Acceptance of IP-based systems fuels NVRs

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Just as the limitations of VCRs spurred the growth of the DVR market, the continuing move to IP-based video systems is creating a climate favorable to network video recorder technology.
Among the attractions of NVRs, noted Graham Joys, president of ViSTA Networking Solutions, is its open platform status. Unlike a DVR, he said, which has no expansion or upgrades, the NVR fits into the IT platform and you can build in expansion down the line, as cameras are added to the system.
"When you look at the DVR, it's a closed system," said Joys. But with an NVR, even if hardware and software technology advance, it can be brought into line with the existing technology through upgrades.
The security industry, said Rob Morello, product sales manager at Pelco, "finds itself in the middle of convergence" and it is looking toward the NVR to leverage the existing infrastructure.
He said while new installations among the IT-savvy are moving toward network-based systems, those with existing coax infrastructures are more challenged. That is why, he noted, Pelco's Endura solution "works with a fully distributed IP-security system and uses existing analog systems."
Improved recording density and the ability to increase the number of cameras on a system tenfold have doubled sales of NVR technology in the past four months for IndigoVision, said Oliver Vellacott, chief executive officer (see "Guest Commentary," in the December edition of Security Systems News).
"We can do 160 channels at full frame rate because all the work is in the camera," he explained.
Another advantage to NVR-friendly systems, he said, is the ability to create redundancy. End users such as airports, he said, record video simultaneously in two locations so if an event occurs at a terminal that would impact the system, it would continue to record from its second site.
Creating NVR products, as March Networks did recently, "takes advantage of that move to network-deployed camera systems," said Ken Maughan, senior product manager.
Maughan said even though there are many perceived advantages to network-based recording, such as using an infrastructure that is already in place, there are still factors to consider, such as sharing that network with other users and installation hurdles for non-IT-friendly personnel.
To help security installers, he said, March has made its installation similar to analog camera systems. "What we've done is turned the NVR into a router, so there is one [IP] address and ports that communicate with the cameras."
"One of the biggest reasons the market hasn't moved [to NVRs] sooner," said Vellacott, "is that the channel [the potential installer] doesn't have networking skills."
He said his company tried to go through both the pure IT and pure security channels for integration and both failed. The key, he said, is to find those integrators who have overlapped their traditional CCTV skills with IT expertise.
ViSTA Networking's Joys said NVR manufacturers and software providers have tried to make installation as easy as possible. "The real challenge," he said, "is in the design of the network itself."
This requires teaming with an IT integrator or their manufacturer to provide IT design experience. "The day of doing everything yourself will go away as we go to open systems," said Joys.
Howard Belfor, CPP and regional president for Security Services & Technologies, said NVR technology is fairly straightforward. "If a person can manage a mouse and a pointer, there is a graphic user interface on the NVR that is similar to what they do day-to-day."
Within a half day of training, end users can find and send images stored on the NVR.
The integrator's challenge is to evaluate and review products before bringing them to clients. SST supports several NVR products, he said, but there is the need for proof of concept in the field.
SST's chief information officer, Joel Richmond, said one big difference between the IT and security approach to NVR technology is the concept of software versus a physical box.
To implement NVR technology, end users don't need to buy a piece of equipment, they can just buy the software. "We see more software sales versus the box," he said, "although if a security director were making the decision, he just goes with the box."
With software, IT personnel can purchase the computer they want and install the software. "You have to get IT people involved," he said, and this makes it more attractive to do so.
Although those who spoke with Security Systems News conceded the high growth potential for NVR technology, most also noted that DVRs weren't going away any time soon.
Early NVR adoption is among those users who have systems built with fiber, including school districts, hospitals, airports and municipalities.
Morello from Pelco said most customers are still in the talking stage and a few are ensconced in analog-only technology. That leaves a few more who are putting together an implementation plan.
"Customers are looking at IP-based technology because of the buzz taking place," explained Morello. While he acknowledged the advantages of replacing DVRs for some, "many may not need those benefits. A DVR system can handle certain [forensic] applications." It's when customers want to view and react, he said, that an IP-based system and NVR technology make the most sense.
March Networks' Maughan said there are still people buying VCRs, let alone investing in DVR technology. "The life of the DVR is still five or six years," he said.
He said companies switching over to IP-based systems and NVRs include enterprise-level customers who "want to future-proof themselves."
The NVR isn't new technology, noted Belfor. Rather, it is just now finding an environment stable enough to make it workable. That includes the safe transfer of data and the lowered cost of bandwidth.
"The DVR was a connect-to-it kind of thing," said Belfor. And while it bridged a gap, it will eventually go the way of the VCR, he said.