IP cameras and convergence are more quickly overcoming cost with benefits that include use of existing network infrastructure, geographic independence and flexible implementation.

The introduction of IP cameras into the physical security world is a much bigger deal than most enterprises and their security executives realize, contends John Moss, president and CEO at S2 Security Corporation, Wellesley, Mass.

Pro and con

As with many new technologies, the first IP cameras were more expensive and slower than their analog counterparts. The benefits – use of existing network infrastructure, geographic independence, flexible implementation – overshadow these early drawbacks in an increasing number of cases. As the technology improves and the volume of IP camera sales accelerates, those drawbacks will disappear entirely until, at some point, IP cameras are all that there are, according to Moss.

The challenge for enterprises seeking respectable return on investment is determining how long it will take for IP cameras to dominate.

It’s hard to say exactly when the analog camera will become extinct, says Moss; but ask yourself this question: “Will I buy any analog cameras next year?” The answer is almost certainly that you will. Now ask yourself, “Will I buy any analog cameras in 10 years?” Pause for a moment before answering that and think about technology 10 years ago. You didn’t have a digital camera, or an iPod or a GPS in your car. It’s a logical bet that 10 years from now you’ll be buying IP cameras exclusively. So, some time between 2007 and 2016 the analog cameras as we know it will have gone the way of the tube-based CCTV camera, adds Moss.

Longer evolution?

The fact that there is a large installed base of analog cameras and related equipment coupled with today’s relatively limited network bandwidth argues for a longer evolution. But consider this, suggests Moss: Network bandwidth expansion is being driven hard by many industries outside of physical security. Beyond that, as digital camera technology continues to improve and analog camera technology languishes, the cost equation tips in favor of IP cameras. The answer to the “when” question is: Sooner than you expect.

Now back to the disruptive part. Disruptive innovations get their name from the fact that they not only advance the technology but also cause profound changes in their markets. IP cameras have their origin in the market for information technologies (IT) – much larger and faster moving than physical security. IT also has its own supply chain replete with consultants, specifiers, installers and maintenance organizations. That supply chain, also large, is already skilled in other IT-related technologies such as networking. It is the entry of the IT supply chain into the physical security market – all initiated by the introduction of IP-based video systems – that creates the disruption.

The future of IP-based products in the physical security industry is extremely bright. Systems will integrate in new ways. Standards for communications and interoperability that originate in the IT world will blend into the physical security world. The new breed of third generation network appliances that are browser-operated and just beginning to appear in the security industry has its origin in the IT world.

For most enterprises, as IT buyers become physical security buyers, good things happen. True, IT can be very demanding of the products they consume, but they are used to buying technology on a much shorter cycle than traditional security buyers.

Looking ahead just a few years, security products will be networked, applications will be more robust and enterprise purchasing will increase. You may be buying products from names that you don’t recognize today. You will almost certainly be buying some of today’s innovative products from traditional large suppliers who acquire them.

For John Moss, who founded Software House in his early security days, and others pioneering in the new world of convergence, it’s an interesting time; and it all started with the introduction of the IP camera.

What’s a Network Camera?

A network camera can be described as a camera and computer combined in one intelligent unit. It captures and sends live video directly over an IP network such as a LAN, intranet or the Internet and enables users to view and/or manage the camera using a standard Web browser or video management software on any local or remote computer on a network. It allows authorized viewers from different locations to simultaneously access images from the same network camera.