Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Let me be frank. If your mortgage payments and grocery bills depend on your selling IPVS systems to people, you need to read this book, right now.
IP video surveillance is a teeny tiny little itty bitty market segment, and it is also the future of our industry. If you just do analog surveillance video, you are obsolete. Other companies will leave you in the dust and you will be forced to sell out or go under. I believe in 2 years over 51% of video installations will be IP based, because the price and capabilities of IP based video will blow analog out of the water.
For those of you who are already in IPVS- either as a distributor, manufacturer, dealer, or integrator, you need to know some specific things about our industry. You need to know who the major players are and which minor players are coming up from behind. You need to know about which side of the standards war to bet on. You need to know who will grow and who will fail and whose product to back.
Most importantly, you need to know how to market IPVS more effectively.
This book is not an introduction to IP video. John has already put out an introduction to IP video. This book is not for amateurs and trunk slammers. This book is for anyone who wants to be a player in IP video. Clearly written with so few technical terms the Marketing department can read and understand it. For those looking to break into IP video, John has written a free book called The Security Manager's Guide to Video Surveilance, which I also highly recomend.
Cost of this book is $40 for a single download, $100 for a 5 user license, and $200 for an unlimited license, through electronic distribution. My company spends more than that on name tags. John promises to update the book in March, in time for you to prep for ISC West. I don't think I'm going too far hyperbolic in calling this book "invaluable".
You need to know this information.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Panasonic announced that J.M. Allain will succeed Frank DeFina as president of Panasonic System Solutions Co. (PSSA). The company said DeFina recently retired. Allain most recently managed the operations of Duos Technologies. Allain has led deployments of integrated security systems in high-profile public and private institutions around the world. He has also established experience in a number of technology-driven industries including data communications and telecommunications.
DeFina oversaw a pretty big expansion of Panasonic's cctv division, including what basically was the phasing out of all analog products and the introduction of lots of great products. But while DeFina was terrific at the technology side, I don't know how much feeling he had for integrators, coming as he did from the land of broadcast video. Whereas Allain is an actual integrator, or at least, managed actual integrators. According to his LinkedIn page, he was the VP of Duos Technologies, GM at NetVersant, and VP at Adesta. So while he probably doens't have any dirty pants and scuffed boots in his closet or dirt under his fingernails, he managed people who directed people who supervised people who did have these things. Which can only be good news for us here in the trenches.
I'll keep an eye on Panasonic for you.
Friday, July 25, 2008
IP Cameras are too Expensive Compared to Analog Cameras
Storage for Megapixel cameras is too expensive
Smart Cameras are still in their infancy
DVRs offer limited support
Lack of Integrator Training
IMHO, problems 2 and 4 are non-issues. Storage is dirt cheap and getting cheaper every day. I have a 4TB Drobo kit, for example, for $1,249.95. Very soon, we will not be worried about storage. As for DVRs offering limited support, well, that's what NVRs are for.
The price and limited capabilities of IP cameras are very troubling, but to me, the biggest challenge is the fact that integrators won't sell it because they are completely ignorant about the technology and unwilling to learn. It won't matter how good and cheap IP cameras get, if installers won't spec them, install them, or support them, then they just won't get used. End of story.
As soon as, say 60% of medium sized installers are confident enough to at least offer IP cameras as an option to their customers, we will see the widespread use of IP cameras. Not before.
That's why initiatives like Northern Video's IP Roadshow is so vital to the future of this industry. I attended the show in New York City and took the Northern Video Systems' IP Networks: An Introductory Course class. It was excellent, by the way, though I may have been the youngest person in the room. And that's fine- I think it's terrific that the people on the top are taking the time to check out this whole "internet camera thing" the kids are talking about.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
Now go out and celebrate the independence of your country by blowing up a small part of it. Don't hurt yourself, and if you do, post the story in the comments. I love "well, the way I ost my thumb was, it was the Fourth of July, and I'd been drinking" type stories.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Some anonymous but obviously incredibly intelligent person wanted to install fancy, gee-whiz megapixel intelligent cameras in the subway system. It was to have auto-tracking, left-object detection, analytics, the whole nine. And while this person was writing up this job, he had a brilliant thought.
"Ya know, we could save a lot of money by using the existing fiber optic network already installed in the subway system. Whoopee! I'm a genius, just like Mommy always said!" Then he proceeded to split atoms with his mind while calculating pi to the millionth place. Because that's how he rolls.
The problem? The MTA had installed that fiber optics network in the 1980s.
