Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Make Money Selling CCTV on the Internet

Every CCTV manufacturer is asking themselves the same question: should we sell product on the Internet? If so, how? How do we go about it? Won’t we make our core customer base- the integrators- mad? If we don’t sell product online, can we compete with manufacturers who do?

Can you sell professional grade product online and make money doing it? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? The entire CCTV industry is trying to figure out a rational end-user reseller strategy that helps their bottom line without alienating the integrator. I firmly believe that in the future, manufacturers who embrace e-sales will eat the lunches of manufacturers who are married to the channel-only model. That said, the current paradigm shift the industry is experiencing is just alienating integrators, e-sellers, manufacturers, and end users alike.

The main reason that online sales leaves a bad taste in the mouths of manufacturers is not due to any inherent flaw in the concept. Rather, I feel as though the marketing model most in the industry have followed is flawed on a very fundamental level. In the past, every manufacturer sold plain brown boxes via distributors, where there was very little differentiation between product and integrators simply bought a name on a box. Manufacturers marketed themselves, not their products, and relied on the integrator to market their product to the customer. I know, I was an integrator for a decade before becoming an Internet reseller. My family has been security integrators since 1979. I know lots of integrators, and I know exactly how they purchase product. Even today, a lot of them do not look at different products within the brand beyond, at most, form factor. You go to ADI and tell the guy behind the counter “I need five Speco bullet cameras, three domes- whatever’s cheapest- and give me an 8 channel Everfocus DVR with a 500GB hard drive”.

They’ve seen Everfocus and Speco at the trade shows and counter-days, drunk the free coffee and eaten the donuts, have spoken to tech support, and shop a brand based on 1) price, 2) past history of defective product, and 3) whether the tech support associates were able to help them with that weird question that one time. Sure, sometimes a rep will tell them about an interesting new product, or they will have an unusual application and the rep will suggest a product with a unique function, but beyond that there isn’t much product research.

End users, of necessity, shop very differently. For starters, they will have to live with whatever product they purchase for the next three years, so they need to make sure that the product they choose will do what they want it to do with not much trouble or downtime. They’ve never heard of 95% of manufacturers and have no way of judging them. They choose product based on 1) features and 2) price.

If an internet retailer knows nothing about surveillance or security, they have no way of explaining why one feature would be more desirable than another, or which specific product will be perfect for the particular application. This causes mad customers to jam the manufacturers’ tech support lines with angry phone calls, not understanding why the lipstick camera connected to the half CIF DVR recording at 7FPS doesn’t identify faces at 200 feet like on that TV show. Yes, let’s all pause to giggle at the stupid customers, until we remember that CDW and Newegg make a living selling the kind of high end computer and networking equipment that would have been science fiction seven years ago, and somehow they do not have to deal with calls from angry customers mad that the netbook they bought won’t hack the local traffic. That’s because the computer industry has done a terrific job 1) educating their potential customer base in what computers can do (darn near anything if you have enough free time) and 2) explaining what computers can’t do (power on after the warranty has expired).

Everyone knows that end users seeking to purchase product online are doing so only to save money, and are only interested in the 16 channel kits for $400 from eBay. Like a lot of things that everyone knows, this is wrong. First off, if the customer is shopping for product online, it’s because they do not see the value the local security dealer provides. Is it because the local security dealer provides no value? Not usually. All too often, the local security guy doesn’t understand that his job isn’t to sell security products; his job is to sell himself as a security expert, who uses security products to get the job done. The sales pitch rarely rises above the level of “buy this cause it’s awesome… or buy this other thing because it’s a little cheaper.” I shouldn’t be in business, or, at least, I shouldn’t be able to make money selling Pelco and Axis and Exacq. The reason I get away with it is because my customers are willing to spend extra money if only someone will tell them why it’s worth it.

But this post isn’t how security integrators can beat the internet reseller- I get it, sales is hard work and some people just can’t hack it. The topic is, how do manufacturers sell product to the people the integrator just isn’t reaching. So ignore the integrators whining about the race to the bottom, the integrators scared of the internet reseller were never selling to those customers anyway.

I agree that Costco and Amazon will never be able to sell anything more complicated than the $500 boxed kits, because selling security requires knowing security. But there are companies out there that know security and want to sell security solutions, not box kits, and they need your help, CCTV manufacturers. Invest a bit in marketing. Throw us some advertising. Make your stuff a little more user friendly. Heck, that last bit couldn’t hurt, even if you never end up selling direct. Basically, we all need to stop acting like the end users are idiots who need special handling by integrators. Trust the end users to be smart enough to be make informed decisions, given enough information, and the smart ones will end up being profitable.

