Last word: Digital poised to take over the CCTV market

June 2002 News

Yea, yea. How many times have we heard that before?

Well, listen up. The surveillance landscape continues to change, and change rapidly. Recent market commentary at Security Systems News has suggested that the greater selection of digital surveillance products and a series of transitional products has spurred interest in the CCTV DVR (digital video recorder) market. Whether the transition comes as quickly as a couple of years, or is stretched out over a longer period, manufacturers concur that the move to digital systems for recording and storing CCTV data is underway.

At the most recent ISC West (US) trade show, many attendees reported a proliferation of digital systems, an experience echoed by Hi-Tech Security Solutions' Gerard Peter, who attended the recent UK-based IFSEC exhibition. Said Peter, "If IFSEC 2002 could be categorised at all, 'The Year of the DVR' would not be amiss." According to Security Systems News, Rick Bieniak, director of advanced technology for Silent Witness, is quoted as saying that the number of digital recorder manufacturers at the last ISC West was nearly double that of the previous year, with more than 100 companies offering them.

"The barrier to entry is low," Bieniak explained, "allowing a lot of small [players] to get into the market." Bieniak warned, however, that with so many players come a host of claims about image compression and storage capabilities, not all of them legitimate.

Darren Smith
Darren Smith

The benefits are clear

Those who deal in digital equipment as part of a CCTV security system say the benefits are clear. Replacing videotapes, VCRs and even the people who must handle the tapes and service the machines offers time and cost savings. And the resulting images, they claim, are clearer and more easily accessible.

Proponents of digital technology tout its functionality and added features. Where users once relied on a recorder, a multiplexer and a switcher, those functions can now be found in a single unit. Even the motion detection function of a camera can be built into the digital recording system.

Roger Shuman, marketing communications manager for Integral Technologies notes that features such as event-based recording, set in place by detected motion or an alarm, reduce the need for 24/7 recording. Hard disk space, which was seen as a problem for digital systems, "is a nonissue," he suggests, because of event-driven recording and 'bigger and cheaper' hard drives.

Well not too much new here. Let us move on.

Remote surveillance

According to Security Systems News, Leslie Stevens, director of sales and marketing for RemoteVideo, called the move to remote surveillance systems, driven by a combined digital video recorder and multiplexer, 'one of the fastest growing segments in the industry'.

Remote surveillance allows end users to view remote camera activity, with clips of video activity can be stored by time, date and location either at a remote data centre or on a digital unit connected to the individual (remote) camera. Stevens said while systems such as this are being embraced, some barriers do exist, such as a reluctance to switch from an existing analog system or concerns about network security. In the latter case, she said, users can go with a DVR, or digital video recorder, that does not rely on a LAN or WAN connection.

Most agree, however, that these and other barriers to making the transition to digital, such as price or fear of rapidly changing technology, are dwindling, though observers differ on how quickly.

Frank Abram, general manager, Panasonic Security Systems Group, told Security Systems News that limited access to high-speed networks is still a problem for the rapid implementation of digital systems.

"The problem with networking CCTV is a bandwidth problem," he said. Abram predicted it would be at least five years before the transition takes place in earnest. In the meantime, he said, the challenge that remains "is convincing the factory there's still an analog market out there. The concentration on digital has detracted from the development of camera and VCR products and switching products."

VCR technology, he noted, still has lower-end applications driven by "storage, convenience, familiarity and cost."

Cheryl Bard, product marketing manager for Philips CSI, concurs with Abram that it could be five years before digital is embraced industry-wide. "Everybody is rushing to develop digital," she said. "There's a lot of R&D, but are the sales there and are customers ready?" She said the biggest transition has come in the move from analog VCRs to digital recorders. "But they still use the same cameras and monitors," she added.

Other concerns that need to be addressed before the transition is complete, Nicholson said, are backwards compatibility and upgradability. New technology needs to integrate with existing components, such as cameras, as well as other systems such as access control.

System solutions Bieniak agreed "people are looking for a system solution. They are focusing less on components and more on systems," he told Security Systems News, exploring such questions as "how well do things play together; is it seamless and easy to install?"

The ability to service and install the systems properly is another issue. Bieniak said digital requires 'network-savvy technicians' rather than electricians.

Nicholson noted some integrators, especially those handling access control systems, have already entered the IT realm. Still, he said, "the distributor/integrator needs to make an investment in understanding the (digital) system and training their people."

We at Hi-Tech Security Solutions would certainly concur with Bieniak and Nicholson's comments. We continue to get inundated with queries on digital surveillance products, with the confusion in the market exacerbated by manufacturers exotic claims and counterclaims. Perhaps it is about time we did something about this? Watch this space.

Till next month.

Darren Smith





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