20 Things You Should Know About Networked Video

Jan. 23, 2007
Live from the VSI Summit, Atlanta: A collection of top talking points about network video and integrated security

What can you do with video that you haven't been able to do before? That was the question I had in mind as I attend the Video, Security and Integration Summit (VSI Summit) in Atlanta, this Tuesday afternoon. The summit is put on by sponsors Axis Communications (cameras and video encoders), BroadWare (IP-based video management platforms), Extreme CCTV (license plate capture and infrared-illuminated surveillance) and IBM (network integration services and video analytics). NetApp, a data storage provider, was also a presenting sponsor. It's a vendor showcase, but in our industry, that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, I haven't seen one top-notch security department that doesn't take an interest in its vendors. Eat your store-brand Rice Krispies for breakfast, but in our industry, end user-integrator-vendor partnerships are common place.

Speaking of that common partnership, the VSI Summit's Atlanta stop was heavily attended by integrators, a couple other local Atlanta vendors who were mixing among the small crowd, some manufacturers' representatives and a handful of corporate security end users. The "summit" took around two-and-a-half-hours and was primarily a venue for vendors to discuss their latest technology or services and discuss how they can integrate with other partners. There was a clear focus, especially with the end-of-show system example, of how all four companies could partner for solutions together. The summit showed how a BroadWare video management system integrated and running on IBM equipment and using IBM's S3 analytics could use triggers from an Axis network camera, and pull in integrated data from an outside access control system to perhaps acquire the license plate of a car arriving at a parking lot gate.

The solutions being demonstrated were all-digital, IP-configured systems. Even analog cameras like Extreme CCTV's REG camera were shown configured through video encodes so that data could be delivered to an IT-compliant system. The summit wasn't the time or place to get into the detailed nuts and bolts of product specifying, but it took a broad stroke to paint a picture of how video can be integrated and managed in the current corporate environment.

It's hard to summarize a small technology show like this, and so I think it's best to give you 20 of the best "takeaways" from today's presentations.

1. Wireless is no longer the ugly stepchild. Wireless applications are becoming increasingly commonplace as integrators deliver their services to government operations housed in historic structures, where architectural preservation is required

2. Wireless line-of-sight (l.o.s.) technology is an option for long-distance high-speed video communications. Dlink, Proxim, Motorola and Alvarion are all offering systems to do line-of-sight.

3. If you're needing to transfer video in a non-l.o.s. environment, such as one that might deal with trees or semi-dense objects, the 900Mhz bandwidth is a top solution, though it too will degrade and is not designed for extreme distances

4. IP systems need a network media switch to serve as a "traffic cop" to manage bandwidth if you're delivering a video-intensive solution to your client.

5. IT security directors are often fond of Linux-based applications and this is affecting the product that video management vendors are offering.

6. Nothing's changed. "Video is [still] a bandwidth hog", notes Dennis Charlebois of BroadWare.

7. Specifiers and end users need to really assess what they're putting on the network. Analytics can help, since there is no reason to push video over a network if that video is not useful or is not being used.

8. Storage, despite major price drops, is the factor that can drive the cost of many systems through the roof. Again, there needs to be a realistic assessment of whether you need 30 frames per second of 4 CIF images on every camera.

9. Don't get tied down to management systems that don't allow for SDKs and APIs, so that the system can be open-platform and integrated to other systems in the future.

10. IP systems may still create small issues with latency. Depending on your network design (especially if the system is being controlled by someone not on the LAN), the latency may cause problems with PTZ cameras.

11. More network hops equals more latency.

12. Now that we have flexibility of design, we have to use that flexibility. Make sure to design systems so that they take into account all your different types and levels of users. At a retail store, the security and safety department may need the video of parking lots and loading docks, but the LP director is the only one who gets access to register cameras and POS data. The store shift managers may only have access to limited video feeds.

13. Think about your video storage and the video's importance. Ask yourself, says IBM's Sam Docknevich, "How long do you keep video on fast access disks before you move that data to cheaper storage such as optical solutions, and how long is it before that data goes to an IronMountain type of facility?

14. Surveillance video has to be approached on the network in the same way that your IT staff would treat any other data/information product.

15. Video analytics isn't our industry's panacea. It isn't self-learning and it won't make decisions unless you've already told it exactly how to make those decisions. It also isn't quite mature yet.

16. Analytics needs to be able to do post-event analysis, such that video not coming from an analytics-ready camera unit can be processed for searches.

17. Most companies are not deploying secondary networks for video surveillance, but they are now building enough bandwidth into the business network to accommodate video surveillance.

18. Systems are now using HTTP protocol to talk to each other.

19. Video data needs to have metadata associated with it to enable search and management functionality.

20. Return on investment for integrated security systems cannot be determined fully until you know the costs of not doing it.

That's all I've got for you from the VSI Summit for now. A big thanks to our host for picking my name out of the hat for the free Axis camera, and I do hope the integrator who won the camera after I declined it puts it to better use than I could have. See you next time and down the road.