Chinese mass transit systems, such as buses, taxis, trains, police cars and logistics trucks, give mobile DVR manufacturers a great chance to improve. The main players keep their strengths in video compression algorithms and embedded DVR systems to enhance their mobile technologies and solutions.
The first generation of China-made mobile DVRs came from "reformed" standalone DVRs or ATM DVRs. In 2004, suppliers were becoming aware of actual mobile security and working on new designs to overcome challenges such as vibration, power supply, operating temperature and dust for vehicular environments. Based on the R&D capacity for standalone products, the bottleneck for suppliers at that time was developing a mechanical design for anti-shock and anti-vibration protection, while still providing good ventilation for the device.
After research and tests, suppliers adopted plastic damping cushions to solve this problem, encouraging dozens of standalone DVR manufacturers to develop their own mobile DVRs. Vendors also combined shock-resistant brackets or other mechanical designs, with the help of third-party testing, to provide more stable mobile DVRs.
Since 2006, there are many security applications in China, with demand for mobile DVRs booming. The huge market allows manufacturers to improve their products and solutions with enhanced functions for the tough domestic tender criteria.
Some specifications include improved D1 resolution, real-time recording speed, black-box, multimedia function, GPS, and wireless transmission capacity. Leading suppliers Coship, Dahua, Easy Storage, Hikvision, Streaming Video and Sunell provide products combining digital signal processors (DSP), NAND Flash, built-in GPS and CDMA module technologies. The technical strength and companies' strategies differentiate the vendors with specific advantages.
Great Tender Capacity
According to Yuechuan Xu, Vice President of Security Unit for Coship, domestic demand for mobile DVRs is larger than overseas markets. Coship recently completed a mobile system installation for 1,062 buses in the first stage of projects in Shenzhen. There are 13,000 city buses in Shenzhen, and the number of passengers reaches 4,000,000 passengers daily, with more ridership than one city in northern Europe, at 500,000 people. Furthermore, there are 10,000 buses in Guangzhou, another 8,000 in Dongguan and 10,000 in Beijing. The domestic tender requirement sharpens the companies' capacity in production, customization for tender criteria and timely service.
Yuxiao Chen,Vice President of the Security Unit for Coship, said Chinese tender criteria have one common feature: More requirements are always added to the criteria after a project is finished. The new criteria are based on existing successful projects, as their criteria tend to be more challenging. Requirements include more HDD storage, such as from 500 GB to be increased to 1,000 GB, or the number of storage days, formerly being seven days, being extended to 15 or even 30 days. To improve functions for crucial tender criteria such as D1 resolution, real-time recording and playback, and huge storage, suppliers need a large R&D budget to win projects.
Based on its success in the high-standard tender business, Coship is confident it will continue winning more project bids. Their capacity to offer cost-effective customization for international buyers is obvious in the business success. For example, a European customer preferred a mobile DVR at a third of the price, giving up on D1 resolution, real-time recording speed and storage HDD. Another example was an American customer requiring GPRS transmission, while accepting non-real-time video transmission and transmission of event "Pictures" to cell phones. Coship is able to customize accordingly.
Coship's products are tested by third-party companies for vehicle environments. According to Chen, "Our testing partner has the professional instruments and equipment to imitate the shock and vibration situations, and the products are tested for different accelerations caused by gravity. We also installed the testing equipment in real buses to get the corresponding figures. According to the test information, our R&D staff improves the products to ensure their reliability."
Patented Design for Tough Environments
Dahua, one of leading Chinese brands for standalone DVRs, successfully provided its mobile DVRs to many long-distance buses in the Jiangzhe area. The traffic police, highway law enforcement, prison management, first-responders and cash delivery trucks have adopted its solutions. Some coach companies such as Jinhua Neoplan, and Suzhou Kinglong also regard its products as standard equipment for its vehicles.
To overcome shock and vibration problems in mobile environments, Dahua's mobile DVRs feature a fanless design with low power consumption and patented military-grade anti-shock and anti-vibration protection. James Wang, Overseas Product Manager for Dahua, said, "Our patented mechanical design ensures excellent performance. Even if the products are dropped from a height of five meters, they can still work properly without being damaged. Its seamless housing design ensures it will be water- and dust-proof. The power, temperature and vibration changes are recorded in the database." In the future, Dahua will extend the functions of its mobile DVR solutions for different applications, combining new technologies such as license-plate identification, facial recognition and vehicle information management.
Hikvision has a strong background, coming from the 52nd Research Center of Ministry of Information Industry, which specialized in military development. Its DS-8000HMI series mobile DVRs are equipped with military standard anti-shock and anti-vibration protection, and function in tanks or military jeeps. Hikvision's mobile DVR was launched and tested in the domestic market for more than six months. As Hikvision regards the domestic market as a good testing market, it believes its mobile surveillance solution is ready for a worldwide launch. For more user-friendly features, Hikvision provides customers with data-export devices for easy data management via any device connected to a PC.
