Are you maximising your analogue assets?
Way back in 2005, one of my predecessors at NICE Systems wrote an article entitled ‘The Convergence of Physical Security and IT’. In this article he argued that vendors, specifiers, system integrators, installers and end users all needed to become more IT savvy and fast, in order to cope with the pace of the inevitable transition to a more proactive security system, which takes advantage of the evolution of IP networks. So here we are, at the beginning of 2012 and I find myself having very similar debates with people in the security world.
Undoubtedly, we are far further down the line with convergence. However, we are still a long way off where people predicted we would be five or six years ago. But why is this the case? After all, the technology has leapt forward, IP cameras of today are hugely capable and IT networks are far faster with greater bandwidth, reliability, scalability and of course security. In addition high volume storage is considerably cheaper.
The fact is that analogue cameras are very good indeed. After all, more than 50 years of expertise has gone in to refining and developing the technology since the introduction of CCTV in the 1960s. What is more these cameras can have a very long lifespan, often spanning one or even two decades. With annual shipments of approximately 20 million units in recent years, it is a conservative estimate that there are around 200 million analogue cameras currently installed around the world. So for the majority of organisations who are specifying new surveillance systems, it is highly likely that they will have analogue cameras and cabling deployed. So what choices are available?
One option is to ‘rip and replace’ trusted infrastructure and embark upon an expensive forklift to a complete IP solution, including cameras and recorders, which is in most cases like throwing the baby out with the bath-water. An alternative is to maximise the past investments (often considerable) made in analogue technology by simply replacing old DVRs with new hybrid versions. This option might seem to be the obvious path to take for the vast majority or security teams who are restricted by budget, but there are pitfalls. While this strategy will leverage existing assets and protect investment, the resulting solution will not be completely future-ready and will have limited capabilities. However, as Tony Blair (remember him?) once said, ‘There is a third way’.
There is technology now available to the market that makes it possible to retain the investment in perfectly good analogue systems and at the same time benefit from a state-of-the-art ‘proactive’ IP video management system (VMS), as part of a longer-term migration to a full IP-based surveillance operation. This option can provide significant savings on security and operational expenditure by not only eliminating the need to replace analogue equipment immediately, but also by substantially enhancing its performance.
These centrally managed VMS systems can improve the performance of analogue cameras by adding new functionality that is typically considered the preserve of an all IP infrastructure, such as automatic camera tampering detection, video motion detection and video analytics including intrusion detection and crowd management. Meanwhile video storage and associated costs (space, power etc.) can be optimised, reducing the number of servers required – typically 100 cameras per server. All of these benefits translate to immediate OPEX and CAPEX savings and lowers the total cost of ownership.
For most surveillance operations the benefits of an all IP infrastructure is the ultimate goal. However, because of its maturity, proven performance and legacy investment, analogue continues to have a long and fruitful future. The speed of change is unlikely to happen in the time frame that many in the industry may have predicted five or more years ago. The transition will (and should) be done gradually, cost effectively and to the organisations own schedule, and not external pressures and with a robust VMS system you actually get the best of both worlds right now.
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