Panasonic's direct-to-consumer IP video

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01/07/2010
It might be too strong to say Panasonic is looking to bypass the channel with its newest offering, but the company's announcement at CES is all about offering customers a way to monitor their homes and businesses, and it sure does sound kind of cool:
LAS VEGAS, Jan. 6 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Panasonic today announced that its latest plug-and-play and wireless IP network cameras will be available this month, making it possible for consumers to monitor their homes remotely using select models of Panasonic's Internet-enabled plasma HDTVs, as well as PCs and cell phones*.
One might ask: Where are the plug-and-play IP cameras for the professional security offerings? But I guess plug-and-play is in the eye of the beholder. Security integrators probably want to do a little more than just watch live video and record it. There's a little matter of integrating the video into the larger security system, but still... I'd like to see ease of installation more emphasized industry wide, as it is for consumers.
Boasting a sleek new design, the BL-C210, with proprietary one-wire, plug-and-play installation, and the wireless BL-C230 are suitable for a home or business setting. The integrated Internet connection allows users to view camera output in real time full motion video from anywhere in the world using a personalized secure web address (provided for free). It is even possible to pan, tilt and zoom remotely.
See what I mean? Pretty cool consumer offering. It's got to compete at least a little with the professional offerings, no? Did you guys get a heads-up on this?
The cameras employ H.264 video compression which provides higher video quality and uses half the amount of bandwidth compared to other formats. Built-in sensors detect body heat, sound and motion. The sensor settings are customizable so they can be used separately or all at the same time. They can also be set to be active at specific times of the day. When a sensor is triggered, an image is captured and can be sent via email or to a VIERA CAST enabled TV**. There is built-in memory to store images and the included recording software connects up to 16 cameras.
Whoah. They can detect body heat? That's pretty hot! (Ha! See what I did there, with the heat pun?) I haven't really seen that advertised in security much. Maybe it's more ubiquitous than I thought? Personally, the best part is that I can watch it on the IP TV. Panasonic makes awesome TVs. Plus, they're all h.264ed up.
"Panasonic is committed to providing communications products that help provide peace of mind for homeowners and small business owners," said Bill Taylor, President of Panasonic Systems Network Company of America. "The BL-C210 and BL-C230 provide a convenient solution for people who want to keep an eye on what's happening while they're away."
They sure do provide a convenient solution. As do the security systems their channel partners install. Just saying...
As with other Panasonic network camera models, a state-of-the-art integration kit ensures compatibility with many solution applications, including automation products from Control4, Crestron, HomeLogic, Life Ware, Netstreams and others, as well as recording systems such as IPConfigure, Milestone, OnSSI and Quadrox.
Wow. IPConfigure, Milestone, OnSSI, Quadrox being introduced to the consumer market. Are they implying that consumers self-install with the integration kit and get hooked up with self-install versions of what I would consider to be some pretty fancy-pants security-specific software? I'm really surprised to see those brand names in a CES release. Very interesting. And for fort those of you thinking maybe there's an implication that these great new IP cameras will be professionally installed:
The Panasonic BL-C210 IP network camera carries a suggested retail price of $199.95 and the BL-C230 carries an SRP of $299.95. Both will be available from select Panasonic authorized dealers including Amazon.com.
Yep, pretty nice IP cameras for $200, available at Amazon. Obviously, cool A/V devices are at CES that most people would want an A/V integrator to actually install in their homes, and just because something is available at Amazon doesn't mean that's where everyone wants to buy it or that they'll install it themselves (I can buy a washer at Best Buy, but that doesn't mean I'm going to install it myself) but there's definitely a DIY feel to this release that should keep integrators on their toes. What's your value-add? Why shouldn't people just do this type of installation themselves? Food for thought.

Comments

You guys should be thanking me for taking care of all the cheapskates and penny pinchers for you. Face it: a customer who finds this product attractive would never have been profitable, and you damn well know it. I don't want to hear any whining about how the internet is taking the bread and butter out of your mouths.

Sam wants to know what value add the professional integrator brings to the table. I'll tell you: a customer that cares about quality of the total security solution over the bottom line will seek out a professional, and if that professional can explain why the more expensive camera is more effective than the cheaper camera then that is what they will go with. If the professional can explain what kind of cameras to get and where to place them and *why*, then they will be able to see the value of the professional over buying stuff from the internet.

I mean, sure, I try to be as ethical as possible, advising people what they can and cannot do with the budgets they have, but I have very few illusions about who my customers are. A lot of them are people who want to save a buck. It's my job to help them do that. Can just any idiot install their own security? Of course not (it isn't as hard as a lot of people in the security industry like to make it seem, either). But the internet is not stealing profits from the integrators because there was never any profit in those customers to begin with.

I am confused about the premise of this post. Panasonic has long had a major presence in the consumer market for IP video surveillance products. Panasonic even separates their division between consumer and professional (I believe the divisions are named PCC and PSS). This seems to be an extension of Panasonic's long standing consumer business rather a new attempt to bypass the security channel.

I guess my point is that when the consumer stuff sounds as good, if not better, than the professional stuff, and only costs $199, it's more head-to-head competition than just crappy web cams that no one would really mistake for a professional security device (not that Panasonic's earlier stuff was crappy, but there are plenty of crappy IP cameras on the market being offered for home monitoring). And the inclusion of the names of the professional-grade surveillance software companies seems to emphasize this point - I have not seen Panasonic conflate the two markets that way before.

Have you seen, John, OnSSI, Milestone, etc., marketed to the consumer market? I haven't.

DLink offers/OEMs OnSSI to the consumer/SMB market. 

Equally importantly, I do not think OnSSI and Milestone will be attractive for the consumer market. It's too expensive and too cumbersome to use relative to the many many consumer product offerings.

I think it's interesting that someone would market OnSSI and Milestone to consumers but in a bad way.

Exactly - that's what I'm saying. It's completely strange to me that Panasonic would include them in the release. Is there any way homeowners are going to muck around with a Milestone installation? No, of course not. So it seems like a reaching out to business owners who might already have Milestone installed - hey, guys, just add a few of these babies to your system...

In answer to you question: Why shouldn’t people just do this type of installation themselves?

They are doing. Why? - because most security dealers have no clue about IP and it is very difficult to find a professional company to do it for you. Dealers are poised to blow the biggest opportunity that ever knocked on their door since they started in the security industry and its all down to lack of education....... well, with a bit of laziness thrown in as well.

Based on the inquiries we get about our video verification platform, it is the I.T. industry that is going to milk this cow. That said, there has been a spike in inquiries from security companies in this first week back after the New Year, so let's see what happens.

The strangest part of all this is that the installation of residential IP cameras truly is Plug & Play so there's nothing for the dealers to be scared of. Plug each camera into the router, point them in the right direction and the installation is complete. All of the hard work of linking the cameras to the different zones on the alarm panel is handled server side on the monitoring server.

If the IP Camera manufacturers feel the demand is there but the channel is not doing enough to take advantage, then more of them will bypass it.