Transmission and Power Supplies Go High-Tech
With the advent of power over Ethernet (PoE) and other technologies that deliver data communication and power over a single cable, transmission and power have become woven together so tightly that it can be difficult to tell where one stops and the other starts. In some cases, that doesn’t happen at all. As a result, the way we think about these two functions in video systems has changed quite a bit in recent years.
However, no amount of blurring of the lines can change the fact that transmission and power remain two distinct functions, each with its own technologies, considerations, best practices and nuances. Each plays an important role in video systems, but of the two, power is — and will remain — the most critical. After all, without power, there can be no transmission. Because security is by definition mission-critical, ensuring that systems receive the correct amount of power even in the case of an outage is of utmost importance.
Traditionally, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is deployed to keep video and other critical systems up and running, but those solutions aren’t built to handle sustained outages. While these are rare, given the generally reliable state of the U.S. power grid, they do occur; so integrators need to prepare their customers for that possibility, says John Croce, CEO of Toronto-based Phybridge, parent company of Network Video Technologies (NVT).
“Today, we can, and should, do more than just include a UPS to ensure system reliability,” he says. “A UPS is an acceptable solution to bridge short-term utility power outages but continues to leave the security system vulnerable due to the failure of an integrated low-voltage power source.”
The challenge with this is to cut through the advanced features and functions of the latest cameras, NVRs and other IP video equipment to focus on the less visible — but vitally important — power supplies.
“It’s easy to focus more sales attention on the bells and whistles, because they are visible to users and are delivering impressive new capabilities,” says Ronnie Pennington, national accounts manager for Altronix, Brooklyn, N.Y. “But the responsibility as manufacturers, system designers and installers goes beyond bells and whistles, to ensure compatibility, reliability and other high-profile system attributes.”
New Frontiers in Power
That’s not to say the power segment of the security industry isn’t seeing its own share of innovation. A number of newer technologies are closely tied to data transmission, the Internet of Things, improving the reliability of power supplies and, by extension, the uptime of video systems.
Among these advancements are PoE+ (see “The Two — or Three — Faces of PoE” on page 89), new batteries, low-power Wi-Fi and other devices, which are starting to penetrate the industry in the form of cameras and locks that can operate for up to three months on a single charge, says Richard Gibbs, applications engineer for Honeywell Security, Northford, Conn.
“Leveraging these emerging technologies reduces labor cost and enables the integrators to meet the most demanding end user requirements driven in specifications by the consulting communities,” he says.
From the standpoint of reliability of power supplies, it’s important to note that power interruptions and issues don’t occur in a vacuum — nor do they happen as suddenly as you might think, Pennington says. Rather, they tend to be the result of an overload or other stress factor that, if detected early enough, could be addressed to avoid interruptions and issues altogether.
“In many cases, the power supply is not the issue and could be attributed to other causes and devices, which may be drawing excessive power,” he says. “This condition could have been detected if the system was monitored remotely. Deploying power supplies capable of communicating over the network can resolve these issues with notification functionality.”
With this in mind, new solutions are available that allow remote monitoring and control of power supply and transmission products, in addition to reporting, over a network. This allows multiple devices at different sites to be integrated, managed and controlled remotely.
“These foundational components are raising the standard for integrated security and surveillance,” Pennington adds. “Diagnostics and instant notifications of issues empower end users and contracted maintenance service providers to address issues quickly and efficiently. As a result end users’ security is also increased dramatically around the clock.”
Among the benefits of these technologies is the ability for dealers and integrators to eliminate service calls and system downtime complaints. Instead, security professionals can turn monitoring, management and control capabilities into ever-valuable RMR.
“The power supply has evolved from a simple device to a total power supply system, offering single and dual voltage, power distribution, lock and output control, remote test capability, remote diagnostics and remote reporting capabilities,” says Joe Holland, vice president of engineering, LifeSafety Power, Mundelein, Ill. “This is resulting in additional recurring monthly revenue for the integrator, as well as labor savings by being able to remotely service solutions via the web and avoid truck rolls to service sites in many instances. And of course, it also equates to better system uptime for the end user and their facility.”
In addition to monitoring and management, integrators might offer additional value-added services like quarterly battery testing or periodic evaluation of a customer’s growth to look at the power implications of technologies and systems they may be considering adopting. There are also a number of more creative services to offer as well, says Bill Allen, director of marketing, Minuteman UPS, Carrollton, Texas.
“Business disaster planning and management is another area systems integrators can get into,” he says. “What if a customer has a daylong or weeklong outage? What role can you play? An integrator can become a business owner’s best friend by configuring a solution that can also reside on their own in-house cloud. Backup generators could also be rented out during a disruption. This can be a major differentiator between an integrator and their competition.”
As power and transmission technologies continue to evolve with changing technology and market needs, a main goal of future innovation will likely be further reducing labor and equipment costs for video system installations and upgrades.
“The evolution will inevitably lead to the merging of many technologies to manage campus-wide deployments of the latest security technology on existing infrastructure; this aligns with cost savings and green initiatives that our customers demand,” Gibbs says.