According to a board document, tests on the cable showed that it had “many broken fibers unsuitable to carry the high bandwidth required” to transmit large amounts of data, which hindered the surveillance camera project. The document did not say how long it would take to replace the cable.
Wow. Just... wow. Who woulda thunk that 20 year old cable made out of glass and running underground in a tunnel carrying the worlds busiest mass transit system with hundreds and hundreds of trains rumbling past at 45 or so miles an hour might have had problems? I would have run a speed test or something, but that's just me.
That's not all. Appearently, there are serious problems with the analytics.
One of the officials who spoke on Wednesday said those problems involved the cameras’ ability to spot an unattended bag or briefcase left on a train platform or other busy area and then alert law enforcement to the possible hazard. That capability had originally been promoted as a major feature of the system, but the official said it had failed in tests. “There are too many people, too many things moving around in the system,” the official said.
Well, dang. At least that's not the biggest scandal in American municipal surveillance systems. That prize surely goes to San Fransisco, with it's 0.01 fps cameras. Seriously, reading this article, you get the sense that a drunk monkey working for ADT set up the system: Bad wireless connections, terrible motion detection protocols, poorly sited cameras, framerates so low you'd get better results with an army of sketch artists using notepads and pencils standing on every corner, they don't have enough storage space to save what little data they do have (a staggering admission; hard drives are so cheap they're practically free), and San Francisco law doesn't allow the police to view the cameras live or to move the PTZs. Also, the cops say they came up $200,000 short and had to dip into their operating budget to cover maintainance.
There's video, too. Watch it and weep. At least they're megapixel cameras with some nice resolution, and clearly they didn't scimp on the lenses. Too bad whoever sited that camera was a moron, because it should be a little lower to see the entire crosswalk.
Seriously, people, I know figuring out the cabling requirements are the least fun part of the job, but if you screw that up, nothing is going to work, okay?
Monday, June 23, 2008
Now, the rule is, if you want to fly, you have to show ID. You don't have to show ID to the TSA, but if you don't, you don't get to fly.
I guess this makes sense. This has the very salutary effect of weeding out the stupid terrorists who aren't smart enough to get a fake ID.
Above: Osama's most deadliest weapon.
Heaven forbid the terrorists ever get their filthy paws on Photoshop.
But what if you forget or lose your ID? Sat, you went to Vegas for a convention, and mysteriously and through no fault of your own the dealer inexplicably failed to stop dealing you cards and you had a big bunch of tequila and you are now missing your wallet and, also, your pants. So, according to the article, they'll give you the full business, which includes signing a piece of paper stating, under penalty of perjury, that you are who you say you are. They also give you a pat down and check your luggage- big hairy deal, they did that to me in the airport in Israel. The most interesting thing to me is that the TSA supervisor called a "service"- the DMV?- to answer personal questions. That's it. Sounds easier than getting a credit card. Not that you'd know it from the amount of whining in the story and the comments- you'd have thought they sent him to Gitmo.
Anyway. I guess my point is 80% of security is keeping the stupid would-be bad guys away from your target. This is important because 80% of bad guys are unnacountably stupid.
But, don't forget that the more attractive your target is, the more bad guys are going to want a piece of it. And 20% of them will be smart. And you can't play the laws of averages forever.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
That's fine, although this really won't do anything to make us safer.
The Registered Traveler program is a scam, although in the spirit of fairness I should mention that I do not believe that Verified Identity Pass employees consciously realize this. If you've been in a US airport lately, you've probably seen them; the way the Clear program works is you give them your driver's license number, previous home addresses going back five years, SSN or alien registration number, and a valid credit card. They then run your info past... somebody, and then do... something, and, after taking your picture and biometric data (fingerprints and iris images, for what it's worth) and taking your picture and noting your two forms of federal ID, they give you futuristicy little card. All this for a hundred bucks a year, plus a $28 bribe to the TSA.
Now, anyone who's been stuck in security screening purgatory would gladly shell out $128 to get through it a little quicker. But that presuposes that there is some way to tell someone is going to be a terrorist before they actually, you know, terrorize somebody. And that doesn't work. Would they have caught Mohammed Atta with routine security screening, or even the kind of screening they do now? I doubt it. I've thought of a trillion ways to get past airport security just in the time I've spent on security lines. The only things that have made air travel safer since 9/11 is, as Schneier says, 1) locking cockpit doors and 2) the understanding of ordinary passengers that they may have to be prepared to fight back (which is what stopped Reid, after all).
