While camera manufacturers continue to deliver products with higher and higher resolutions, that’s no longer the main goal of video surveillance, purports Laurent Villeneuve, product marketing manager, Genetec, Montreal. Instead, it’s more about expanding the use case for surveillance by increasing end users’ return on investment. 

“So how can we add value to all of this? It’s not by adding 8K cameras everywhere,” he says. “You can now have the same benefits with just a regular HD camera. But how do you help the operator with all of these video feeds that he definitely cannot keep track of? It’s not necessarily about what you use anymore. It’s about how you use it.”

The most helpful tool in this endeavor, Villeneuve says, is the video management system (VMS), also referred to as video management software.

“Adding context to the video is where you’ll extract the most value,” Villeneuve says. “You’re investing a lot of money into your VMS infrastructure and then you can start adding value to it with all the sensor data you can add to that.”

In the last several years, security has become more video-centric. As end users deploy more cameras and increase their coverage, it becomes possible to visually verify a great number of types events from a variety of security subsystems such as access control, point-of-sale (POS), intrusion, and more via the VMS. 

“People like to say, ‘seeing is believing,’ so being able to corroborate data from these other security technologies with video makes the overall system more powerful,” says Brian Carle, director of product strategy, Salient Systems, Austin, Texas. 

In fact, one of the biggest factors that makes VMS well-suited to sit at the core of these integrated systems is people’s affinity for video in general.

“We’re visual creatures,” says Mitch Mershon, sales program manager, medium business, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass. “Being able to pull everything into one pane of glass and ... actually see the information in a more visual way gives you the most situational awareness.”


Tools & Resources

When it comes to integrating disparate technologies into VMS, training may be the most critical element for integrators, says Pamela Wilson, director, sales operations, Americas, Milestone Systems, Copenhagen.

“Some integrations are so complex that extensive knowledge is needed to make everything work properly,” she says. “The most common call in Milestone Technical Support is an integrator who needs help in making a solution work properly.”

One of the reasons for this is the various protocols used by different systems, which can complicate integrations. Network connections and protocol stacks may be incompatible and difficult to program, and integrators often don’t have the software resources or experience to properly integrate solutions based on different application programming interfaces (APIs), says Honeywell Security’s Jeremy Kimber. As a result, integrators must manually configure integrations using systems’ inputs and outputs — a time-consuming process, to say the least.

“Due to a lack of common integration platforms, integrators do not have the resources to learn every unique system and also typically do not employ advanced API developers for creating integrations,” he says. “So they become knowledgeable on one particular project that may not translate to the next. From a technology standpoint, the available possibilities grow too quickly to be experts on all options.”

In fact, one of the biggest challenges integrators face is keeping up with technology changes. Having a strong relationship with technology vendors can go a long way toward easing this and can also open the door to more creative integrations, says Mitch Mershon of Axis Communications. 

“If you’re an integrator, you can call Axis and say, ‘Hey, I have this cool project; I just don’t know exactly how to solve it, or does this technology even exist?’ We’re the technology experts, so let us help you,” he says. “For me, whenever we talk about making integrations work, let’s have a conversation on what we can and can’t do, and figure out how we can do it or how we can make it better. The best way to do that is to make sure that you have a good, strong relationship with your technology vendor.” 

For the most part, however, the resources provided by manufacturers should suffice, as long as the relationship between technology vendors is also strong.

“Generally the software and instructions from the corresponding product vendors are all that’s needed,” says Brian Carle of Salient Systems. “Typically one of the product manufacturers used in the integration is primarily responsible for having developed that integration interface. In such a scenario, make sure that vendor has good documentation that covers not just how to program their system, but how to program the corresponding system that’s being integrated so you’ll have a full set of instructions for how to actually make it work. It’s also helpful to confirm that their tech support personnel can guide you through the whole process.”


Use Cases

Access control and event notification (such as intrusion detection) are the systems that are most commonly integrated through the VMS, but the exact number and types of potential integrations are more or less limited only by the imagination. Even those common systems can be deployed creatively, says Jeremy Kimber, video global product management director, Honeywell Commercial Security.

“When you consider access control for pedestrians or vehicles, video analytics detectors can alert when a particular activity or behavior is noticed and audio talk-back can assist with call points, access issues, trespassers and remote control of doors or locks,” he says. “We see some customers also integrate their visitor management, building management system and fire systems with the VMS. A VMS is often core for dispatch in cities and schools where security is needed, as well as emergency phone systems and video on vehicle for response and transportation.”

Video analytics, which have become more mature in recent years, are also primed for VMS integration, offering the ability to significantly expand the performance of and intelligence provided by other systems, Mershon says.