The dumb ones will still buy $500 box kits from Costco, so what have you got to lose?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

ASIS apparently has plenty of money to toss around

So, ASIS announced that their keynotes would be Captain Sully of Miracle on the Hudson fame, Dave Barry of generally being hilarious fame, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf. While I don't doubt that General has some interesting things to say about the GWOT, I have to wonder about ASIS's budget. According to Gen. Musharraf's wilipefia page (to which I am unable to link because I am blogging on my iPhone), he gets "$150,000 to $200,000... for a day plus jet and other VIP arrangements on the ground" according to one of the PR firms trying to land a piece of that sweet, sweet speaker fee moolah. Probably somewhat inflated but not by much. Good to hear ASIS spends my membership dues wisely. Now I know why the PSP prep classes are so expensive.

Posted with altBlogger.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How to Not Go Out of Business: The Manufacturer Edition

Someone asked me about the state of the surveillance industry. As I'm sure everyone is aware, times are tough. People aren't making as much money as they used too. New construction is down, which means sales are down too.

Interestingly, crime seems to be down. Some have speculated that it has something to do with the fact that gun sales are up. I don't know about that, but I do know that the security industry can't even go to people and say “boogity boogity, give us money or your children will be murdered by rampaging thieves!!!” which is of course the go-to pitch for lazy salespeople since Linus Yale invented the pin tumbler way back before the Civil War.

Slow sales to end users translate of course to slow sales by manufacturers. This means that all the manufacturers are scrambling for an ever shrinking pool of potential integrator dollars. What can manufacturers do to make their offerings more attractive to integrators?

There are several factors that go into the decision to purchase this or that product. Physical security integrators are a conservative and cautious lot, and so reliability is almost always the most important factor. There is a real lack of impartial product evaluation in the security industry, so purchasers are often forced to rely on personal experience and word of mouth reputation in order to judge the perceived reliability of products. This of course means that it takes a while for new technologies to filter through the industry. Put simply, physicals security integrators are not exactly hostile to change, but do not believe in change for change’s sake. This makes it far too easy for a company to rest on its laurels, believing that because customers are buying now, they will buy forever, with no need for technological innovation. Eventually the technology stagnates, and suddenly all your customers are buying from AverMedia or somebody. Put simply, a lot of product offerings out there is nothing special. It’s just the same old same old that we’ve been seeing for the past couple of years, and prices have stayed exactly where they are, too.

GE is a terrific example of this. They (or the companies they devoured, anyway) were early innovators, back in the 90s when the industry was slowly going digital, and either led the way forward with carefully rolled out technological innovation. But then they just got fat and lazy and stopped innovating while keeping their pricing sky high, believing that customers would “shop the name”, purchasing cameras and DVRs because there was a GE sticker on the outside. And it worked for a while. Then, in August 2009, GE started looking for a buyer for their security segment, and was eventually acquired by UTC. This was widely seen as an effort by UTC to enhance their already strong access control and fire alarm offerings, two markets in which the former GE Security remain strong- and it is important to note that both access control and fire are relatively low tech, unlike surveillance video. If I may, I'd like to refresh everyone's memory with a link to this acrimonious thread on IP Video Market.

Simply put: aging, expensive product simply will not fly. With the economy the way it is now, everyone is sensitive to price.

The economy is also the reason why a lot of the old guard is experiencing a sharp drop off instead of a slow steady decline in terms of sales. Basically, the two factors that drive DVR sales is new construction and product failure. With new construction in the toilet, especially new construction of large complicated high security multibuilding projects, I’m not surprised that no one is buying expensive DVRs. There is still some replacement activity- as in, replacement of failed equipment- but it takes a while for a DVR to fail, failures can to a certain extent be planned for because they happen on a more or less predictable timeline, and the only time you buy a legacy DVR is to replace another legacy DVR and you have enterprise management software that requires you to use that manufacturer's product. If your DVR goes kablooie tomorrow, and it’s a standalone 16 camera installation, the first thing you do is find a cheaper DVR with similar or superior specs. After all, analog cameras work with all analog DVRs; you don’t have to buy a specific DVR to work with your existing cameras.