Moving forward, Holland expects the current move toward more integrated power systems and the ability to generate revenue from power to continue.
“The efficiency, feature sets and available diagnostics will continue to improve over the next generation of products,” he says. “Devices will continue to integrate — with the ability of hardware and software to communicate more wholly through protocols such as the physical logical access interoperability (PLAI) profile and simple network management protocol (SNMP) — as well as foster easier use and user transparency.”
The best thing for integrators to do, Allen says, is to stay up to date with changes in power and transmission technologies, which are increasingly reliant on networking knowledge.
“For most security installers, there is a large gap in knowledge. It’s more exciting to get into cameras and DVRs, which are right in their wheelhouse,” he says. “But they have to get out of their comfort zone and learn there are a lot more acronyms like SNMP they need to know. Those who dive in now are far better suited to provide a complete solution and will probably stay in business longer than those who avoid IP.”
Analog Soldiers On
With apologies to Mark Twain, despite the continued rise in popularity and adoption of IP video systems, the reports of analog’s death have been an exaggeration. While limited development has led to an almost commoditization of analog devices, this segment still accounts for a sizeable portion of sales and maintenance.
“The analog market is still strong; there will always be a demand for analog CCTV over fiber,” says Frank “Skip” Haight, vice president of marketing for Communication Networks (ComNet), based in Danbury, Conn. “But from the transmission perspective, most of the R&D that is occurring from camera companies nowadays is directed at the IP offering. Analog might have advanced as far as it’s going to.”
From conversations with manufacturers over the last few years, Jeff Smith, director of technical services for Plano, Ill.-based OT Systems, has heard the same refrain: IP-based solutions are by far providing the most growth. To get a feel for the industry, he also asks about legacy analog products.
“The response there may surprise a few people, because analog — although it is not enjoying the same growth as IP — is not going away,” he says. “As a matter of fact, the numbers from year to year have been very consistent. With that said, from a new project side I have to say everyone I talk to is quoting IP solutions.”
So like it or not, while analog’s growth will continue to dwindle, it will remain a factor for a number of years to come, says Bill Allen of Minuteman UPS.
“Some people will choose to stay with analog for as long as that horse will ride. They look at it as, ‘We like what we have, so we’re going to stay with it,’” he says.
The Two — or Three — Faces of PoE
The rise of IP-based video systems has made PoE a main method for powering cameras, DVRs, NVRs and other devices. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the potential savings in equipment, labor and installation costs that result from data and power traveling along a single cable.
When working with PoE, there are a few things to know and understand, says Ronnie Pennington of Altronix. First is how power is delivered over different cabling and distances. Another is to know the total power consumption of IP cameras and accessories, which is needed to accurately calculate the total power required for the system.
There are currently two established PoE standards: PoE and PoE+. PoE delivers up to 15 watts of power over either data pairs (mode A) or spare pairs (mode B), depending on the design of the power source. PoE+ provides up to 30 watts over either mode, which can be helpful for providing extra power to operate PTZ cameras with heater/blowers, for example.
A third option is High-PoE, which can deliver up 60 watts over the same infrastructure by using special Midspan injectors to transmit two separate 30-watt PoE+ feeds from a single port over both mode A and mode B. As camera capabilities continue to increase, this technology will become more prevalent; but unfortunately, there is no current High-PoE standard, Pennington says.
“Although manufacturers know that ‘pure’ High-PoE works, they may be cautious about implementing it into their devices without an official standard, choosing instead to use two PoE+ feeds,” Pennington says. “So even though a device’s specification says 60 watts — which is 100 percent accurate — it’s crucial to account for voltage drop along CAT5E or CAT6 using the same distance limitations of PoE+.”
Easing Migration Pain
As the number of end users who plan to migrate or have migrated their video systems from analog to IP, there are those who simply can’t make that jump for a variety of reasons, primarily the cost and inconvenience involved with updating the communication infrastructure to accommodate an IP-based system.
For many end users, “rip and replace” is simply not in the budget, which makes the prospect of using one of the many solutions available to transmit IP video over existing coaxial or other cable attractive.
“One of the challenges integrators are facing with so many companies choosing to make the wholesale migration from analog to IP is to use existing infrastructure that is in place where possible — think of the miles of installed coax and UTP cables — and trying to do it in a cost-effective way,” says ComNet’s Frank “Skip” Haight. “It makes sense: Why not use the existing copper media to provide operating power for the camera versus having to use a local AC power source? PoE IP cameras are becoming the norm today.”
While it’s human nature to resist change, it’s important to embrace these new transmission technologies, says Phybridge CEO John Croce. Research and testing are also crucial as not all solutions have the same capabilities.
“Once you’re comfortable with them, capitalize on the huge opportunity. Be seen as an innovator in your market; present the value proposition to every customer who has analog and wants to migrate to IP,” he says. “The world is moving to IP, and there are great new transmission products that simplify the migration. It’s up to the integrator to learn about the capabilities and dominate their market.”
For more on video transmission and power, see these past stories in SDM.