The control room of Palmetto Health Baptist, an acute care medical center in Columbia, S.C., has a new video management system from Vicon, the Kollector Elite 240.

Wondering how to prove the return-on-investment of a video management solution to your client? There are all kinds of ways to demonstrate this system’s financial value.

Basic video surveillance installations today typically rely on digital video recorders for system management. DVRs provide essential functionality such as time-stamping and search capabilities and often provide video motion detection, which can be used to trigger recording or other functions. But some organizations find that they are better served by using a video management system, which typically consists of software that runs on a personal computer or workstation.

Most video management systems use a distributed approach, with storage handled by separate devices that may be located across town or even across the country, communicating with the video management system via an Internet protocol connection. When a video management system is used, IP image encoding typically occurs at the camera. Video management systems also may provide more sophisticated functionality than users can obtain from a DVR.

“If you want sophisticated intrusion protection, you need video management,” comments Jason Schmitt, vice president of products for Atlanta-based video management vendor Steelbox Networks. “It’s about how video is presented in an automated way. A video management architecture enables you to take external inputs and store data and make intelligent decisions about what to do with the video based on that.”

Depending on the specific configuration, video management systems may be more costly than using a DVR. But more and more customers are finding that the extra cost is worth it.

Virtual Tracker uses human analytics to allow an operator to locate and follow a person across multiple cameras or NVRs.


Considering that a typical DVR supports no more than 32 cameras, customers with large installations may turn to a video management system to simplify the process of managing and viewing camera inputs. It’s not difficult to cost-justify the investment in a video management if a system has 50 to 100 cameras or more, manufacturers say.

With a video management system, a single security employee can manage several hundred sites, notes Peter Wilenius, vice president of corporate development for March Networks, an Ottawa, Ont.-based video management developer. “Otherwise you’ll start adding bodies every time you add sites.”

But sometimes, even customers with relatively few cameras may want video management systems because of other benefits those systems can provide. For example, some customers may like the modular approach used with video management systems because it enables them to choose “best of breed” equipment for different functions such as running software, storage and video analytics. Video management systems also bring a consistency to an organization’s security operations and can simplify training requirements — a cost benefit on which some customers may be able to put a dollar value.

Clients may be able to justify the investment in a video management system because they can gain economies of scale through equipment standardization, notes Marc Holtenhoff, CEO of Waterloo, Ont.-based video management and video analytics supplier Aimetis. “It simplifies the number of vendors,” Holtenhoff says. “If you have 20 different DVR and camera manufacturers, there is a cost associated with that. What if you had one vendor? You could get better support at a lower price.”

For customers that rely heavily on information technology (and that includes a wide range of organizations today), the hardware required for a video management system may be viewed as just another workstation or computer the company needs to buy. And the organization may be able to leverage its IT buying power to get the best pricing.

The use of standard IT equipment can be a big plus if IT personnel are making the purchase decision, notes Andrew Wren, president of Wren Solutions of Jefferson City, Mo., another video management supplier. Wren’s company often encounters such decision-makers when it sells to educational markets.

“A DVR was a black box they knew nothing about,” Wren observes. “When we come in and say, ‘We’ll give you a network device and camera and the rest is your world,’ they realize they won’t need as many service calls. If they’re a Cisco or HP shop, they know how to manage and buy the equipment. And they’re asking us to do more things with video. In the past it sat in a closet.”

As clients do more with their video, they also may be able to see a quicker return on investment in a video management system. “Increasingly security equipment is being used for things other than security and that speeds up the ROI,” notes Margie Gurwin, director of marketing for Hauppauge, N.Y.-based video management system vendor Vicon. For example, she says, a retailer might use a video management system to monitor checkout lines to help ensure that additional registers are opened if needed.

Not every decision-maker thinks in terms of return on investment. Some are more oriented toward the concept of total cost of ownership (TCO), notes Gadi Piran, president and chief technology officer of video management supplier, On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI), Suffern, N.Y. “It’s possible to calculate TCO for video surveillance systems based on initial design and installation expenses, projected equipment failure rates, operational costs, maintenance and training relative to other systems or measures you are evaluating,” Piran explains.


An important reason some organizations opt for a video management system is because they want to integrate video surveillance with other devices, such as access control systems or video analytics.

Users likely will be more comfortable using a video management system as the master control, notes Randall Foster, CEO and co-founder of Atlanta-based vendor Vumii, which offers video analytics that can be used with various video management systems. “It’s much more intuitive for a user to operate within a visual environment,” he says.

If a client wants to use video analytics, it may not be absolutely necessary to use a video management system. But Schmitt argues that video analytics systems that do not have that requirement tend to be less sophisticated. A few video management systems have built-in analytics.

Video analytics often can minimize the time required to respond to an event, enhance the effectiveness of that response, and minimize the monitoring personnel required.

Steelbox Networks’ management console, Steelbox Studio, enables simultaneous viewing of live and recorded video within a single interface.


As an alternative to video management systems, some clients may benefit from using a similar, but even more sophisticated type of system known as situation management. Such systems typically provide all the functionality of video management systems, and then some. In addition to monitoring and controlling video and video analytics, they also may be able to monitor and control computer-aided dispatch systems, RFID devices, specialty sensors such as those installed on major highways and more.

“They want to have an emergency operations center that gives them the whole picture, not the pieces,” explains David Fowler, senior vice president of product development and marketing for situation management vendor VidSys of Vienna, Va. “Most places use humans to pass information back and forth because their systems are not compatible.”

Situation management systems not only help first responders do a better job, they also can reduce the cost of emergency response. Another benefit is that they can minimize the time first responders spend dealing with false alarms, notes Rafi Bhonker, vice president of marketing for another situation management supplier, New York City-based Orsus. “If you get notification from the video monitors that there’s an alarm in a certain area, you can complement it by looking at the volume detection system,” Bhonker comments.

Although situation management systems can cost millions or even tens of millions of dollars, Fowler says they often can be cost-justified more easily than one might expect. “In most cases clients are already spending the money in individual departments,” he says. “Often they can reduce the budget for a department if they can share assets.”