Magazine Article | March 19, 2012

Expanding Views Of Video Surveillance

By Brian Albright Business Solutions magazine.

Integrated security solutions, mobility are top of mind with video surveillance customers.

VARs interested in expanding their business in the video surveillance and security markets will need to focus on new mobile capabilities and increased integration between video and access control systems. Increasingly, customers are looking for a common platform to manage their security solutions and to provide new types of functionality.

Resellers will need to manage customer expectations about just how much integration is possible with existing solutions, and form partnerships with vendors that can provide this type of integration in new installations. Because many installed access and video systems were manufactured by different vendors, the type of bidirectional interplay customers want may be a challenge for the integrator.

"They'll ask one of the vendors to create an integration between the systems," says Francis Lachance, product manager for Omnicast at Genetec. "That will work, but it's usually not what the customer was expecting. They want a full integration at a deep level, with bidirection data flow back and forth."

VARs can get into trouble by overselling these integrations and promising a greater degree of integration than might be possible. That's why VARs have to be well-informed about how each solution will function in an integrated environment. "You have to be fully aware and get the right information from the vendors before accepting any job," Lachance says.

One way to address this issue for new installations or full-system replacements is to deploy a single platform for both access and video control. "By unifying the two systems, you're not talking about integration anymore — it's the same system," Lachance says. "Users can receive alarms from both systems at the same time, and they will work on a common platform from the start."

For installations involving two different vendors, integrators will also face version-management challenges as either system is upgraded. "It's very hard for customers to understand all of these components," Lachance says. "That's why moving to a unified platform is optimal."

Mobile Solutions Provide Security Access On The Go
Users are also looking for ways to provide remote and mobile access to their video and security solutions. Managers in particular want to be able to access activity reports, receive alarms and alerts, and even view video feeds from their mobile phones and other devices.

"People want access to all of this information as they move around," Lachance says. "People want to access the cameras, the alarms, and control systems, whether they are in the office or on the road."

Security guards can continue to monitor security systems as they walk around a facility by using mobile devices. "Those applications don't require any sort of specific infrastructure, because most organizations already are equipped with Wi-Fi access," Lachance says. "For internal mobility applications, most customers are in good shape."

But mobile connectivity from outside the four walls, over a public cellular network, is a different story. "Then it's a question of how you can expose the server publicly on the Internet so people can access the system remotely outside the office," Lachance says. "There's also the question of bandwidth for streaming video."

If a client has only a handful of managers, this type of access doesn't present too many technical challenges, but if hundreds of users need to access streaming video remotely, bandwidth can be a huge hurdle. "That's where the cloud can help," Lachance says. "There are service providers that can take that stream, put it in the cloud, and distribute the video to multiple users."

For VARs and integrators to take full advantage of the opportunities that mobile solutions and integrated security systems present, they need good IT skills, Lachance says. "Some VARs are stronger in security while others have better general IT skills," he says. "To be successful with mobility and video surveillance, it's important for the system integrator to be very versatile, and have both types of expertise."