Our Man in the Field: The Process of the IP Solution, Part II

Feb. 1, 2005
Solving IP integration challenges while designing and implementing a CCTV solution

Welcome to the first step of the process of building the perfect IP solution. OK, in the last column I told you that I intended to cover the entire process of going digital. Consequently, to some of you old timers, this week may seem like a step back in time. On the other hand, for just about everyone, this may be your first chance to fix, update or correct problems that you've had since your very first camera was installed. I know, it all sounds so cryptic.

However, the fact is the first step to designing a proper IP solution for your visual system is to write out and define the overall purpose of your system. That's correct, write it out. I would be willing to wager that 95 percent of the individuals that read this first paragraph cannot go to a file drawer or a computer hard drive and find a written definition and purpose for the individual system that they already have installed or are thinking about putting in. I would be willing to bet that the majority of professional designers do not define the system for the end user as part of their initial bid and design.

So, if no one is doing it, it can't really be important, can it? On the contrary, it's absolutely important! Imagine playing basketball, football, baseball or hockey without a general concept of the game. Imagine watching one of these games without an idea of what the purpose was. It's the same thing with a security system. How can you possibly design a video system without a purpose or design statement? The answer: You can't.

You may find that your system actually encompasses two or three or more purposes. If this is the case, you are looking to design two or three or more individual, interactive, shared processes. It happens, especially in this day of cumulative design. The good news is that by designing your system's purpose, your overall, desired effect just became closer to an IP solution as opposed to a conglomerated mess. Folks, you don't just throw equipment in the air and hope it lands upright and functional, despite our past 40 years of general experience that says such a technique may sometimes work. OK, I've made my point, now how about an example of a couple of theoretical system design statements:

The purpose of this system is to monitor the general activities near and around the perimeter fence, while identifying specific individuals entering and exiting the facility.

I told you it was simple. But you and all of your associated professional cohorts have the same design and visual expectations from your design. No side tracks, no misgivings and certainly no expectations of seeing the craters on the moon.

How about this intention statement:

The purpose of this system is to visually monitor the general traffic in the front lobby while paying specific, detailed attention to those individuals entering and leaving the facility. Additionally, the system will provide visual verification in response to all electronic alarms along the perimeter. The system will retain in good definition, visual images of activities in and around the fleet shop for a period of 15 days while allowing immediate review by the security group at any time.

Ok, this is a bit more detailed, but still very simple. In this case, you've made it clear that you will be designing three systems to work with a general interactive attitude: the lobby, alarm verification, and fleet monitoring. Your definition just pointed out that you will need to verify and design for alarm/CCTV system interaction. Got the picture? So does everyone else.

Here's one more intention statement:

The purpose of this system will be three fold:

1. To visually monitor and record images of all employees and visitors coming and going via any/all entrances, exits of the facility and perimeter. Additionally, the system will be used to visually alert the security personnel of activity at these points after normal working hours. This system will provide monitoring and recording of all traffic in the main isles of the facility during working hours. Additionally, open storage areas where product is kept will be monitored and recorded at all times there is activity in the area.

2. To visually monitor and record images of all vehicles and their license plates as they enter and exit the facility at any point. These images will be used in conjunction with the card access system to compare to an existing data base to verify identification, authority, and times on and off the facility property. This system is to be fully automated with visual alarm notification to the on-site control center whenever identification of a vehicle and/or driver cannot be verified by the CCTV or card access system.

3. To provide full monitoring and control capabilities to key personnel at the corporate office in Texas for the purpose of spot checks and off-site emergency response.

It's still simple in concept, but is a bit more detailed to our results-oriented design. We now are watching activity and product, interacting with a database, and responding (with control) both on and off site. The design is started. This is the exact same process that would be recommended for any analog system over the past 20 years. However, it is becoming more and more important that detail is added to the design purpose. This is because of all the new avenues that are being offered by the IP concepts. The more detail that you can add to your initial design statement, the more likely you will end up with an affordable, viable, working visual solution.

OK, so you're in the middle of writing out your statement and you suddenly get a cold chill. What if I can't afford this? How much is all of this going to cost? Can the technology really give me the ability to monitor and authorized activity, based upon license plates and interaction with card access?

Now is not the time to worry. Now is the time to define, to the best of your imagination and detail, what you want your system to do. And this incidentally is a key phrase, "Let your imagination be your guide."

Obviously, given the full gambit of my imagination, I could design a system well over your budget in just a few nanoseconds, but I still recommend that you build every option that you can think of and then cut back as you go. The net result is most often that you end up with what you need at the start and then have a plan and design in place for the next two to five years. The advantage of spreading out a design is three-fold:

1) You design a system that can be grown as opposed to added to.

2) You spread your budget out further and don't have to absorb one big hit.

3) Technology continues to develop and you're already in place when it arrives.

To wrap it up for this column, the design process is started and, as promised, we have not strayed from old patterns or processes too far. In the next article we will look at what it takes to start assigning individual camera locations. We will also start discussing some of the technical processes involved in finding the proper IP equipment for your application.

See you in a couple weeks, with the next update of this column.