Replacing failing cameras is a good steady business, but there is very few cameras out there that you can’t find from somewhere else cheaper. In other words, it’s a simple matter to just go to another manufacturer’s offerings, and budgetary constraints are encouraging security managers to shop around, and the integrators are required to deliver.

You want to know who will ride out the financiapocalypse? EverFocus. You'll note that their stock price has climbed steadily all year long. Why? Three reasons: they've been incredibly aggressive on pricing, they've announced new product on a fairly regular basis (every few months or so, not so quick that it just looks like their spewing in all directions but not so slow that everyone forgets who they are, either), and most importantly, they are one of the prime movers behind HDCCTV, a concept that may revolutionize the industry forever ('forever' meaning 'probably for the next eight to ten years or so') if it actually works.

We are in the beginning stages of a worrying trend in the surveillance video business. Simply put, there is a lot of redundancy in the security market, and we are seeing a contraction of the industry. Manufacturers that cannot entice customers to purchase their products will simply cease to be. So if you're sitting on some cash reserves, you can 1) dump as much money and effort into R&D as possible as quickly as possible, 2) buy some startup with an awesome idea and a cash flow problem, or 3) find some sucker to buy you out. You have a little time to decide... but not much.

The best part? Even if new construction does pick up, customers may get used to paying less money for newer technology, and you may never recover if they continue the way you've been going on.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Choosing cameras using the DCRI method

Before you can choose the camera that will work for you, you will have to define your expectations for the camera. Take a moment and think about what you want the camera to do for you, and what the camera is actually for. Put simply, there are four operational levels use to classify camera performance, and they are detection, classification, recognition, and identification, known as DCRI.

Imagine two security guards looking at the feed from a camera on a monitor in a control room somewhere. Bob nudges Mike and points to the screen.

Hey, Mike. Looks like movement on camera six.

What is it, Bob?

Beats me, Mike. You think we should go check it out?

This is detection. Bob can see that there is an unnatural level of movement at the edge of the camera’s vision, and has been alerted that there is a situation that may require further attention. Bob stares at this particular camera all day, every day, and knows there is movement where no movement should be, but doesn’t know if he should be concerned.

As the subject moves closer to the camera, the next level is classification.

Hey, Mike. Looks like it’s a person, moving closer to the building.

Who is it, Bob?

I don’t know, but I don’t think anyone’s supposed to be in that sector, Mike.

At this point, you can tell if your subject is a vehicle, a person, or an animal. You can’t tell much about the subject, but you at least know what kind of subject you’re dealing with.

As the subject moves closer to the camera, the next level is recognition.

Hey, Mike. We have a white male, wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants, in Sector G… doesn’t look like our subject is carrying anything. Subject is walking at moderate speed. Go and check it out.

We can get some broad details of our subject, but the subject is still a little fuzzy. We cannot recognize unfamiliar faces. We cannot recognize scratches, dents, or other small distinguishing marks on vehicles. We can tell what type of clothing a subject is wearing and we can determine what body type a vehicle has. We may be able to recognize familiar people, but that is because we recognize people we know well using cues other than facial features. For example, we often recognize people by the way they walk, or the way they hold themselves, or their particular clothing or hairstyle. Keep this in mind when testing a camera.

The final level is identification.

(Speaks into walkie-talkie) Hey, Mike, this is Bob, I can see him on the camera now. It’s Joe, the new guy. Let him know he’s supposed to be in Sector F. Over.

This is the level of detail we need if we are to prove that a specific individual committed a specific action in a court of law.

In addition, identification can be broken down further to three sub-levels of performance: General, Forensic, and High. General, as we said, can be used to identify the facial features of an individual performing an action. Forensic is a higher level of detail, allowing you to make out small elements such as license plate numbers. High gives you an extremely fine level of detail, such as is required to make out the denominations of specific bills, and is mainly used in cash counting rooms, casinos, and in industrial processes.

How do we determine the distances involved in the DCRI system? It depends on two main factors, the performance of the camera and the performance of the recording device. In this example, we will assume Mike and Bob are looking at a high quality analog camera with a decent lens and good lighting, being fed through a DVR recording at 1CIF (pronounced “sif”), or 352 x 240 pixels, which is still the most common recording spec, as it allows the video to be stored most efficiently. Assuming a camera mounted no lower than 9 and no higher than 12 feet from the ground, identification ends at about 12 feet, recognition ends at about 24 feet, classification ends at about 32 feet, and detection will end at about 42 feet. This is not scientific, as many other factors will play a part- not least the visual acuity of the operator- but are rather rules of thumb.