Everything else is security theater. Clear isn't about making us safer. Clear is about making lines shorter.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Much has been written about this report from IMS Research. The very depressing synopsis says that
(T)he market has got off to a slower start in 2008 and it seems unlikely that the market will grow as fast this year as it did last year.
The main reason for the slow-down is the struggling US economy, which narrowly avoided entering a recession in the first quarter of the year, recording a modest increase of just 0.9%. Economists are divided as to whether a recession will take hold in the second quarter of the year. In this current climate of economic uncertainty, many companies are delaying capital expenditure and several major security projects have been put on hold. The retail industry, which is the largest spender on video surveillance equipment in the US, has been particularly hard hit. Soaring energy and food prices, together with the credit crunch, have curbed consumer spending. In the first quarter of 2008 consumer spending rose just 1%, the slowest since the second quarter of 2001, when the US was suffering its last recession. As a result, many retailers are scaling back new store expansion plans which will impact sales of video surveillance equipment.
First off, I'm not sure that a 1% rate of growth constitutes a recession, especially with our low unemployment rate (nearly the same as the economic boom years of 1998, when Internet money was going to make everyone a billionaire). This is slightly better than England's, much better than France's, and much better than Germany's. Of course, this is a CCTV blog, not an economic blog, so I may be wrong. And of course no one can deny the subprime mortgage meltdown has slowed new construction a little, although according to this they've been falling for the past two years so I guess the new housing market crisis isn't so much a result of irresponsible subprime mortgage lending practices and more the result of the housing market being flooded and the law of Supply and Demand really is true.
But that's not what this post is about. This post is about a press release Axis emailed me yesterday.
The market research institute IMS Research announced today in a press release that the growth for network video products on the American market has slowed down. This affects the ongoing technology shift from analog to digital surveillance negatively. For a number of years, IMS has forecast that the market for installations of network video products has an annual global growth rate of approximately 40 percent. IMS expects slower growth in 2008 than in the preceding year as a consequence of the receding American economy. However, their estimation is that network video products will grow by at least 30 percent in the US. Axis' ambition, as announced previously, is to grow in pace with the market.
The interest for network video products has been considerable during spring and the inflow of new projects continued to be satisfactory, but the current financial turbulence has impacted new investments and expansion plans. This has now affected growth in the network video market. "We have seen signals from the market, e.g. from the retail trade in Europe but particularly in the US where major retail chains have chosen not to expand as planned. As approximately 25 percent of all video installations are performed within the segment, we have drawn the conclusion that the pace of the technology shift from analog to digital network video has slowed down", says Ray Mauritsson, President, Axis Communications.
Emphasis added for emphasis. Because I feel empathetic. Like, what they heck, guys?
I mean, 30% projected growth in an industry is not a reason for sackcloth and ashes, it's a reason for champagne and caviar and big stinky cigars.
At least Geoff Kohl of SIW is optimistic. He quotes a Panasonic rep as saying that "they are still experiencing year-over-year growth in the company's i-Pro IP video surveillance products." This is true. I'm hardly a big player in the IP sales market, and I can't even keep the WV-NS202A in e-stock- it flies off the cybershelves. That's because we have found all sorts of other markets for IP video. Vloggers, for example. Webcasting of all kinds, in fact. I have a customer who uses the WV-NS202A to save video of performances in his nighclubs. He likes the autotracking and the audio input. Another customer has a bunch of Axis 207Ws set up in his apartment. He feeds it to his website for entertainment purposes, ifyouknowwhatImeanandIthinkyoudo.
Anyway, my point is, relax. IP video isn't going anywhere, and the US economy is in semi-decent shape, too.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Many old school camera guys are mistrustful of networks, mostly because they don't understand them. Listening to a camera guy talk to a computer guy is like, for example, a Neolithic wheel carver talking to a Honda engineer- sure, the two industries share a distant common ancestor, but the family lost touch when they moved to America and they changed their name at Ellis Island and only the grandmother can speak the language anymore. Which is why I'm a fan of the Eye on Video series of essays by Fredrik Nilsson of Axis. In it, he attempts to talk to the bicycle store owner and explain some of the fundamental concepts of aircraft design.
The latest article, called Uptime for Network Video Systems, starts out with this very stupid quote: Short of catastrophic disaster, most networks today deliver between 99.99 percent and 99.9999 percent availability — from less than one hour of downtime a year to less than one minute of downtime a year.
Now, either this is an outright lie or Scandinavians have a much lower bar for the definition of catastrophe than we do. Anyone works with computers or has ever used a computer knows
that they die or have strokes at random times for no apparent reason.
