From the numerous security industry expositions to the Jones’ wireless home broadband net, today’s overarching buzz percolates with two words – Internet Protocol. For enterprise security operations, it’s IP security video. There’s more razzle and dazzle than a Madonna concert. Plug-and-play IP cameras. Versatile network video recorders. Whole hog video data server. Remote, multi-site management. Anytime.

Anywhere. Any…

Whoa! Hold your IP horses.

The best way to view IP security video – and to justify it within your budget and sell it to your CEO and IT folks – is through “business sunglasses” that cut the dazzle while aligning your security needs, including new technology, with those of the business.

Business mission

Take that old but still valid chestnut – return on investment.

“We were an IP video pioneer,” said R. Michael Lagow, president, SYSTEMSgroup, back in 2001, “by setting new standards in the museum community as a more cost effective tool -- more surveillance coverage with less per camera costs. Integrating video over a museum’s network makes the overall system more accessible to authorized end-users in a Windows based environment.”

Another business goal – bringing and sharing more accurate information more quickly – is inherent with IP security video.

Added Lagow, “It’s now advantageous to bring images (recorded or live) directly to the desktop of (enterprise) managers, executives and supervisors needing quick and authorized access to the image files. There’s also a huge advantage in moving digital image data around quickly and efficiently to those needing critical information in a timely manner.” Suddenly, security video can have the same collaboration cache as corporate spreadsheets and new product plans.

Such an IP video advantage works the same for law enforcement, too.

IP cameras “save the investment in man hours and overtime associated with traditional stakeout teams equipped with binoculars on rooftops,” said Dave Rossetto, commander of special operations for the Milpitas (Calif.) Police Department. “Now, officers can watch from their desks, which allow them to make better use of their time by working on other projects while keeping an eye out for criminal activity.”

Wireless IP video further enables solutions.

“The added power of such (video) access is obvious in catastrophic situations, but it is also important in a broad range of situations faced by transportation departments everyday,” said Jerry Woods, assistant district operations engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation. “From medical emergencies to accidents, it gives us an immediate way to assess the situation. In many situations it saves us from having to send a police car first to determine what kind of response is needed.”

Business Practicalities

“Security cameras on buses using onboard recording have been in use for some time, and adding wireless IP connectivity revolutionized the concept,” said Woods.

For Rich Kreuzburg, IT administrator for Coastal Sunbelt Produce, “The arrival of wireless IP-based security has transformed our facility. The cameras are powerful tools whether used outside on patrol to help eliminate theft or inside to help cut the costs of food inspection without cutting corners.” Coastal Sunbelt is the Savage, Md.-based distributor of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

Lagow sees an enterprise-wide transformation at many Fortune 1000 companies, thanks to IP security video, a transformation which breaks apart corporate silos by encouraging internal and external partnerships.

Each player – security, IT, facilities, even the CEO – has to engage as a partner. “But when they see the economic results, coupled with the advanced features of the new system, no one looks back,” said Lagow. Instead, corporate minds turn to future value-added business goals. “They begin thinking of how they can reduce security staffing costs by increasing video technology coverage. As a result, they can accomplish more with less by reducing expensive man-staff overhead at remote portals and still providing a more enhanced, more secured, portal entrance with the use of IP video technology,” commented Lagow.

Some enterprises use the video images in a multitude of ways: for marketing their secured campus or placing certain cameras on a Web page to allow virtual touring of the campus through the Web, so that the feeds are live.

Then there’s business continuity.

IP video systems have embedded multiple redundancies. “If, for any reason, there was a blast or natural disaster at one location, the signals are simply re-routed to a new IP address for back-up monitoring. All of this can be accomplished remotely,” said Lagow. Business continuity is big buzz business these days. “With a good business continuity plan, and a properly designed video over IP system, critical sites can remain intact during such an event,” concluded Lagow.

Cart and horse

No doubt, there are business challenges built into IP security video.