Back in the olden days, security professionals had only one way to increase the chances of identification, and that was to use creativity to mount the cameras in spots where the likelihood of the subject coming close to the camera increased. While this is still the best and most effective method, it isn’t always possible. Technological advances have now given us another option- increase both the resolution of the camera and the resolution of the recording device. For higher end analog recorders, we now have the option of recording at D1 resolution, which is 704 x 480 pixels. This will give you identification at 22 feet, recognition at 32 feet, classification at about 42 feet, and detection at about 52 feet (at this point we get scalloping of the image due to using an analog monitor, so doubling the resolution will not double the DCRI lengths).

If we want to go digital, we have the option of using a new operational concept we call dPTZ, or digital pan-tilt-zoom. Using a megapixel camera will give us an image with more data in it. We can then take that image, and blow it up (after the fact), picking out details we could never see with the naked eye, just like you’ve seen on a thousand TV cop shows. Sure, megapixel cameras are much more expensive than standard cameras and they take up a lot of storage space. However, you can get better ROI (return on investment) by pairing megapixel cameras with rectilinear lenses. Rectilinear lenses are basically super wide angle lenses which use fancy optics so that there is virtually zero distortion. This allows you to cover enormous areas using a single camera, and because you are using megapixel, you can drill down into the image, and your Identification and Recognition thresholds are much, much higher.

Of course, we all want the highest resolution possible, but that gets expensive quickly. The smartest way to specify surveillance product is to 1) define the purpose of the surveillance system, 2) define what our expectations are for each camera, and 3) figure out the optimal placement for each camera. Remember, a low resolution camera in the right place is often all you need, and much cheaper than a high resolution camera that still isn’t close enough to see what we need it to see.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ISC East

I'll be at the show both days, live tweeting from the show floor. Follow me on Twitter here, or click on the widget to your right.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Irresponsible Rumors

Which manufacturer is about to lose their president/ general manager/ head cheese/ big kahuna? Stay tuned.


Also, I’m hearing about more than one empty booth at ASIS 2009. L


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Things to look forward to:

ASIS just released a new set of guidelines: the Facilities Physical Security Measures Guideline! Am I excited? Yeah, I'm excited! Why? Because I'm a physical security nerd, that's why. Some of us have to exist, after all. I'm still cooler than Marc Weber Tobias.

According to the press release:

The guideline assists in the identification of physical security measures that can be applied at facilities to safeguard or protect an organization’s assets—people, property and information. It outlines eight main categories of physical security measures used to protect facilities: physical barriers; physical entry and access control; security lighting; intrusion detection systems; video surveillance; security personnel; security policies and procedures; and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). The emerging field of security convergence is also addressed.

Makes you all tingly, don't it?

I ordered a hard copy, because trying to open a .pdf has been making my computer choke, sputter, and die lately. Hard copies are back-ordered, of course. Shipping is, like, seven bucks. Seriously? I order entire books from Amazon that ship for less than $7. With hard covers, even.

Looking forward to seeing it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pinnacle Security salesman using unethical practices.

Reading this story makes my blood pressure rise. Apparently, salesmen have been knocking on the doors of CastleRock Security in Wichita, Kansas. The way the scam works is they tell you CastelRock is out of business, change the panel, and get a bank check from you so they can start charging you for CSM right way.

The best part is that Pinnacle isn't even licensed in Wichita.

I read about this story on consumer protection blog The Consumerist. The comments are freaking precious, too. My favorites:

The Pinnacle Security salespeople were in Portland about 2 months ago saying that other security systems "were easy for burglars to get around" and started asking intrusive questions.

I used to work for Pinnacle Security out in San Diego, California. I was originally trained to be an installer. I moved over to selling for a short period before our office closed. They taught us to use things like "We are looking for a model home and we will give you a security system for Free." There was nothing Free about the systems. I never lied about a company going out of business, but they do use some pretty Iffy sells techniques. I recommend no one do business with Pinnacle.

Wow! I was wondering if anyone else had been a victim of their predatory sales techniques. About a month ago one of these guys visited my house trying to give away 1 of 5 free alarm systems in my neighborhood. The guy was insanely pushy and tried to push his way into my house to do a so called home inspection.

