if your security equipment does not meet your expectations, you have a major problem on your hands. There are plenty of options out there for the discerning security executive to get exactly what they need for their facility that has already been proven to perform as it is supposed to in security applications. Let someone else be the guinea pig.

The next bit of advice follows the previous statement, and that is making sure to do your homework. Network with associates throughout the country. Find out what practices and products have worked for them. Take this opportunity to learn from their experiences (both good and bad).

ST&D: What strategies would you suggest for end users still employing traditional analog technology but moving towards an IP-based retrofit?

Paul Novak, vice president of Industry Solution Sales for Pelco: Education, organizational dialogue and convergence. Moving from analog to IP is a shift in technology but it is also a shift in the organization. The roles and responsibilities within the IT and security groups are changing. Encourage the IT and security groups to talk before the project becomes a reality. What are the roles and responsibilities of each group? Why is security just as important as the e-mail application? Getting people to communicate is just as important as making the technology communicate.

AL : The security side needs to be knowledgeable on the future network plans concerning growth, applications, and more. But obviously “look before you leap” is the fundamental strategy. Is an IP-based solution going to bring something to the table in terms of lower costs, improved flexibility, additional capabilities, etc., or is an analog video system sufficient for the application? Fully assess the trade-offs of any solution: higher quality images vs. network bandwidth.

Leon Chlimper, vice president of System Sales for Bosch Security Systems: The first thing that all parties need to understand is why you are moving to IP. Moving to IP because it is the technology of the day makes no sense considering that many analog systems have no reason to migrate to IP. There also needs to be a clear understanding of what IP is. The end user needs to understand what gains will be extracted of the system but also what limitations the system has. Not all systems do the same or perform equally. Once you have answers to those questions, you can begin by designing a migration strategy that is to be the least disruptive to the operation and that will re-use as much of the existing equipment as feasible.

FA: Consider transitioning to the IP-based system gradually. This can be accomplished by employing “hybrid” products that accept or output both analog and IP-based signals. For instance, network video servers will process analog video images and output in network protocol so you are not required to replace all of your analog equipment at one time. There are sufficient products on the market to allow a retrofit to be done over time so the capabilities of the security system will be continually enhanced.

J M: The first question I would ask of them regarding a retrofit would be exactly what they have in mind. However, if put on the spot, I would recommend a two-pronged approach to retrofitting their system. First, if their existing video equipment is relatively new, then I would recommend upgrading to a DVR that would allow them to access video remotely. All they would be doing is switching out their head-end equipment for vastly improved technology. Another suggestion I would offer to them would be to rewire their video system with CAT5 cabling. Transmitting the video signal (as well as power and data if necessary) via CAT5 would greatly reduce the chance of noise and outside interference corrupting the video signal. Plus, if they rewire with CAT5, they will now be ready to migrate to a full IP solution when the time is right.

I would caution them about a full IP retrofit at this time because it seems to me that there are too many variables that have not been standardized within the IP camera world, most notably the amount of bandwidth that will be taken up on a network by numerous IP cameras.

ST&D: How do you answer an end user who says, “I don't know the first thing about IP/Ethernet. It seems far too complicated to even consider”?

PN: It might be. I like to understand what business problem they are trying to solve. Is it traditional security? Is it a “fast to install” requirement? Is it cost? Let the business requirement drive the technology requirement.

LC: By not selling them but rather teaching them what their options are and taking the time to walk with them on the path from analog to IP and making sure they understand what each technology is ideal for. The most important thing we can do is create the right level of expectation within our customers as to the quality, performance and complexity level of our systems. If we do not, we will always fail.

FA: I believe the answer has to be education. As the industry moves to IP-based product, manufacturers have a responsibility to provide education with regard to product and the capabilities and limitations of the network, just as we did in the early years of CCTV. Whether through industry organizations such as SIA or marketing tools such as FAQs, brochures or Web sites, it is only through knowledge that the end user will become comfortable with the concept of IP-based products. I believe the consequences of not providing this information will potentially result in a delayed evolution of the industry.

WS: Choices for buying and maintaining analog systems will decrease as an ever-increasing array of IP-based options becomes available. Fortunately, it is becoming much easier to move to those IP-based products. You don't have to understand networks or how IP works, but you should take the time to understand what it can do for you. For instance, many companies have policies in place regarding the duration and frame rate of video that they archive. Many of these policies were developed to meet the limitations of the video equipment. Those constraints disappear with IP systems—archiving policies can now be created based on what best meets business requirements and budgets. Once established, IP-based systems also allow these policies to be easily modified over time.

FD: The industry has clearly chosen to take this path, as it has proven to be the most effective and efficient means of managing digital data from the myriad devices now associated with integrated security systems. It is also important to remember that most mid- to large-size businesses have IT professionals on staff. They can be of tremendous help in planning your security system, since network technology is basically the same across different business system applications. There is also an increasing number of opportunities available to learn about IP/Ethernet through industry associations, publication-endorsed expos and seminars, and also the manufacturers themselves.

JM: The first thing I would say is you are not alone. The whole concept of IP/Ethernet can seem like a daunting new world filled with terms and acronyms you might never have heard of, but when you get down to it, it is still a very simple way of doing things. I would then go on to say that if you can surf the Internet, then you can use most of the new security systems available on the market.

