Efficient IP systems - unite analog with digital

September 2006 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

To employ IP technology resourcefully, companies should build bridges from analog to digital video by connecting existing analog cameras and monitors to digital components via a networked solution.

Digital video technology is continuing to improve at a rapid pace and it is undoubtedly the future of surveillance.

Many users want the ability to access live video and recorded images from any place, at any time. That is why all eyes are on IP technology right now. However, few organisations can afford to make an overnight switch to Internet- or digital-based IP video, after years of heavily investing in analog video equipment.

Companies large and small must be able to painlessly transition from analog to digital. Today, users already invested in analog systems can immediately begin creating an IP-based video network while continuing to use their existing analog equipment.

Users simply connect hybrid IP platform cameras, digital video recorders, PCs and servers directly to the network. Encoders/decoders provide network access for currently used analog cameras and monitors. As a result, anybody on the network can access any camera in the network to watch live, streaming video at 25 frames per second, bandwidth permitting.

Whether monitoring traffic at a major intersection, overseeing a student teacher, viewing an automated cutting machine on the production line or watching over a public park, live action is only a click away. Such information, such as monitoring the flow of traffic on a major throughway, can also be broadcast over the Internet, letting commuters select their best routes to work.

Users can even call up multiple cameras from any IP equipped monitor or from their PCs using video navigation software. Thus, a principal can see what is going on in several classrooms at once and a plant manager can monitor the flow of products through the shop floor on one screen. Such a platform can be used anywhere an organisation needs to capture surveillance video and is especially beneficial in applications with multiple facilities such as banks and ATM kiosks, school campuses, office and industrial parks and retail chains.

Harnessing this new technology, users can begin to bridge the gaps between analog and digital surveillance systems.

However, the benefits of a network solution go beyond live imaging. Video can be stored at any point in the network and retrieved from anywhere else on the network, transmitted via LAN or Internet. As a result, users can search for and play back recorded images from any networked digital recorder or server. No longer does the security director for a retail organisation have to drive across town just to get a tape.

Streaming video from a fender-bender incident in the parking lot two days prior can be called up by the director and passed on to an employee's insurance adjuster directly from his computer.

What is a networked video system?

Instead of using dedicated point-to-point cabling as is standard practice in traditional analog CCTV systems, a networked video system employs standard LAN/WAN/Internet as the backbone for transporting images and information. Since most businesses already use a network for transmitting data, communications and advanced applications, such as teleconferencing, the network video system technology utilised expands this same infrastructure, leveraging its use to video surveillance. That is really no different from adding another computer at an office.

If it is part of a network, the user can conceivably see, transmit to, receive from, even potentially control, any other computer on the network. If connected to the Internet, that user can potentially control any other device similarly connected to the Internet, including a colour printer in the next office or the CCTV camera on the roof overlooking the parking lot or the CCTV camera watching over a remote location miles away.

A networked video system is able to transmit video, audio and data without the use of a dedicated physical infrastructure to connect the camera to the recorder and/or monitor.

Furthermore, a networked video system is able to connect all components of the video system and transmits video, audio and data via the same LAN/WAN/Internet used by the rest of the business to transmit information.

Thus, a networked video system contains a camera, a way to switch different camera inputs to different monitors, a way to record/playback images, a way to control PTZ cameras, and a way to tie access control, intrusion detection and transaction text to a video image.

As with traditional analog systems, a networked video system does all of these things, but is able to do them over an existing network.

That is the important facet about networked security systems. Besides working in partnership with an existing network, they are almost infinitely expandable to meet any enterprise application's need. In addition, installation costs, such as cable pulling and structural consideration for placement of multitudes of BNC cables, a significant portion of the installation costs for an enterprise-level installation, are negated. In fact, they are greatly reduced.

Today, with their computer systems, many benefits are now taken for granted, including plug-and-play, scalability, single backbone, encryption and the potential for realtime remote access anywhere in the world. Networked video solutions simply expand these capabilities to the surveillance system.

Why do organisations want network video systems?

These new digital platforms will not only provide networked-based management, configuration and control, but will additionally enable quick and seamless intelligent video deployment and provide an operations platform for business productivity solutions. Organisations will move from a world of physical switching to one of virtual matrix switching and from physical recording to virtual recording and archiving.

Businesses switching to networked video systems recognise the value of:

* Integration - they want a system that will bring all the information and control they need to a single spot in an easy-to-use, seamless interface that they can control as easily from a control room as they use their home computer.

* Leveraging existing infrastructures - a hybrid IP platform makes the transition to a totally digital networked video solution viable and economical. With analog-to-digital encoders and decoders, they can continue to use the cameras and monitors they already have and they do not need to run dedicated video cable.

* Scalability - from small stores to the largest enterprise facilities, a networked IP security system scales and functions with the same speed and efficiency and with any feature set required by the end-user.

* Reduced cost of ownership - an analysis of the total investment of a system favours a networked IP solution. The reasons are many, including use of existing network bandwidth, lower cable costs, using network storage for video archiving, and, most importantly, reduced installation time.

* Increased information flexibility, access and distribution - Because networked security hardware operates on existing network technologies and infrastructures, it also uses communications protocol and file formats widely available and accessible by other devices on a network. In addition, video can be transmitted anywhere on the network on demand and even transmitted across the Internet, should that be needed.

The new hybrid IP networked solutions are just the beginnings of a complete digital security system. Using these products as building blocks, users working with their integrators can finally create full-featured IP solutions.

For more information contact Brett Birch, African region leader, GE Industrial, Security, +27 (0) 21 937 6000, brett.birch@ge.com

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