The features and functionality of video management systems (VMS) have grown tremendously in the last couple of years, and there are more and more advancements coming today and in the future. Today there are several trends occurring in the VMS space, including the “hardwarization” of VMS and the impact of standards and open platforms; the two most prominent and compelling trends are increased integration with other systems (including non-security systems) and the cloud.
While VMS solutions have been used historically for video surveillance applications, that is changing. Today’s VMS are integrating that video with other systems, including access control as well as other non-security systems — because that’s what end users want.
“The demand for VMS to easily integrate with other security and non-security systems, such as video analytics, point-of-sale and business management systems, is growing,” says Mike Scirica, vice president of marketing and sales for West Palm Beach, Fla.-based WavestoreUSA.
Adding these additional features, functions and systems is also good for installers and integrators, says Gadi Piran, president of Pearl River, N.J.-based OnSSI.
“Video is just one component in the overall security operation and a VMS needs to integrate with other systems, including access control, video content analytics to pinpoint detection of behaviors and movements, license plate recognition, facial recognition, hazmat detectors and others,” he says. “This not only enables the installer to optimize the system to the job at hand, it also reduces long-term service as it is easier to change components.”
There’s a relatively large menu of products, technologies and systems available for VMS integration, but at the moment they’re not being used as much as they could be, which installers and integrators should see as an opportunity, Scirica says.
“There are many options available today but only early adopters are using right now. There is plenty of opportunity with existing technology and as new innovations, such as video analytics and PSIM, become proven in the field, more users will look to move to those platforms to gain more situational awareness,” Scirica says.
As the scope of VMS integrations increases, it’s going to be driven by end users adopting the new functionalities. In other words, the more end users embrace these integrated systems, the better they’ll become.
“The ratio of integrated to non-integrated systems varies by technologies being paired. It seems more common to integrate POS with video than access control and video, although those as well as other integrated systems share similar and high levels of interest. The quality of the integrations tends to follow percentage of deployments using the integration features,” says Brian Carle, director of product strategy for Salient Systems, located in Austin, Texas. “As a result of the relatively low number of installations deploying integrated systems many integrations lack feature sets. It’s important for consumers to not only determine whether products can be integrated but also the depth of the integration feature set.”
According to Reinier Tuinzing, strategic alliance manager, America, for Milestone Systems, based in Beaverton, Ore., increasingly knowledgeable and savvy end users will drive the growth and expansion of these multi-faceted systems.
“Clearly the opportunity for installers and integrators is the shift to video installations integrated with other security and business systems. As customers learn more about what is possible — and real — they will start to request new functionality to extend their investment in a video system. This is no longer a basic video system that is installed and forgotten until something happens,” Tuinzing says. “Now there are a variety of add-on capabilities that extend the capabilities of the installed cameras to new levels. With an open platform, the capabilities are only limited by the integrator’s and customer’s imaginations. I think there are a lot of really smart people out there who are going to develop solutions that we cannot even think of today.”
Channeling Andy Grove, Intel’s co-founder, Tuinzing says any shift in the market is an opportunity. And integrators have a real opportunity to develop new business models by providing integrated solutions for their customers — solutions that rely on video as the foundation on which they’re built.
“Treat video as the core of the solution. What used to be installing security cameras and separate DVR boxes now starts with video software as the long-term core unifier that enables interoperability with access control and video analytics,” he says. “Give customers video plus access control plus people-counting and loitering. Or expand further to video plus access control plus people-counting plus heat-mapping. Install video connected with point-of-sale transactions to pair what goes in the register with what goes by it, with which employees and when. Clearly the opportunity is for integrators to seize the moment and start generating new revenue streams with open platform video management system integrations. Satisfy customers now and long into the future with flexible, scalable, integrated solutions.”
