While closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance techniques are nothing new, the market has been in a state of renewal thanks to the arrival of numerous IT vendors hoping to put a fresh spin on the venerable technology.
With these sentinel devices now able to run just as well over an IP network as a more expensive coaxial set-up, or be installed as a pure IP camera from the get-go, vendors have been beating a path to creating hardware and software to sell as a new revenue stream.
Their arguments are buoyed by the cost efficiencies of an IP installation, superior playback and search capabilities of digital video, the scalability of tying cameras onto the network - even temporarily - at any time and the end to customers filling up tape upon tape of footage.
Running surveillance cameras over an IP network has both the convenience of plugging directly into Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and associated smart software at the back-end of the security network. In many cases, IP cameras can also be powered by the network using Power over Ethernet (PoE).
Of course wherever the vendors go, the channel has the opportunity to follow through and make a buck. According to Frost and Sullivan, the global network video market is pegged to reach $US1.2 billion by 2010.
"We live in a world where IP technology is everywhere and it's really good to be able to utilise it to its fullest," Sony's IPELA product manager, Mark Franklin, said. "Some cameras even use wireless technology and councils have placed them to monitor walkways around the streets and all sorts of other applications, too." NetComm national marketing manager, Rochelle White, said the market was large, incredibly diverse and growing rapidly as the world became more security and safety conscious.
"Surveillance is everywhere these days in hospitals, schools and basically everywhere with professional indemnity and liability insurance," she said. "Clubs have them everywhere at the moment. We even had an enquiry from a cattle range in WA that wanted to put them out in the field with a wireless relay to stop cattle theft." Besides businesses adopting the new technology of their own volition, government legislation and grants were pushing other sections of the market to either upgrade or invest in the latest IP surveillance hardware as well, Canon product marketing specialist, Lali Parasuramar, said. "The growth in network video has been huge thanks to a lot of changes in Australian legislation," she said.
"For anything deemed to be critical infrastructure, like power stations, water treatment plants or local government, the Federal Government is setting aside money and these areas are now getting hand-outs to upgrade or install surveillance hardware."
THE CONVERSION METHOD
One of the most readily apparent and immediate opportunities in the IP surveillance space lies in the conversion of older, analogue CCTV cameras to IP. This can be done either via a conversion unit or the total replacement of the camera itself. NEC Business Solutions senior security and hosted solutions product manager, Lance Heather, claimed as much as 98 per cent of the CCTV market was still analogue.
"Customers are starting to move to IP because it's cheaper and more efficient," he said. "Coaxial cable for analogue installs is expensive and IP cameras themselves are becoming so much more efficient."
Heather agreed analogue remained the more sensitive technology overall, but said IP-based cameras were improving quickly.
NetComm's White said it had originally marketed a number of analogue converters. But interest in pure IP cameras has been such that the converters have been dropped from its range.
"We'll bring them back if there's a demand," she said. "But at the moment everyone's going straight for the IP cameras, which really surprised me." Cisco systems engineer, Adam Radford, explained that while some businesses could re-use existing analogue equipment and save some money, the decision to upgrade to IP was sometimes a nobrainer, given the abilities it opened up.