Integration Intelligence: INNOVATION: A GRACEFUL BALANCE
Bring on New Tech, as Long as It Makes Sense for Integrators and Users
SDM recently attended a conference for integrators and end users hosted by i3DVR International, a digital video recording company based in Scarborough, Ontario. At the conference, we interviewed Vy Hoang, executive vice president of sales and marketing, about i3DVR’s approach to the market and its outlook on technology development that addresses both professional installers and end users.
Hoang: i3 wants to be viewed as a company that’s very progressive in its thinking â€” a company willing to change for the right reasons. In the industry today, we really want to be known as the leaders, the innovators.We want to go forward and start setting trends.
SDM:What are the most significant recent technology developments that i3DVR has brought to market?
Hoang: Two years ago we were the first ones to bring in a point-of-sale (POS) solution that competed with a top POS company at that time. A year after that, we brought in some video logic, or analytics, that resided inside the DVR and not on the box. We believed in doing that because we wanted to bring the cost down.
This year we really believe in the hybrid path in digital video recording. Two years ago [at our user and integrator conference] our group said they needed something that could be expandable, that could bring them into IP. But they were terrified. They are not IT savvy. They are still used to pulling cable and hooking to a DVR. They’re barely training their staff on how to set up a DVR much less going into IP.
We saw that the integrator was very worried, and we knew that IP was coming very fast, but we had to have a transition for these people. We couldn’t go into the integrators and say, “we’re going to IP today and there’s nothing you can do.” By bringing it in slowly, we achieved, one, being able to train their salespeople to talk intelligently about IP; and, two, that the actual tech side of that company install small components of it. It’s a comfort level.
IP guys are great at [networking] equipment, but not camera angles and lighting conditions. Camera guys are great at camera angles and lighting conditions, but not IP. You have to slowly bring up their confidence in selling it and installing it. Once you achieve that, then you can turn the switch.
SDM: Does a hybrid approach to digital video make the most sense to most end-users today?
Hoang: End users are saying, “I want to go IP.” The integrator quotes on an IP system. The end user sees the price and his jaw drops. He says, “What are my other selections?” So the integrator quotes a DVR system. The end user says, “That’s more acceptable.”
The hybrid, to us, takes an analog signal which is more affordable right now â€” and in certain buildings you don’t need IP. At the same time, some schools are asking for IP because they have the infrastructure to do that. If I’m going to commit to spending $10,000 or $100,000 over 10 buildings, I want to know that three years from now I can use all IP cameras. A true hybrid should [allow you to] take on analog signals into the DVR to get the cost savings, but at the same time you should be able to expand and eventually go full IP.
The final part of that is very important. You must stay open architecture on the IP. You’re recording one type of compression on your DVR, whether motion JPEG or MPEG. Then the easiest way to create some type of hybrid is to create the same compression model to transmit that signal and record it on the software or server that’s on that DVR. The key factor is you have to be open architecture on the IP side, just as you are with cameras.
When it comes to IP, everybody has a different standard. It’s important for any company to handle analog camera and multiple different IP signals at the same time, so the customer is not driven to use just your product. You have a choice when it comes to cameras, encoders. We want to give people the choice to bring all these different technologies together and at a cost-effective level. The company that’s going to come to the forefront is the one that’s going to make sure that all these companies’ products can work together and at a cost that’s affordable.
Hoang: Currently you have two types of operating systems (OS). The predominate one used is a simple box with a mother board and CPU and some kind of operating system that’s not moving. Our operating drive resides on the hard drive even though we’ve taken steps to separate it from the other part of the drive.
Most viruses are caused because people can write to the place where the operating drive resides, because they have certain ways they can get to that operating drive. Windows and others give people the ability to go through the back door and execute these viruses. That’s the weakness and you take away that weakness: you embed the OS. You tell it only what you need it to do and that’s it. It’s an embedded kernel and nothing gets to that; it takes very little time to boot up and because there’s no moving parts. It never fails because there’s nothing running on it.
The price of the embedded chip to put onto a standard mother board has come down dramatically. The problem was that little chip that would have cost $300 or $400 a year ago; it now has come down to $40.
SDM: Video analytics â€” some end-users say it is still in its infancy. What do you believe are the next technology break-outs beyond object recognition and tracking?
Hoang: Video analytics â€” I think it’s unlimited. The next tech push will be to use the server, which depends on a chip, to record and the next push is to put all that intelligence into the chip. To have actionable intelligence before it gets to the DVR or software, with as much information as possible.
It’s intelligence built into the data before it’s even stored. It’s going to get to a point that the data, because it’s so massive (some users require 90 days, or even a year’s worth of data), the only way to do that is build intelligence within the software to categorize the data. What our industry is asking for is, “now that I have all this data, how can I better massage the data to give me what I want?”
The next big issue for our company is, “How do you manage this data and give people a simplified search?” The only way you can do that is to have it on the chip before it’s streamed over the network or stored. The big trend is metadata stored with the video data â€” to make search criteria much easier.
SDM: i3DVR’s newest system is the SRX PRO, an IP-hybrid digital video management system. What does it offer that other i3DVR products don’t?
Hoang: It offers people a road map for the next five years. The other was very stable, but it was old. Now we think by moving onto the SRX PRO, we’re good for the next five years. We’ve addressed usage of mega-pixel cameras; we’ve addressed the issue with IP; we’ve addressed the issue of remote storage. The software has to be flexible enough where we can take that data and transfer it to any format on a network. Everybody is asking for redundancy, but the cost is too high. Media has changed so much that there is other affordable media.
SDM: End-users fast want to use up the additional drive capacity that hard disk drive manufacturers are providing. What challenges does that present to companies like i3DVR?
Hoang: The big challenge of having new product â€” and it’s not just the hard drive; it’s commodity product like the mother board, serial cards, anything like that â€” because the technology changes so quickly, the hard drive, mother boards, etc., could change within six months.
Although it’s great to have faster chips and more capacity, for us stability is what’s going to matter. Although some of our integrators want us to go to the latest and greatest platform, we watch the market and see what the feedback is and slowly feed it in. We’re very careful when it comes to releasing new products and testing continuously what products we have. It’s a challenge when products change so rapidly.