Technology Roundtable: VMS

April 10, 2014
Six manufacturers discuss Video Management System advances, creating RMR and more

The rapid pace of development in video surveillance technology has equated to an equal rise in development for Video Management System (VMS). As a security dealer or integrator, staying on top of these software advances and the trends affecting them can sometimes be a challenge.

SD&I sat down with representatives from six top VMS vendors in this exclusive technology roundtable to get the lowdown on the latest VMS advancements, the impact of standardization, and strategies for deployment and RMR generation.

Here are the roundtable participants, with a link to the SecurityInfoWatch buyer’s guide to request more information about each company:

SD&I: What recent VMS developments/features have made the biggest impact?

Piran: User habits are driving a shift in the market to mobile functionality. Mobile VMS solutions enable security personnel to perform live monitoring or synchronized playback of multiple HD cameras from a tablet, smartphone or any web interface. Integrators must provide their customers with the technology to move out of the control room and into the field without sacrificing functionality. Hybrid devices with built-in VMS software to help put analog devices on the IP network are also making a big impact. Open architecture, and the ability to integrate with other security and business systems continue to be crucial features of VMS systems.

Fullerton: Three major trends impacting end-users are: Ease of deployment and increased use of IP video; Deeper, better and more useful integrations with other digital business systems; and higher reliability and accuracy in the use of metadata.

Karahashi: VMS has become easier to install and set up for integrators, and more intuitive and user-friendly for end-users. You will find it being deployed more often at small- to medium-sized installations where the software is used most often for investigation, rather than full-time monitoring. As the learning curve lessens, this trend will most likely continue.

Payne: Today almost all IP camera manufacturers offer high definition (HD), full HD, 3 megapixel and 5 megapixel cameras at very competitive prices, which has driven the adoption of new video quality standards. VMS need to keep up and prove they can manage all that information from multiple angles simultaneously. Another development that’s having a considerable impact on VMS users is the growing use of the ONVIF protocol standard for communication between different manufacturers’ video technologies.

Carney: For the integrator, the biggest impact is the unification of video, access and intrusion on a VMS platform that will simplify installation and reduce total cost of the system. As systems become unified and more tightly tied together by full-line manufacturers, the amount of different training courses required for the systems integrator will be reduced. Features like ‘Auto set up’ will save significant labor costs.

Shahmoon: With organizations moving toward central command centers to consolidate operations and reduce costs, it is important that VMS manufacturers provide organizations with the best tools to search for evidence.

Are there ways that security dealers/integrators can leverage VMS to generate RMR?

Karahashi: Security dealers can offer cloud storage for a recurring fee in addition to their yearly contracts normally offered for maintaining the customers’ security systems. 3VR is bringing cloud extensions to our VMS solution so customers will no longer be limited by how much disk is available in the appliance. Integrators can also increase RMR by tapping into health monitoring capabilities typically offered with VMS software. 

Fullerton: The “Internet of things” is where there is a potential for RMR. With the internet of things, everything is being connected and can be accessed remotely. You now have the key to supply value-adding services that can be billed on a monthly basis – this doesn’t mean that all video should be moved into the cloud but that the connectivity can be used to supply services/functions over the internet that can have a billable value that in turn can lead to significant RMR.

Payne: A robust, enterprise-class VMS platform should be able to monitor the health status of all recording platforms and proactively alert operators so that they can intervene before the issue becomes critical. This health monitoring should cover all system components, including processors, disk and fan temperatures, camera disconnections and potential network issues, and also include the tools needed to generate informative reports on system health status. There’s a definite RMR opportunity for security dealers and integrators with VMS health monitoring.

What is the biggest challenge for dealers/integrators who want to deploy a VMS for a client?

Shahmoon: Working with the organization’s IT department is a key to ensuring the network, security and infrastructure — like servers and storage devices — not only meet these policies, but fully support the deployment requirements. Integrators must have network expertise and work with these organizations to ensure infrastructure is in place before deploying cameras, sensors and the VMS.     

Payne: The primary challenge will likely come down to the integrator’s ability to properly size, scale and configure an IP system. IP video is a huge opportunity in terms of quality, scalability and flexibility, however the technology is not quite plug-and-play yet and still requires a unique set of technical skills.

Karahashi: One of the biggest challenges for dealers/integrators is the key decision on whether to use a VMS or appliances in the solution to deliver to their customers. Should they leverage the open, scalable nature of the VMS, or the simplicity of an appliance? The trade-off between the two solutions can be subtle, yet it is a very important decision and the answer will heavily depend on each solution.

