The switch to IP cameras is on – and it's hard

The physical security world has been in the midst of a significant change over recent years. Old security cameras, that could be connected with a coaxial cable and some power, are giving way to IP enabled devices. This has lead to a complete rethink on how security systems are designed, deployed, operated and maintained.

At the recent International Security Conference held in Las Vegas a panel, chaired by Paul Boucherele of Matterhorn Consulting, looked a the challenges facing customers and the channel in delivering the latest security cameras. The panelists were Scott Ranger from Contava, Eric Yunag from Dakota Security Systems, and Scott Lord from All Systems.

One of the key drivers of success when deploying IP camera solutions is education. According to Lord, "education, both internally and externally with our customer base" is key.

All of the panelists noted companies with a strong history of deploying analog cameras often struggled with the transition to IP. Although younger, less experienced personnel were comfortable with the new technology, more experienced engineers and sales staff struggled with the nuances of designing and deploying IP solutions.

So even though the new IP cameras offer far superior capability, the shift has been a slow evolution rather than revolution. Part of this is because the newer cameras are far more software, rather than hardware, dependent. Also, the skills required to deploy IP cameras are very different and require a much closer relationship between security teams and IT.

That shift from hardware to software was something many camera hardware manufacturers didn’t really understand. Lord noted that his company's early forays into IP cameras were unsuccessful as they chose the wrong manufacturers. Even though the partners he worked with at the time has solid experience in the older technologies, they often weren't able to translate that into delivering IP products successfully.

Ranger pointed out that the project team involved in deploying IP cameras needs expertise in network architecture and an understanding of how the cameras and their supporting systems fit into the entire server and data centre ecosystem.

The increased complexity of IP means it’s much harder to deploy. "The margin for error in assembling a system in the past was pretty minimal," said Yunag. "If you had power supplies and coax, you put it together and it worked. Now, the amount of complexity in the system is significant. The evolution of the technology is so fast now".

The increased flexibility and capability of IP cameras comes with new complexity. This complexity is not only technical. Suddenly, the deployment of a security camera system requires interaction between IT and security teams. And these teams may not be accustomed to working together. For resellers, Ranger says "Look at it from IT's perspective. Look at what help them build value and safety. One of those things is delivering data better and faster to build business value".

There's also a perception in the market that these new systems will deliver a "CSI experience" where users can zoom in from almost infinite distances to read fine detail. Mobile accessibility is also an expectation. All of these things may be important but not everything can be easily delivered without understanding the impact on infrastructure in Lord's view.

For larger deployments, the panel was unanimous in saying that a pilot program is critical. Yunag said "One of the mistakes we made early on was not running pilot projects. Taking the opportunity to get a pilot implementation done, it gives the basic working fundamentals in front of someone. It helps set expectations".

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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