Recording Technologies Give RMR a Boost
Greater product choice can complicate product evaluation, but the rewards are there for the taking for integrators who put in the work.
The steady advance of technology in the security industry means that in general there is a larger variety of DVRs and NVRs available today — and every day from here on — than ever before. Most manufacturers offer options for small, mid-sized and/or enterprise-level applications, with a seemingly endless number of technologies designed to improve ease of use, scalability, redundancy and much more.
Many of today’s advancements in recording technologies are driven by the ongoing “resolution race” and the desire for truly integrated systems. These features and functions benefit end users by ensuring that there is a recorder for virtually every application. For integrators, however, more choices mean more difficult and intensive evaluations.
“Not all are created equal; you typically get what you pay for, and you want to be sure you match the NVR and its features and specifications to the application requirements,” says Ryan Gregory, director, new systems and solutions, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass.
However, for integrators who are willing to do the work up front to learn about available recording technologies, there can be a very real — and very measurable reward — in the form of RMR.
THE RESOLUTION EFFECT
Not surprisingly, the main driver for advances in DVR and NVR technologies is the continuing advancement of higher and higher resolutions, such as 4K, 12-megapixel, 16-megapixel and even higher.
“Customers are increasingly relying on visual methods of tracking and evaluating events, and they need to store video clips for longer periods of time,” says Mel Gray, senior product marketing manager, Honeywell Security, Melville, N.Y. “Also, many law enforcement operators now require video verification to deploy valuable — and costly — first-response resources. This requires the highest level of detail possible for accurate verification and analysis.”
Advancements in compression formats, such as the Zipstream, Smart H.264 and H.265, have helped address these concerns with greater optimization for bandwidth and storage use. While H.265 has not yet gained widespread adoption and is not supported by all cameras and recorders, it is certainly a growing force that is impacting the industry.
“In 2005, H.264 was born, and now the trend is products that incorporate Smart H.264 and H.265 codecs, which represent a more mature recording compression technology that can provide up to 70 percent (greater efficiency) in bandwidth and significantly save storage space,” says Tim Shen, director of marketing, Dahua Technology USA, Irvine, Calif.
Hardware is also helping pave the way for higher and higher resolutions.
“You are also seeing larger storage capacities at more attractive price points due to the cost of storage decreasing, and in many instances these HDDs are specifically designed for video applications and are more robust than standard HDDs,” Gregory says.
TRULY INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS
Because of the variety of cameras, video management systems (VMS), recorders and other video technologies available from different manufacturers, end users want to — and should be able to — choose the manufacturers and products they want in building their video systems.
“Open-platform NVRs are a necessity today,” says Doug Gray, senior product manager, IP products, Hikvision USA, City of Industry, Calif. “Manufacturers must do third-party integration, provide ONVIF capabilities, free SDK and API information, along with integration support teams,” he says.
Beyond video, DVRs and NVRs are also being used as a hub of overall security systems, tying surveillance in with access control and other security and non-security systems and devices.
“Integrators benefit mostly from integration-ready DVRs,” says Lou Bellock, product manager, analog products, Hikvision USA. “Out-of-the-box support for POS, ATM, access control, intrusion, central station monitoring and other security-related applications helps integrators sell enterprise-level features to small/medium businesses.”
As a result, the complex nature of DVRs and NVRs requires a professional installer or integrator to ensure that the solution is set up correctly, says Matt Sailor, CEO, IC Real Tech, Pompano Beach, Fla.
“In order to be good these days, you need to be a real integrator, not simply an installer,” he says. “People want a one-solution turnkey program for all their needs. That means dealers really need to up their level of understanding when it comes to the network and more importantly interconnectivity between different devices that are installed on the same job. A good example would be knowledge in home automation, access, lighting and network design and layout.”
Compatibility with a variety of technologies is the cornerstone of open systems and should be a priority when integrators are evaluating products for end users; but it is also important to stay current on new technologies, says Chris Meiter, president, Salient Systems, Austin, Texas.
“Technology is shifting on a daily basis, and compatibility allows the customer the ability to integrate the latest and greatest technologies to a system they may have deployed six months or a year ago,” he says.
Once an installation is completed, integrators tend to offer ongoing maintenance agreements to ensure their customers’ surveillance solutions are reliable and up to date moving forward. These contracts serve as a source of all-important RMR and may involve anything from updating settings or firmware to onsite repair and/or replacement. But recording technologies enable even more potential RMR opportunities beyond traditional maintenance contracts.