According to Kim Loy, vice president of global marketing and chief product officer for DVTEL, Ridgefield Park, N.J., the demand for “video-plus” solutions like this is only going to grow from here. “We’ll continue to see a growing demand from users who want to leverage their security technologies for uses beyond traditional security functions, such as marketing and operations. Open-architecture designs allow for integration of an existing IP video system with other systems to gain more useful data from video to enhance business intelligence,” she says.
Any and all integration with VMS only will be helped by more widespread adoption of and compliance with standards that encourage open systems and interoperable products, such as ONVIF and PSIA. (See “Open Possibilities” on page 72.)
Peanut Butter & Bananas
There are those who say VMS solutions and the cloud are like peanut butter and jelly — each is good on its own but they’re even better together. And for the most part, that’s true.
“VMS is a key component of both traditional and cloud deployments. It’s the recording platform and interface users interact with. Although a cloud surveillance offering requires VMS as a component of the technology, not all VMS qualifies to be a cloud recording platform,” Carle says. “In addition to providing a cloud product, VMS providers can help the adoption of cloud in two ways: working to create demand for cloud and ensuring the cloud offerings are available to consumers. This will help organizations who would benefit from cloud recording become exposed to available offerings.”
While VMS and the cloud can go well together, you might say they’re more like peanut butter and bananas — a combination that is appealing to a number of people, but isn’t for everyone.
“There are several cloud solutions for residential or very small business, but if you have a high number of cameras, it gets expensive from the perspective of storage and bandwidth,” says Ely Maspero, VMS product manager for Ottawa-based March Networks. “It’s mostly for four to eight cameras; if you go above that, it gets very expensive.”
Additionally, larger customers like those March Networks works with, tend to be leery of giving up control of their video. “The market uses cloud storage, not our market,” Maspero says. “Most of our customers don’t want their video outside their enterprise.”
One attractive benefit of a cloud-based solution is the savings an end user can realize from buying the hardware — servers in particular — that the cloud solution replaces. This eliminates the often significant up-front investment, as well as the need to configure that hardware.
“Customers can take advantage of the cloud to deploy and configure installation of certain cameras without having servers locally but by doing it remotely; it really simplifies task of integration,” says Erick Ceresato, senior product manager for VMS for Montreal-based Genetec. “With cloud storage availability and the ability to manage a few settings remotely, you don’t need to have the technology on site.”
Customers with multiple sites also can leverage the cloud to centralize their storage, eliminating the need to have redundant technology at each of those sites.
“Organizations that also need video surveillance for remote offices or smaller distributed locations can deploy a cloud-enabled camera, store the recordings from the camera on the edge or in the cloud, then access it remotely with a laptop or mobile phone or send the video stream back to headquarters,” Ceresato describes.
The centralized management concept can be a life-saver for end users whose organizations are growing, Scirica believes. “Centralized management of systems remotely is key to profitable scaling. VMS platforms must offer extensive capabilities remotely such as configuration of servers and recorders, cameras and accessories, management tools, supervision of system health and software upgrades,” he says. “Cloud storage of incidents — small video clips, high-priority alarms — provides additional backup of full-time, super-high-resolution recording on premise.”
While many VMS providers will continue drive demand for the cloud by touting the benefits of cloud deployments, such as low up-front cost, easier remote access, reduced system management and simplified system expansion as compared with traditional deployments, it’s up to installers and integrators to make it more appealing to end users and by extension more widely used, Carle thinks.
“Availability of cloud products depends in great part on security integrators offering cloud. Demand from consumers helps to drive this and once cloud products are widely available through security sales channels, the channel itself exposes consumers who would benefit from a cloud deployment to cloud products,” he says.
The good news is that the market for VMS and cloud combinations is opening up as some larger companies and organizations have begun developing a taste for peanut butter and bananas.
“The cloud is becoming more used within the enterprise space, and we see it as a strong potential for a number of higher-camera-count customers who want to use, for example, an offsite system deployment and complement it with specific cloud functionality,” Ceresato says. “There are several options. They could store recordings locally for a certain time — short term, maybe 30 days — on local servers. After that, it gets very costly because of additional hardware and the physical space needed for all the extra servers. What if they could offload that longer-term video into the cloud? It would be less of a capital expense.”
