In this series, Roy Alves, country manager of Axis Communications South Africa, examines 10 myths about IP video.
Five years is an eternity in today's progressive IP industry, but we do not even have to wait one year. With the ever-changing security landscape and continued expansion of network infrastructures, IP surveillance is already upon us.
The initial migration to IP-based installations began in 1996, when Axis Communications introduced the world's first network camera. At that time, the network camera was seen as a gimmick, just a gadget for the IT propeller-heads. Two years later, network cameras and video servers were introduced to the security industry at the ISC West show. At that stage most industry pundits and insiders were still unfamiliar with the concept of network video and more than a few were sceptical about its viability and potential.
Now, it is difficult to find an exhibitor that does not offer an IP surveillance solution. As ASIS (American Society for Industrial Security) has noted: "It is the direction security is moving - and moving quickly - with or without us." In fact, IP surveillance has moved so quickly that it is now at our fingertips and those who wait five years will be left in the 20th century's security market.
Analog CCTV surveillance systems, ie, analog cameras, VCRs and also DVRs, are a legacy that is still dominating the security market. While they previously provided unmatched benefits in the surveillance arena, traditional CCTV solutions today are an ageing technology in the security industry. Many CCTV benefits are now considered disadvantages when compared to IP surveillance solutions. For instance, the ability to centralise all surveillance monitoring was once considered a major benefit of CCTV security systems. That first 'C' - closed circuit TV - was considered an advantage. Today, however, security experts are putting increased importance on IP surveillance solutions which can be viewed from any location in the world. In addition, expensive installation cabling, proprietary hardware for recording and specialised equipment and staffing have all ignited frustration with CCTV surveillance systems.
It is estimated that approximately half a million network cameras have already been installed worldwide, clearly showing it to be a viable option in today's market rather than a technology scheduled to be integrated in five years. IP surveillance is evolving everyday and there are countless applications for IP-based systems that can impact an organisation's security.
For example, in case of an emergency, law enforcement authorities and emergency crews arriving on the scene of a facility with an IP-based security system can use the wireless modems on their laptops to log in to the system and view conditions inside the building.
IP surveillance allows for a more flexible, scalable and cost-efficient system by using off-the-shelf IT hardware such as switches and PC servers. Almost any existing security installation, from key card access to alarms, can integrate with network video technology to provide one integrated system instead of different islands for access control, video, fire and HVAC. Two additional factors driving the market shift are that systems now increasingly include more intelligence down to the camera level, and offer resolutions much higher than analogue CCTV systems can provide.
IP surveillance solutions are currently being used in hundreds of applications across the world. But these examples are just the tip of the iceberg: schools are taking advantage of network cameras to increase security and protect students; government agencies are using IP surveillance for security in police departments, federal prisons and state court systems; museums are setting up ad-hoc systems to cover special exhibitions; stores are monitoring customer head-count with intelligent cameras; and many more examples. In the wake of the increased fears of terrorist attacks in recent years, many of the world's transportation agencies have turned to IP surveillance to increase their security umbrella, including Departments of Transportation (DOT), railways and airports.
According to J.P. Freeman, the network camera market is continuing to gain strength and is expected to overtake the analog CCTV camera market by 2008. As physical security continues its merge with the fast moving IT industry, smart chief security officers will realise that IP surveillance is the new security standard.
The future is now
Considering the technological advancements, related market drivers and the changing security landscape, the migration to IP-based solutions will inevitably continue to expand and evolve. Companies that lead the way by using IP video solutions will do more than just enjoy the ability to leverage existing infrastructure and see improvements in performance and functionality; they will gain an edge over their competitors and will be among the first to achieve a greater level of security.
Whether it is on cost, performance, reliability, or any other measure, IP surveillance has proven itself to be a security solution for today and one that will grow and improve well into the future.
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