Migrating to all-IP video surveillance

IP video surveillance is becoming the security solution of choice due to the latest H.264 compression technology and declining prices for IP cameras. The converged world of voice, video and data has officially arrived.

IP video surveillance is becoming the security solution of choice due to the latest H.264 compression technology and declining prices for IP cameras. The converged world of voice, video and data has officially arrived.

All-IP video security leverages your investment in network infrastructure, and is simpler, more elegant and accessible to users across the enterprise. In many cases, it also is more cost-effective than a conventional video surveillance system with analog cameras and digital video recorders.

Using IP cameras, video management software (VMS) running on industry-standard servers and network-area storage systems, you can maximize the value of your investment in network infrastructure and standardize on servers across your enterprise, enabling efficiencies in training, administration and support.

But all-IP video isn’t for everyone. It makes most sense in expansive, greenfield applications requiring a large numbers of cameras. University campuses, shopping and entertainment complexes, hospitals, hotels, airports, big box stores, warehouses and office towers are examples in which all-IP video security is a no-brainer. However, bringing video security onto your IP network is far from an all-or-nothing proposition. Using advanced video security technology, you can evolve toward an all-IP configuration at a pace that makes sense for your environment.

Diagram showing IP and hybrid environments

Take, for example, a university campus with several buildings under construction. It can take advantage of the cost efficiencies of a converged voice, video and data system in the new buildings and continue to leverage its investment in legacy video security infrastructure in existing buildings. Common VMS software can be used to operate the resulting hybrid video surveillance system.

You don’t have to rip and replace analog cameras and coaxial cable until you’re ready to do so. You can even progress along the technology migration path in your existing buildings if, for example, you wish to install a high-resolution IP camera in a strategic location, integrate with other building systems such as fire alarm and access control systems, or deploy advanced video analytics that can alert security staff in real-time to unusual activity.

There is no single, IP video solution or ideal configuration. For example, if you have a distributed organization with hundreds of smaller sites spanning a large geographic area, coaxial cable and networked video recorders might make more sense for recording video at relatively low frame rates. An all-IP configuration, however, may be the most cost-effective solution if you need very high resolution video or the intelligence available from advanced video analytic applications.

Other IP video benefits include the ability to access remote locations via your LAN or WAN and centralize security monitoring instead of stationing guards at each site. Furthermore, with VMS software running on industry-standard servers, an all-IP system can be managed easily by your existing IT staff.

An IP video environment also lets you leverage video for uses other than security. An IP video system can be used to support marketing activities and operational management. For example, in an airport terminal, supervisors can employ a queue length monitoring analytic to identify when passenger lineups exceed a predetermined threshold and open another check-in station to better serve customers.

Another advantage of hybrid and all-IP video surveillance systems is the ability to streamline the management of user profiles and permissions across the enterprise. Integrating VMS software with applications such as Microsoft Active Directory allows you to set up user permissions for your video surveillance system and other IT security applications. If someone leaves the organization, takes a sabbatical or gets married and changes their name, you don’t have to remember to delete or update user profiles and permissions in multiple databases. This, in turn, eliminates errors and tightens security.

Potential concerns about the impact of all this high-resolution video on the corporate network is addressed by modern IP video solutions. Advanced compression technologies, such as H.264, reduce bandwidth and storage requirements considerably.

Administrators can also configure an IP video system to capture and store video at a lower frame rate and then bump up that frame rate automatically on alarm. Taking advantage of intelligent features available with most systems allows you to transmit video only upon a specific event, such as motion detected in an office building after normal business hours. In addition, some video surveillance systems let you set bandwidth usage, limiting the video streaming along the network to a fixed bit rate to ensure core business data is never compromised. Finally, bandwidth usage can be managed through the selection of IP cameras and encoders with internal SDHC flash memory cards that enable video capture at the network’s edge.

When video analytics were introduced several years ago, their performance in the field often did not match manufacturers’ claims. Today, however, a number of proven analytics are widely used. These advanced applications represent a competitive advantage for organizations and are increasingly considered essential for critical infrastructure security.

There are three broad classes of video analytics available today. Diagnostic analytics alert system administrators to blocked camera views or scene changes that may be indicative of tampering or obstructions. If a camera is dislodged from its housing, spray painted, moved or blocked, for example, the analytics will transmit an alarm and allow security personnel to rectify the problem with minimal delay.

The second class of analytics is security-related and more complex to set up, but well worth the effort. These tools can automatically alert security staff to suspicious events, such as a perimeter breach, an unattended bag or a person loitering in an ATM vestibule.

The third category is behavioral analytics, such as people counting or queue length monitoring, which provide organizations with valuable operational intelligence and metrics that marketing teams or senior management can use to increase sales and improve customer service.

The convergence of voice, video and data won’t happen overnight. The investment in legacy CCTV systems and the resources involved in replacing them will, in many cases, dictate a phased migration to hybrid video configurations that can serve as a bridge to the inevitable all-IP future.

To determine the best path to IP video for your organization, take the same approach you would with any technology infrastructure. Develop a long-term road map with a phased implementation that takes into account your surveillance infrastructure, future video requirements and budgetary realities. You can have the best of both worlds, but not without the proper due diligence. Do your research, conduct a thorough trial and evaluation and, by all means, ask for references.

Colciago is March Networks’ CTO and managing director of operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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