No doubt, the largest enterprises – many already with an investment in security video – view design, installation and updating of the systems as a more complex effort. Then throw in return on investment needs from top management and things can get really dicey.
Such projects demand closer work among the chief security officer, his or her IT folks and a systems integrator with more muscle, brains and experience than some smaller integrators.
Ken Amos of Walgreens knows the challenges. He is moving to digital video recorders at the stores that handle more cameras and more functionality for security, data collection and business needs. “Walgreens has a corporate IT system for managing projects. It helps to organize complex issues and also helps with electronic approvals and reminds people to keep on track,” commented Amos.
“Since 2002 I have been in charge of our Loss Prevention Department – consisting of over 300 supervisors, investigators and analysts, working in every market to protect the safety of all our employees and the profit of the company,” he added.
Amos matches his past experiences and future needs with other enterprise security operations.
Cable and fiber remain a strong means of communicating images and controls but there are new twists and tricks including unshielded twisted pair wiring, IP networks, wireless mesh and what is emerging as “at the edge” designs. All these new approaches, if designed right to meet the specifics of your installation, can produce a solid ROI with install cost savings, use of an enterprise’s existing infrastructure, more mobility for security staff to receive and act on image alarms as well as easier integration with other security, building and management systems.
Other security operations instead see value in establishing a dedicated security video network, which will increase cost. Let’s look first with working through the enterprise data network.
WORK WITH IT AND A KNOWLEDGEABLE INTEGRATORThere’s something to say for smooth growth of installation changes in the future.
As video surveillance systems increasingly connect to TCP/IP networks, issues arise that call for practical and innovative applications and deployments of devices. So explored are some real-world issues you should have a handle on when working with your systems integrator and in-house IT.
If the design is to connect IP cameras, encoders or decoders to your existing enterprise network, it’s more than a good idea to work with your team to perform a careful survey of the telecommunication closets (also called intermediate cross connects) where the IP-enabled security devices will be connected to existing network switches.
There, for example, may not be enough RJ-45 ports on the switch. No need for anyone to panic. Buy a new switch. But the downside is expense so, by working with IT, you and your integrator may discover that IT has been looking to upgrade its network’s switches. A more cost-effective solution than obtaining a new switch is a multiple-input encoder.
If the integrator suggests using an unmanaged switch, think twice. That would send a shiver down IT’s spine. A better fix would be to relocate some encoders.
These design and installation solutions show one big advantage of IP networking is the flexibility of network connections.
POE AND IP CAMERASPoE, or Power over Ethernet, is an IEEE standardized technology that provides 48 volts @ 350 milliamps DC current over the same two UTP pairs as are used to transmit and receive 10/100 Ethernet. In a typical scenario, a universal power system (UPS) should connect to a PoE-enabled switch, which provides short-term power to the connected devices in the event of power failure. PoE has become quite popular for powering VoIP telephone instruments.
There are several ROI advantages for your security operation when using PoE-enabled IP cameras in your installation. Separate wiring of the camera’s power is eliminated, along with trying to find unswitched AC outlets for plugging in transformers or power supplies. If the UPS connected to the PoE is of sufficient capability, the security camera can remain functional for some period of time after the start of a power failure.
Remember, however, than if your integrator recommends the idea of replacing the existing switch with a new PoE-equipped network switch, this may not be attractive to your IT department. An alternative is for the security integrator to provide a separate mid-span PoE hub sized to provide powered Ethernet connections just for the number of cameras to be connected in that telecommunications closet.
PoE is a powerful tool, reducing costs while increasing the viability of the security video system during power outages.
Transition was the overarching theme at a recent technical forum -- IP-in-Action LIVE – put on by the IP UserGroup USA. Hot talk centered on megapixel camera technology and access control over the Internet as well as video analytics and storage. Behind it all was the transition to IP cameras from legacy gear and the emerging concept of camera “at the edge,” where the camera itself carries more local storage and intelligence.
Such new age gear is coming down in price and can provide chief security officers with better ROI and a friendlier smile from IT.
Nearly 100 participants heard Dan Dunkel, president of New Era Associates and columnist for Security Magazine’s Today’s Systems Integrator. “Look to Wall Street, follow the money, watch your kids and Internet research labs, go to an Apple store, watch the commercials from Cisco,” Dunkel urged. “They will show you how things are going to be. You have to ask yourself are you ready for a future that is already here?”
CSOs joined a group including system integrators, manufacturers, consultants and IP professionals at the event. Enterprise sources ranged from the security systems design manager for Wal-Mart and security systems administrator for cosmetic company Mary Kay, among others.
IP VIDEO: WHAT ABOUT A SEPARATE DEDICATED NETWORK?The success of IP video surveillance systems is dependent on many factors. In almost all cases at the larger enterprises, network applications fall under the domain of IT. Data in the form of access control, reports, and alarm notifications present little or no problem. Video is another matter completely as it is bandwidth intensive which can bring even the most robust data networks to their knees during peak operation.
Contends experts such as Neil Heller at American Fibertek, the simple truth is that the greater the compression, the more a picture degrades. And unlike analog video systems, IP recording and viewing are separate functions defined as video in and video out. So the requirements for viewing and recording require their own bandwidth allocation. If working on a shared video and data network, you must account for all networked activities to assure you can maintain specified performance parameters during peak usage.
SHARED NET MIGHT NOT WORKHeller contended that employing a shared network simply may not be feasible. As a result, many mid to large scale IP video surveillance systems may require dedicated networks which add to both installation and material costs. That may give a hit to the CSO’s budget and ROI.
There are numerous factors to evaluate when setting up an IP surveillance network. You will need to consider the server and client computers. Video programs are memory intensive and larger systems will easily consume over 2 Gbytes of internal memory – and any computer/server speed less than 800 MHz will present problems. Your graphics card is another consideration. Is it compatible with the IP video management system and your operating systems and do you have the right drivers?
Finally there is the issue of the computer’s operating system. It is rare to find a computer today that doesn’t have Windows Vista pre-installed. Many users installing Vista have been surprised to learn that many of their system components no longer interface with their computer. So make certain that your video management system is compatible with Vista and the system components it needs to operate. Finally you need to decide how to get camera images to the main recording point. Keep in mind basic Ethernet connections can only travel 100 meters or about 330 feet.
The good news, according to Heller, is that once a network is established, it can be expanded with great efficiency. Each component in the system can be set up, operated and monitored independently. Multicasting provides the ability for security devices to be monitored in multiple locations. Compression levels can be changed to match system limitations. Standardized communication protocols such as SNMP (Simple Network Mail Protocol) allow for interaction throughout the network and via the Internet. Access can be achieved from any point on the network allowing any networked computer to be used as a viewing monitor and operation center. Standardization of databases and protocols also allows interfacing with other security components such as access control and alarm systems. This could never be accomplished with analog video components and coax cable.
About the Sources
Security Magazine thanks SDM Magazine and its technical writers, the IP UserGroup USA, Today’s System Integrator writer Dan Dunkel and Neil Heller, director of new business development at American Fibertek.
SIDEBAR: Overcoming the ChallengesHere are some views from Neil Heller of American Fibertek:
- First, he believed, IP video systems should be on
their own network segregated from data networks.
- Second, don’t overload the network transmission
system as you will compromise performance and image quality.
- Third, Ethernet cable runs can be extended by using
Ethernet to fiber converters.
- Fourth, don’t overstress your servers by creating location nodes that can be viewed individually where each node has its own server within its own network. And to assure the highest levels of efficiency, you should deploy an IP video management software solution that allows you to view multiple servers as a single seamless system.