Better management means greater returns
Just as you thought you had a handle on the complexities of managing a surveillance installation with the assistance of the latest in management software, they go and decide to incorporate everything else into the same platform. The result is that management software has become more important in the effective running of a security installation, but also more complex as access control, alarm management, building management and more is incorporated into the platform.
Then there is also the option of using third-party applications or the proprietary software that comes with most cameras, normally free. Hi-Tech Security Solutions recently carried an article on management platforms, which barely scratched the surface. These platforms are so complex and so important to effective surveillance implementations that we asked a few people in the know for their input into a few questions we have to try to gain further insight into the management software market.
The pundits we questioned were local developers Alistair Mingay from Visec Surveillance Systems International and Gus Brecher from Cathexis; as well as Etienne Bruwer from Inmarsat and Gert Byleveldt from Sentronics.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Why is it that surveillance management software and integrated incident management or PSIM systems have become so important in business today? What value do they add that could not be obtained five or 10 years ago?
Alistair Mingay, Visec Surveillance Systems International: The human element of security has always been a major shortcoming of systems in the past. The more automated we can make systems now, using integration and clever software, the more foolproof the system is; thus making meaningful contributions to business procedures.
Gus Brecher, Cathexis: Companies are looking to maximise their ROI. The best way to do this is to utilise the systems they have to their full potential. Disparate systems are fine, but the operational efficiency is enhanced by integrating several systems into one user interface. Add video verification and technical health monitoring, and you have an holistic, more effective solution that enhances operations and ROI. We have been providing this functionality for some time now, but with advancements in IP video, network infrastructures, bandwidth availability and processing power of hardware enabling virtual servers, integration has become more powerful and accessible.
Etienne Bruwer, Inmarsat: Three reasons to consider PSIM:
1) Business intelligence and real-time visibility. The purpose of a security system has evolved past the mechanisms of just being a security system; it has evolved into a real-time visibility insight into your day-to-day business running of your organisation.
PSIM technology enables managers to consolidate and bespoke data from various systems to enable tangible information and real-time insight into the running of their business enabling business intelligence. Business Intelligence enable them to take the right action, at the right time, in a more optimised and efficient manner, after all the right picture paints a thousand words.
2) Return on investment (ROI), tighter and consolidate budgets. The economic climate the last couple of years have been very challenging for most organisations to say the least. Budgets are tighter, you must do more for less and IT and security, although the cornerstones of most organisations, always seems the lesser importance when it comes to expenditure and budgets.
Consolidating IT and security budgets provides for the more bang for your buck philosophy. PSIM enables integrations and re-use/consolidation of existing IT and security infrastructure allowing organisations to take advantages of newer technology without the high capex associated to a rework.
PSIM provides an open-based and standardised framework to allow your current and future security investment to work together for an optimised unified business tool, maximising ROI.
3) Adapting to your business. Business processes and workflow is a very complex animal to tame, and reinforcing them as a matter of best practices for the organisation can even be harder. PSIM technology can assist to standardised business processes and workflow by providing standard operating procedures and systematic instructions based on the organisational processes and workflows to help resolve any issue fast, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Integration and consolidating of information at the decision makers finger tips and enforcing standard procedures and workflow helps eliminate the guesswork.
Gert Byleveldt, Sentronics: PSIM systems have always been important, the key thing is that the technology and knowhow has improved to a point where such implementations can now be practical and affordable. You have to remember that they are not addressing any new challenges that have appeared in recent years (for the most part), but that the technology has improved to such a point that historic integration issues can now be adequately addressed. The market also needed to experience the challenges associated with trying to manage disparate systems for it to accept all the benefits a PSIM system can offer.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Most surveillance cameras come with software designed for that camera. Would it not pay customers to stick to that software instead of paying more for an independent system?
Alistair Mingay: It is true that the surveillance market does not have a single champion that can provide the best cameras in each section. It is very possible that some brands like Axis, Arecont, American Dynamics, Bosch, Vivotek and many others would profess to have the best cameras in specific fields. However, we all know that for a customer to get the best- of-breed system we need to have the ability to use all the brands to create the perfect solution.
Gus Brecher: While there are arguments that software provided by the camera vendors will be more effective, the pros of an open system that is camera agnostic outweighs the cons:
a) Future proofing: In five years time, if the customer wants to change platforms or cameras, the open system enables this. Also, products come and go in various markets, so the proprietary system you buy now may not be supported in five years time
b) Flexibility: The manufacturer of the cameras may not have the best solution across all requirements. For example, they may have a good 2-megapixel camera, but not be the best at panoramic products.
