Digital video management software ties together a video surveillance system, allowing users access to and control of functions such as camera pan/tilt/zoom, altering recording parameters, viewing recorded video and printing still photos. Some video management software may even provide video analytic capabilities.

Software controlling such functions once resided on older DVR systems. But currently, the trend is toward IP-based systems, with those systems being managed by digital video management software.

“Because you’re dealing with an IP-based system, you have a lot more expandability and can control the system from virtually anywhere, as long as you can tap into the network,” says Margie Gurwin, director of marketing for Hauppauge, NY-based Vicon Industries Inc., a developer of digital video management systems.

“You can interface with other security software like access control software, or video intelligence software, sometimes built right into the video management software,” Gurwin notes.

Advanced video management systems’ capabilities benefit surveillance and security teams in live and investigative (or archived video forensics) mode, says Dave Tynan, vice president of global sales and marketing for Vancouver-based Avigilon Corp., a provider of high-definition surveillance systems.

In live mode, the video management system has the ability to monitor dozens, hundreds or even thousands of cameras. And by establishing a logical rule set — in other words, “if X happens, take Y action” — users can elevate specific actions for decision-making. “For instance, if a specific door is opened, the video management system can be set to instantaneously populate the monitor with the specific camera view capturing an individual entering through that specific door,” Tynan relates.

“Rather than attempting to watch hundreds of cameras, and risking the surveillance professional missing a specific action, the video management system captures the event so that the quality of surveillance and the integrity of the defense are dramatically improved versus conventional approaches,” he says.

With the addition of megapixel cameras to video management system consoles, users have the detail available to identify individuals and actions instantaneously, Tynan adds.

Among the many features offered by advanced video management systems are all of the following, Tynan continues:

Each camera within a video management system can be configured with its own motion detection zones and planes, which can activate alarms in either a live scene or aid in finding actions during an investigation.

Privacy zones can be set up within each camera scene, in order to ensure individuals or sensitive areas are kept private.

Investigations can be aided with a timeline bar, in which users can fast forward, reverse or shuttle through video to locate specific activities. Thumbnail views can be populated on a screen to aid investigations. Searches can be conducted by pixel changes to determine when an item was taken.

Graphic maps can be added into advanced video management systems, and camera locations can be added to these maps to help identify an area immediately when an alarm is deployed.


From the perspective of users, video management systems all are designed to address the same essential mission, says Dan Rittman, vice president of engineering for Exacq Technologies Inc., of Indianapolis. That mission is to record video to allow it to be viewed to assess an incident of concern to security professionals, he says.

Steve Surfaro, strategic channel manager with Chelmsford, Mass.-based Axis Communications, a global provider of network cameras and applied video solutions, takes the definition of video management systems further.

“A video management system’s functions are aligned with the four primary purposes of video surveillance systems,” Surfaro says.

“The first is observation, to allow for live viewing of video sources. The second is for forensic review of video, and management of that video. The third is for the investigation of various events that can be linked to externally integrated systems and video information. The fourth is for running video analytics and video analysis.”

Surfaro argues a fifth purpose exists, as well. A number of video management systems function as the category of physical security information management (PSIM). The PSIM acts as a consistent gateway and common user interface for multiple subsystems, among them access control and mass communications, Surfaro says.

A truly intelligent video surveillance management system does more than just control cameras and recorders over an IP platform, observes Gadi Piran, president and chief technology officer with OnNet Surveillance Systems, also known as OnSSI, of Pearl River, NY. It also delivers video detection, analysis, delivery and response.

“Using advanced video analytics, a video management system can identify incidents, notify personnel, and manage response from both desktop and control room video environments,” he reports. “The more sophisticated the software, the more intuitive the interface will be, and the easier to use. Functioning on a networked platform, a video management solution is fully scalable on an enterprise level.”

The ability of devices from various manufacturers to interface with digital video management software isn’t a long-standing phenomenon. As we entered the world of IP protocol, cameras from each maker tended to be different and required different software.

“What’s happening now is that manufacturers are sharing with each other the protocols necessary for the equipment to speak to each other,” Gurwin explains. “The result is end users in theory have more choice in picking and choosing other manufacturers’ IP cameras to use with their systems.”

The key is this works in theory, Gurwin adds. One reason for embracing open architecture systems is to integrate IP cameras from differing manufacturers that are already in place. To acquire software independent of those IP cameras would seem to offer additional levels of freedom, Gurwin says. The downside, however, is a system integrating cameras from myriad manufacturers and software from an entirely different manufacturer is never going to work as well as a system incorporating devices manufactured from the start to work together as a complete solution, she asserts.

