In this crowded field of security players, what is it that makes new products really fly? Customization, core technology, and product user-friendliness and stability are key differentiators.
To differentiate themselves from the rest, Asian manufacturers hone their ability to incorporate all requests into final, customized solutions. Susan Yang, President of Taiwan-based Rayshine Video Technology stressed that their R&D team's capability to modify analog and IP cameras based on ODM customers' requests ensures the company's competitive edge.
Rayshine manufactures IP vandalproof dome cameras (analog domes with IP modules), indoor IP domes, IR IP cameras, and wide dynamic range cameras. "Our customers such as large system integrators are bidding for different projects, and they come to us for customized solutions."
The company also prides itself in its software-engineering capacity. "Our sales strategy is to modify firmware in IP modules (usually graphical user interface) based on each OEM customer's requirements."
VIVOTEK, a Taiwan-based IP camera maker, has its magic touch on communication protocols. "Many telecom service providers provide IP-based surveillance," said William Ku, Director of Operation Division at VIVOTEK, "and their centralized infrastructure requires us to develop tailored communication protocols based on specific user scenarios."
For example, some of VIVOTEK's IP cameras allow short-clip storage.
While these cameras already have standard commands that initiate storage under certain circumstances, some telecom customers may ask VIVOTEK for more specific, customized commands. Another example is that some monitoring service providers may want to have dedicated protocols (like encryption) in their IP cameras. "We will then design a special communication component for them," added Ku.
When a customer asks iCatch, a Taiwan-based IP camera and DVR maker that designs its own main board and firmware, to have its DVRs work with a keyboard made by another manufacturer, iCatch is able to modify the protocol and interface quickly.
"If we didn't have our own main board, we would have to go back to the original board manufacturer and ask for its application programming firmware. This is not always feasible, and both cost and response time will increase," said J.J. Cheng, Vice President.
Another example is that many of iCatch's system integrators specialize in ATMs, and these banks want total management. "If we didn't develop our own board, we wouldn't be able to accommodate our customers' needs by providing management software, interface and protocols in a timely manner."
Taiwan-based EE Electronics also offers its customers customizable choices. "Our PC-based DVR, the U-Touch series, has a touch panel that integrates with a capture card," said Alan Chuang, Marketing Director. "Customers can just add more capture cards to increase channels (up to 16)."
"Other LCD DVR manufacturers can only offer 4-channel models for the touch screen LCD/DVR because this is a brand new integration technology and they are simply combining LCDs and compact DVRs together," said Chuang. "But we provide 4-, 8- or 16-channel models, and all models are in mass production."
Nuuo's NVR management software can manage eight different brands of IP cameras. "Almost all the well-known brands can be controlled by our software. Our competitors can only support their own cameras, making their solutions more limited," said Deane Liu, Marketing and PR Specialist at Nuuo.
VIVOTEK has developed its own systems-on-chip (SOCs) and is one of the earliest manufacturers to develop dual-stream compression (M-JPEG and MPEG-4), Ku explained. "Many other manufacturers who claim to have dual-stream compression actually have caps on frame rates when one stream increases in frame rate, the other decreases. Ours allows two truly independent dual streams, so they will not interfere with each other."
Recording and transmission have completely different requirements; good quality recording requires high data rates which will be too high for efficient transmission and remote performance. Dual-stream compression allows customers to have one stream for live monitoring (low frame rate, small video size and low resolution) and one for recording (higher frame rate, bigger video size and higher resolution) or to have both streams for viewing but one for local (higher resolution) and one for remote (lower). VIVOTEK technology also allows users to apply either M-JPEG or MPEG-4 on each stream or both streams. "This means more flexibility and applications."
Huper Laboratories, another PC-based DVR manufacturer out of Taiwan, uses software compression, and customers can choose from a variety of compression modes in either MPEG-4 and H.264 for different bit rate requirements. "The hardware approach requires a compression chip," said Marketing Manager Jamie Wu. "With our software approach, overall cost is lowered because there is no need to purchase an extra compression IC." Hardware compression also limits flexibility because it is not easy for users to adjust appropriate parameters, such as frame rates and resolutions, based on their needs. "Having our own encoder and decoder is another key differentiator," added Wu.
EE Electronics' touch screen DVR provides mouse-, button and joystick-free operation and control for security personnel. The user interface shows all functions in graphs and icons. The next generation of U-Touch will offer multitouch screen (like the iPhone), Chuang explained, enables users to shrink and enlarge images with their fingers, whereas the traditional way with a mouse and keyboard only allows for image size changes at preset multiples. "We are the first to apply this technology in security."
Wu of Huper Laboratories thinks it is essential for software developers to help users find what they need on the user interface intuitively and quickly. "We have incorporated intelligent functions in our DVRs for quick searches, so users can make full use of recorded data for evidential or other purposes." Search results can be displayed in thumbnails (instead of time data) so users can have a clear overview before looking for what they need.
Stability & Reliability
Wu highlights stability as a vital factor in winning projects in highly competitive markets. Take Huper Laboratories' flagship product huperVision 4000 intelligent DVR for example. It had been tested for more than six months, during which it was subject to multiple stress tests, before it was officially released.
A busy, complex environment was also created deliberately to test intelligent functions. "We would ask people or objects to keep moving in front of the camera to test processing power and software stability. More importantly, since most end users are still using entry-level cameras, we avoided high-end cameras during testing to get the most realistic results possible," said Wu.
Liu of Nuuo also drew attention to the company's software stability. "Our clients agree with us in saying that our software can operate continuously for six months without crashing or any other problems. Also, our stand-alone NVR software supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 very stable and impressive data backup."