Etienne Bruwer: How long is a piece of string? Understanding the customer’s requirement is the only true measurement to evaluate if the camera supplier software will be sufficient.
Does the customer only want to record and replay video, camera count will not increase over time, confident that the vendor’s cameras now and in the future will suffice his requirement and that no more added value required, then stick with the vendor’s software.
The following benefits can be mentioned with PSIM:
- PSIM is a software solution. A company like Genetec, which only develops PSIM software, is constantly evolving and improve its software enabling more device support, more functionality and better integration.
- Developed to support a multitude of devices, so the customer can choose the best-in-class device for every type of application.
- Provide extensive Open API and Software Development Kit (SDK) modules to allow for third-party integration.
Gert Byleveldt: Or rather, the recording platforms have dedicated software for viewing cameras on them. The intention of management or PSIM solutions isn’t to replace subsystems, but to act as a unified layer that sits over many different subsystems and present data (from these subsystems) in an integrated way. That being said, there is a case to be made for having dedicated systems, especially if they are small, of limited complexity and come from the same vendor. Realistically, this ideal solution fails in practice because business needs change over time and incompatible solutions need to be introduced to cater for such change. The result is that either the business needs are not going to be met or that the relative complexity of the control room is drastically increased, making it harder for staff to react in emergencies.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How large should a camera installation be before users can realise value from a management system?
Alistair Mingay: The size of the system is not as important as the functions that the customer may require. It is completely possible that standard software could cater for many simple customers needs; however staying with one brand to obtain free software could negatively influence customer’s ability to purchase the perfect system.
Gus Brecher: This can vary from very small to very large. We have seen customers with multiple 12-camera retail getting amazing value out of each small system via a centralised management. So, although each site is very small, the management of the whole enterprise is what matters. Also, although a site may be small, if the operation is very high risk (take a diamond sorting plant) or operation management intensive, you will need a good management system behind it.
Etienne Bruwer: PSIM centralises, simplifies and enhances day-to-day operations, therefore saving time and money. A small 16-camera solution will have a small saving that might seem insignificant, but it is still a saving, naturally the saving will grow exponentially as the scale increase.
‘Money vs. time aside, the true value of PSIM is only realised as a system matures and the customer’s requirement evolves. Today a small 4-camera solution will only be required to record; tomorrow you might need RFID asset tracking and access control. Would you want three separate systems or one?
The value derived from a PSIM is not linked to the size of an installation rather to what it needs to output now and in the future. In might be difficult to measure in the beginning, but if you know where you are going the value can be realised early and the cost saving later.
Gert Byleveldt: It should be understood that PSIM systems do not simply integrate disparate systems – it integrates data collected from many systems in a way that makes such data mean more than the sum of its parts. It depends on the business, if this new data means enough to justify the cost. As a simple example: In a warehousing application there may only be 50 cameras, but in this application there may be many other systems (access control, fire, perimeter and logistics) that – when combined – add enough value to mitigate the cost of the solution. One of the first exercises done when doing a feasibility study is to understand the customer’s business and present a ROI case. In many instances, it is possible to present such a case with an ROI of less than a year. On the other hand, there may be basic systems that consist of only cameras (although this can be hundreds) that’ll find little value in using PSIM. It really does depend on the business’ needs.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What are the key features customers should look for when considering a management platform?
Alistair Mingay: Local support for sales, technical support, and possibly programming. Also:
- Low total cost of ownership through multiple task servers, i.e.: the ability to run recording, viewing and playback on one server.
- Full ONVIF compliance.
- Fast access to recordings.
- Add on features that automate major functions through intelligent analytics or integration.
Gus Brecher: Track record, Functionality and functional integrity, health monitoring, remote management, integration capability, upgradeability (future proofing), ease of installation, support, support, support….
Etienne Bruwer: Things to look for include:
- Unified platform. The ability to have a single user interface to monitor, operate, investigate and maintain the complete solution.
- Financial stable software vendor. Key indicators: continuously evolving and customer base growth.
- Open-Standards Alliance. Must support or have roadmap to support emergency technologies like, ONVIF, DNLA and mobile platform support.
- Ease of software integration via SDK, Web services, etc.
- Ease and cost effectiveness of upgrade path. How easy and cost effective is it to grow the system from a one to 1000 camera solution?
- Scalability, expandability and reliability. Can you grow it from one to 1000 without the need to change software? Can it deliver high availability within the architecture, 99,99% or better?
