Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Guy at Panasonic

From Security Sales & Integration:

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

What's the matter with IP Video?

John Honovitch has a great post entitled Top Five IP Camera Problems. He identifies five reasons why people don't usually choose analog over IP (still):

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

IP Video Roadshow

I'm going. Are you? NYC next Wednesday. Free to Northern Video customers. Details here (pdf file).

IP is the future. In surveillance? Learn IP or get a new job.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, America

Some pictures I took in Washington DC in the spring.

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

Where's the Bandwidth?

According to this story, New York City's much touted $450 million (that's $450,000,000 for you taxpayers keeping score at home) is not going to be completed any time soon. Why?

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?