The integration of formerly disparate technologies surely represents a change in the landscape for enterprise level systems design and deployment. The truth is that no one manufacturer offers the best of everything – from video surveillance technology to laptops to clock radios. This is a true integration challenge in designing video surveillance systems where skilled systems integrators can select the best solutions available to deliver customized solutions based on each specific customer’s needs.

In some instances, much of the product can be sourced from a single manufacturer but efficiencies gained may be compromised by fewer features or functionality. Additionally, items in the technology portfolio from single source vendors may have been acquired through mergers and acquisitions rather than being developed in-house.

By selecting a best of breed solution where every component is purpose engineered, integrators can more easily contrast and compare products to make the best selection. To further up the ante, selections can also be made based on those manufacturers who have stayed focused on core technologies. For example, video surveillance cameras have evolved into highly sophisticated devices that deliver the ideal balance of image quality, intelligent features, reliability and cost efficiency. End users and integrators alike depend on these characteristics, and when weighed against single vendor solutions, the best of breed camera will often win out.

Further examination shows why these four qualities are so important to video surveillance in applications such as medical facilities or educational campuses.

Image Quality– Observation and identification are crucial in video surveillance applications, making image quality a key factor in the solution. With this in mind, it is always an intelligent decision to consider the core competencies of the provider and make a choice for video surveillance systems with technology that’s born from broadcast. When the earliest security video providers leveraged their core strengths to build surveillance cameras, they contributed a vital element to the foundation of the security industry using proven imaging technologies from their broadcast and professional video product lineup. Their cameras offered smoother pan and tilt motion, sharper auto focus and other qualities that had previously been found more often in broadcast cameras than surveillance cameras. As a result of this genealogy, today’s video surveillance camera technology provides higher resolution, fast frame rates and color fidelity all under varying lighting conditions to ensure exceptional video quality at all times.

Intelligent Features– In some cases, features may be the icing on the cake but their true value is evident when linked to operational benefits. Features such as true day/night, on-board optical and digital zoom, audio communication, motion detection, backlight compensation and on-board SD recording have all helped to provide better security while reducing costs. For example, new cameras can deliver color images from low light situations without the need for illuminators or extra lighting. Not only does the color provide detail for identification purposes, but they can now be deployed in areas with variable lighting conditions – in some cases even in virtual darkness.Cameras with embedded video analytics can analyze images at the point of capture and eliminate the need to send all video data to a central server for analysis which minimizes bandwidth and recording requirements while reducing overall costs. Cameras coupled with external pan/tilt mechanisms have all but been made obsolete by all-in-one pan-tilt-zoom cameras are available in a wide selection of unitized, environmental and/or vandal resistant models.  

Reliability – Today’s video surveillance components use highly advanced technology, making the evaluation process even more difficult. While impartial testing of video surveillance equipment on oscilloscopes and wave form monitors, shoot-outs or other side-by-side comparisons can help bring clarity to the evaluations, another way to judge reliability is through MTBF (mean time before failure) figures or failure rate (FR) data. These figures can help provide a clear guide for product lifetime expectations. Although most companies tend to build products to specific price points, the best companies engineer their video surveillance products with conservative designs that will last longer and address the specific needs and conditions of the surveillance market.

Cost Efficiency –Tight or decreasing budgets have forced end users to look closely at the TCO (total cost of ownership) and ROI (return on investment) when making security system purchases. To meet these criteria, solutions must have forward value (i.e. scalable) and be free from any type of lock-in. For instance, legacy and new security technology can work together effectively when products are best-of-breed and designed for backward compatibility. Hybrid solutions further help preserve existing investments in infrastructure by deferring or eliminating the need to rip and replace systems that are still useful and functional. While industry standards help to minimize integration challenges, it is important to choose a provider who engineers products for integration, and to work with an integrator who has a fundamental understanding of IP-based systems.

Well-designed video surveillance systems bring peace of mind through added safety and security, and can be more readily achieved by adhering to choices that reflect quality, intelligent features, reliability and cost considerations.