Gert Byleveldt: Vendor independence, mature driver development kits, process guidance, minimal reliance on writing actual code and a company that not only understands the technology, but also has experience in implementing such solutions.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How does one decide which platform is the right one for your installation? Sometimes the free software may do the job. What returns should you expect from your management platform?
Alistair Mingay: The platform you choose should deliver a few key features:
- Stability, redundancy, and the ability to add on features that suit your direct needs as the customer.
- The features for your application may vary from one vendor to another. However, the absence of a solution renders a vendor useless.
- The system must then be simple enough to operate by the user (rather than requiring a degree to use software you will be investing in). Try the software and if you cannot set it up, do not buy it.
Gus Brecher: One needs to really understand what they are looking to achieve from a system. Once they have done this, they are better placed to make a decision. Be careful of free software … it can sometimes cost you more down the line when you are trying to upgrade, get support etc.
Etienne Bruwer: Buying PSIM can sometimes be like buying a car, you know what you want, space, performance, comfort and fuel efficiency. You take it for a test drive, look at its track record, see what features is included and what is optional, how much it will cost to operate and maintain, what is your capital outlay and what does it bring to the party based on your criteria.
Buying PSIM adheres to the same principals, understand your requirement. If the free software gets the job done then it is the right one for you, if not start evaluating the various options in the market place and choose the one that meets the majority of your requirements.
Gert Byleveldt: While I am sure free software would exist to implement basic management, one should be aware that the actual software is only half the story. The other half is implementing these solutions. It is the ability of said vendor to understand the business requirements and then to adequately translate this into something that will add value. Of course, having the toolset available within an advanced platform to do so effectively also helps.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Describe some of the key features your platform delivers that differentiates it from the masses.
Alistair Mingay: Visec is a locally owned South African product with technical support, sales support and management support from owners and programmers in true South African English. Visec is quite possibly the simplest NVR to set up with an automatic scanner that can scan for cameras of all ONVIF compliant brands and insert them automatically with simple insertion of a username and password.
Visec can now scan for all cameras even if they are on a different IP range or across a wireless network. Visec has one of the market leading licence plate recognition modules in the world. Visec also integrates to a retail data mining software platform called Storevision, making it the obvious choice for retail markets.
Visec boasts drag-and-drop views throughout; up to eight monitors on a single server. Visec now has the only CCTV driven QR scanner on the market, allowing 2D barcode scanning of entire pallets within seconds. Visec integrates to all MOXA devices and ONVIF cameras for I/O integration.
Gus Brecher: Integration with third-party devices (access control, point-of-sale, fire panels, alarm panels etc.), camera agnostic, multiple camera streams, multicast support, NAS support, ease of use (plug-and-play), technical alarming and health monitoring, multi-server software environment, sophisticated off-site management.
Etienne Bruwer: Genetec Security Centre features that stand out:
- Unified platform integrates surveillance, access control, RFID, intrusion detection, immersive maps and LPR into a single user interface.
- One software package for standard (<50 cameras), professional (<100) and enterprise (unlimited). Pay only for the difference as you grow.
- Role-based distributed architecture allows for simple deployment and maintenance of solution.
- High availability and redundant architecture. Solution is certified to run on VMWare for virtualisation, support Microsoft and NEC clustering solutions and provides various failover and redundancy options on a software layer.
- Integrate up to 10 Active Directories for login user accounts and cardholders maintenance.
- Surveillance support edge analytics of major hardware vendors, multi-stream and edge triggering and recording.
- Access control supports industry leading hardware from manufactures like HID and Mercury.
- Federation allows for independent systems to be unified as a single monitored and managed entity.
- Immersive maps. 3D mapping technology much like Google Street View.
- Unified mobility support – Apple, Android and Blackberry.
- LPR solution is a best-in-class purpose-built solution that can capture differential speeds-reads up to 320 km/h. In addition, it comes in two flavours mobile and fixed within a single back office solution.
- Health monitoring. ITIL approach on monitoring services and devices to ensure uptime.
- Comprehensive SDK, DDK (device development kit), .NET and Web services SDK, C# macro engine and Interface SDK for customised tasks.
Gert Byleveldt: The CNL platform is a product with over 10 years of research on providing not only a truly vendor agnostic management platform, but to also offer the correct mix of flexibility/ease of use to allow these systems to be rapidly deployed by not only the manufacturer, but also certified partners across the world. In all systems the initial deployment of such platforms are done by experienced engineers. What sets our solution apart is that the subsequent maintenance duties can be offloaded to the end user if required (things like adding edge devices, making changes to system logic, etc). This way, the system can organically change with the business, without having to resort to key functional changes being implemented solely by the manufacturer.
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