Hoping to tap the burgeoning market for digital video surveillance, IBM has rolled out new consulting, integration, and deployment services aimed at the government, travel, and transportation markets.
The new services include consulting, system design, hardware and software installation, and the integration of digital video systems into existing IT system architectures.
IBM officials said it would work with the suppliers of video camera systems to deliver a range of soup-to-nuts solutions involving all of the new services.
Users were finding it increasingly difficult to battle the built-in limitations and cost of analog videotape-based surveillance systems, IBM said. Tape-based systems needed a video recorder for each camera in order to maintain a visual record. In addition, picture quality tended to diminish as the tapes wore out and it was often time-consuming to search through tapes.
"We don't get into businesses lightly," vice-president of marketing for IBM Communications Sector, Mike Maas, said. "Customers are asking for this.
"We're increasingly seeing a convergence in the market of IT security … with physical security and the need for tying it all that together in an end-to-end comprehensive system."
Maas said that the announcement was essentially an extension of moves Big Blue had been making in the digital media space.
He said IBM planned to use services to push digital convergence into business functions, such as better management of large archives of video data and bolstered transportation of materials over the Internet.
A big concern, IBM officials claimed, was that existing tape-based systems were rarely integrated with a company's other security technologies, such as badge readers and intrusion detection systems.
Among the technical advantages of digital-based systems, IBM said, was their added flexibility because they could store information electronically, transmit instantly to police digital images of a crime in progress, be programmed to automatically pick up irregularities such as someone holding a weapon, create a searchable index of digital images that allows authorised users to display everyone who passed by a location on a specific day, and could use an IP network to transmit images and data.
"It's an immediate need for a lot of folks - mission critical for some folks - and extremely expensive to implement in the traditional way," research analyst for Gartner, Lou Latham, said. "People don't realise the volume of content that builds up over time is considerable, because you have to have archives going back every minute as long as you can store. The content management aspect of it can be considerable."
Latham said the movement of surveillance onto the network was not only more efficient but also expanded functionality and enabled easier implementation - particularly on the server side for search and motion detection and triggering alarms.
IBM's new services could play a vital role in the future surrounding retail environments, protection of public areas, construction sites, and ATMs, he said.
"It puts expanded security capability into the hands of folks and makes it possible in a lot of situations where you would need a lot of infrastructure upgrades to do it in a conventional way," Latham said
The various solutions that IBM video-camera suppliers pieced together will involve a number of IBM's existing products, including its Content Manager, Tivoli storage management products, WebSphere application server, and its eServer line of hardware.