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It often appears that everyone in the industry is talking about how to lower the costs of networked surveillance cameras compared to that of the analog security video type. What doesn’t seem to get as much attention is the fact that the really expensive cameras are growing as fast as is the low-end camera market. Many companies sell cameras that have a starting price of more than $1,200, and several categories of cameras can start at well more than $2,500. This indicates that the marketplace for surveillance is growing at all levels of quality and purpose. Not understanding this trend can lead to a higher opportunity cost due to a poorly designed system.
Driving the growth in the high end of the market has always been the IR camera types, such as thermal and active. These cameras are generally the most expensive cameras within the video surveillance industry, using very high-end components and materials. This makes growth in the dollar value of this category of cameras much easier because of the high price points. However, it doesn’t typically add up to more than single digits in total port counts for the market. Changing this trend, however, is the low-end of the high-end thermal cameras. With new cameras coming into the market that are below “military grade,” commercial deployments are picking up speed and growing the port counts. These increases have the potential to keep these cameras on top of the high-end surveillance market.
With PTZ cameras having traditionally been in the $1,500 to $3,000 price range, and been widely deployed, this camera type has long been considered to be high-end. However, the numbers of PTZ cameras being sold is flat and/or contracting within the marketplace. Replacing them are high-end megapixel (MP) cameras, which provide a very wide field of view and substantially more detail within the image. However, the 5+MP market is not yet as big as the PTZ market, although it certainly is adding to the high-end market growth. When cameras start to get above 10MP, additional costs come into play with higher-end optics to support the camera’s imager. These cameras can start in the low $2,000 range and scale up more than $8,000 per camera. The challenge, here, is that the fastest-growing segment of the camera market is the cameras between 2MP and 5MP.
Intelligent cameras are typically included in the high-end category because they often contain expensive analytic software. This typically drives up the price another $500 to $2,500 per camera, making them in the higher cost range of above $1,200 and as high as $3,000. Intelligent or “smart” cameras, as they are sometimes called, can be used in situations where it is cost-prohibitive to use bulkier DVR type devices; this is one of the key areas driving growth in this category. Another technology segment within the intelligent camera category is to allow the camera to be upgraded with third-party software analytics. This not only increases the overall cost of the camera, but also increases the usage scenarios by just changing the analytic software function. In the future, this could become one of the largest high-end camera segments.
A new marketplace that is gaining some interest in the surveillance industry is that of wide-area monitoring. These cameras are just what the name indicates – the camera has a built-in wide-area monitoring system to act as “extra eyes” at a location, and is much more efficient than having a large number of cameras doing the same thing. This market today is considered a niche market and likely will continue to be for some time. What is interesting about this type of system is that it costs much more than $10,000 per camera system. These systems consist of multiple cameras, connected to special software and servers to stitch together a very wide-area for monitoring.
The last area that often comes up when discussing the high-end of the surveillance marketplace are the enclosures and long range optics that are used with some cameras in very specialized situations. Enclosures that must be blast-proof, and optics that are looking at objects several miles away or in very low lighting situations can greatly increase the costs of the camera. Particularly with the long-range optic marketplace, you commonly have to add another software technology to stabilize the image. These additional components, to counteract the swaying issues, can add $1,000 to the costs per camera.
So even though much of the surveillance marketplace talks about lower costs per camera, the reality is that overall camera costs are going up, not down. This isn’t uncommon when looking at pricing trends in fast-moving technology segments, especially seen within other industrial sectors. The business model of IT isn’t ruling the camera market; we are actually seeing increases in quality and price. For our industry, this is a good thing.
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