The article itself is chock full of efficient Swedish network optimization goodness, with helpful tips like backing things up, having redundant storage, not using cheap switches, and installing surge and lightening protection. Not much to pick apart there.
Camera guys need to learn networks, because that is where we are headed. End of story. We won't be using coax and DVRs and quad switchers for very much longer. Listening to a camera guy and a computer guy talk to each other, and you'll see a look of incomprehension and mistrust on the face of the camera guy together with disdain and patronizing talking-very-slowly on the part of the computer guy. This kind of thing holds our industry back.
Anyway, back to Panasonic. I got a good overview of all the old i-Pro stuff, which I basically already knew, along with the new megapixel cameras and the decoder with the analytics, which is pretty cool, actually (a decoder with an HDMI out for the megapixel cameras! Awesome! Just the thing for making the kind of ultracool hi tech control centers of the kind you see in movies where they say "rewind the tape" and Jason Bourne destroys a small Central European country).
Sorry. After all these years, I still get caught up in the gee whizerry.
They gave us a flash drive with a bunch of demos and video clips and tools and estimators and so on. But first they had to give a very long and complicated Powerpoint presentation proving that Panasonic is much better than Axis (which they called "Company A"). And speaking of redundancies, popping a $12 SD card into most Panasonic cameras will automatically back up video, at 1 FPS (for 24 hours of video per 1gb SD card). So, cool.
Buy Panasonic. Read Axis.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
It never ceases to amaze me, the stuff people bring in and expect me to take care of. Like today. A guy had a box camera with what looked like a 1/4" chip and a board-lens-to-CS-mount adapter. Why would you do that? What purpose would that serve? What were they drinking when they come up with that idea? I sold him an Everfocus bullet. Then I had this other guy who showed me this cable that he said he took off his security camera. It looked like a Firewire cable but it had this weird hood on it. I just sent him on his way. This was just before the lady who had 6 pin DIN DVR and wanted a BNC adapter so she could add the board camera she had purchased.
Man, I don't plan on working that hard.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems and Sony Corp. announced recently that the companies will be cooperating to create an open forum aimed at developing a standard for the interface of network video products. Currently, there is no global standard defining how network video products such as cameras, video encoders and video management systems should communicate with each other. The new standard is expected to comprise interfaces for specifications such as video streaming, device discovery and intelligence metadata.... A unified open standard will also offer end-users greater flexibility of choice, enabling them to select products from different vendors in order to develop systems that fully meet their needs.
This is great news. Having every IP camera be proprietary is nothing short of insane. When I buy a computer from Dell, I don't need to buy Dell routers and Dell switchers and Dell monitors and Dell keyboards and Dell printers and Dell paper and Dell ink. I can buy whatever, secure in the knowledge that most of it will probably work together okay, eventually, after a lot of cursing and calling tech support and thinking hard about just buying a pencil and a legal pad. And this is good for both consumers and manufacturers, because making it easier for things to work together causes people to want to buy more of those things.
But then, the security industry doesn't know how to work together, does it? Just look at ADI and Napco, two idiots who just hurt themselves to spite the other one. Babies.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I'm bored today. Sold one Wilife nanny cam all day. Bored, bored, bored.
I dug up an old C-mount-to-Nikon-F adapter we had in the basement, and stuck it on a box camera we have on display (a Sanyo VCC-6584). Then I stuck a Nikon 80~400mm lens on it. That turned out to be overkill, because at 80mm I could read the menus in the window of the Chinese resturaunt across the street, and at 400mm I couldn't see anything at all, just a blur.
So that killed 30 minutes.
Then I read the SIW IFSEC page. Then I went to Axis's website to read about their new P1311 box camera with H.264. Then I read a bunch of Axis white papers. Then I went to Wikipedia to see why it was called a "white paper" (when the English Parliament wants to announce a new government policy, they publish it on white paper, as apposed to green paper, which is used to propose strategy, or newspaper, which is used to wrap fish and chips).
Then I just clicked "random page", which gave me The Ramones, Registered Historical Sites in Albany, New York, a list of Urban Areas in New Zealand, which was ranked by population and median income (apparently, Aukland is the biggest city by population, but only the second by median income, while Wellington, the second biggest city, is also the richest), and a list of Shopping Malls in Houston, Texas. I was intrigued by this enigmatic entry:
Hong Kong City Mall - an Asian strip mall based in Alief, Houston, Texas at the southwest intersection of Bellaire Boulevard and Boone Road.
What is an Asian strip mall?
Eventually that got boring, so I wrote this post. And I'll bet that I've now succeeded in boring you, too.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I'm thinking of joining ASIS. Any one care to comment one way or another?
