The Top 10 myths about network video

August 2005 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

The IP-surveillance solution shatters misperceptions surrounding networked video

Ten greatest myths about IP-surveillance

There are a number of myths, large and small, surrounding IP-surveillance technology. We have taken the 10 most often-heard myths and organised them into two categories: general and technical. We will take the general un-truths first and then launch into some of the technical misperceptions.

Myth #1: DVRs are the latest, greatest CCTV security technology.

Reality: In addition to people perceiving digital video recorders to be the latest and best technology, many people also believe that the DVR is an all-digital networked technology - it is not.

A DVR does have a lot of advantages compared to a VCR (video cassette recorder): no need to change tapes, consistent image quality, and quicker search capabilities. But you still have all those analog cables, which first of all can distort image quality, but are also very expensive to run throughout a facility. IP-surveillance has all the advantages of a DVR and many more:

* Scalability. IP-surveillance scales from one to thousands of cameras in increments of a single camera. There are no 16-channel jumps like in the DVR world. IP-surveillance offers any frame rate for any camera at any time - no limitations.

* More cost-efficient infrastructure. Most facilities are already wired with twisted pair infrastructure, so with IP-surveillance no additional wiring (a major expense of a CCTV install) is required. Only one type of network (IP) connects and manages the enterprise for data, video, voice, and others - making management more effective and cost efficient.

* Remote accessibility. Any video stream, live or recorded, can be securely accessed and controlled from any location in the world over wired or wireless networks.

* Intelligence at camera level. Motion detection, event handling, sensor input, relay output, time and date, and other built-in capabilities allow the camera to make intelligent decisions on when to send alarms and to whom, when to send video, and even at what frame rate or resolution to send the video.

* Lower system cost. For many installations, the IP-surveillance system has proven to be a lower cost alternative. Open and standard network, server and storage equipment enables market competition between choices versus the single vendor locked-in approach of a DVR. And that is just hardware - add lower installation and maintenance costs and all the performance benefits, and it is clear IP-surveillance saves substantial sums.

Contrary to some popular opinion, the DVR is not an end-point solution, but rather one milestone in the continuing development of CCTV technology. As the marketplace assesses DVRs more carefully, it is emerging that the DVR represents outdated, solution-in-a-box thinking. IP-surveillance technology has quickly proven to be superior to DVR technology. There is an enormous difference between the two technologies and the marketplace is only just beginning to understand this critical point.

Myth #2: IP technology is unproven. If it is better, why are security solution providers not selling more?

Reality: This myth raises some very relevant questions that have more to do with security market structure and buying practices than with the performance and reliability of the IP-surveillance solution.

IP-surveillance is a relatively new technology and many existing, powerful players have a competing solution, the DVR. It is only natural that these players want to protect their investment in DVR-oriented solutions. Related to this, a new technology and a new mind-set require building up the knowledge and infrastructure among the integrators, consultants, and industry influencers in order to overcome normal, status-quo thinking and procedures. How many of us remember when we were told typewriters provided all the technology required, who needs these new-fangled word processors? Too long ago? What about cassette players or that VCR you have not exchanged for a DVD just yet? Entrenched technology and entrenched interests require time to overcome.

The fact is, the number of IP-surveillance installs out there is growing quickly, and the number of integrators and distributors is growing daily. It will not be long before the market recognises IP-surveillance's superiority, and then we will see a rapid increase in the installed base and infrastructure to support it. If this argument is not compelling, we really do not need any further proof than the recent entry of a giant like IBM into the networked security market, as well as interest from players like Cisco and Proxim to drive and educate the market.

Myth #3: IP-surveillance cannot meet the demands of enterprise level applications

Reality: The larger the installation, and the higher level of performance desired, the more competitive - and impressive - the IP-surveillance concept proves to be. In fact, of the many advantages of IP-surveillance outlined above, scalability is the one that high end users often point to as the most impressive. This myth is an easy one to correct: IP-surveillance has proven that there is no problem to meeting enterprise-level demands. In fact, we see major government and airport surveillance deals that are now specifying IP as the preferred architecture, which was not the case just 12 months ago.

Myth #4: Networked video image quality is not as good as analog

Reality: Good quality network cameras have the same high quality image sensors (CCDs) and optics as analog security cameras. Furthermore, by employing video servers, an analog speciality camera or existing already installed analog cameras can be incorporated into an IP-surveillance system. In comparing network and analog cameras, we must emphasise 'good' quality network cameras, built for professional use. These high quality professional network cameras should not be confused with lower-end network or PC webcam cameras used for 'Web attraction'. Indeed these cameras cannot deliver the same capabilities as a full-function network camera. Soon, network cameras and IP-surveillance technology will deliver superior image quality by means of mega-pixel resolution. Analog cameras are limited by the 0,4 Mpixel resolution of NTSC/PAL standards.