These [adjective redacted because this is a family blog] came to my neighborhood a few months ago and I called the cops. They knocked on my door at 9:30pm and asked me if I had a security system. They were wearing Pinnacle Security t-shirts, but other than that they looked like gang-bangers. Not exactly the best people to be selling a security product.

Seems like they hire a lot of kids for summer jobs- they even have a MySpace page (I have been blogging here and there since 2003 and so help me this is the first time I've ever linked to a MySpace page. May it be my last). I guess you get what you pay for.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ESX 2009

So I went to ESX 2009 today, in beautiful downtown Bodymore, Murderland. Next year's event is scheduled to go down in Pittsburgh. Candidates for ESX 2011 include the Gaza Strip, the South Bronx, and a Carnival Cruise ship anchored off the coast of Somalia. I suppose the show's organizers think that security professionals are a rough, tough breed who won't be scared of a little crime. That, or it's cheaper to hold a convention in a town that doesn't usually get conventioneers. Sam Pfeifle is a bit more charitable. But then, he's a better person than I am.

I kid! I kid because I love! I like Baltimore. My wife is from Baltimore. We had our first date at the Baltimore Aquarium, a short walk from where the convention was held. But, still, Baltimore (like Pittsburgh) is not what you'd consider glamorous, like New York, or Las Vegas.

In other news, ASIS 2009 will be in Anaheim. California.

Speaking of Sam Pfeifle, I couldn't help but notice I'm not one of the 20 under 40. Oh, well, always next year, when I'll still be younger than anyone on the list this year. Has a 25 year old ever made that list?

Anyway, on to the show review.

I mainly hit this show in order to attend the Axis vendor training I saw advertised on a banner ad on top of the Security Info Watch forums (which you should sign up for if you like this blog). The training was excellent and totally worth the trip from New Jersey (YMMV). I was worried that it would just be the PowerPoint version of Axis' highly controversial TCO 'study', but they mostly skipped the propaganda and just answered the hardest question anyone in IP surveillance has to address: why go IP instead of analog?

The training was aimed at street-level sales people and dirty-pants installers, and strove mightily to give them a reason to recommend IP cameras instead of analog systems for medium sized jobs. The reasons why you might want to go IP have been hashed and rehashed and hashed further still elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the Axis guy did not hesitate to admit that 1) IP is nearly impossible to implement unless you know networking or can hire someone who does, 2) IP is often more expensive, and 3) in at least some cases, the customer would be better served by an analog solution.

Of course, there is a word for convincing the customer to spend more money than they had planned, based on the salesperson's knowledge of the product and the specific issue the customer is trying to address. Well, there is more than one word, but this is a family blog, and the word we're looking for here is "salesmanship". You may argue that the customer does not want to spend the money on IP cameras, but I would like to point out that to the customer, the ideal security project is completely free and solves all past, present, and future security issues forever and ever. Ain't gonna happen. Sure the customer doesn't want to spend IP money, but if you are a sales professional, it's your job to show them why spending IP money is a good idea.

After the seminar concluded, I hit the show floor. Unfortunately, Northern Video did not have a booth at the show, so I remained completely sober all day. I went to the Panasonic booth, and despite what I've been saying all over the Internet, Panasonic has not in fact shut down their analog R&D, and in fact had a new analog camera and a new DVR to brag on. The camera, the WV-CW504 (which apparently debuted at ISC West but I did not attend ISC West, grrr) is awesomesauce. Very pretty picture, using the new SD5 .

From here on in, analog cameras will use the new SD5 chip (SuperDynamic 5, replacing the SDiii image sensor) and IP cameras will use the MegaSD chip. Either way, the WV-CW504 will eventually replace the CW484 series. Street date is, like, Augustish. They did not have the DVR to show, but said the street date is something like Octobertime.

I stopped by the Mace booth, which was being manned by Dennis Raefield personally. We spoke about central station video monitoring, and how cool it would be if we could sell it. He told me about an all-in-one DVR Mace is going to be putting out. He told me that returns are down at Mace (which I see myself- we sell a ton of Mace stuff and returns for non functioning and malfunctioning product is way down, not that it was ever anything more than a minor concern, despite our no-questions-asked return policy).

Good for Mace, I want them to do well. Best user interface on a DVR I've ever seen- a retarded iguana can drink a pint of vodka and still figure out how to program a Mace DVR in a few minutes. Imagine how fast your end user can figure out a Mace DVR if they have thumbs.

