IP Cameras - An Overview

By VARINDIA - 2010-10-22

IP Cameras - An Overview

IP cameras are widely seen as the future of video surveillance. Unlike traditional analog security cameras that require a dedicated cable to connect the camera to video management systems, IP cameras can connect to standard computer networks, allowing dozens of IP cameras to be transmitted over the same cable to any location with Internet access and sufficient bandwidth. As of 2010, though widely promoted, only one out of every five buyers chooses IP camera. In the next three to seven years, IP cameras are projected to be the dominant camera type selected. However, there are still key challenges for IP cameras and you must understand IP camera advantages and disadvantages before purchasing. If you do choose IP cameras and currently have analog cameras, you will need to determine how to migrate from analog to IP cameras, an often complex and costly process, especially since there are no standards for IP cameras.

Key Challenges for IP camera

An overwhelming majority of people buying cameras today do not choose IP cameras. While most people see the move to be inevitable, there is a serious debate on how long it will take to get there. Recently, a number of analysts have even slid back projections for when IP camera sales will overtake analog.

To figure out why you should select IP cameras and when the mass of users will buy IP cameras, we need to honestly and clearly assess what is holding back IP cameras. The common explanation is a lack of training and a lack of support by traditional integrations and manufacturers. I think these problems are secondary and a consequence of more fundamental problems. Here they are:

Primary Problems

  • IP cameras are too expensive compared to analog cameras 
  • Storage for mega pixel cameras is too expensive 
  • Smart cameras are still in their infancy 
     

Secondary Problems

  • DVRs offer limited support 
  • Lack of Integrator Training 

None of the above means that any specific customer should not use IP cameras. Use of IP cameras depends on specific application and logistic uses. However, until the three primary problems are solved I do not believe IP cameras will be selected by a majority of customers. Once the solutions are delivered, the business case will become strong across the board. Integrators and DVR manufacturers will then be forced to support IP cameras or be ousted by rivals that offer the clearly financially preferable IP solution.

IP Cameras - Advantages and Disadvantages

IP cameras have become accepted by the security industry. Yet, most cameras are still analog and most video management systems are still DVRs. When and how do we make the transition? Is it a fast transition? When does a security manager, manufacturer or integrator know when to make the move?

Though the big picture seems settled, with much of the actual transition still come to, how to execute and navigate the transition becomes a critical business decision.

Key Strategic Points

To help make this transition, here are three key strategic points that shape the timing and execution of transition tactics.

  • The larger the facility being secured, the more valuable an immediate transition to IP cameras. 
  • The more mature mega pixel cameras become, the more valuable an immediate transition to IP cameras. 
  • DVRs will continue to catch up to NVRs and will as such extend the life of analog systems. 
 

Strategic Point #1: The Larger the Facility

The larger the facility being secured, the more valuable an immediate transition to IP cameras. It is not so much how many facilities but the size of each specific facility. Because of the intrinsic limitations of coaxial cable, when facilities become too large, the costs of system installation increase dramatically. Think of office towers, corporate campuses, military bases. Low-cost coaxial cable runs could not solve the problem. Proprietary networks were needed.

Strategic Point #2: The more mature mega pixel cameras become

Economically speaking, the increase in quality between standard definition IP cameras and analog cameras recorded by a DVR is minimal. The quality of IP cameras is certainly better, but it is not so much better that many more crimes can be solved. Without a clear and sizable increase in such drivers, the quality of IP cameras does not drive IP adoption (that does not mean IP won’t be adopted but it is more likely IP is adopted because of strategic point #1 and the quality is a nice throw-in).

Strategic Point #3: DVRs will continue to catch up to NVRs

One of the most interesting and underappreciated elements in the transition to IP cameras is how DVR manufacturers have responded in this transition. This undoubtedly will continue, making it easier to extend the life of analog cameras.

How to Migrate from Analog to IP Cameras?

Migrating from analog to IP can be tricky, mainly because mostly everyone has existing infrastructure in place. You rarely can simply throw out that infrastructure and start anew - the economics usually do not support it. Because of that, you need to figure out what to keep, what to replace and what to modify.

The issues involved are too complex to provide a simple yes or no. Here is a summary of the most critical elements in making the transition from analog cameras to IP cameras so that you can better appreciate the issues involved for your circumstances. 

  • Determine if your DVR supports IP cameras 
  • Determine what IP camera manufacturers your DVR support 
  • If needed, assess options for NVRs or IP Video Management Software 
  • Determine if IP cameras can eliminate long-distance analog cabling 
  • Determine if higher resolution cameras can help you
  • Assess the increased bandwidth impact on your networks 
  • Determine if you can afford increased storage for mega pixel cameras 

IP Camera Standards

While we all speak about the goodness of standards, the fight to set and control standards can be severe. Indeed, a battle may be emerging in the road to setting IP camera standards.

There are three main participants in this process (listed alphabetically):

  • ONVIF: Lead by Axis, Bosch and Sony, they seem motivated to protect the interests of the largest selling camera manufactures 
  • PSIA: Lead by Cisco and supported by half a dozen camera manufacturers, they seem motivated to protect the interests of manufacturers with lower IP camera market share. 
  • SIA Standards Committee: The oldest of the three, this Committee has actually published standards and looks to be the least political (though not an industry alliance like PSIA and ONVIF, SIA could be the organization that eventually manages the process of standardizing the winning specificaiton). 

Why is this happening?

The IP camera business is exploding. What may be a US$700-million market today is poised to be a multi-billion dollar business in a few years. Indeed, the fight for standards is really a fight to shape a market that will generate sales of US$20 – US$40 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. With the growth rate and such large revenue at stake, it is reasonable to see why companies would be motivated to act.

What is the impact of standards?

Customers win because standards ultimately drive down costs by eliminating market control over interoperability.  You can make any IP camera work with any IP video management system. The problem is that the cost is very high. This makes it infeasible for most. Once you have standards in place, its cost diminishes, allowing many more suppliers to be supported. With more suppliers in the market, incumbents usually have to respond to the pricing pressures of new competitors.

 


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