A&S spoke to major European security companies to learn their observations, development strategies, and what their next steps are.
Integration is a buzzword in security today. Industry giants such as Bosch, Honeywell and Siemens all showcased their integrated solutions and applications at IFSEC 2008, held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, U.K. in May. While it is clear that manufacturers are pushing for more integration, some industry leaders at the show voiced different perspectives integration is very important for large companies and large projects, but not everyone is up for it.
"It's easy for us to say we have IP so we can integrate; it's even easier to provide SDKs (software development kits) to third parties to integrate," said Andrew Pigram, Brand Director for Vista. "But the question should be what are the real benefits of integration? Some benefit enormously from it; some simply don't."
Alun John, Chief Executive of Norbain Group, agreed that integration is taking place more at the "large projects, big systems" level; interest is usually coming from new buildings or large enterprises which incorporate both security and building management systems.
For many small and medium businesses, the issue of price versus performance is still their major concern, and integrated solutions may be more complex than what they truly need. "Many corner stores in Britain have video surveillance, but they don't need to integrate their video into building management, because there's none."
Gert van Iperen, Executive Vice President for Bosch Security Systems, also points out that integration today is more focused on upper software management. "But I think we have to first define what we integrate and at what level." Today, most suppliers are offering integration at the platform level, combining intrusion detection and video surveillance or video and access control.
Bosch expects the next generation of integration to be at a more basic level. "Products in our portfolio will have integrated functions at the device level. Ultimately, we will see integration in sensors for example, a combined video-intrusion sensor that serves to the needs of certain applications. It is not here yet, but we will be able to see it in the near future."
The development in IP-enabled products has made integration possible. The more established the standards are for IP products, the better they communicate with one other and the better integrated these products can be.
But currently, especially in the network video realm, there is no global standard defining how network video products such as cameras, video encoders and video management sys t ems should communicate with one another.
Dominic Bruning, Marketing Director for Axis Communications EMEA, paints a clear picture of the status quo: Every manufacturer is following different standards. Different standards can be seen in, say, video compression formats and communication protocols; sometimes, even the same manufacturer's products may have different APIs (application program interfaces). "It's very difficult for integrators to integrate, to plug and play, so integration projects get delayed."
Axis, Bosch and Sony, however, are aiming to make changes systematically. These three companies will be cooperating to create an international open forum to develop standardized interfaces for network video products. What these three companies want to do is to latch onto the good standards that exist or are being developed and to build new ones where needed. A draft framework will be released in October 2008.
Van Iperan of Bosch elaborated that the forum is open for everyone: "The new standards are expected to comprise interfaces for video streaming, device discovery and intelligence metadata."
"We are looking to simplify the transition from analog to IP, so people will adopt IP in a less confusing way," said Bruning. "Bosch, Sony and us share the same vision. First, we need to sit down, gather ideas and reach an agreement as to how to build the framework for the forum. In October, we will announce how the companies can realize the forum."
Some manufacturers are also helping security system integrators to embrace IP more efficiently. "We are introducing solutions all the time and we see a big gap in IP training. Not just in Europe but globally, most integrators have some IP knowledge, but do they know enough to make complex solutions work? Do they know enough to answer, for example, a question about dynamic addressing?" said Vineet Nargolwala, Managing Director of Honeywell Systems Group EMEA.
That is why Honeywell EMEA has set up a comprehensive integrator program with three training centers across Europe (Britain, Germany and the Netherlands) to educate its customers on IP issues and help them migrate. "These free sessions are not just on our products, but general technology on how to design IP products and how to do networking," Nargolwala said.
Is IP the Best?
While demand for IP is very strong and market growth high, use of analog devices is still growing, as indicated by many experts. "Analog is not going away," said Nargolwala. "We are taking a holistic approach to security and want to make sure that analog is taken care of as well. Many customers have invested millions of dollars in analog products and solutions."
Dedicated Micros also agrees. "There are times that IP is a benefit and times analog is," said Mike Newton, CEO of AD Group. "We don't believe we should focus specifically on IP. If we make our products pure IP-centric, users will still have the same problems that exist today. If we take a PC-based server with multiple codec cards that is generating 16-channel, real-time display, we will find that when we ask the machine to display all 16 channels on the screen, the frame rate has to drop automatically because one processor simply cannot decode that many pictures."
Newton continued by saying that users can do processing on one or a few channels, but certainly not all channels or thousands of channels. "Through our hybrid box and codec, we convert analog signals to digital ones, and then process them together with IP signals that are already digital. Instead of having 18 PCs in front of a big box, we do it in small units with single cards."
Finest from Europe
User friendliness is another much touted feature by many. Dedicated Micros demonstrated a new user interface at the show for the control and navigation of real-time video and video playback.
"Control is accomplished via an IR remote or connected keyboard, with a bright, color-coded, on-screen display directly matching the keys on the remote or keyboard, which allows users to forward or rewind video in incremental steps of different time lengths," explained Pauline Norstrom, Worldwide Head of Marketing at Dedicated Micros. "We have also ensured that regardless of controlling the product locally or over a network, the user interface and configurations are exactly the same, minimizing training requirements."
Dallmeier electronic launched a video management center consisting of a keyboard, joystick, jog/shuttle controller and monitor. James Walker, Managing Director of Dallmeier electronic U.K., said that in recent years, advances in security technology have focused almost exclusively on the technical capabilities of components or networks, not the practical yet complex operational requirements of modern systems.
The management tool ensures efficient operation with its ergonomic design, field-tested by product engineers for months, making it as easy as possible for security personnel to remain focused and work effectively without operator fatigue, said in the company's prepared statement. The package's individual components, such as the keypad, joystick and jog/shuttle controller, may be freely positioned and are equally accessible for both left- and right-handed operators.
Legic's newest PC software allows users to analyze and configure Legic's multi-application credentials with a shorter operating process. The software is comprised of three main functions which allow users to create an access card in just a few minutes. The simple read function analyzes the content of a credential, graphically displaying the card's information, segment information, and structure and applications of a transponder.
Then, the software allows users to visualize the inheritance structure of the authorization and create cards for the desired organizational level. Finally, the software allows users to plan and create multi-application credentials using Legic's application standards or pre-defined data segments from partners.
Special cameras are also popular at the show. Grandeye's smart, 360-degree, multimegapixel cameras enable users to see everything at all times. "The wide-angle camera has a powerful processor inside that is capable of generating and compositing multiple geometrically correct camera views in a single multiview screen, with configurable formats via standard browser software," said CEO Alexa McCulloch.
"To our knowledge, we are the only player in the global, 360-degree video marketplace to have put enough processing power on a single chip to eliminate the need for an external PC and software peripherals," added McCulloch.
IndigoVision's IP camera has powerful built-in features such as storage-saving Activity Controlled Framerate (ACF) and real-time analytics. It also delivers, if needed, high-quality 4CIF digital video at 25/30 frames per second.
These features reduce bandwidth and NVR storage requirements during periods of scene inactivity and allow users to deploy advanced analytics to identify events as they occur in real time. "Our video analytics create filters to speed up the evidence retrieval process," said a company representative.