Bundled VMS Combines Smarts with Appliances
Editor / Provider: a&s International | Updated: 1/19/2011 | Article type: Tech Corner
How VMS-bundled DVRs and NVRs perform is explored in this third of three articles.
Scale dictates whethera software-bundled appliance or pure video management software (VMS) is called for. “A hardware-based, bundled solution usually works better for small to medium-sized installations with little need for scalability or future expansions,” said Jacob Loghry, Systems Engineer II, Adesta (a G4S company).
Dedicated VMS is open to all vendors, while hardware-based solutions are purpose-built for one manufacturer's video equipment. This makes the components in boxed VMS critical, with device support depending on processing power, said Alf Chang, Senior Consultant for a&s magazines.
Processing will affect how many cameras can be connected to the storage device. Installers will determine the number of cameras per box, based on frame rate and resolution, Loghry said. While integration and scalability are limited by the VMS' box, ease of use is almost guaranteed. A single vendor enables “deep” integration of all functions, making configuration smoother.
Ease of Use
Configuration is an issue for large projects, making flexible VMS a plus. “Installers care about configuration, as it takes time to set up 100 cameras,” said Charles Chen, Product Marketing Manager for EverFocus Electronics. “You can easily copy and paste schedules and event configurations for various cameras to save installation time.”
More NVRs replicate the plug-and-play ease of analog. “The NVR provides an auto-search function for network cameras, simplifying the installation process,” said Vincent Chen, Assistant VP of Product Marketing at GeoVision. Advanced features included remote viewing and analytics.
A simple approach will speed the migration to IP. “I'm very passionate about plug-and-play with video devices,” said Danny Petkevich, VP of Engineering, Next Level Security Systems. “Once you plug in a camera, it should auto-discover, configure and stream it. That's the experience people are used to in analog.”
The user interface should be intuitive, with contextual help for functions. “We understand our challenge is to make usage simple for both end users and administrators, rather than limiting features,” said Jakub Motycka, Head of the Technical Department for Koukaam. “That's why Koukaam incorporated automatic camera discovery and setup, as well as automatic router control, into our firmware.”
An uncluttered interface is easier to navigate for busy operators. “If you can use Windows, then you can use this VMS,” said Mark Wilson, VP of Marketing for Infinova.
Ease of use is a trade-off, since users will have limited choice. “Some features will be more complicated and have a more complex interface,” said Cardy Huang, Product Marketing Director for Nuuo.
Some hardware-based VMS solutions are geared for specific applications, offering greater convenience. “A mom-and-pop store or SMB with four cameras does not need the same enterprise-level functionality of a casino or airport with hundreds of cameras,” said Matthew Clark, Marketing Manager at Instek Digital.
An application-targeted approach yields purpose-built software and hardware. “We offer VMS for mobile traffic applications and ATMs,” said James Tseng, Senior VP of Telexper. “For the traffic software, it includes fleet management.”
Some vendors offer tools that let users build their own interface. “If someone wanted a very purposebuilt retail solution with people counting and heat maps, they can expose all that functionality and make it simple to use in that context,” Petkevich said.
Owners can keep track of their business with remote monitoring. “It can set restrictions like at a daycare center, where parents can only view the classroom their child is in,” said Chen of GeoVision.
Browser-based remote viewers can support different operating systems. “It really frees up the developer to be on a PC, Mac, Linux or even mobile device,” Petkevich said.
Scalability Some boxed VMS solutions enable enterprise scalability. “We are installed at business parks, so we take a large system and then divide it into modules,” Tseng said.
Some VMS supports distributed architecture and allows unlimited recorders and cameras to be connected to the system, offering a one-stop shop for customers. “GeoVision offers a complete , integrated solution from cameras and recording to management , ” said George Tai , CEO of GeoVision. “This enables system integrators to fulfill more project requirements and benefit from learning only one solution, which is suitable for small and enterprise projects.”
