Security systems protecting outdoor areas can be some of the most challenging to sell, install and maintain. Security integrators that have experience in this area offered tips on how to handle the trickiest outdoor jobs.
1. It’s not CSI. One thing integrators agree on is that one of the most challenging, but also the most critical aspects of selling outdoor systems is managing the expectations of customers, who may have media-inflated ideas about what systems can accomplish.
Justin Davis, vice president of Dallas-headquartered Securadyne Systems, notes for example that although some video analytic systems can count how many vehicles enter a facility, they cannot necessarily count the number of people sitting in each vehicle. Accordingly, integrators should make a point of educating their customers about such realities.
2. Don’t gloss over the drawbacks. When something goes wrong with certain license plate recognition (LPR) systems or cameras that rely heavily on analytics, the equipment tends to have longer repair times than standard IP video cameras, sometimes because the manufacturer is overseas with no domestic distribution presence, Davis cautions.
“Similar to most IP video cameras, there will be unforeseen downtime in LPR camera applications, unless a customer plans ahead and has a spare camera or two at their disposal, or their integrator supplies them, as Securadyne does,” observes Davis. Customers need to know this so they can choose whether to make what could be a substantial investment in contingency parts, make the decision to live with the downtime, or choose an alternate solution altogether.
“Transparency is the best way we find to communicate with our customers,” Davis advises. “As long as you reduce surprises, most customers say ‘I’m glad you told me ahead of time versus after-the-fact.’”
3. Be prepared for customer sticker shock. Some customers may be intent on buying video analytics for outdoor protection — until they learn the cost. Have a fallback solution, advises Brent Franklin, president of Chester Springs, Pa.-based Unlimited Technology.
For example, securing an entire perimeter can be expensive. A fallback solution would be to secure critical assets within the perimeter using a smaller footprint of video analytics, Franklin says.
4. Consider using a second technology to supplement video motion detection. The most basic form of video analytics is video motion detection, which works by detecting changes in the normally static field of view. The problem with that approach is that alerts sometimes can be triggered by something other than a human intruder.
Video analytics have improved over the years and some manufacturers have added intelligence that screens out many types of false trips. Nevertheless, some integrators advocate using a second technology — such as a passive infrared detector — and requiring both the PIR and the video camera to trip before reporting a true alarm.
Alternatively, video analytics can be the second technology to help screen out false alarms for other types of technologies. For example, Columbia, S.C.-based Electric Guard Dog specializes in electrified fences to deter potential intruders. The company also installs video cameras inside the fence line to screen out false alarms, explains Electric Guard Dog CEO, Jack DeMao.
5. Consider using video analytics as a pre-alarm. Integrators often design video analytic systems with cameras pointed front-to-back along the perimeter, thereby triggering an alarm when an intruder crosses the boundary.
For higher-security installations, Ray Gilley, CEO and president of San Antonio, Texas-based ISI Security, says a better approach is to aim cameras so that they look outwards from the secured area, thereby triggering a pre-alarm before the intruder crosses the perimeter.
6. Consider using solar-powered cameras that communicate wirelessly for remote areas. This approach eliminates the need to bring power to the site and according to Franklin, “The technology is pretty dependable and robust.”
7. Offer a maintenance contract. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Safeguard Security offers maintenance contracts to video customers, describes Ben Wilson, vice president of operations for the company. “For smaller commercial leased systems we go out once a year and inspect,” Wilson says. “For larger industrial systems we clean and adjust the cameras one or two times a year. It’s better to be proactive than reactive.”
8. Be sure of what is required to install poles where needed. Where possible, integrators try to mount cameras on existing infrastructure, such as the sides of buildings. But sometimes the only option is to install poles. If poles will be part of an installation, integrators should make sure they know what is under the ground where holes will be dug before they quote the job, DeMao advises. Don’t find out the hard way that a yard is built on granite, requiring dynamite to blast holes, he cautions.
DeMao also says “the hole has to be deep enough so the camera is not waving in the air.”
9. Install cameras out of easy reach of thieves. A mounting height of about 12 feet should deter most thieves from stealing video cameras, Wilson advises.
10. Masking can eliminate potential nuisance alarms. Several integrators noted the importance of masking portions of the camera’s field of view that are likely to cause problems. False alarms commonly occur when foliage is in the camera’s field of view.
11. Change the default password. Cameras that use the Internet protocol for communications have an important requirement that often is overlooked. One of the most common problems Wilson finds with video installations that other companies have installed is cameras that are still set to use the factory default password — leaving them vulnerable to any vandal who is familiar with that particular equipment.
12. License plate recognition has unique requirements. When used with a compatible camera system, some video analytics software packages can read license plates and check them forensically against a watch list or criminal database, thereby generating an alert if a match is found. That is a capability that tends to be in demand for clients who have above-average security concerns, Davis observes.
For LPR technology to work effectively, however, it is important to establish a choke point, Davis advises. As an example, he says, “by installing a gate through which vehicles must pass, the integrator can virtually ensure that vehicles pass through the camera’s ideal field of view and that they are moving at a slow enough speed to achieve an optimal image for capture and analytical review.”
Software or Hardware?
Video analytics can be implemented in several different ways. Functionality may be built into a digital video recorder or camera or may be software that runs on a separate server. Which approach is best? The answer depends on the specific installation, according to integrators consulted for this article.
Ben Wilson of Safeguard Security, notes that if a customer wants video images sent to his smartphone when motion is detected — and not to a central station — the integrator may have to use cameras with built-in analytics that are designed to work with services such as Alarm.com or Honeywell’s Total Connect.
Brent Franklin of Unlimited Technology, refers to video cameras with built-in analytics as an “edge” solution because intelligence is at the edge of the system rather than at the center head-end of the system as with a digital or network video recorder or software solution.
Some security integrators are wary of deploying video analytics as an edge solution because they are concerned about the difficulty of servicing such devices, particularly remotely located cameras that may communicate wirelessly. Cameras with dependable built-in analytics also are more costly to replace than cameras without that capability, Franklin notes.
He adds, though, “manufacturers have done a good job building decent technology into the edge devices and they continue to refine and make them more dependable.”
When integrators install a centralized solution they can install redundant servers or DVRs — and cameras or other edge devices can be connected via two different types of connections such as standard cabling or wireless using broadband/cellular, Franklin says.