To IP or not to IP?

June 2010 Integrated Solutions

Is IP (Internet protocol) really the question to ask?

It seems at every turn that I hear about retailers with IP initiatives and sales folks – excuse me, 'Vendor Partners' – come running with their own products and solutions that they think you need. I once heard a loss prevention professional say that “most technology providers try to make your problems fit their solutions. A true partner will provide you the solutions so that you can solve your own problems – that is a true partner.”

In my opinion, that is what has been lacking in the solutions that have been available over the past several years; they have great features and offer very specific solutions, but none of them allow the LP professional to effectively implement exactly what they are looking for without limiting future changes.

So to the point of the title of this article: If 'Going IP' is not really the question, then what is the point? Well, one of the most exciting facets of IP surveillance technology is that you are afforded the ability to think outside of the DVR (digital video recorder) box that is so familiar these days. After all, DVRs are just software, storage, processing and encoding in a box, so why not just build your solution with common off-the-shelf components that allow full interoperability and scalability?

Many manufacturers have it in their best interest to lock you into their hardware and their solutions, so this is one of those 'things they do not want you to know'. With the advent of IP-based surveillance, you have the freedom to get away from proprietary and closed environments! Would you not like your surveillance to operate just like your corporate computing, or any other PC-based application that you use every day? It is the most flexible approach for the longest return on your investment.

So what about ‘Going IP’? “Can I not just implement a hybrid DVR to help me bridge the gap?” Well, yes.

But how is that any better than your existing DVR environment? I would bet that it is proprietary, with its own approach to analytics, business intelligence, maybe access control, exception-based reporting, etc. Also, let us say that one of those analogue cameras fails and you would rather replace it with a much better IP camera. Well, it is an analogue channel! If you already put in the limit of IP cameras to that box, what are you going to do?

With an open platform approach, using common off-the-shelf stuff, you can build a system that leverages your existing cameras with encoders, add IP cameras, and it will all operate on a unified holistic platform on which you can layer anyone’s analytics, access control, or other solution of your choice. Also use cellular broadband if you need to, WiFi, or any other common protocol. When an analogue camera dies, replace it with an IP camera, and move that encoder to the next store that has a failing DVR.

The migration path is much more palatable than we have been led to believe so IP is attainable, without sacrificing your existing investment.

The point here is: technology is changing rapidly, but that does not mean that you have to throw out your current investment and suffer the slings and arrows of that outrageous fortune. With the rapidly changing technology, you are afforded many more options than you may realise. By putting yourself on the road to open and interoperable systems, your risk is greatly reduced and you have the ability to bob and weave in whatever manner you may need going forward.

This article was first published by with the title ‘IP: Think Outside the DVR Box’. Hedgie Bartol is the retail sales manager for Milestone Systems.

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