ST&D: With a traditional IT-based company like CISCO getting into the physical security space, how do you see this changing the dynamics of the industry? Does their presence worry or excite you?

AL : As strange as this may sound, I enjoy competition and am excited to see new players. When a powerhouse like Cisco enters the game, it assures me that we are in the right place.

WS: Cisco's presence will not change the dynamics of the industry as much as accelerate them. Their entry in the market validates the long-term potential of IP technologies in security, and signals that the momentum has now reached the point where the large players outside the traditional security industry are taking interest. It's a very exciting time for the industry. This means we can also expect to see other companies from outside the traditional security industry entering the sector. They are recognizing opportunities within a very large industry (currently well over $100 billion)—one going through a very significant change as it migrates to IP technologies.

LC: We believe this is a good thing. For years we have benefited from the developments in IT. Now we might see some IT developments specifically targeted to our industry. We believe that years will still pass until the dynamics of our industry change. We all need to understand that the IT space is occupied by a small number of very large players today and this has led to better management of standards. If you look at our industry, the consolidation we are going through does resemble the end result of a few large players—the dynamics will be interesting.

FD: With the trend moving more towards a network-based environment, it's natural that traditional IT-based companies such as Cisco would enter the physical security industry, which in our estimation is actually becoming more “virtual” and software-driven with the implementation of IP-based technologies. The increasing demand for greater storage capacities and anywhere, anytime surveillance access and control will surely put major IT companies like IBM, Apple, HP, Microsoft, and Dell in this space. We think these new entrants into our traditional marketplace will spur greater collaboration between IT and physical security and lead to further technological developments for security systems devices.

JM: I don't see Cisco's entry into physical security as one that will immediately change the dynamics of this industry … That being said, their entry still does pose an interesting question regarding how Cisco will now bring this product to market. The IT segment seems to have a very structured method to market, with datacom distributors and value-added resellers (VARs) being those who typically buy Cisco products and then re-sell them to the end user, so it is a safe bet that they will have a leg up with the IT directors who will be handling security for their company. As for whether I'm worried or excited about Cisco, I think it is too soon to tell. I'm excited about the technology that they can develop for this marketplace, but also worried that their deep pockets will make life more challenging for the smaller companies, and it is the smaller companies that have typically brought the innovation to this industry.

PN: It is an exciting business to start with, and this just adds another element to it. With Cisco getting into the space, it just validates the importance of video security to the physical and the IT space. Video security will now become a topic of discussion with corporate CIOs where in the past this topic may not have reached the CIO's desk.

ST&D: Describe one or two unique new features or capabilities you are including in your surveillance products to make the security executive's job a little easier.

LC: OLE for process control, ANR—automatic network replenishment, a patented feature in our IP video solution—and video content analysis.

AL : To be competitive we try to include features above and beyond what the other suppliers may be offering. For instance, our cameras may have an additional mounting axis, or a higher zoom ratio. And we offer a three-year warranty on most of our products. However, beyond technical distinctions, we offer the TOA support team that stands behind the security products we sell. Our reputation for superior service has been sustained since 1934.

WS: BroadWare offers a truly open, IT-compliant system that is more easily approved and maintained by IT departments. Our open API allows very easy integration with other systems. This level of compatibility means that we can operate on virtually any hardware standard or manufacturer our customers may have chosen. Since we strongly support industry standards, we are able to ride the advances in technology as they arrive and are adopted.

FA: At the recent ISC West show, Sanyo introduced the new Pan-Focus Technology … designed to ensure that all objects, whether in the foreground or background, are always in focus. This exclusive feature assists the security personnel viewing the image as well as providing a great advantage to installers when the initial installation is made. These units are available in five different form factors. Additionally, each of these units features an optional network board for use in applications where the customer is transitioning to an IP-based system.

FD: Panasonic continues to deliver technologically advanced products that are easier to deploy and maintain. For example, we've built intelligent functions into both our analog and IP cameras. Our Super Dynamic III (SDIII) analog cameras offer distinct benefits, including pixel-based dynamic range, which enhances dynamic range to 128x that of conventional cameras to capture unsurpassed quality images even in harsh lighting conditions; auto back focus, which automatically adjusts camera focus when switching from color to black-and-white to color; auto scene change detection that sends an alarm when the camera's lens is obstructed or the camera angle changed without authorization; auto tracking to follow an individual's movements within the camera's field of view; and adaptive digital noise reduction to minimize image streaking when viewing moving images.

JM: Crest Electronics Inc. has a very unique platform that is built into both our CDVS-7000 series of PC-based DVRs, as well as our CDR-4100 series embedded DVRs. By utilizing the same codec in the programming, users can now remotely access both styles of DVRs simultaneously. In other words, a corporation that has a need for PC-style DVRs at some locations and embedded DVRs at others can install these with confidence, and through the free remote software be able to simultaneously view live and recorded video from both DVR platforms. We also offer comprehensive multi-site management software that allows for the video from 64 different DVRs to be viewed simultaneously as well as mapping functions and event monitoring.

PN: With Pelco it starts with customer service. Our customers understand Pelco's commitment to service, and this does in fact make their job easier.