Piran: In order to be sure all users get exactly the features they need, integrators should become familiar with the business and security needs of every installation, making certain that all necessary third-party physical security integrations are in place before making a specific VMS recommendation.

Fullerton: All too often we see that an integrator or VAR sells whatever they are comfortable selling. We also see that the convergence to true open platform VMS/IP video systems is taking too long because there are still many resellers out there that keep selling obsolete technology to their installed base. Future proof your customers’ installations by selling them an open platform VMS that does what they need today and can be upgraded to higher feature levels as the customer evolves.

Does camera selection have a major impact on VMS deployment?

Fullerton: It’s the other way around — you need to select an open-platform VMS that will enable customers to choose the cameras they want today and in the future.

Payne: Not as much as it used to. VMS manufacturers are maintaining good lists of integration partners that have gone a long way toward eliminating many of the past interoperability issues. At the same time, good progress is being made on supporting high resolution, 360° and multi-sensor IP cameras.

Piran: The continuing presence of analog cameras in the field is driving a need for hybrid systems to incorporate them on the network and to enable easier, more cost-efficient migration to IP. These plug-and-play devices will make it easier for the next generation of adopters to incorporate video management systems into their security and risk management programs, with the added bonus of simplified migration from analog to IP.

Shahmoon: The camera’s resolution and frame rate will dictate network planning, impacting network switch location and configuration — for example, multicast or unicast, server location and more. Another consideration is related to the camera features the VMS needs to support: dual encoding (for live/recorded), motion detection on the edge, quality “bump up” on event, I/O alarms, audio, etc. When selecting the camera, integrators need to ensure these features are supported and available with the VMS.

How has the push for standardization impacted the VMS market?

Carney: Standardization has raised the expectation and perception in the market that you can connect any camera with any VMS solution. With groups like ONVIF, conformant products can communicate with each other regardless of the relationship between the different manufacturers. Standardization has also addressed the future-proofing of systems, another area of concern for end-users, who want assurances that the platform they are putting in place today will be just as functional ten years in the future.

Fullerton: Standardization has enabled the lower-end camera manufacturers to develop very affordable cameras with basic feature sets. This in turn has driven the IP camera models into lowering their price tiers in the market. This has been beneficial in driving the uptake of IP video systems and VMS.

Karahashi: ONVIF has helped tremendously. The specification is still growing and many cameras have differing levels of compliance, but the industry is definitely getting closer to working out of the box again.

Piran: Standardization is spurring ongoing growth of open-architecture technologies and continued close collaboration between providers, further expanding the functionality of video surveillance solutions. An open platform VMS system will permit the installer to specify any hardware and choose among a larger variety of cameras, detectors, access control, facial recognition, LPR and other business systems. This not only enables the installer to optimize the system to the job at hand, it also reduces long-term service as it is easier to change components.

Are there any other key VMS market trends that dealers/integrators should be aware of?

Payne: Demand is growing for VMS solutions that are tailored or customized for specific business uses. Organizations such as banks, retailers and transportation authorities are all asking themselves what more they can do with their surveillance solution. They want to get the most from their technology investment – to really use it to help improve their bottom line, both in relation to security and operational oversights.

Piran: Costs will continue to come down while VMS system user interfaces will become more intuitive and easy to use. These trends will gain momentum as 64 bit technology penetration expands, enabling more efficient use of the system and faster response times, even when streaming megapixel cameras. We can expect all of these developments to continue as larger storage capacities in the terabyte and petabyte range continue to make news.

Fullerton: There are a lot of very smooth integration possibilities coming into play, not just to traditional security systems like access control but to all kinds of sensors like lasers, radiation and chemical measurers, audio gunshot detection, GPS location mapping, RFID, HVAC, panic buttons, etc.

Karahashi: We see a strong and renewed interest in video analytics, which are becoming more sophisticated and have greatly reduced the false positives that have plagued the market for years. The interest is especially strong with retailers. Integrators can expand their reach (and their income) by being experts in video analytics, which is extending outside the traditional security market.

Carney: VMS has grown in recent years beyond its traditional use as just a strict video security solution, to unifying with other devices.

Shahmoon: We see more interest from customers to use HD and 360-degree cameras. Storage on the edge is now available from more IP camera and VMS manufacturers, opening new options for redundancy, remote storage management and more flexible recording configurations. For example, you can record on the server at low quality and on the camera’s SD card at high quality, then when an event is received, the VMS pulls the high quality from the camera and replaces the low-quality video on the recorder.  

Paul Rothman is Editor in Chief of SD&I magazine (