Investing in backwards compatibility

June 2012 Integrated Solutions

The subject of convergence receives more than its fair share of attention today as the benefits of IP finds an increasingly positive reception in the business world. And while many still hold the view that analogue systems have their place, it is commonly accepted that IP is the technology of choice in new installations – with perhaps some exceptions.

The companies still opting for analogue either have specific needs from their surveillance solutions that traditional CCTV systems meet, or they are subject to installers and security managers that have not made the transition to including IP and its added benefits to their own skills base.

Most companies looking at surveillance solutions already have some sort of surveillance system in place, and most of them will be analogue. Simply going to these customers and demanding they throw their existing analogue systems out and install a brand new IP solution is unlikely to be met with a pleasant reception – even though there may be areas where IP systems will be beneficial. This is where hybrid solutions that combine IP and analogue technology come into play.

Setting up a hybrid solution from different vendor’s technologies is not as simple as the industry would like it to be, but there is another problem companies face when combining older technology with the latest innovations from the IP world. Gus Brecher, director at local surveillance manufacturer Cathexis says the challenge in combining new and old technology is in integrating and servicing legacy equipment.

Brecher says that updating your installation with the latest technology without throwing out their legacy installations allows companies to make the most of their surveillance investments and obtain a measurable return on investment (ROI) over time. The key, however, is backward compatibility. No matter what standards new products claim to follow, unless they are specifically designed to be compatible with legacy kit, there will be integration issues.

The task of ensuring backward compatibility is not a simple one and it takes time to deliver the latest technical innovations in products while ensuring they are still compatible with older, yet perfectly functional technology. Backward compatibility is the reason some vendors take longer to deliver new products while others rush them into the market.

Charles Volschenk, local representative for German surveillance manufacturer Geutebrück acknowledges this. Even though Geutebrück often introduces innovations to the market, in some instances it might take them up to six months longer to release features which another vendor could release immediately by not considering backward compatibility. This is because the company guarantees its products will be backward compatible with older Geutebrück technology for a period of 10 years.

Volschenk adds that it is not only backward compatibility with Geutebrück’s own products that matters, but also with other third-party solutions, such as access control, for example. For this reason, Geutebrück partners with companies that have the same commitment to backwards compatibility to ensure there are no weak links in integrated solutions installed at customers’ premises. The result for clients is the assurance that it can update its security infrastructure to include the latest technology, while still being able to integrate it with its existing products.

John Loftus, MD of MASS, local distributor of Dallmeier, notes that IP has thrown a spanner in the works for many security installers. In the past, cables were laid and devices like cameras were attached to them in a fairly simple process. He says IP complicates the process and creates problems for end users looking to integrate their existing and new surveillance solutions.

In addition, considering the current economic climate where surveillance systems are fairly low down on the list of budgetary items, Loftus says backward compatibility and system longevity is more important than ever. The typical five-year system replacement process has changed into product upgrades rather than a replacement of the entire system.

Dallmeier deals with this by also promising a 10-year period of backward compatibility for its solutions. Loftus says Dallmeier understands that surveillance is an expensive investment and customers are not keen to simply write off existing technology and start again whenever new solutions appear. Backwards compatibility guarantee assures them of the ability to enhance their installation as required, while gaining all the benefits of the latest technology.

The thought that a customer can budget for a surveillance system with the peace of mind that all new developments, software and hardware, will seamlessly integrate to his existing equipment must hold huge advantages, adds Loftus.

As an example, Brecher notes that Cathexis has installed 150 of its latest IP cameras onto a mine’s surveillance infrastructure, which also has legacy cameras installed that are up to 10 years old. The control room can manage all the cameras with a single software upgrade. The mine therefore obtains the benefits of new IP solutions, while extending the life of its existing security investment.

Brecher notes that other manufacturers do not have this guarantee of backward compatibility and can therefore rollout the latest technologies in record time. Their clients are the ones caught with legacy infrastructure that can either not be integrated with the new technology, or requires substantial work to accomplish the integration. With backwards compatibility, the situation reverses itself as it is up to the client to decide when legacy products should be phased out while being able to easily include the latest innovations in their security infrastructure at any stage.


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