Are all surveillance systems equal?

CCTV Handbook 2012 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Put the right product in the right place.

Charles Volschenk, MD of Geutebrück South Africa believes that there is a very blurred line between the perceived functionality and quality of reputable products and those of products that can be best described as mediocre.

“While there are a number of products on the market that, on the surface seem to look and act like their superior counterparts, it is important to be able to differentiate between the two options. At the end of the day, the cheaper products generally do not have the longevity associated with tried and tested products and this negates any savings the client may have made on the purchase price.

“It is like thinking your home coffee machine is the equivalent of the industrial one that makes cappuccinos all day long at the local coffee shop. Both might make good coffee, but they are certainly not capable of the same reliable performance in the long-run,” he adds.

So what, apart from the purchase price, differentiates a superior product? “The first question a company should ask their prospective supplier is how long they have been in business in the security sector. How can you compare the experience gained by a company with years of solid product design, manufacture and installation examples, with a company that shot onto the market in the last year or two, claiming to be the next best thing?” says Volschenk.

Selecting a stayer

He says that it is important to stay abreast of technology by attending international trade shows. “What I have noticed is that often companies that exhibited the previous year at a trade show are conspicuous by their absence the following year. I cannot see how this can instil any level of confidence in a customer buying products from this supplier. You need to have a constant and consistent presence and be able to provide customers with a high service level once the sale has been made.”

He acknowledges that it is hard to stay at the cutting edge of technology, with innovations mostly being copied within six months of new product releases. “However, another differentiating point is that reliable companies consistently create usable innovations, consistently delivering ‘firsts’ due to a substantial and concentrated investment in R&D.”

Volschenk is adamant that technology should have a very specific and defined purpose in mind if it is to be of any use. “There was a lot of hype around H.264 compression technology a few years ago and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Geutebrück decided that this was not suitable for high-end security requirements and decided to develop its own H.264 CCTV technology. This gives you the benefits of H.264 technology with the additional high-security functionality of older MJpeg systems.”

The right choice

What you see in a glossy brochure does not always live up to its promises. “In order to mitigate against owning a product that performs below its published specifications, it is advisable to ask for a live demonstration of its capabilities. Better still, ask to see the product in action in an actual installation, preferably one that has multiple cameras and third-party systems linked to it. Request the operator to push the product to its boundaries and operate it in strenuous circumstances. You are entitled to see the practical application of any product you purchase,” Volschenk says.

“It is critical that the data throughput of the CCTV equipment be verified. A vendor claim of its system’s maximum capabilities can quickly be verified by comparing data throughput of the machine with data load of the cameras linked to it. In addition, health monitoring of the system and built-in redundancy should be a given. Other factors that feature high on the must-have list is the ability of the product to interface to and integrate with other third-party products and the ability to provide exception reporting.

“Likewise, providing audit trails for any changes made within the system is very important. If there is, for instance, insider collusion, the system should allow one to trace when changes in settings were made and who made them. A basic system cannot do this and therefore one loses the opportunity to nip criminal activity such as theft and fraud in the bud.”

Volschenk pointed out that 98% of all recorded footage is useless. “Finding the remaining 2% quickly and reliably, is often a battle. A system should make it easy for the operator to find relevant footage, with advanced search functionalities. Software offering exception reporting is definitely an advantage.

“People tend to forget the really important things when selecting a product. Many people are hung up on the frame rates, ever-increasing megapixel resolutions and information like that, while the real importance is whether the product is functional in its specific application and whether the company providing it is available to provide an aftermarket service instantaneously and professionally. Why be able to see the minute pattern detail on a carpet, when all you require is a good facial verification of an intruder? It would be fair to say, then, that not all surveillance systems are equal,” Volschenk concludes.

For more information contact Geutebrück, +27(0)11 867 6585,

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