The CCTV Project Planner

CCTV implementations face a lack of product standardization, a confusing bidding process, and a limiting market structure. Here is expert guidance on critical considerations about bandwidth, frame rate, image quality and more.

This article provides an overview of the video surveillance system planning and implementation process, and focuses on end-user perspectives. Successful CCTV projects are difficult to accomplish. Success factors are endogenous and exogenous to individual systems. Both are equally important to understand when planning for system implementations. The best way for an end-user to find success is first to gain insight into a few key issues in the CCTV industry.

The Broad Issues of CCTV

Probably the largest ongoing issue in the CCTV market is standardization, or lack thereof. Standardization, in the case of CCTV, is defined through the measurable areas of system specifications. There have never been any regulated standards of measurement for CCTV equipment and it is difficult for end-users to make a side-by-side product comparison. One recent development in CCTV standardization, NICET (National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technology), has developed a rigorous Video Security Systems certification program with separate tracks for Video Security Systems Designers and Video Security Systems Installers. If you've worked with fire alarm systems, you know that NICET certifications are highly regarded. While these programs don't standardize product design, they do foster best practices for system designers and installing technicians.

The lack of standardization brings other issues. If for example, if you have multiple sites and need to install cameras across them at different times for different needs, you're likely to have compatibility issues across systems. These difficulties can range from requiring complete replacement of systems, rewiring, reprogramming. In many ways, they can cost your organization time, resources, and money. So, it's crucial when you're planning for a system to evaluate your entire range of facilities, how often you tend to make moves, adds, and changes to your system and how long your planning to occupy your facilities so you can make correct equipment selections.

Along with the broader standardization issue and its systems-level problems, the working structure of the CCTV product market presents some challenges. Even a seasoned CCTV project manager has little chance of keeping up with this ever-growing landscape. The good news is that there's a product solution for every CCTV scenario. But these solutions, as we'll see, aren't as ubiquitous as they seem and may even result in more headaches than innovation.

Let's take a common video-system project bid scenario: Typically, an end-user will take several bids for a CCTV project. The idea is to make viable comparisons between vendors or integrators, choosing the one most suited for your project: i.e. the lowest responsible bidder. These comparisons are made more difficult in light of the lack of standardization mentioned above, and also in light of the CCTV product market. If each of your vendors can provide quotations using the same system configurations and equipment, you'll be lucky. Some of the reasons for this difficulty will lie at the system level, which we'll cover later, but market issues also affect systems issues, and it's especially important with CCTV to be aware of them.

Delving a bit deeper into the comparative difficulties in CCTV system evaluations is helpful, especially focusing attention on the relationships between product manufacturers, product resellers, and product installers. Generally, CCTV product manufacturers sell their products to resellers, who then sell to installers, who are providing the quotations on your system. Additionally, installers often take on relationships with manufacturers to buy directly, and in some cases manufacturers do not sell their products at all through reseller channels, but only to product installers. Within these relationships are factors that result in end-user difficulties. Product installers make choices to install particular systems based on prices they get from resellers and manufacturers and their installation force's training and certification on product lines.

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