“That’s because you have different sets of manufacturers relying on sharing information and accommodating their systems based on information they received,” she explains. “IP camera manufacturers upgrade their firmware, and all of a sudden your digital video management software doesn’t talk to the camera so well anymore. In addition, maybe the camera manufacturer is not willing to share all the information in how to control the camera, because that information is proprietary.”

There are also support issues to consider, she adds. When one camera isn’t functioning properly, who will provide the support needed to solve the problem? Users can call the video management software company whose product ties all components together. “They can help you a little bit, but eventually you’ll have to call your camera manufacturer,” Gurwin says.

“The result is that in many cases IT directors will choose to go with all cameras from the same manufacturer as the software, even though they want to say that in theory they don’t have to do that.”


Security dealers and systems integrators face a daunting task in making the best determination as to which video management software systems to recommend. According to Piran, even basic systems should be engineered to provide maximum functionality, convenience and ease of use. Users try to optimize return on investment, and they won’t achieve that return on complex systems that require significant hardware installation/integration just to control and manage surveillance cameras and recorders.

In addition, “conformance to existing IT standards, and the ability to leverage an IP network technology, should be requirements when dealers or integrators select video surveillance systems on which to standardize and resell,” Piran says.

For his part, Surfaro asserts security dealers and systems integrators must keep top of mind the perspective of the end user for whom the integrator is designing the system.

“A retail or loss prevention professional might require a fast camera control to allow a user to keep up with investigations linked to various video events, and view possible thefts within the retail establishment,” he says. “A gaming and surveillance professional will also need superior camera control, the ability to display many video channels at once, and the ability to provide instant playback of multiple video sources near a gaming table simultaneously,” Surfaro notes.

Video management systems need to be sufficiently diverse and scalable to support many kinds of smaller applications, such as quick-serve restaurants and other small- to medium-size businesses managed from central station providers delivering Software As A Service (SAAS) remote management and monitoring service, he says.

As a result, the security dealer or integrator needs to consider scalability of the system and user focus, as well as prices and features. Integration with other security subsystems, such as access control, is another large factor, Surfaro adds.

J.M. Allain, president of Secaucus, N.J.-based Panasonic System Solutions Company, is another expert who argues the needs of each individual customer determine the best solution in video management systems. “Different systems have different feature sets,” Allain says. “Some are more advanced, and include comprehensive camera control for pan/ tilt/zoom, video analytics and more. The number of cameras, recorders and other devices to be supported also varies. As with any element of a video surveillance system, it is nearly impossible to standardize a solution given the tremendous variation in application needs and utilization.”

Rittman believes the two most important qualities a digital video management system can offer are that it be intuitive and easy to use.

Video management software, for example, should permit security dealers and systems integrators to use a common user interface to configure cameras from two different makers — one set acquired to provide outstanding images and the other set offering greater affordability. “The point of learning one type of software is to avoid having to master 10 kinds, one for each kind of camera you use,” Rittman points out.

It’s also important to note, he says, that the reason video management systems are deployed is to learn what happened in a security breach.

In larger companies, that task falls to a security professional whose full-time job is to manage the video and interact with police. “But in many cases, there isn’t a budget for such a security professional,” Rittman says. “It’s just the owner [using the system]. Once a month, he may have to use the search feature. He is likely to use that infrequently, so it must be easy to use when he does use it.”


The new breed of software applications is all XML-based, meaning the applications can communicate not with just newer equipment, but older equipment as well. The result is that security dealers and systems integrators aren’t compelled any longer to purchase all their hardware as well as their software from the same provider.

How does XML make this a reality? XML creates an Application Programming Interface, or API, through the method of communicating event information between systems, Surfaro says. The path of a successful integration begins by working with a product with standardized and consistent API throughout its product line. Because the API allows for communications between systems, XML will not necessarily encourage systems integration, he notes.

However, efforts to create industry standards, including ONVIF ( and The Security Industry Associaiton’s OSIPS (, strive to create consistent binding, such as XML, and common API that allow cameras, access control and video management systems to communicate in the same way, Surfaro says.

From his perspective, Piran reports XML creates a common communications language. “XML makes it possible to engineer interoperability between systems, something manufacturers as well as integrators and dealers have taken advantage of by partnering and offering SDKs to foster this kind of openness,” Piran explains. “End users will continue to benefit, as it allows them to bring disparate operational systems such as video surveillance, access control and POS together into one solution.”

By identifying structures within documents and defining a standard way to add markup to documents, XML makes it possible for different operational systems to communicate and work together to form a single solution, Allain notes.