A checklist for jumping from analog to IP surveillance

Nov. 1, 2011
One of the most challenging dilemmas that security managers face is when and how to take the leap from an analog to an Internet Protocol ...

The transition can be made in an effective, cost-efficient manner.

By Mark S. Wilson, Infinova

One of the most challenging dilemmas that security managers face is when and how to take the leap from an analog to an Internet Protocol (IP)/digital video system. They want to jump to IP surveillance but in a cost-managed way that extends the life of existing equipment. For most sites, this migration will take place gradually and, during the process, analog and IP solutions will have to coexist, in some cases, for many years to come.

Managers making the transition must consider five major system areas.

  • Cameras
  • Transmission and cabling, including power supplies
  • Storage and retrieval
  • Command and control
  • Integration

Throw out or keep analog cameras?

A key consideration for security professionals is whether or not the existing cameras or new IP versions will provide the image quality needed to achieve the system’s functional requirements. Different applications have different requirements; some users require the ability to see and track suspects in changing lighting conditions while others simply need to see that a corridor is clear. In many migration plans, specific locations of greater vulnerability or image-detail requirements are ideal places for IP-based cameras, including megapixel and high-definition models. One needs to ask if higher-resolution cameras can help at each location.

As part of a coexistence plan, analog-to-digital encoders at the camera end can transform images from an analog camera to digital transmission and storage. The analog control-room equipment gets scrapped but the new control-room equipment controls the already-installed analog cameras.

In another approach, the existing analog equipment, including cameras, control room, video wall and cabling remains untouched. Video management system (VMS) software, integrated with the present keyboard, sits on top of the system to manage the new IP equipment and the already-installed analog system.

Budget can dictate transmission choices

Coaxial, shielded twisted-pair and unshielded twisted-pair cable, fiber optics and—to a lesser degree—a variety of wireless approaches carry most security video. The difference and business advantage of the various transmission schemes are in cost of installation and cost of maintenance. A question to ask is whether or not the new IP cameras will eliminate long-distance analog cabling.

High-definition (HD) 360 continuous rotational megapixel IP PTZ dome cameras with 1.3-megapixel resolution will provide high-definition video output as both an IP and an analog YPbPr signal.

One strategy to handle both analog and digital networks is to transmit all the signals over a single fiber-optic cable that is secure and immune to electrical or environmental interference. Installation is dramatically simplified by eliminating the need for multiple fibers, transmitters and receivers. Not to be forgotten are power supplies. Following a coexistence plan, power supplies that are multi-tap, addressable and programmable have advantages.

Other considerations include the increased bandwidth impact on the enterprise’s network. This is a tricky assignment. Will newer types of compression, decompression or codec, such as H.264, reduce bandwidth traffic load but at a cost of more storage and command-center processing? Can the budget afford the transmission and storage associated with megapixel cameras?

Storage and retrieval challenges

Though being analog-based, most security organizations already have digital and network video recorders for storage and retrieval. However, storage solutions have their own challenges, thanks to myriad features and benefits that can range from common specs to helpful elements such as intelligent pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) control with preset positions and email or SMS message notification upon motion detection or event alerts.

At the camera edge, and catching on, security managers are also deploying secure digital (SD) storage cards as well. This is especially important in applications where loss of connection to the rest of the system could lead to lost images.

Regardless, you must consider several questions before selecting one mode or another on the pathway to IP.

  • If the video is being monitored from a remote location (and it typically is), will one get exception reporting?
  • Do files ever need to be shared with other departments, including law enforcement, in real time?
  • How much does one need to record and how long does one need to keep those recordings?

Command-and-control options

There is a lot to consider with command and control. Traditional matrix switching and joysticks are workhorses, but in a fast-approaching software world, a solid next step is the consideration of networked video matrix switchers.

Traditionally, in the leap from analog to digital video, organizations convert analog signals to digital signals by buying and installing rack encoders for their bank of analog cameras. They replace the analog control-room equipment with new IP control-room equipment. This can be quite expensive at the front end.

Some believe that a better way is to create a coexistent system. In this scheme, the system keyboards connect to a VMS, not the matrix switchers. The analog side of the coexisting system stays untouched. Nothing is added to it. However, because the VMS sits on top of the system, operators use their traditional keyboard commands to manage both the analog and digital solutions.

That is because the VMS interfaces with both the system’s analog matrix switchers as well as the IP cameras. As a result, on the combined video wall, the analog and IP solutions coexist but are still separate. Transparent to the operator, with no mouse needed, the system sends IP camera images to the digital monitors and analog camera signals to the analog monitors. With this solution, agencies can begin using an IP solution by adding IP cameras, digital monitors and an appropriate VMS.

Integration and the bottom line

True security systems integration is a goal of most security operations. Beyond relays and interfaces, seamless integration of security video with electronic access control, intrusion, perimeter and identification systems is a beneficial endpoint of any operation and one made simpler through IP.

No matter the speed of the changeover, a solid plan is one in which both analog and IP cameras can coexist. Such coexistence increases security’s overall situational and domain awareness, improves its operational effectiveness and efficiencies, and provides a growth plan that extends the life of existing equipment, is affordable and is easy to manage.

Mark S. Wilson is vice president of marketing at Infinova (www.infinova.com).

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