Trends in video integration:The Need for Open Book Design
A security manager for a large corporation comes in from a long Memorial Day holiday weekend and reviews the security logs for the time he was away. He sees a line of type in his access control log saying that someone was attempting an unauthorized entrance to a highly secure area of the facility on Memorial Day itself, when no regular employees were present.
He reviews his access control logs to see whose card was being used to try to enter. Unfortunately, he has no way of confirming whether that person actually was attempting entry or someone else was using the personâ€™s card because the corporationâ€™s video system is not integrated with its access control system.
The employee can simply say he or she lost the access card. If a guard service were notified of the attempted entry, the person could have slipped away before the guard would have arrived.
Mel Mahler, CEO and co-owner of ADS Security LP, Nashville, Tenn., emphasizes that video and access are the most typical integration among his customers.
â€œFor example, if youâ€™re checking on whether someone is stealing from you, and they have their own code, and you see the time they hit the door, you can check with the video at the same time and see if the person with the key is the same person that is supposed to have the key, or if they have things in their arms as they exit,â€? Mahler points out.
He estimates his companyâ€™s growth at 10 percent to 12 percent overall, but access and video are each growing at almost double that rate to an estimated 22 percent, Mahler reports. â€œWe almost always sell a system like that together,â€? he says of access and video systems.
Observes Bob McCarthy, vice president of technology for Dedicated Micros, Chantilly, Va., â€œA more advanced integration might be where the access control system or loss prevention sends a notice to the DVR.
â€œWhat a lot of DVRs can do when theyâ€™re notified is change from a standard record rate such as one picture per second, up to a higher record rate such as 30 frames per second or so, since there is something definitely going on,â€? McCarthy points out. â€œIt can try to capture higher quality video of that event.â€?
Several years ago, that type of integration might have been accomplished through a relay output on the access control system, which would trigger an alarm input on the DVR, McCarthy explains. The DVR also might use motion detection.
Hardwired alarms were the first method for devices to communicate with each other. The second phase was RS 232 communication, which many end users simply skipped and went straight to software to send information over the local area network (LAN) or the Internet, he remembers.
An advanced integration for point-of-sale would be to correlate the data of each transaction from the point-of-sale register with the video of the transaction. â€œYou could put a Y cable in there and listen to the data going by,â€? McCarthy suggests. â€œYou could have a little interface box that would take everything sent to the printer and strip away the unprintable text and send it into the DVRâ€™s serial port.â€?
Frank Ramos, product line manager for digital video recording, Honeywell Video Systems, Louisville, Ky., sees demand for video integration from central stations that are receiving video for verification and other purposes such as virtual guard tours.
â€œThe whole push is to have one look, one feel for the operator of any given central station, so they donâ€™t have to learn all these different DVR interfaces,â€? Ramos notes. â€œThey want the stream to come to the operator in a graphical user interface (GUI) that the operator is familiar with.â€?
The video usually would arrive at the central station via a phone or broadband connection separate from the communication format used by the alarm panel, Ramos declares. â€œAt the central station they combine the two user interfaces,â€? he explains.
Integration MethodsIntegrating many times involves dealing with existing systems, such as CCTV matrix head-ends, in which analog cameras are connected to the head-end and distributed to a large number of VCRs or DVRs for recording, explains Tim Rohrbach, vice president and chief information officer of MDI Inc., San Antonio, Texas.
â€œI can take your CCTV matrix head-end and attach it to their DVR and fully integrate it into an access control system,â€? he declares. â€œBefore, that was something you could not do. In some cases, these infrastructures are huge, and they may have other systems working with CCTV and head-end.
â€œThey just donâ€™t want to rip it out or go through the integration effort that may be part of that process, but expand the capability of the system,â€? he explains. â€œThatâ€™s one of the obstacles the industry has to face every day.â€?
Whatever integration information is needed can be sent to the software as data via a network or a serial or hardwired interface, he suggests. â€œWe would take that information and post it on a monitor, and through that event you can create other events,â€? Rohrbach explains. â€œAll it is to us is data.
â€œIf you look at the market, that is where it is going,â€? he predicts. â€œEnd users want more open architecture systems that do not limit them in the scope or the type of hardware that they can put on their site.
He adds that intelligence is being moved to the device level. â€œA lot of people want to push intelligence to the camera level,â€? Rohrbach believes. â€œThatâ€™s the direction weâ€™re trying to head in, and the direction the market is going.â€?
When given the choice, using software to integrate systems rather than wiring is best, Boschâ€™s Lott thinks. â€œI donâ€™t remember the last time I spoke with integrators or installers that prefer hard wire over software,â€? he remarks. â€œIf they already have alarm contacts run and the wires readily available, thatâ€™s not a problem, and thatâ€™s why we continue to support that. We havenâ€™t made any developments on any of the technology that we produce without having some type of hardwire alarm contact there.â€?
Because standardization of security systems is still an elusive dream, creating application program interfaces (APIs), middleware, and software development kits (SDKs) is the norm.
Rob Morello, product sales manager â€“ digital systems for Pelco, Clovis, Calif., thinks interfaces with other products should not favor one over another.
â€œSo if we create one interface for one vendor, theyâ€™re the only person that can use it, but if we create an interface that is vendor-agnostic, then any third-party manufacturer that wants to grab a video stream just needs to identify it and can grab it too,â€? Morello points out. â€œSo the challenge manufacturers have is, how do you prepare an interface that talks to everyone from access control to elevator controls?â€?