According to Piran, as VMS add functionalities and lower the complexity of deployment, these solutions not only will become more affordable, but also more efficient.
“Costs will continue to come down while VMS system user interfaces will become more intuitive and easy to use. These trends will gain momentum as 64-bit technology penetration expands, enabling more efficient utilization of the system and faster response times, even when streaming megapixel cameras,” Piran says.
Everything else aside, the biggest thing installers and integrators can do to take advantage of these developments, Tuinzing says, is to think bigger than just cameras, software, servers, encoders and other components of a video security system.
“Think systems — not video surveillance products that are installed and forgotten,” Tuinzing says. “Open-platform solutions grow with customers’ needs, growing partners’ business. It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.”
Boxing up the VMS
The VMS market has seen a bit of a shift recently towards a more appliance-like offering, as VMS companies provide their solutions in a self-contained box rather than requiring their software to be installed on a server. This is an approach we’ve seen in the past, but it’s lately picked up steam with VMS providers in general.
“It seems like all companies are bundling software with servers to make it easier to buy,” says Ely Maspero of March Networks. “The hardware is OEMed from other manufacturers and is delivered as a closed recording solution to end users. When customers buy the product, they see a box similar to an NVR. This is mostly helping small and medium installations.”
Not only are they easier to buy, they’re less complex than a traditional VMS deployment, which is good news for installers and integrators, according to Salient Systems’ Brian Carle.
“As compared to other types of software, designing a VMS deployment is particularly challenging. This is because the minimum system requirements of VMS software change substantially depending on the camera quantity and recording configuration,” he says. “In the near term, having a bundled VMS and server platform will make designing and deploying projects simpler.”
These appliance-like (or NVR-like) solutions are usually shipped in a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) server that’s plugged directly into the customer’s network. For its part, the software uses wizards or other tools to make camera discovery and configuration much easier and more similar to what installers and integrators have seen in the analog world.
“This approach is way easier than buying a Windows 2012 server, then installing the recording software, making sure processors and hardware are properly sized and that there is no conflict between other programs running on server/recording solution,” Maspero says. “The risk there is that an employee who doesn’t know any better is installing software on the server that’s incompatible with the recording solution and loading the video down.”
An added bonus to these bundled solutions is that many of them are designed to accommodate both analog and IP cameras, allowing customers to swap out their analog cameras on their own schedule rather than being forced to do so all at once in order to use a particular VMS.
“VMS can serve a key function beyond video management itself. As long as there are still analog cameras in the field, there will be a need for hybrid systems to incorporate them on the network and to enable easier, more cost-efficient migration to IP,” says OnSSI’s Gadi Piran. “A new breed of integrated appliances now coming to market are providing best-in-breed turnkey video surveillance management and recording solutions that are suited to a wide range of applications.”
As VMS manufacturers continue to increase the number of products, technologies and systems their solutions will integrate with, these efforts only will be helped by open architectures and systems, as well as interoperability standards such as ONVIF and PSIA.
“Open standards continue to be critical. VMS solutions that are compliant with industry standards, such as ONVIF, are easier to deploy and user-friendly, since they are designed from the ground up to integrate seamlessly with other technologies,” says DVTEL’s Kim Loy. “For integrators, an open architecture approach is very important to the success of a project. They need the freedom to choose the technologies that are going to work best for the end user, their specific purposes and the space itself.”
In addition to giving end users and integrators a larger variety of cameras, detectors, business systems and more to choose from, another attractive aspect an open platform offers is possibility, which is limited only by imagination.
“What is possible with an open-platform video management system is only up to the imagination. Einstein said it best: ‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions,’” says Milestone Systems’ Reinier Tuinzing. “Just imagine what solutions will look like five years from now.”