First and foremost, today’s DVRs and NVRs offer capabilities that allow integrators to augment those contracts to make them more effective and reduce potential risks for their customers.
“Many NVRs have some type of health monitoring of the hardware itself or the connected devices. This allows for remote management and maintenance of the system and proactive response resolution,” Gregory says.
In addition to diagnostic reporting that detects problems with the system or specific surveillance hardware, health check capabilities might also include environmental monitoring of the location where the DVR or NVR is located. In both cases, the recorder generates alerts based on problems related to temperatures, power, network connectivity and stability, for example. In many cases, this monitoring can even detect and generate alerts when a recorder’s drive may be approaching end-of-life. All of this adds up to a degree of proactivity that integrators can offer as a value-added service that grows RMR by increasing the overall value of maintenance contracts.
“Health check monitors are just one service provided by DVRs and NVRs to help integrators generate RMR,” Meiter says. “These diagnostics can now be monitored remotely, and this is one revenue stream that can be developed by an integrator in his command center. Health check monitors audit products and give the customer the comfort and assurance that his product is working as designed. If, however, there is an issue, the built-in diagnostics alert the customer immediately and inform the client of potential failure and provide for proactive maintenance to the equipment.”
Business intelligence services represent another area that is ripe for RMR. From a big-picture perspective, DVRs and NVRs can provide video verification of events that are more operational in nature, in addition to providing security. For example, Bellock says, a recorder in a retail setting can provide video data on employees to provide a clearer understanding of time and attendance, task rate, completion rate and more.
“Integrators can seize sales opportunities by making clear cases of operational applications relevant to the particular business,” he says.
The value here, in a word, is information, Sailor says. Devices that have traditionally been used for security are now being used to gather data from multiple sources, including video, access control, visitor management and other security and non-security systems. A good example of the power of information can been seen in the retail space. By incorporating video analytics that count people and use heat mapping to identify traffic patterns and linger time, retailers can arm themselves with valuable information they can use to improve their profits.
“Once set properly, (analytics) will tell you how many people were in the store and, more importantly, what they looked at — either the most or how long they looked in that area. This type of information is very important to find the best placement of products,” he says.
“A team of individuals who are experts in analyzing operations — including customer service, QCs, risk management and even the cleanliness of the store — can then evaluate operations and productivity and provide reports to key stakeholders within those organizations,” Meiter says.
Other areas that can be improved by the capability of DVRs and NVRs to convert data into valuable “beyond security” intelligence include inventory management and POS monitoring.
“POS functions can help retailers track sales, as well as search video according to items that have been purchased,” Shen says. “Integrators can charge a monthly fee for each of these add-on services.”
And, business intelligence services are not limited to these types of public-facing end users. Today’s technologies allow anyone who has been granted access to view video from virtually anywhere and at any time. As a result, multiple departments within an organization are able leverage video for improvements on an internal basis as well.
“On a daily basis, people can analyze their operations, provide situational awareness in real time, perform marketing surveys and analysis of their operations, analyze traffic flow, integrate point-of-sale systems, license plate recognition, and confirm proper adherence to compliance regulations within an organization,” Meiter says.
Integrators can even generate RMR with more traditional services, says Mark Espenschied, director of marketing, Digital Watchdog, Tampa, Fla.
“One way that monthly revenue is possible is if the integrator offers central station monitoring services as a means of providing backup or another set of eyes,” he says.
In addition to more basic video monitoring, recording technologies can make video alarm verification significantly easier, which can add up to demonstrable savings for end users.
“Now, not only is there an alert, an operator can access the condition at a door or an interior point by simply pointing and clicking in the software,” Meiter says. “They can pull up the camera and verify what type of situation is occurring in real time. This can result in measurable ROI to the client, as many municipalities charge significant fines for false alarms.”
To make a long story short, today’s DVRs and NVRs offer integrators the potential for increased sales and more lucrative maintenance contracts, while providing end users with the peace of mind that their systems will be reliable and can grow as their needs change, Meiter says.
“The greatest opportunities to make sales come as a result of integrators offering competitive, cost-effective, and reliable products,” he says. “Equally important is the ability to deliver a user friendly, future-proof design and architecture for expandability, allowing for ease in integrating technologies that will be available in the near future. Applications such as the new compression codecs, analytic integrations, as well as access control integrations, social media monitoring tools and analytics all offer significant sales opportunities for integrators.”