Myth #5: Network cameras cost more than analog cameras, making IP-surveillance too expensive

Reality: It is true a network camera is more expensive than a comparable analog camera because it includes considerably more functionality, such as digitalisation, image compression and intelligence. If we analyse the total cost of the hardware (cameras, cables, and recording), an IP-surveillance system will usually compare quite favourably to a DVR-based system. If we then add the installation cost component, the advantages with the IP-surveillance system become obvious since the IP-based infrastructure is considerably less expensive than analog coax cabling. In addition, systems using PTZ controls require extra cabling, something not needed with IP. Power over Ethernet is another cost-saving feature that saves on power lines and connects to uninterrupted power supplies at the IT centre.

Myth #6: If I already have analog cameras installed, IP-surveillance is not an option because I need a DVR

Reality: Perhaps DVR providers want us to believe this, but video server technology is riding to the rescue and smashing this myth. Leading IP-surveillance vendors have video servers readily available at a reasonable investment level. A video server converts the analog video signal into a digitised video stream over the network, basically converting any analog camera into a network camera. Most IP-surveillance installs today have a combination of analog cameras, networked via video servers, and sections that are comprised completely of network cameras. An installation with fully functioning and already paid-for analog cameras is not a barrier to utilising superior IP-surveillance technology.

Now that we have successfully demolished several often-heard general myths surrounding IP-surveillance, let us examine some of the more technically oriented misunderstandings about networked video systems.

Myth #7: Transferring all that video data over my network will overload it, making this an unworkable technology.

Reality: If you will only have a few cameras, then an existing Fast Ethernet (100 Mbit) office network will normally meet any transmission demands. For comparison, a typical single network camera video feed is 0,2 to 2,0 Mbit/second depending on compression, size and frame rate. For any larger deployment of network cameras and video servers, we recommend a separate network for the video. Think of it like rail transportation - once the existing track becomes too congested, you simply build another set of tracks. For enterprise size, your local network core would probably be running at Gigabit Ethernet. With today's network switches and routers, separating networks is easy. In addition, other specific steps can be taken to ensure that IP-surveillance technology can be integrated into an organisation's operations and will not tax the network.

Additionally, because of the local intelligence inside a network camera, the camera can actually decide which frame rate to send over the network based on events, motion, time of day, etc. So in many cases the camera will only send video over the network if the video is worth recording, which might only be 10% of the time. 90% of the time nothing is being transferred over the network.

Myth #8: Transmitting video for security purposes over an IP network is not secure

Reality: Although primarily used as a domain for public information, the Internet can also be used to transfer all types of sensitive information - provided the correct security measures, such as firewalls, VPNs and password protection are implemented. With banks and financial institutions regularly using the Internet as a medium for global money transactions, it has emerged as a proven medium for other secure applications like surveillance and security monitoring. In stark contrast to this new digital technology, analog surveillance systems have no encryption or authentication of information whatsoever, making it extremely easy for anyone to tap into the cables and illicitly view 'secure' video transmissions, or even feed their own false video information into the network (like in the movie Ocean's 11). This is impossible to do with secure IP networks.

Myth #9: IP-surveillance is less reliable than alternative technologies; for instance, the network go down

Reality: When the basis for the IP networking architecture was developed in the 1960s and '70s, the ability to provide redundancy was the top requirement. In the same way today, transmission links, application servers, storage and switches can all have parallel layers of services and alternative routes of communications. Storage can be consolidated to secure off-site locations, and servers can use redundant power supplies, hot-swap RAID disks, error-correcting memory and dual network cards. This is all up to the network designer, and although a small network will not deploy all of the possible safety measures, choosing high-quality IT components in the network is in any case likely to be a more reliable solution than CCTV with VCRs or black box DVRs. And do not forget, by using standard server and network equipment, replacing faulty hardware takes much less time and is less costly than with proprietary DVR solutions.

Myth #10: IP-surveillance is still five years away

Reality: This is the biggest myth of all! Consider that the first network cameras were introduced in 1996. Axis Communications has already installed more than 200 000 channels of this 'future' solution to date, and the interest in and orders for IP-surveillance technology continue to mount. Whether it is cost, performance, reliability, or any other measure, IP-surveillance has proven it is a solution for today and one that will grow and improve to ensure it is a solution for the future as well.

In this paper, we have effectively disproved a number of existing myths and we have established that IP-surveillance is highly scalable, while effectively and efficiently utilising a company's network capacity, and it provides significant cost and performance advantages over the DVR model that many think is the premier solution today. We have also seen that IP-surveillance is flexible, based on high-functioning and affordable network cameras, and is highly reliable.

Source: Axis Communications.




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