“With edge-based analytics, the camera becomes ... a very intelligent device that can tell you specific information about what you’re actually looking for,” he says. “Being able to pull information into the VMS from analytics is going to be one of the keys moving forward.”

Once you start thinking creatively to broaden the number and variety of applications, the best fit will depend on the customer’s industry, Villeneuve says — citing gunshot detection systems. “In education or correctional facilities, for me would be a no-brainer to at least consider adding gunshot detection sensors,” Villeneuve says. “They really bring value and more rapid notification when there is any kind of event.”

Drone technology, which is increasingly being considered as a viable security solution, also can be integrated via VMS to provide vital insights.

“We have customers that use VMS integrations for drone detection and neutralization with detect-to-target PTZ control and tracking,” Kimber describes. “Integrating drone and mobile phone video into the VMS can provide early warning response and first responder protection.”

Integrators can pull GPS and mapping systems — some of which are included in VMS solutions — to create even greater awareness.

Combining these two applications into an even more powerful solution is a prime example of the power of integration through the VMS.

“Some of the more creative things integrators might not think of would be GPS integration for drones and patrol cars, which can be very interesting for city deployments,” Villaneuve says. 



As video analytics have matured, many solutions are incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to further enhance their ability to detect events, objects and potential anomalies. “The leap in AI has really set us off on a path as an industry that I think is about to explode and offer a lot to the industry,” says Jammy De Souza of Johnson Controls. 

While the combination of AI, analytics and VMS offers tremendous potential, like many of the possible VMS integrations, use cases are not as broad as they may be in the future.

“What we’re seeing is that it’s not the solution for everything” says Genetec’s Laurent Villeneuve. “You can’t just go out and say, ‘We sell AI.’ That’s clearly over-selling things. There are some applications today that will work and that will improve the accuracy of certain video analytics applications — for example, license plate recognition.”

Along with the potential power of AI comes the potential for misuse, which De Souza says the industry must be mindful of.

“We need to be making sure that we properly understand our responsibility behind this technology as vendors and manufacturers, and put safeguards in place so that it can be used how it was intended to be used by the manufacturer,” he says.


Potential Challenges

While standards like ONVIF have helped make integration easier for some technologies and have provided integrators with more options, a system that involves intrusion and access control from one manufacturer, cameras from another, and a video management system from a third puts the integrator in the middle, says Troy Wideman, regional marketing manager, Bosch Security and Safety Systems, Fairport, N.Y. 

“If part of the integration does not work correctly, the integrator may have to troubleshoot with multiple manufacturers to fix the issue, which can require time and energy and add expense to the project,” he says. “In addition, the integration may not include all the available features of the individual technology components — limiting capabilities. It is important to fully research integration claims to ensure the final solution will fit what the end user requires.”

In some cases, integrators may experience compatibility loss among older systems that prevents customers from using a non-security system the same way when it is integrated into a new VMS platform.

“That means a user may miss some features they loved in the standalone system because VMS are limited to the amount of integration for those existing systems,” says Michael Hendrix, director of sales engineering, Hikvision USA, City of Industry, Calif. 

But juggling the constant updates manufacturers release to improve the performance and cyber security of their devices may be the most difficult piece, Mershon says. Updating one technology may make it incompatible with others.

“Let’s say the access control system has an upgrade that brings in a ton of new features the end user wants. What might happen is that they change some of the code that’s being utilized, and that may garble some of the information and communication between systems,” he explains. “Managing and making sure the upgrade process is previously tested and falls in line with what everybody needs is probably the biggest hurdle that we face.” 

An unexpected, and decidedly non-technical, challenge integrators may face with integrating systems into VMS boils down to language.

“The greatest challenge integrators have is matching up disparate semantics into the VMS world,” says James Hoang, partnering and integration manager, Speco Technologies, Amityville, N.Y. “Where one system calls an actionable situation an ‘event,’ others call them ‘alarms’ or ‘incidences.’”

As you can see, the possibilities for systems that can be integrated into VMS are seemingly endless, with many of the most unique uses still to come. And in many cases, these applications won’t be driven by manufacturers, Mershon says.

“The most unique applications are ones that we haven’t thought of. As a technology manufacturer, we produce a technology with a skill set in mind for that technology. But then you release it out into the world, and integrators and end users find completely new ways of using it,” he says.

In the end, it all comes down to integrating systems that can benefit from the addition of video, and practically any system can benefit from the context video can provide.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the value of 30 frames a second is exponential,” envisions Jammy De Souza, senior product manager, Victor VMS, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee.


More Online

For more information about VMS, visit SDM’s website where you’ll find the following articles.


“Training Holds the Key to Securing Customers’ VMS Success”



“Feeding the Growing Appetite for Video Surveillance Data”



“Securing VMS Against Cyber Attacks”