Over the last several years, Internet protocol (IP) video surveillance system technology has consistently become more prevalent. The switchover should be complete this year, when, according to IMS Research, world network video surveillance equipment sales will overtake that of analog video surveillance equipment. Electrical contractors in the security market that aren’t already working with this technology can expect to be left behind.


IP video components and operation


IP video systems use the building’s existing IP network cable infrastructure, instead of traditional coaxial cable to transmit video. A system could be as simple as a few IP cameras with local card storage and viewing software that is accessed using a standard PC, or analog cameras connected to IP video encoders that stream video to a network video or digital video recorder. The system could also be as complex as thousands of IP cameras that stream video directly to Internet small computer system interface (iSCSI) redundant array of independent disks (RAID) storage and could be viewed using video management software.


“The common denominators are the use of the network to transmit video and the need for a network switch or switches,” said Willem Ryan, senior product marketing manager for Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y.


IP video allows operators to monitor cameras from anywhere on the network and give remote users mobile access to video through smartphone or tablet apps.


“Some IP cameras also offer intelligent features to help users identify security risks and track targets moving within the camera’s range,” Ryan said. 


In addition, because the video is digitized, it can be searched more easily, and it can be compressed for more efficient storage. Monitoring for many remote locations can be centralized in a single control room.


“And since most companies already have a dedicated IT staff, the IP video surveillance system can be maintained with little training,” said Sergio Collazo, director of sales and marketing for Toshiba Surveillance and IP Video Products Group, Irvine, Calif.


Ideally, when it comes to interoperability, the video management system, which controls the entire video system, will communicate directly with the access control or alarm monitoring system. As the entire world continues to move toward IP connectivity, the overall security management system should, if needed, communicate with the building management system (BMS), human resources, corporate network, and fire and enterprise resource planning systems.


“IT protocols, such as lightweight directory access protocol or active directory, allow high-end systems to interoperate with these business functions, while BMS protocols enable interaction to efficiently manage and maintain facilities,” said Jack Meltzer, consultant program manager for Axis Communications Inc., Boston.


Design considerations


Before the design process begins, it is important to determine who the primary users are and how they will be using it, as this may affect the system’s requirements. You could ask whether end-users would want to view live or recorded video, or you could ask whether they would be viewing video at the same location as the system or remotely.


“The designer also needs to determine how long the user will want to retain video recordings because this will affect storage requirements and the type of storage needed,” he said.


According to Collazo, designers often overlook the application’s resolution and frame rate requirements.


“That is, what does the camera really need to see?” he said. 


The average analog camera captures the equivalent of half a megapixel of image resolution, while today’s IP cameras can capture 10 to 20 times that resolution.


“The designer must determine if the IP cameras are there to merely detect the presence of an object or if greater details, such as facial features, are needed. If the designer sets the resolutions and frame rates higher than necessary, system costs will be increased,” Collazo said.


Meltzer said that a professional assessment of the potential IP video design should also account for the customer’s corporate culture, physical location, lighting, business practices and any associated risks or vulnerabilities.


“Analyzing lighting, the environment, bandwidth and storage needs, and camera optics are a science, while designing a system to meet security best practices is an art,” he said.


As prices decline and IP video becomes more accessible, there is tremendous opportunity in the small system market for electrical contractors. Collazo said contractors should break into the IP surveillance market to focus on smaller projects because they wouldn’t be in competition with traditional security installers, integrators, or with IT integrators, who may have stronger knowledge of this technology.


Electrical contractors that already have a low-voltage group and have experience with running network infrastructure, however, have the advantage since nearly all security hardware is moving to IP. Meltzer said contractors should keep up with training, IP video and networking certifications, and the latest techniques to enhance their value in this field.