Why choose open-platform, IP video solutions? It is all about decoupling software from hardware to deliver the freedom to choose best-of-breed components and future-proof investments.
When we first looked at putting in a surveillance system for our distribution center, we wanted the flexibility to do exactly what we needed," said Douglas Durden, Manager of Safety, Security and Asset Retent ion at Mal lory Alexander International Logistics. "We did not want a supplier pushing a system on us that fit only its hardware line. As the security manager of the company, I brought together all the people from each relevant business area for input on their needs. We took bids from several companies but chose Milestone software because it supports a mix of hardware from leading manufacturers. It understood our vision and that we needed a future-safe solution with the flexibility to change over time." When making any decision, it is best to have an open mind rather than a closed one to be able to take advantage of any and all opportunities. This is also true when choosing business systems. Proprietary jaila term first coined at the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) in early 2007 refers to the consequences of choosing a single vendor or closed system that limits options. By staying out of proprietary jail, end users get best-of-breed solutions, future flexibility and better return on investment (ROI).
From a user point of view, it is all about decoupling software from hardware, which enables the freedom to choose the best combination of hardware and software to build a solution that truly meets one's needs. This will be increasingly important as volume of video traffic on the Internet increases. In fact, Milestone predicts that, between 2010 and 2015, volume of video traffic will overtake voice and other data running over the Internet. "We see IP technology as the driver behind this next cycle for the whole industry, from processors through infrastructure, storage and, of course, software," said Eric Fullerton, Corporate Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, President of Milestone Systems.
Open Platforms: Keeping up with Innovation
The IT industry is approximately 10 years ahead of physical security in terms of evolution. "Within IT computing," Fullerton said, "we have seen singlevendor companies like Apple and Sun fighting multi-vendor solutions, while Microsoft Windows business management software provides an open-platform approach with IBM, HP, Dell, Oracle, Toshiba, Acer, Adobe, Symantec and Computer Associates as vendors supplying hardware and software." Microsoft Windows has become the de facto standard.
This history is well-known and has proven that the more independent companies work together around an open platform, the better the solutions that get brought to marketa real advantage for customers. A single vendor is simply not capable of sustaining the competitive pace, and will always offer less than is achievable with multi-vendor solutions. "Right now in the security industry, the speed of innovation is faster than anysingle vendor can possibly achieve or fund by themselves," Fullerton said. "Advances are being developed too rapidly from many sectors and new areas of expertise for one company alone to keep pace. This is why new collaborations and partnerships are occurring as well as mergers and acquisitions."
Since no single vendor can provide the best end-to-end solution, the most feature-rich solutions can be only multi-vendor, open-platform systems that take advantage of more technology offerings. A best-of-breed solution with top-of-the-line equipment and software is precisely what delivers optimal performance. Proprietary jail, therefore, refers to such limitations on both functionality and performance. "You must have a mixture of products when designing a really good surveillance solution, choosing different models and manufacturers to suit the needs of each situation," said Steve Daugherty, President of Current Technologies Corp. "Thanks to Milestone's flexibility, we have had the luxury of implementing our solutions with a multitude of cameras."
As technology develops, competitors will not all be developing the same feature sets. They will likely differentiate their offerings. In making these choices, they will exclude customers from innovations from which the customer may benefit. Why risk the inability to add an important new technology in the future if the single vendor selected cannot or does not go in that direction or does not go there fast enough? This can put security at risk or compromise ability to stay competitive with market changes. It just makes good business sense to choose a flexible, multi-vendor solution that leaves options open to keep improving and get the best return on system investment over time.
Flexible Pricing in Multi-Vendor Solutions
The flexibility of hardware choice in an open-platform solution allows customers to shop around for the best components at the best pricesthey are not locked into one vendor's offerings. "People like to mix and match cameras by brand or model to suit each organization's exact needs both technically and financially," said Peter Ducato, Assistant Vice President of Management Information Systems at F&M Bank. "In a long process, we reviewed many and thoroughly investigated three solutions. Finally, Milestone was selected for the following reasons: Its open architecture allowed a wide mix of hardware that provided great cost savings; it was the only solution that allowed us to scale storage high enough to allow 90-plus days of archived video; it fit our current needs and will also scale nicely for future expansion."
In addition, an open-platform solution usually gives flexibility to extend larger installations camera by camera, where single-vendor solutions tied to one line of hardware can, for example, require users to extend the system in set packages of 16 cameras.
Then, there is the video management software in an open-platform, multi-vendor solution, which acts as the flexible core of the surveillance solution, but makes up only 5 percent to 10 percent of the entire system investment. This part is easily upgradeable or replaceable, with the rest of the remaining hardware elements being reusable. "If your solution is closed (from a single vendor), you have to replace all or nothing to upgrade or change, as the components are dependent on each other," said Fullerton. This is another example of being in a proprietary jail.
A good example of this concept in action was explained by Chris Lee, Director of Operations at Global SATCOM Technology. "We implemented various Sony and Panasonic dome, IR and pan-tilt cameras through one software product that proved to be very unstable. A lot of data was never captured, and administration and support were very cumbersome. We upgraded to another software product that was more stable, but the maturity of that interfaceand what I believe should be basic features for any IPVSand ease of use were not as advanced as in the Milestone software that we installed. Besides, the reliability and performance that the Milestone platform provides also offer more configurable options."
There is talk about need for standards in the security industry, especially with convergence of IP technology and integrated systems. For IP video surveillance, this is especially pertinent for multi-vendor solutions. The different types of video compression codecs (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.263, H.264 and JPEG-2000), despite attempting to be standard-based, are not. Implementation varies according to camera manufacturer. This is where open-platform, IP video management software like Milestone's is important in enabling all of the above to speak to each other in one cohesive system. Ability to interface with different hardware is exactly why Milestone's driver development has such a strong focus. It is the key to providing customers with the widest choice in video equipment available on the marketmore than 30 manufacturers and almost 300 hardware models are supported.
Milestone also publishes a very rich application programming interface (API) that uses standard IT coding languages. These enable anyone to integrate video management software with other devices or systems, like access control, video analytics or any other data. Customers, such as Ikea, Statoil and the U.K. Animal Trust, are good examples of integration in practice. At Ikea's pilot store in the Netherlands, Milestone XProtect IP video management software is fully integrated with its point-of-sale (POS) and ERP systems to help manage shrinkage. Similarly, most Statoil gas stations in Denmark are using Milestone XProtect Transact that integrates cash register transactions with camera images. The Animal Trust has implemented Milestone software with Paxton Access Net2 software, which allows camera images to be associated with events in the Net2 software for simultaneous views of people gaining access to buildings.