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“What security issues are you trying to address with your video surveillance system? Who will operate your system? What is the security staff level of expertise? What upgrade path do you foresee for the future?” Such trivial questions are seldom asked by system suppliers, before selecting a video management system for customers.
How many of us take time to just sit with a potential customer and security operators and listen to their issues? Moreover, how many of us know the questions customers are asking themselves? Often, we assume that the customer has gone through a comprehensive requirement analysis either with an external consulting engineer or, by an internal auditing process. It would be more likely to face a customer whom already created a technical wish list specifying the number of cameras and their technical characteristics rather than, a customer whom clearly defined the method and procedures of operating the Video Surveillance System to achieve quick and efficient resolution of any security issues that the system should address.
While investing in leading edge technology ensures the video surveillance system's potential to be a powerful tool at the customer’s security staff disposal, it is crucially important to unleash such potential. This, is achieved by ensuring that the Video Surveillance System, primarily the management component, is suitable and usable for achieving effective daily operation.
Most organizations, regardless of size, face similar challenges when it comes to looking for ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their video surveillance systems.
Key to choosing the right management system, is considering all technical and operational issues related to the system from the various security breach scenarios through the physical positioning of the cameras within the site, to the available bandwidth of the network. Other issues include the quality and duration requirement for recording and archiving of the video data, the distribution of live and playback video to the relevant users and the procedures in place for monitoring, responding and investigating those security breach scenarios.
Upgrading an Analogue System – Maintaining Usability
Experience shows that in many cases the introduction of a new video management to an existing system can actually compromise the overall system efficiency. A classic example is migrating from Analog to Digital head end. It is hard to beat the simplicity of clicking on a CCTV keyboard camera X to Monitor Y to assign a camera to a monitor on a video wall, more so, the simplicity of controlling a PTZ camera with a joystick. How many management systems in the market actually provide the operator with a decent mouse driven alternative to the “good old” joystick? It is easy to argue that in mid to large analog systems consulting a camera list in order to select a camera is cumbersome and inefficient. By the same token, operating a complex software based video management can also lead to slow operator response time and overall lack of efficiency.
The management application must maintain and exceed the operational simplicity of the old Analog solutions while providing the means to handle masses of cameras with quick and intuitive site navigation.
Proactive Operation Vs Reactive Operation – A Design Fundamental
There are fundamental differences in the design of proactive and reactive systems. A proactive video surveillance system would be typically operated by dedicated security staff that will use the system, to virtually tour the site. Such a system is likely to include PTZ cameras, several operator workstations a video wall, map based GUI and an elaborate settings for alarm event driven actions to assist the operator in responding to security breaches.
These systems are likely to require high resolution, high frame rate live feed from the cameras enabling the operator to quickly and effectively identify and resolve any security event he may encounter. Delivering such high quality video feeds from a large number of cameras would require a suitable IP network backbone, capable of delivering this vast amount of data. Proactive systems operation often relies on live object tracking as well as field staff and control room cooperation, which mandate the use of powerful site navigation tools to assist the control room operator to effectively virtually navigate throughout the site.
The expansion and increasing severity of security threats is driving the industry towards proactive system design. Nevertheless, not all sites require costly designs of this kind. Reactive Video Surveillance would be typically used to investigate an event after it occurred, hence do not require dedicated staff for continuous monitoring.
Reactive system design would focus on good quality recording and post event analysis tools. Reactive systems are commonly found in small retail outlets, logistic centers and unmanned sites.
A Thought on your Installer
Just like the end users, Video surveillance installers are still coming to terms with the industry’s transition from analog to fully digital solutions. The biggest conceptual change is shifting from analog backbone based on coaxial cables, twisted pairs and analogue fiber optic cables to cabled and wireless IP Network backbone. While IP networks simplify data acquisition, distribution and switching, they require a whole new world of expertise. Having the most highly featured and innovative video management system is great but one cannot take for granted that the installer or the end user’s system administrator can configure the video management application to suit the desired operational requirements. Having the video management system capable of performing the required tasks does not necessarily mean that it can be easily configured.
The video management software must offer an easy and intuitive configuration process to enable the installer to make all features readily available to the operator, customized to his individual site layout and operational requirements.
Telling the Future
There is an interesting phenomenon typical to new installations. Once organizations realize the value they get from their video surveillance system, be it in terms of increased security or productivity, they will always aspire to expand the system and increase their site coverage. Thus, the system has to have the ability to allow the user to expand and diversify all system components. The video management system must support future expansion of the number of cameras, the addition of different brand cameras, increase in the number of users, local and remote, introduction of components such as video analytics, change in storage and archive requirements and more.
Ideally, such future expansions will be done with a minimal or no downtime.
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