SECURITY magazine continues to cover the industry dialogue on remote video monitoring and its software. The experts involved here are: Jam Paydavousi, product line manager, American Dynamics, San Diego; Brian Murrey, sales engineer, North American Video, Brick, N.J.; Fredrik Nilsson, director of business development, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass.; Chris Mackenzie, vice president, WebEyeAlert, Chelmsford, Mass.; Terry Louthan, product manager, Honeywell Video Solutions, Morristown, N.J.; and Mike Zorich, director of marketing, Canon USA, Lake Success, N.Y.

SECURITY: How important is software in the overall scheme of remote monitoring? Why?

PAYDAVOUSI: Software is what makes remote video monitoring possible to the masses. The cost of remote monitoring of analog video with no geography boundaries is extremely high, as it requires very high bandwidth networks. With digital video, manufacturers can use various software programs to manage digital video with regard to transmission, display and analysis of the contents in the video and index video files in industry standard database systems for future uses such as generating management reports with hyperlinks to video clips.

MURREY: Software is important mainly in the area of upgrade availability. Otherwise software becomes more of a systems control issue when working on a digital platform. When choosing control software, it is important that the software be user-friendly to facilitate easy operation by security personnel.

NILSSON: When monitoring several cameras, video management software becomes important. Because many installations use large numbers of cameras, it becomes an overwhelming task for people to constantly monitor all of the cameras. A video management tool can add more intelligence to the system, helping the operator prioritize which cameras to look at in an alarm situation.

MACKENZIE: Software is extremely important, yet at the same time it can be a big problem. Information technology (IT) departments in organizations are clamping down on personal computer-based applications because they make the machines difficult to manage and increase the total cost of ownership. The software can cause conflicts with other programs, drivers and hardware. Virus programs sometimes have to be shut off in order to install PC-based applications, which IT departments do not like to do because it creates a window for infection. Also, the software must be maintained with patches, updates and new versions. Finally, an investigator cannot just walk up to any PC in the area and access the data. They must have the software preloaded on any system they use. Web-based software applications offer a significantly better alternative to PC-based applications. With a Web-based application, accessing the software is a matter of opening a browser, going to a Web site and authenticating with a user name and a password. Everything works within the browser, so there is no software to download or install. Upgrades are maintained by the host, so there is never a need to update the application. The application can be accessed from any location.

LOUTHAN: Extremely important. Is the software easy to use? How many steps does it take to perform an action? Can I look at live and recorded video at the same time? If I am interfacing to a central station, is there any type of interface into the central station software to bring in account information? Software is a huge feature.

ZORICH: State-of-the-art remote monitoring systems are a combination of camera hardware and network software that manages the entire chain of image and alarm data from capture to the distribution of data to a viewer through local and wide area networks, i.e. the Internet. Simply put, they capture, transmit and present the data to the viewer. The best camera hardware without the assistance of good software will not meet the ever-expanding needs of the remote monitoring marketplace. Because most of today?s remote monitoring systems convert analog video to digital packets for transmission, the network bandwidth is the bottleneck and hence the limitation to growth. Therefore, the captured image quality need only evolve to keep up with the slowly expanding bandwidth capabilities in the marketplace. By contrast, software can continue to improve seemingly without bounds regardless of the network topology. In fact, over the next three to five years, until the next major bandwidth breakthrough, overall system improvements will be derived primarily from the development of newer and more effective software solutions.

SECURITY: If applicable, does your system offer real-time alarm monitoring? In what capacity?

PAYDAVOUSI: All of our digital video recorders (DVRs) come with remote management software capable of showing alarms as they occur; the remote video software can show live and pre- alarm video of the alarm. The DVR can index video with contact closure alarms, motion alarm, light change alarm, perimeter violation alarm; alarm based on the size, speed and directions of the moving object. Also, video can be indexed as an alarm, if text from transaction systems, such as point of sales or automated teller machines received by the DVR, meets certain criteria. The DVR can also accept alarm over TCP/IP from other software applications and index the appropriate video. We also have central integration and monitoring software that works with the same digital video recorders and can receive alarm notification and display.

MURREY: As far as alarms are concerned, it is not a good idea to use the video alarm functions as the primary security alert. It is best to have companies that specialize in alarm monitoring handle this aspect of your security system.

NILSSON: One of the biggest advantages of network cameras is that they are intelligent devices that include functions such as motion detection and alarm handling based on contact closure and time of day. This means that the camera is making decisions on how to handle the alarm based on the details of the event.

MACKENZIE: Our product integrates physical alarms with video alarms. When an alarm occurs, the video and alarm event are synchronized. The system will then contact the appropriate individual via cell phone or pager to notify them of the event. That individual can then access the video immediately from any PC with a Web browser, handheld computer or even a color third generation cellular telephone and see the video that was synchronized with the alarm event.

LOUTHAN: We have several versions of DVRs that offer real-time monitoring, depending on what the customer needs.

ZORICH: Our video servers and integrated camera-video server products have one or more input/output relay switches built into the rear panel of the unit. We also offer motion-detection capabilities, powered by real-time frame-by-frame analysis to detect motion within a user selectable region in the camera?s field of view. We further offer the user the ability ? once an alarm is triggered ? to capture an image associated with that alarm trigger, then attach it to an email and send it to a viewer for immediate notification of an event. Increasingly, police departments are requiring visual confirmation before responding to an alarm event. This is a significant change, and one that is capturing the attention of the manufacturers in this market. Our cameras work together to allow for the capture of an event while it?s happening, and email the captured images immediately to a viewer or a wireless personal digital assistant device.