New equipment should support existing devices. “We do larger installations, like the Panama Canal,” Wilson said. “About 60 percent of our business is in large projects with more than 64 cameras.”
Hardware integration is simple, taking anywhere from a day to weeks to fully support a third-party camera. “Our solution supports more than 600 models of network cameras with ONVIF, PSIA and other protocols from different manufacturers,” said Chen of GeoVision.
IP video standards are relatively young. “Everyone interprets the specification differently,” Petkevich said. “I hope a year from now it will be truly plug-and-play.”
However, even standards and camera APIs do not ensure a speedy installation. “We support more than 1,000 models, but the difference in time to add cameras is a magnitude of 10,” Huang said. While some cameras follow established interfaces, other cameras have insufficient documentation and do not perform as they are supposed to.
Users expect the box to work with any connected camera. “Our NVR doesn't require any special license or installation of paid third-party software — everything is in the box already, so customers get an ‘all-in-one' solution,” said Lubomír Kadaně, Marketing Manager of Koukaam.
While hardware-based VMS tends to be closed, third-party software is being integrated more. “Integrating third-party analytics to the VMS isn't hard,” Huang said. “But accuracy is another issue.”
Other vendors examine the most useful software features and bake them into their VMS. “As far as thirdparty analytics go, since we provide analytics, we don't need to integrate with third-party software and don't need to pay installation fees,” Petkevich said. “We cover 80 percent of the market.”
VMS also works well with other systems. “For back-end equipment, we offer a management platform that integrates with BA systems, such as lighting, carbon monoxide detection and smoke detection,” Tseng said.
Processor Re quirements
As DVRs convert analog inputs to digital outputs, decoding will affect the VMS. “Software performance depends on processor testing,” said Chen of EverFocus. “We don't want our software to underperform, but we can't boost power beyond the processor's limits.”
Processors matter for what the VMS tries to accomplish. “Next-generation Intel boxes have better performance for video decoding, but do not have the things that Texas Instruments or Hisilicon has,” Petkevich said. “The latter have the added functionality of deinterlacing, compositing, resizing or alpha-blending planes.”
NVRs can work without the decoding hassle. “DVR chips do decoding, which is the reverse of an NVR with pure IP inputs,” Huang said. “Higher-resolution cameras, along with how many there are, will affect processing power.”
PC-based VMS boxes use standard computer components, which are not always designed for 24/7 surveillance operation. “Video display, both live and playback, puts a toll on processors,” Clark said. “The decoding process requires a lot of processing power, while features such as map or alarm display only account for a very low amount of processing power.”
Performance also depends on how the software is programmed to run on the processor. “We deploy a PC-based solution, so we use a CPU and RAM to make up for the front end's shortcomings from decoding and decompression,” Tseng said. This type of solution works on dual-core CPUs with 2 gigabytes of RAM, making it compatible with most hardware.
Bundled VMS typically includes a number of camera licenses. However, if users wish to expand, they can purchase additional camera licenses instead of another box. Only cameras are licensed, while servers do not require licenses, said Chen of EverFocus.
The camera approach keeps pricing simple. “The VMS is licensed by video input, by any type of camera,” Wilson said. “There is no registration of the MAC address for each camera.”
Other vendors license the VMS and server, as well as the cameras. “We are more flexible and provide packages,” Tseng said. “If you have 128 or 256 channels, it will be cheaper than buying licenses by camera.”
A bundled solution can save on training fees as well. “We require no training or certification for our system,” said Jumbi Edulbehram, VP of Business Development, Next Level Security Systems. “Our strategy from day one is our product and interface should be as easy to use as a smart phone.”
Most embedded VMS providers found remote monitoring an interesting trend, but took a dim view of its long-term prospects. “At this point in time, SaaS still costs more than an on-site installation for a long period of subscription,” said Chen of GeoVision.
