The times they are a-changin'

August 2005 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Innovation and changing technology have not eluded the security industry. Here Cliff Rose shares his views on security's changing landscape...

We have just got digital recording systems running with all the network LAN and WAN connectivity sorted out. Additional computer-based workstations for on- and off-site monitoring as well as using some of the biggest hard drives the market has to offer.

Charlie Pierce, out on a visit from the US about 18 months ago, said that IP was the way of the future.

To date the transition to IP CCTV has not been as quick as the industry expected and this is for a lot of good reasons.

One reason being the change of CCTV systems from conventional analog to an IT-based service needed technicians in our industry to become conversant with LAN networks, IP addresses, computer functionalities and software programs. This is the basic human change and we know how humans hate change.

Going from DVRs (embedded or PC-based) to IP CCTV just introduces a new change for our technicians as well as system designers and we can expect another resistance to change just from a human point of view.

Complicating the change to IP CCTV is the additional considerations needed for more attention to be paid to network configurations employing Gigabyte technologies, much more IP addresses and configuring Server and Client software suites as well as the more stringent requirements for the PC hardware these programs need to run on.

If this is not enough, IP CCTV manufacturers are trying to make their cameras only compatible to their own software management and recording suites so when you make a change to an IP camera supplier you also lock into their software. Besides this, some IP camera manufacturer's software is quite expensive and limited. Also limited is the range of cameras for indoor, outdoor and PTZF options.

Bottom line

IP cameras are expensive. This, I think, is one of the huge barriers to change to the new IP technology cameras. One can debate the cost effective break points on different sized systems of conventional DVR systems and IP configurations but bigger still besides price is will it work as wonderfully as we think it may?

To dispel a lot of concern let me give you my opinion, and in time it will be tested.

Firstly, hardware. The computer industry has available excellent well priced P4s with excellent processing capabilities and now, with internal IDE and SATA drive capabilities to accommodate huge storage. Network switchers are also well priced with 100Base-T inputs and gigabyte uplinks. Gigabyte LAN cards are also available for the computer servers and workstations (clients). In addition to this the wireless links available in the computer industry for networking will make those difficult to get to point, a walk in the park.

Secondly, management software. There are some good software suites available that are compatible to most major IP CCTV camera manufacturers which are inexpensive and very versatile. Price ranges from less than R2000 giving you the flexibility to use different manufacturers of cameras without being locked into their range. Within this price you can add additional client workstations and develop a comprehensive solution to your CCTV monitoring and recording needs.

To change or not to change... that is the question

Again, my opinion, which will be tested with time. The CCTV industry will change to the IP CCTV technology; this change will be accelerated as soon as the costs of IP cameras drop to reasonable levels. If the computer industry is anything to go by we will see a 40% price drop over a period of 18 to 24 months or thereabouts.

Our traditional camera suppliers will be replaced or complemented by suppliers from computer peripheral component manufacturers. This price reduction of cameras coupled with the declining price of computer and networking hardware products is going to reduce profit margins in an otherwise lucrative industry. My opinion is the CCTV industry will land up like the computer industry which is based on high volume and low margins with the advantage that the products will always get better and faster.

The disadvantage of price reductions as seen in the computer industry is if you buy IP CCTV equipment now you can expect it to depreciate rapidly and be outdated in a short period of time. The advantage of IP CCTV systems is the open-ended expandability and tagging onto updating your system annually as technologies improve. Buyers should see CCTV as an ongoing service instead of a once off purchase that solves all your problems. Buyers should also ensure they are tied into free software updates and retain an ongoing service support relationship with a competent CCTV IT qualified service provider.

Cliff Rose is the managing director of Modular Communications, modular@worldonline.co.za


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