The Importance of Mobile
With the constant evolution and more widespread use of smartphones and tablets, end users increasingly rely on these devices to essentially run their lives — or at least more and more aspects of them — via mobile apps.
“Fifty percent of the world’s population and 90 percent of the U.S. population has access to the Internet today,” says Chris Meiter of Salient Systems. “Mobile phone service, which is now available to 90 percent of the global population, represents a significant leapfrog in countries where there was no fixed service before, and it has been adopted at a breathtaking rate. Upgrading networks to offer mobile Internet is an incremental step that is being adopted faster than mobile telephony before it, allowing boundless access to cloud applications.”
With this in mind, a DVR or NVR that can’t provide this capability shouldn’t even be up for consideration, Meiter says.
“When evaluating an NVR or DVR technology, it’s very important to recognize the ability to easily connect and support these technologies,” he says.
Among the considerations for integrators are a recorder’s ability to enable connections to multiple sites simultaneously, manage bandwidth efficiently for streaming video and allow users to control cameras, retrieve audio and access both live and recorded video. These capabilities are just one more way for integrators to grow profits.
“Today, DVRs and NVRs enable cloud-based management services, which in turn enable integrators to provide live, 24/7 video surveillance,” says Honeywell’s Mel Gray. “Beyond monitoring in a way that’s convenient and user-friendly for the customer — and allowing them to use their mobile devices — cloud-based services are a simple way to implement and guarantee RMR for dealers.” (For more on the cloud and video see “The Continuing Evolution of the Cloud” online at www.SDMmag.com/evolution-cloud.com.)
All-in-One Systems “Just Work”
Pre-packaged camera-recorder bundles and appliances have gained traction in recent months. These all-in-one platforms incorporate all the components needed for video surveillance — and in some cases access control as well — in a single deployable platform.
“(Appliances) are typically purpose-built for video and take the mentality of providing a turnkey approach with integrated PoE switches, camera management utilities, health monitoring and more,” says Ryan Gregory of Axis Communications.
The main attractions of these solutions are the ability to save time and associated cost on installations, while having peace of mind that the solution will “just work,” both of which are important for integrators and end users alike.
“The easy delivery provides integrators with a quick, pre-verified solution for low-cost, entry-level applications,” says Honeywell’s Mel Gray.
For more on this topic visit SDM’s website where you will find the following articles:
“Cloud and Mobile’s Increasing Influence on Video”
“6 Trends Driving Recording Technologies”
“5 Questions Integrators Should Ask About Video Storage”
“4 Keys to High-Quality Video”
“Thinking Inside the Box”
HD Over Analog Gaining Popularity
An emerging technology impacting the recording space is the adoption of HD over analog video, which one research company has called the fastest-growing segment in that market, says Mark Espenschied of Digital Watchdog.
This brings DVRs into the HD conversation, allowing end users to maintain and upgrade existing analog systems rather than migrating to IP, and enabling integrators to offer what have historically been “IP-only” benefits to their analog customers.
“It is no longer necessary to migrate to IP surveillance in order to enjoy the benefits of megapixel image clarity and high resolution,” Epenschied says. “HD analog cameras and recorders provide a compelling strategy to add new ROI to existing investments in coax infrastructure.”
The resolution offered by HD analog solutions is currently in the five-megapixel range and continually growing.
“In HD analog technology, resolutions will approach 4K and surpass three and five megapixels,” he adds.
12 Considerations for Choosing Recorders
When evaluating and recommending recorders, as with any product, integrators must make sure the solution meets a customer’s specific needs — today and in the future. Here are 12 factors that should be considered:
1. A manufacturer’s reputation and support capabilities
2. Length of warranty, what is covered and the RMA process
3. Product reliability and stability
4. Ease of installation and usability
5. Type of drive used (traditional HDD or solid-state)
and recording capacity
6. Support for multiple compression technologies
(H.264, H.264+, H.265, MPEG etc.)
7. Number of cameras and resolution supported
8. Third-party device support (video and non-video)
9. Software licensing and upgrade requirements
10. Flexibility to add storage capacity or integrate additional devices and systems in the future
11. Remote and/or mobile access to video
12. Hybrid flexibility to support IP, analog and HD analog cameras