Making the business case for networked video monitoring

April 2005 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

It is a sobering thought: hardware costs can typically represent as little as 20% to 40% of the total expense of a large-scale CCTV video surveillance or monitoring installation.

Aside from the capital cost of cameras, video recorders, monitors, switchers plus other components such as joystick controllers, the principal cost of any CCTV system reflects the labour-intensive task of linking these components together.

Separate cables are required for each camera to supply power as well as transmit video and camera control functions, and in an office building or other public space this can be a time-consuming, disruptive and expensive business. Cabling a large building can be particularly tricky as conventional CCTV networks are structured as a 'star' topology, with every camera connecting to a central node - much like the spokes of a wheel. This requires routing co-axial cables from every camera location to a central control room that may be deep inside the building or below ground level. This represents a major task, even when constructing a new building from scratch. In an existing building it is costlier and more complex still when cables may have to be routed through walls, under flooring or through overhead conduits to link cameras scattered around the premises.

Networked video solutions, in contrast, replace this tangle of co-axial cables by using industry-standard Ethernet connections to link cameras, monitoring PCs and server-based storage. With more than 70% of commercial buildings now being constructed with structured network cabling as an integral part of their infrastructure, there is a ready-made conduit in place to carry camera signals from anywhere inside the building to any desktop PC. Sony offers networked video monitoring solutions for security and surveillance applications that carry camera images, audio and control signals as digitised streams in open, industry-standard IP (Internet Protocol) format. Sharing the same 'language' as the Internet and office-based intranets, IP networks carry traffic over standard CAT5 cabling - eliminating the need for dedicated coaxial cable connections between cameras, servers and storage.

Some Sony network video cameras such as the SNC-Z20P and SNC-DF70P include the added flexibility of a 'power over Ethernet' feature. This allows camera power to be routed over the same standard CAT5 cable that carries video and control signals, eliminating the need for dedicated electrical cabling and reducing installation costs further still.

It is not just the cost of laying cables inside a building that drives up the cost of installing a video security system. Out of doors, the challenges of installing and linking cameras are different - but the process can be equally costly. Positioning a camera in a remote spot, such as a bridge over a motorway, can be time-consuming and expensive. To drive down installation costs further still while increasing system flexibility, some cameras - such as the compact and highly discreet Sony SNC-RZ25P - feature optional support for WLAN (wireless local area network) connectivity based on the 802.11 family of standards that is becoming an increasingly common feature of notebook PCs and other computing devices. A WLAN-enabled camera can transmit images over short distances back to the network without the inconvenience and expense of routing a coaxial cable to a potentially inaccessible or hard-to-reach spot. Using a separate WLAN interface device, this distance can be boosted as high as several hundred metres.

Reflecting their IT industry heritage, networked video solutions require only a standard PC for viewing images and controlling cameras. Pictures from a network camera can be viewed via any PC on the same network running an ordinary web browser such as Internet Explorer. This eliminates the need for a dedicated video monitor, reducing hardware costs compared with CCTV installations. Installing Sony RealShot Manager turns the same PC into a powerful, easy-to-use management platform that provides total control over a complete network of IP-enabled devices including cameras and video file servers. Set-up, recording and management functions for multiple cameras and severs are easily controlled using the intuitive user interface.

Flexible recording modes include Manual, Scheduled and Alarm/Pre-alarm recording, and on-screen layouts can be readily customised to give the user convenient access to multiple cameras. Recording and playback can be performed simultaneously, allowing previously recorded images to be viewed while recording continues. Recordings can be searched by time/date, alarm events or inserted comments, while preview images (thumbnails) simplify searching. The Camera Manager simplifies 'fine-tuning' camera settings according to user needs and available network bandwidth. Individual cameras can be added to groups and configured for optimal performance by adjusting refresh rates, image resolution and quality. It is also easy to roll out RealShot Manager across as many PC seats as required, simply by purchasing additional client licences. With CCTV the cost of providing a dedicated video monitor for every member of staff would be prohibitive. With RealShot Manager it is a cost effective reality to put video monitoring and control onto every desktop.

The enhanced functionality offered by RealShot Manager drives down capital expenditure as well as operational costs. Since camera functions can be controlled remotely from the PC, there is no need to invest in joysticks and other dedicated hardware controllers. What is more, organisations can save money on staffing costs, since there is a reduced requirement for making fiddly manual adjustments to each camera. Altering the exposure settings of a conventional CCTV camera in a car park typically necessitates a trip up a ladder to make the adjustment: with a networked video camera the same operation can be accomplished with a few clicks of a mouse.

For more information contact Gary Smith, Sony Business SA, 011 690 3200.

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