Sunell started to develop its mobile DVRs in 2004 and does much of its overseas business via OEM channels. However, in China, the majority of its products are branded. To solve problems with vibration protection, it set aside a dedicated research and development team. The team's housing design reduced vibration to the HDD and provided good ventilation after three months of hard work. Six months later, Sunell took out a patent for this design. Its products are now sold in more than 40 countries. Sunell is currently modernizing its enterprise management systems (ERP, CRM and OAS). It has achieved ISO 9001 Quality Assurance, CE, FCC and CMA (Public Security Ministry of China) certification.
Cameras and DVRs are the major focus of Sunell, "While DVR technology is more complicated than that of cameras," indicted Steven Liu, President of Sunell. According to Liu, Sunell's focus in the future would be intelligent functions such as facial identification and multiple back-up capability, as well as WiFi and navigation features. "These are still being held back somewhat by bandwidth limitations. That said, we have already decided that this is the direction that we want to go. So, for us, it is a challenge but not an insurmountable one. It will just take some time and effort to accomplish."
Flexible and Cost-effective
Chenxi, an experienced player with a full line of DVRs, works on launching mobile DVRs by cooperating with different R&D partners and research institutes. Jack He, CEO of Chenxi said, "With the cooperation with five R&D teams and research institutes, we strengthen the anti-shock and anti-vibration with software protection. For example, we can program an internal memory space to automatically save and backup every 15 or 20 minutes. We also have some intelligent functions to prevent data loss in the event of a power-outage."
Based on close cooperation with its partners, Chenxi plans to launch a complete series of six mobile DVRs, ranging from economic, functional, multimedia, plug-play, wireless to high-end models running the JPEG-2000 algorithm, satisfying the needs of personal car-owners with a slim housing. Currently, its existing economic mobile DVRs are extended from their standalone DVR series, with the plastic cushion damping, anti-shock and anti-vibration protection brackets.
Easy Storage provides robust mobile DVRs based on cost-effective functions and solutions. "The major difference between Easy Storage mobile DVRs and others is the flexibility to offer economic products. For example, it has the simplest series with a very attractive price, a higher resolution series and sophisticated one of DIN size and a luxury series with GPRS function. The Easy Storage mobile DVR has four layers of protections in both the electronic and mechanical aspects. The former lies in the design of PCB to enhance reliability under crucial power conditions in vehicles, and the later lies in three aspects of our housing design: the mechanism fitness, cushions and anti-shock brackets," said Edward Zhou, Chief Manager and Engineer of Easy Storage.
Easy Storage began mobile DVR development relatively early in 2002 and is known as a main OEM supplier. The company started the first standalone DVR development. Due to the competition of the standalone DVR market, it believes mobile DVRs could be a differentiator. Now mobile DVRs are its focus, with monthly production capacity reaching 3,000 pieces. The products can be installed in Formula 1 racing cars and fire trucks. The key concern for such applications is the DIN size design. Easy Storage also has 4-channel D1 resolution mobile DVRs for customers with high-image-quality demands for mobile surveillance. Easy Storage will come out with two more DVR series, a multimedia mobile DVR and 7-channel mobile DVR. The multimedia series supports radio and DVD entertainment functions. The 7-channel mobile DVR is in response to market demand; its first generation 7-channel product would have a bigger size due to the two-main board system. "In the future" Zhou said, "When the CF card or SD card slot storage is major trend; the mobile DVR could come in an even more miniaturized size."
Streaming Video is the leading supplier of mobile solutions. Established in 2002, it had devoted 90 percent of its resources to mobile DVR development since 2006. Streaming Video provides models suitable for trains and vehicles, certified with the international E mark, PITO and MIL-STD-810F. Due to its success in the OEM business and international projects, the products have complete functions from GPS, G-force to E-map tracking. The multimedia switch supports full wireless transmission capacity of GPRS/EDGE/CDMA/ WiFi and a built-in heater is optional. Their full-featured five-in-one series combines a DVR, media player, GPS system, metadata function (compatible for external PTZ, radar gun, or card readers) and wireless networking. It provides a central management software (CMS) for remote surveillance and management.
Distributing partner Terry Ainsworth, Group CEO of SAY Security has assisted Streaming Video in the world market by distributing its mobile DVRs in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Malaysia, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom. He said, "In my opinion the key factors are built-in product features. Other manufacturers have good products but Streaming Video makes a system."
Between SAY and Streaming Video, there exists a teaming arrangement whereby they support each other both in and outside the SAY markets. "As with any manufacturer they must focus on every market. This is achieved by empowering their distributors to make front line decisions that best support the customer and the manufacturer," said Ainsworth.
Streaming Video regards their main competitors as Dedicated Micros and March Networks. When it comes to competition with international brands for this niche market, Terry explains, "To go up against the 'big guys' is a tough road, but as you could say, 'Slowly, slowly catch the monkey.' We do not have the marketing budgets of the corporations, so we rely totally on product features, good old fashioned 'Customer service' and a product that does what we say it does. Then we let the 'Word of mouth' marketing take over. It does not take long for two people to tell two people who tell two people."