Also said hi to Geoff Kohl of Security Info Watch. He's a cool guy. Hi, Geoff!

Overall, good show. I like the fact that the focus was on the installer, rather than the buyer or the CSO- I started out as an installer and I'm a dirty-pants kind of guy despite my suit. Freebies were not very impressive, although Wynit gave out thumb drives and Axis had a very substantial notebook. I got one "extra large" t shirt from Canon, and although I haven't tried it on I know that the Japanese define "extra large" very differently than Americans do.

I will probably be back next year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lots and lots of storage!

The second biggest barrier to entry that prevents customers from considering IP cameras is storage. Let's face it, you need a lot of storage. How much? Using Axis' design tool, I figured out that a single Axis 211A, under a moderate amount of motion, recording 24 hours a day, 6FPS at MJPEG, 640x480 at 50% compression, will suck up 10.3 GB a day. A day! Say you've got 16 cameras and you want to save 30 days of video. That's 4TB, 944 GB. besides the expense, you've got to manage all that, too. Don't you?

Well, it just got cheaper, and a whole lot easier, for ordinary, regular alarm guys with dirty pants to add big massive gobs of storage to IP projects. I give you the DroboPro 8 slot hard drive enclosure. I got to take a look at the thing earlier this week, and let me tell you, it is just perfect for medium sized surveillance projects.

Basically, this thing is an idiot-proof hard drive enclosure that will accept up to 8 drives of any type and size. You can mix and match any 3.5" drive of any manufacturer and size without worrying about matching- just slot it in and the DroboPro just automatically configures the thing. If you were on a budget but anticipated expanding in the future, you'd just buy a few drives and add more as you go.

The aforementioned ordinary regular alarm guys will be relieved to know that no knowledge of the various flavors of RAID is required. They've got this thing called BeyondRAID, which should be called AutoRAID (feel free to use that, Drobo), because that's what it is. You throw a bunch of drives in there and the box figures out the best RAID configuration and does it for you. Even adjusts the RAID on the fly for you. It also automatically detects bad drives and spreads the data elsewhere, giving you time to replace the drive.

The user panel is simplicity itself- easy enough that even a Mac user could figure out how to run the thing. There are a bunch of ways to connect the thing. You've got your choice between FireWire 800, USB, or even Ethernet, meaning you can put this drive anywhere along your network.

What about the price? The price is simply awesome. The array itself is just $1,199.95. You can also get it as a kit with 4TB for $1,689.95, 8TB for $2,189.95, or 16TB (that's right! sixteen big, beautiful terabytes!) for a mere $3,189.95! Do we live in a wonderous time, or what?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Got my eye on you

DSC_0022, originally uploaded by CCTV Cameraman.

Took some pictures of our store display, and I got this shot of an Axis 211 looking balefull.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Explaining megapixel cameras and rectilinear lenses

Why megapixel cameras?

Manufacturers have been pushing megapixel cameras for a while now. And, let’s be honest, they look super awesome. But is there an actual business case there? When the bean counters come around, can we justify the added expense past “but, look how pretty it is!”?

Some manufacturers have been telling us that you can use megapixel cameras to replace standard cameras. Use one megapixel camera to do the work of six or eight standard cameras, goes the argument, and save money on the installation. How does that work, exactly?

You gotta use rectilinear lenses, that’s how.

Here's the thing. I don't know how big of an area you are trying to cover, but I'm going to hope for the best and assume it's an indoors area with bright, constant lighting, with the camera mounted about 12-15 feet high looking at an open area (no aisles or displays or desks!) about 35 feet by 35 feet square.

Assuming this is the case, or similar, you may be able to get away with a 2MP camera and a 180 degree rectilinear lens (NOT FISHEYE!!!) for your dPTZ (digital PTZ- remember this term for later) camera. Basically, what you are trying to do is get a VERY wide picture, and then blowing up portions of the picture later, like they do on CSI. Unfortunately, on CSI blowing up a picture actually makes the picture sharper, where in the real world blowing up a picture means a loss in detail. Therefore, you need a very sharp camera, a great lens, ideal 24 hour lighting, and wonderful storage and compression protocols. The actual software is pretty simple and your existing DVR could theoretically do it using the zoom feature (if your DVR could handle such detailed pictures without compressing the hell out of them, which it can't of course).