I got a job I need to spec. Some smart person in charge of an aquarium wants to have cameras mounted inside the tank, about fifteen feet down, streaming video to a web server. Wirelessly. They're going to use it for maintenance.
Apparently, they now send divers into the tank every so often with camcorders in waterproof housings.
So, Extreme CCTV makes what they call the EX15, a submersible housing. Throw in an Axis 247s, a Watec camera of some description, a good lens, and a WAP, and I say we got something going.
Anyone want to add anything?
Axis has an H.264 single channel encoder. Streams 30 FPS at D1 (720x480). Supports numerous PTZ protocols. 2 way audio. With PoE, SD card slot, motion detection, tamper alarm, audio detection. 9MB buffer for pre and post alarm recording.
Marshall has two incredibly impressive lenses. They aren't on the website yet, but there is one 300mm, f3.75 lens, and one 140mm, f1.0 lens- the 140mm is practically a starlight lens! The 140mm has a field of view of 3 degrees H by 2 degrees V (using a ½" chip). They should be out in the summer. Special order only. Use a good tripod, these lenses are humongous. Marshall had these lenses mounted 503HDV, 351MVB2K kits. MSRP may or may not be $2499 on the 140mm.
Speaking of starlight, Bolide will have a starlight box camera- 1/3", 0.001 lux, 560 VTL in color and an incredible 620VTL in b&w. Digital noise reduction, and variable power from 8VDC to 30 VAC. I recommend Tamron IR coated lenses for this one.
Arecont Vision has a line of mega pixel cameras that compress video in H.264 right in the camera. Streams 1920x1080 in 16:9 format, in 30, and 15 FPS, with 1.3, 2, 3, and 5 mega pixel versions. The company says "The new cameras will also support RTP protocol for direct streaming of H.264 video into third-party software players, such as Apple's QuickTime, as well as custom TFTP protocol for streaming into Arecont Vision's own AV100 software, and other custom software applications developed using Arecont's SDK." I think that means you can use this camera for custom apps like traffic watch.
Everfocus has a new Wide Dynamic Range version of their famous vandal proof domes, the EHD 650. 480 VTL, and 0.08 lux. As usual it has a heater and blower, and comes with a varifocal lens.
Panasonic has a high definition video decoder with HDMI out called the WJ-GXD400. Supports 1 video at 1920x1080 with audio. Use with a mega pixel camera. They also announced the WJ-ND400 NVR, replacement for the ND400. It will ship with 500GB storage, expandable to 4.5TB onboard or 27TB with external units. No info on the Panasonic site yet. This is part of their new megapixel line.
Probably the most astonishing thing I saw at the show was the super wide angle lenses fromTheia. 1.3mm mega pixel pan focus lenses… with no distortion! It needs to be seen to be believed. I, personally, love lenses, and this goes against everything I know about lenses. It requires no power- all correction is done optically. Good for dPTZ and video forensics.
Of course, there is the SV35.3 series of hard drives from Seagate. Drives are the least visible, least glamorous, most important part of the CCTV system, and buying good drives are important. Available up to 1TB.
Some company I never heard of called Dotworkz has a line of wireless IP housings. Very nice.
Nothing I saw seemed very revolutionary. Everyboday was talking "H.264" and "storage" and "IP". Seems some companies are abandoning analog cameras entirely, and focusing on IP cameras and networking. Good thing too, except the security industry seems a bit lost as to this whole IP thing. It requires a whole new way of thinking, and some people just don't get it. For example- storage. We're all used to thinking of video storage as something expensive, so we compress video as much as possible to fit as much time as we can on the same amount of space. Video tape is expensive to buy and bulky so it's difficult to store. But we don't use video tape anymore, we use hard drives. And hard drives are so cheap nowadays it's virtually free. A 750GB SV35.3 Seagate hard drive is only $200 more than a 250GB hard drive (retail!) but the difference between a DVR with 160GB onboard and 1TB onboard is $1000 or more. There's no good reason why any DVR from any manufacturer should ship with less than 500GB of space.
The H.264 revolution could have gone in one of two ways. Either the DVR manufacturers could have decided to use the same resolution and just saved more video, or they could have saved the amount of video we're used to at a far higher resolution and frame rate. I applaud the companies that have decided to go in the second direction.
On a personal note, I got to meet Geoff Kohl at securityinfowatch.com's booth. I told him how much I appreciate this forum, which allows me to get a glimpse into the minds of the most imoportant users of CCTV- security guards and managers. Kudos.