Video management software is the new guts of surveillance

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Those involved in video management systems will quickly tell you it is the place to be these days; as dynamic a segment as DVRs were in their heyday five or six years ago.
"It's a very exciting market," said Fredrik Nilsson, general manager at Axis Communications. Network video in general, he said, and video management in particular, are at the forefront of the open systems and partnership movement that the security industry is embracing.
Nilsson said because video management is such a vibrant sector right now, it is attracting attention from all comers, including companies that are new to security, those who are security players that now want to offer an integrated solution, and DVR vendors. The latter group, he said, "see the writing on the wall and know that people want software. They are getting push back on the black box" and are thus transforming themselves into video management software companies.
The move to IP video, noted Robert Siegel, general manager of video and software solutions at GE Security, "is the single most important trend."
In the closed environment that was CCTV, he said, video management didn't really exist. Companies used a relatively small number of cameras and most companies gave away the software, while focusing on selling more hardware.
But as the industry moves to IP video, with its storage and streaming video requirements, the issue of software and how it works in a networked environment becomes more critical, said Siegel. "Software becomes the window for managing the system and its health," he said.
Whether a video solution involves a few cameras, such as in a mom-and-pop retail store, or thousands of cameras employed for monitoring schools, transit systems, ports and the like, the common denominator is the desire to view, store and analyze video at will.
Cat Nguyen, marketing manager at Ortega Info Systems, said the core activity for most video management systems is providing content access. When there is an alert regarding a security-related event, he said, the idea is to be able to go to it quickly.
Other features that systems require are scalability and interoperability, said Nguyen. "From this point on," he said, "there will be more integration with other systems" such as access control and fire. It's a matter of trusting the network, said Nguyen, and allowing the systems to work together.
"We've seen a very steady growth in the number of cameras on a network," said Mariann McDonagh, vice president of global marketing, Verint. She said scalability becomes important as companies add sites (and cameras) to the network, along with more storage and more features such as analytics.
Video management software's role is to enforce security policies as set down by the organization, she said. "Good video management software has to fit within the scope; it brings policies to life." For example, she said, in a transit system, policies may be created about when and by whom a door can be opened. If there is a breach in that policy, the system needs to react with video as well as alerts to the appropriate persons and possibly interaction with an access control system.
Interoperability with other security systems and devices has been behind the push for an open platform.
Nilsson said only companies that are "truly open" are likely to succeed. He said Axis has 300 partners.
As security migrates from a physical to an IT application, it is changing how video is being implemented, said Alan Calegari, president and chief executive officer at Dedicated Micros.
"Our customers told us they want their system to work with access control, point of sale, intrusion and the like," said Bob McCarthy, Dedicated Micros' vice president, technology. As a result, he said, the company has made an effort to make the DVR part of this larger video management system.
David Ella, vice president of product development at AMAG Systems, said the transition from the DVR to a network-based system requires a platform that provides the proper migration path.
Like Calegari, Ella said he has seen the influence of the IT department on how systems are designed and operate. "With video and security being more and more managed by the IT department," he said, "they want to use their own systems" for activities such as network storage.
Nilsson said once 10 or more cameras find their way onto the network, the IT department becomes concerned about the impact, whether it's bandwidth or viruses.
"IT said what needed to be done on the network," he said, which spawned video management software systems that met the standards of IT.
All those who spoke with Security Systems News said whether a system is based on analog cameras or IP cameras has little impact on the creation of the video management software.
"The integration of IP cameras into our system is pretty invisible from a user perspective," said McCarthy.
"We're in the fortunate position of designing from scratch," commented Ella from AMAG, with IP cameras as the key focus.
When Genetec started developing a video management solution, said Michel Chalouhi, director of product management, "we predicted IP cameras' growth, but leveraged the existing analog installations."
He said they are able to deal with IP encoders or IP cameras themselves. "We see the gap between IP and analog narrowing all the time," he said. For the software, he said, the solution is independent of which camera type is used. "It's transparent to both."
"The move to IP cameras doesn't impact the software," concurred Verint's McDonagh. "We have a robust integration set; the video management software has to be able to drive through the integration."
In the end, said GE's Siegel, video management software becomes "the heart and soul of the video system." Software creates "frequent touches" with a customer, he said, so security companies have to understand how to sell software.
That requires integrators who understand software, networks and IT solutions. Chalouhi said Genetec, which began as an R&D company before entering the security marketplace, now works with all the traditional security integrators.
"The ones who are successful are the ones who have adapted," he said. "The integrators doing well today are the ones that have adopted IT principles and networking principles." Ella said those on the IT side are used to a certain level of ease of use. He said getting Microsoft certification helps bridge that gap with the IT professional and what they are accustomed to.