By Julian Rutland, Visual Communication Products and Solutions Director, Canon Europe
Video surveillance continues to play a vital role in the fight against crime as security and safety concerns rise across Europe. With network cameras and CCTV systems becoming essential for business, integrators and installers must ensure that they are able to position themselves as trusted advisors to their customers to help provide the best possible security solution.
With this in mind, there needs to be a shift in attitude away from considering network cameras as a commodity and more as a significant component of a solution that can add true business value to suit each customer’s individual requirements. To accommodate this, system integrators must work closely with customers in the planning and pre-installation stage of a project in order to offer the best fit that can not only protect that customer’s business, but also potentially offer enhanced benefits beyond security. The video surveillance landscape is rapidly moving away from the ‘tick-box’ approach of previous years. It has never been more important than it is today for installers and resellers to acknowledge this new reality.
The planning stage is key to building a fit-for-purpose video surveillance system. Close cooperation between the integrator and customer is vital at this point – when the purpose of the installation, security equipment specifications and technical requirements are confirmed. The eventual video surveillance solution will have several components: cameras, access control, network infrastructure, storage and VMS (video management software) for managing the systems. And there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account for the integrator to make the best recommendation for each of these. These include:
- Defining the parameters
The first stage of the process will be to determine the primary purpose for the surveillance installation, as this will dictate the recommended solution. For example, does the customer need video surveillance in order to monitor movement of people, monitor for missing or moved objects, or as a business tool. Video surveillance is primarily used for crime detection or prevention, but we are seeing these systems increasingly used as a business tool adding real value to organisations.
A key example of this is in the retail industry, where more and more retailers are using video to map movement of customers in order to ensure optimum product placement and increased foot flow, which can help drive sales.
Where surveillance is in an outdoor environment such as a car park, a HD system with high quality zoom capability will be most useful, for example, when required to zoom in on vehicle licence plates.
- Going digital for a digital age
Once the purpose of the video surveillance has been established, determining the type of camera system becomes easier. Businesses are increasingly opting for digital IP network cameras as opposed to analogue CCTV systems. These IP cameras have a number of benefits including remote accessibility, better image quality, more effective video management and no limit on the number of cameras on the system. Integrators should be in a position to recommend the type of IP camera that works best for the customer, determining how to balance the capability and functionality of the camera, with that of the VMS software or central Network Video Recorder (NVR).
Different network cameras suit different environments. For example, Canon’s range of PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras allow simple monitoring of expansive areas and following of subjects. Dome cameras, on the other hand, offer discretion whilst being suitable for outdoor and indoor surveillance. There are also more cost-effective options such as Canon’s ultra-compact 1.3 megapixel resolution network cameras that are designed for indoor monitoring whilst offering impressive low-light performance. These are all options that will be dictated by the initial requirements set out in the early planning stage.
This is also the time to examine how many cameras will be needed and where they will be placed in the business. In some circumstances, it is advantageous to use cameras with a wide angle of view – where doing so can reduce the total number of cameras required. For example, the British Library was able to save over €330,000 in camera costs and associated installation charges as a result of using fewer HD quality cameras covering a large space.
- Recording, storage and the network
Adding a HD network camera system to a customer’s existing network infrastructure can have a significant impact on bandwidth and network connectivity. The integrator must assess the impact this will have on the customer’s network performance in order to ensure that it does not adversely affect the connectivity or interrupt business critical applications. Bandwidth will also be affected by whether the system is unicast (one-to-one) or multicast (one-to-many), which will depend on the number of clients monitoring the video feed.
The integrator and customer should also consider the monitoring, recording and storage of footage prior to installation. How will the system be monitored, and will this be recorded 24/7? The recording and storage period will also be vital.
Local legislation can affect how long data should be held for and what businesses can do with footage once they have it.
- The importance of software
Integrators should work with the end-user to determine what level of product interoperability is required for the specific project. The capability of the software to integrate seamlessly with the whole system, not just the cameras, is extremely important in delivering the right solution for the client. Camera manufacturers therefore need to make every effort to ensure network security cameras have wide compatibility with many VMS solutions and a deep level of integration so that the cameras’ full range of functions and features are supported in the VMS software. Only with good integration between hardware and software can an integrator deliver the solution the customer is really looking for.
. Adding business value with bespoke installations
There is no such thing as a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to video surveillance anymore. The final surveillance solution should offer real business value rather than simply meeting compliance needs. Those resellers and system integrators that embrace this new landscape and opportunity will be the most successful in the long run.