â€œWe are not going to send this out to anyone who doesnâ€™t know how to write code, but it makes it very easy for a third-party manufacturer to develop to our schedule,â€? Morello notes. â€œIt really reduces the lead time significantly for development on their part.â€?
GEâ€™s Siegel thinks middleware is the same as a software development kit (SDK). â€œMiddleware can use a short SDK or application program interface (API),â€? he maintains. â€œMost video manufacturers donâ€™t have middleware, but I know that is an area we are investing in heavily.â€?
SDKs document the exact message to send in the required format to request video from a system, explains McCarthy of Dedicated Micros. Who pays for an SDK depends on several factors, he declares.
Being a popular DVR supplier means more companies want to integrate with his products than vice versa, he says. So he estimates that more than 50 percent of the opportunities for an integration his company turns down.
Adds Boschâ€™s Lott, â€œThere are some integrators out there who can do it themselves, but thatâ€™s more along the lines of your more advanced integrators,â€? he concedes. â€œSuch integrators would have to have somebody on staff with some type of knowledge of actual programming code. For those larger integrators who are more savvy about computer code, they could certainly handle that, and thereâ€™s a number of them that do that work by themselves.â€?
McCarthy estimates fewer than 10 percent of security dealers and systems integrators have software programmers on staff who can write SDKs. There are advantage for vendors writing their own SDKs.
â€œOnce you put something together, itâ€™s basically a toolkit for writing applications to use and control your system,â€? McCarthy points out. â€œSo if youâ€™ve gone to the trouble of creating an SDK, itâ€™s easier to build your own tools more quickly.â€?
Side bar:â€œVery few people have made their systems widely open and available to date,â€? asserts Robert Siegel, general manager of video and software solutions for GE Security, Bradenton, Fla. â€œI believe customers are going to force us to do that in the next few years.â€?
Why Should Manufacturers Open their Products?
Some manufacturers want to control all aspects of their security systems, he concedes. â€œBut GE is not a believer in that,â€? Siegel insists. â€œWeâ€™re a believer that one day itâ€™s going to be open and people are going to want it to be open.
â€œI can tell you that in the future, all the major players who longer term want to be in the security business are going to offer customers a highly flexible, highly open and highly integrated system,â€? he maintains.
Sergio Collazo, national sales and marketing manager for Toshiba Surveillance and IP Video Products Group, Irvine, Calif., adds, â€œThe days of proprietary video systems really are coming to an end, because now itâ€™s not a closed circuit system anymore; itâ€™s an open system, so the fact that things are moving away from analog to IP accelerates the need for integration on many levels.
â€œAs time rolls forward, having the ability to interface with many different technologies and have manufacturers share information is going to benefit the end user,â€? Collazo predicts. â€œThis is already happening.
â€œPart of our mantra here is expanding who we interface with,â€? he reports. â€œYou canâ€™t operate in a vacuum.â€?
Frank Ramos, product line manager for digital video recording, Honeywell Video Systems, Louisville, Ky., agrees that open architecture is the direction in which the industry is heading. â€œWeâ€™re following the same PC trend, that people can use the best of technologies with various suppliers,â€? he declares.
â€œObviously, you can provide the best solution if youâ€™re doing a complete solution from video to access to alarm, so we would love to sell the entire system, but thatâ€™s not always reality, and a lot of times video is being added to an existing system,â€? he concedes. â€œSo if you want to be able to play in that market, you need to be open to third-party programs.â€?
Side bar:More integration means more reliable and stronger power supplies are needed, points out Alan Forman, president of Altronix Corp., Brooklyn, N.Y.
â€œAs video, access control and related security systems continue to become more integrated, the selection of power products becomes more critical and specific based on the combination of components requiring power and related technologies, such as IP connection, PTZ and access control protocols,â€? Forman emphasizes.
He observes that precise power sources are needed for specific integration requirements.
â€œIf the power goes down or is incorrectly specified, it doesnâ€™t really matter how sophisticated your system is â€“ it simply wonâ€™t work,â€? Forman notes.
Whether a power system is wall- or rack-mounted also is important to specific applications, he notes. â€œThe wide variety of power and physical configurations assures that designers and installers have access to the solution most appropriate for their application,â€? Forman explains.
He sees a bright future for integration of security systems.
â€œGiven the software-centric nature of todayâ€™s integrated and, most often, networked system solutions, system designer/installers have limitless possibilities,â€? he concludes. â€œTheoretically, any combination of systems can be integrated with the appropriate software.â€?
Side bar:An application program interface (API) is the way software engineers access a productâ€™s software development kit (SDK), explains Ken Davis, manager, product management for digital video management systems, Tyco Fire and Security, American Dynamics brand, Boca Raton, Fla.
How APIs and SDKs Work Together
â€œThe SDK is a toolkit to access the API,â€? he declares. â€œThe API is the actual interface, the window or door into your software. A comprehensive API means that the majority of the functions you can do in your DVR you could also control or extend from a third-party product.â€?
An access control company using a good SDK from a DVR manufacturer would receive a software sample in the SDK that would explain how to control a dome camera, play back video or handle alarms.
â€œYears ago, you just got an API and had to figure out a protocol on your own,â€? Davis remembers. SDKs encourage third-party developers, he notes.
â€œItâ€™s a nice litmus test for a customer to see what type of API and SDK are available,â€? he declares. â€œI can tell how complete the product is and how comprehensive it is by what type of API and SDK they have. It is a major differentiator between a start-up or fly-by-night DVR company.â€?