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Choosing a route to IP CCTV

by Andy Clutton

Security concept: Cctv Camera on digital computer screenGenuine plug and play systems make IP migration easy and the pioneers of the technology have not rested on their laurels since early breakthroughs. The direction of the CCTV market is set, so what are the options for installers?

While for some time we have been told that one day in the not too distant future all systems will be networked and analogue will be history there are still lots of people who like working with analogue technology and lots of users who get the type of surveillance they want from it. Some people have no need for a networked IP solution, so why switch (or migrate as it is called)? Furthermore as long as the analogue market remains popular in certain quarters, some manufacturers will carry on producing cameras and installers will continue fitting and maintaining the systems.

Of course networked technology today is big business and there are scores of camera manufacturers trading solely on the back of IP CCTV. This means that for these businesses to thrive they need installers to fit IP technology rather than analogue, which is why the major marketing push of the most visible companies in the market is regarding IP – there aren’t many people shouting about new ranges of analogue cameras at trade shows.

Many installers have long-established and probably extensive contracts for the maintenance of analogue systems and we have been told for some time that one of the main reasons why the IP side of things has not yet blown analogue out of the water is the lack of networking knowledge amongst UK installers. Both factors could therefore lead to a bit of a slowdown when it comes to the ‘migration’ angle, but for how much longer can you rely on your analogue business to keep you afloat? It is widely considered that the encroachment of the UK surveillance market by IT installers will only serve to make the analogue-centric security installer obsolete so some element of IP installation service could be seen as vital as the world continues to embrace networking.

In the past the so-called education gap between the traditional security installer and IP technology has existed with a feeling that networking is somehow more complicated than the existing analogue format and with some validity too. Sometimes new technology is promoted in a manner that shows its features and benefits, but in a confusing manner because the person/company showing the product is expecting a similar level of understanding from the audience. Throw in all of the tech-speak of integration and it’s understandable that some feel a bit bewildered by it all.

More confusion is created by the various options that allow people to have a form of IP CCTV without changing all of the components of their original system. In no way are these technologies inferior (and their popularity certainly shows that they are very well thought of by installers and customers) but when there are numerous options it can muddy the water a bit. So while HD-SDI, encoders and various other technologies all offer alternatives and genuine benefits, some people view them as a temporary halfway house to full migration – usually those who work in IP. Again, it is worth noting that CCTV should be fit-for-purpose, so going ‘full IP’ is not a requirement for every application and the ROI on fitting an encoder rather than ripping out the whole existing surveillance system to begin again from scratch is obvious.

However IP surveillance solutions have not been left undeveloped. In the last few years we have begun to see technology branded as ‘plug and play’, meaning that all you need to do is plug something in and you have completed the build. Unfortunately (again let’s blame the early IP promoters) while the hardware was plug and play, the software behind it definitely wasn’t. There was still plenty to do in the program interfac) with locating ports and naming of each camera etc that it was not uncommon to see eyes glazing over in product demos. Yes it was much easier than previous systems, but still required a good understanding of networking, licensing and software management and for some people plug and play was a bit more plug and pray in those days even though the idea had already been mastered by some companies operating in the access control market and with the cheap IP security systems found in high street retailers.

Today we are all familiar with the genuine plug and play options on the market; just plug the cameras into one end of the cable and the NVR into the other and the system automatically does the rest. Of course you could then go on to tweak the system as desired, but this simplification of the process made everyone sit up and take notice and aided those looking to take a small step away from their analogue comfort zone.

Cameras and NVRs of manufacturers vary but the premise remains the same – for the untrained security installer who has never fitted IP technology before, all he/she needs to do (once the network cables have been fitted) is put the cameras up and plug them in. This ‘Zero Configuration’ (as Samsung Techwin calls it) means that the world of networked security is no longer a closed shop to the analogue-centric installer bringing with it new features that you can promote to customers – not all of them security related either. For example, business intelligence data such as footfall, hotspots etc are all valuable to various sections within a company and may well allow surveillance budgets to be increased as other departments contribute to a contract in recognition of the information they can gleam from analytics.

Read the full version of this article in the September edition of PSI magazine

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