Now since most CCTV or security people are unaware of the very existence of rectilinear lenses (but YOU aren't, are you, because your good buddy the CameraMan linked to the definition earlier in this rant), so most people wanting to set up a dPTZ camera actually use a fish-eye lens (or buy a camera with a fisheye lens already installed) and use fancy, sophisticated software packages such as the ones made by Avigilon, which actually uses a bunch of very sophisticated programs working together to 1) zoom into a sector of the fisheye picture (ie the easy part) and 2) flattening it out (the hard part). This is very cool, except for the fact that it doesn't quite work the way you need it to work because, well, the picture is still distorted, and a distorted picture JUST may give a jury reasonable doubt.

So just buy a rectilinear lens. The best ones are from Theia. They've got a choice of CS mount, auto iris (the SY125A), a CS mount, manual iris (the SY125M), and a C mount, manual iris (the MY125M). Expensive? Sure. The lens alone is nearly the price of a megapixel, non D/N camera... but worth it, if it replaces six or seven cameras.

Now, the other thing you gotta think about is: storage. This camera is going to eat up storage and eat it up fast, and I assume you need to store video for a goodish while because I assume you are a medium to high risk site because otherwise you wouldn't be using so many expensive cameras and such an expensive NVR package. So. Learn about RAID arrays and buy Seagate Baracuda SV35.3 series drives by the case. Have fun, and kiss your budget goodbye.

At this point, assuming you are still reading, you may be wondering why the hell you should get this setup- wouldn't be easier to just get a freaking PTZ and be done with it? The answer is no. Now, a rectilinear lens plus a GOOD 2 megapixel camera plus a boatload of storage is the same or even a little more than a normal PTZ plus a keyboard plus an encoder BUT dPTZ has an enormous advantage over traditional PTZ, and that is: you never miss any of the action.
Remember, if you point the PTZ north, and someone gets stabbed to the south, you are basically screwed (a technical legal term), but with a dPTZ setup, you are looking at EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.

We usually only use PTZ cameras to supplement fixed, traditional cameras, but even then it is usually not practical to have full coverage. Proper use of dPTZ cameras could make true, full coverage a reality.

dPTZ is an operational concept and a design philosophy, not a product in a cardboard box. It
requires creativity and true understanding of how cameras work and experience in physical security. There will always be a need for true surveillance video experts to explain and implement solutions such as dPTZ.

More about rectilinear lenses here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Understanding WDR

Understanding WDR Cameras from Peter Brissette on Vimeo.

Explains wide dynamic range cameras, and why you should get some.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

NBFAA to create Young Security Professionals group

With the cutoff age being 45. W. T. F?

IRVING, Texas and WASHINGTON—The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association is concerned about the future of the industry. A recent survey it conducted found electronic life safety and security professionals between the ages of 25 and 45 are concerned as well, with respondents acknowledging the importance of education and participation. The results of the survey led the NBFAA to found a new industry group called Young Security Professionals, which will launch at this year's Electronic Security Expo in Baltimore... According to Security Partners vice president Kerry Egan, who is YSP Council vice chair, the first event, previously titled the NBFAA Young Security Professionals Reception, has been renamed to include some of the immediacy the group hopes to convey. "We just changed the name, so I might as well tell you. We changed it to YSP Launch Party! DMTB! [Don't Miss the Boat!]," said Egan, who was in Washington for the NBFAA's Day on Capital Hill.

Because we young people enjoy excalamation points. And acronyms. What with our texting messages and our innerwebs and so forth.

YSP Council chair Trevor McEnaney, who is general manager of Westchester, N.Y.-based Knight Security, believes the YSP is essential to the continued health of the security industry. "This is a much needed resource … Right now, as I see it, recruitment into the industry is nonexistent—or at least it's not marketed well—so we don't have the next round. We're not reaching out. No one really knows this is a viable career path," McEnaney, also in Washington, said. "Where are we going to find the next installation manager, the next installers, the next sales manager, the next salesman or operations manager? If we can get into the high school and college level, that will be pretty exciting. This is a really noble and exciting profession. You're protecting life and property."

This is, of course, very true. Much as I like to make fun of people, these guys have a point, which is that the fogey to whippersnapper ratio is out of whack. At least, I think that now. Let's see what I think in, say, 1,000 years from now when I'm the same age as the geezers are now.

Anyway, the website is here:

I sent them my email address, we'll see what happens.