Thus, adoption rates are slow for managed video. “Even if the advantages are quite clear — no one can steal it, permanent supervision — without a fast and reliable Internet network, it will be impossible or George Tai, Matthew Clark, Marketing Manager CEO of GeoVision at Instek Digital James Tseng, Senior VP of Telexper Product Exploration 8262 JAN 2011 www.asmag.com 22 difficult to handle,” Motycka said.
The market will need time to accept remote monitoring. “Remote storage for cameras depends greatly on bandwidth, which is something a telco or ISP wants to charge for,” Tseng said.
Residential prospects are hazy, as demand for video management functionality is low. “Homeowners just want to see video, so we're not sure if this is a market we want to be in,” Huang said. “There's not much opportunity for differentiation. It does have great camera volume, but the software doesn't offer great value to the customer.”
However, hosted video is a good fit for SMBs. Users can remotely manage sites, access information from anywhere and store video to a hosted site. “It's more efficient to store video locally,” Edulbehram said. Business owners can afford small systems for each location, which can be managed centrally.
Pros and Cons
Ease of use is one of the advantages for hardware-based VMS. “Usually, smaller projects in the SMB market prefer hardware-based VMS, as they need simplicity, basic functions and a low price,” Huang said.
Bundled VMS works on a single vendor's video lineup, with the added security of no viruses or spyware for a local network. “It is useful for small camera systems like in a home, small office or small shop, but I wouldn't recommend free software for critical or larger applications,” Motycka said. “Disadvantages of free software include less advanced features, with usually no alarm handling, archiving, redundancy or advanced user rights management.”
VMS deployments go faster when all devices work together. “The bundled approach simplifies things for installation, deployment and management, as opposed to having many different vendors,” Edulbehram said. “You have just one point of contact. It massively simplifies pricing.”
A comprehensive solution relates to ease of use, with the added benefit of accountability. “A turnkey system will cut down on installation headaches and costs, and the manufacturer will provide full support in the case of a problem to reduce the long-term cost of the system,” Clark said.
Some vendors offer their VMS as software and hardware. “Previously, customers would use a CMS server to broadcast all the images, and the network would have issues, such as losing data packets,” Tseng said. A backup controller ensures images are captured, even if the main server breaks down. “We can manage 2,048 channels with our enterprise software and support 48 channels on our NVR.”
At GeoVision, a purchase of any network camera or video server is bundled with fully functional NVR software for 32 channels. “The solution is cost-effective, and customers can determine their own NVR hardware,” Tai said.
Infinova OEMs its VMS from Video Insight, for a best-of-breed solution utilizing existing equipment. “If you want to bundle all your solutions and mortgage your future on one camera, that's fine,” Wilson said. “Our VMS helps people migrate from analog to IP, but in a cost-managed way. We've enabled the software to actually manage analog equipment.”
Dedicated VMS works best with IP video, requiring analog control room equipment to be replaced. “We have seen pushback for legacy situations,” Wilson said. “We have an Ethernet interface on the matrix switch, so our software can manage matrix switches and video walls on an IP network.”
VMS development is affected by camera breakthroughs and their growing processing requirements. “Currently, the drive to IP is for megapixel and its greater clarity,” Huang said. “As it grows, it affects transmission and storage. For all projects, storage for NVRs and cameras is a high cost. These things will be concerns in the future with megapixel surveillance.”
Storage will need higher efficiency to keep up with megapixel or HD video. “RAID has become a risky standard for video storage because of the stresses on hard disks — temperature, vibration and wear — thus producing a high probability of disk failure,” Clark said. Alternatives such as linear array of idle disks technology offer reliability and reduced risk of data loss.
Connectivity is also a trend. “Integration will increase in the market,” Chen of EverFocus said. Wilson agreed, saying, “What you're seeing in the industry overall is convergence at a high level.”
VMS delivers added value, making it essential for security. “The future challenge will be integrating on a larger scale with emerging standards such as ONVIF and PSIA,” Clark said. “As the industry gains confidence in the standards, the next shift will be how you leverage the data available.”