According to David Gibbs, CCP, Oakland-based OnLineConsultingServices senior vice president, “It is very important to ‘qualify’ the company and its IT environment. Is this an appropriate environment for IP video?”

Added Gibbs, “It’s bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. The analog camera to DVR architecture loads the network only when monitoring live video or reviewing stored video. This can work successfully in almost any corporate network environment. Camera over IP requires streaming video over the network at all times. Streaming video? Many IT professionals are allergic to the words ‘streaming video.’”

Sandy Zirulnik, OnLineConsultingService’s founder, agreed. “The industry is pushing very hard for IP cameras, and hardware and software have both improved greatly. But we have very, very few clients who have approved putting any quantity of them on the corporate network. Maybe once our clients all have super mega gigabyte networks (including wide-area networks!), IP video will have its day.”

Whatever the challenges, however, most end-users and systems integrators agree that IP video is the finish line for many.

“Without a doubt, as video security systems proliferate in all environments, the IP or network camera will be the device of choice. The technological improvements (image quality, compression, power, etc.) over the past few years and flexibility of the system is a natural draw for any new or replacement cameras. Also, the cost of the equipment is lessening with the added advantage of reduced installation costs, especially with those expenses associated with the cabling requirements of analog surveillance systems,” said Jack F. Dowling, CPP, PSP, of JD Security Consultants, Downingtown, Pa.

SIDEBAR: Bring In the Open APIs

IP security video will open more than security doors. Application development partners (ADPs) will use open APIs to build unique, new applications to meet specific customer needs as enterprises transition their business and security processes to IP.

One example, “Axis Communications has seen early interest amongst ADPs in building software applications for people counting in the retail sector as well as traffic monitoring and analysis for highways and car park management. This year Axis will launch a number of targeted and inexpensive components which ADPs can plug into for the development of applications which meet specific needs amongst the end-users they are serving,” said the company’s Fredrik Nilsson. Initially, the approach will encourage ADPs to use the company’s video server as the platform.

Top executives at Orlando Regional Healthcare found significant cost savings through IP security video.

SIDEBAR: Enterprise Infrastructure Triggers IP Decision

Orlando Regional Healthcare (ORH), a private, not-for-profit healthcare network with 1,572-beds spread over eight hospitals, is migrating from analog video security to an IP-based system, using fixed-angle network cameras in what will grow, according to hospital officials, to be a 500-plus IP camera installation in the next three years.

“We began this process by simply wanting to add additional analog cameras to cover two parking garages, and ended by rethinking our entire system,” said John Hackett, director of protective services for ORH. “We have struggled with separate security video operations in each of our facilities, and discovered that with an IP-based system we could unify operations to improve efficiency, reliability and safety while cutting costs.”

Hackett noted that once senior ORH officials saw that a capital investment in an IP-based system would deliver significant savings, initial plans for a gradual phase-in of IP were passed over for a broader, immediate implementation with 34 Sony MiniDome network cameras installed in two garages, and 68 legacy analog cameras carried over into the system through encoders.

“Obtaining the IT department’s buy-in was crucial. They requested that a parallel network built on a separate fiber optic cable be installed so that this could scale to an enterprise-wide IP security system supporting hundreds of cameras,” said Diane Savikas, project coordinator for biomedical/electronics for ORH.

SIDEBAR: In IP Designs

The professional end of the security video market has to date preferred to use standard analog cameras connected to separate transmitter/receiver units to compress and transmit video over the IP network. These units have far more processing power for compression and networking tasks.

There are several other advantages to using this approach. It is an ideal solution for retro-fit where existing analog cameras are linked to new networks and IP video systems. This maximizes existing investment and smoothes migration to a networked solution, according to Oliver Vellacott, CEO of IndigoVision.

That being said, IP cameras will clearly eventually take over from analog cameras as they will drive down overall system costs through lower camera costs and reduced installation/wiring – one CAT5 network cable can replace local coax, 2-way audio, PTZ control and power cabling.