ASIS 2010: Some Initial Impressions

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The article below appeared in yesterday's e-newsletter, Convergence Callouts. Subscribers have a jump on the material, but we opted to make it available to all readers.  Look for more ASIS coverage this week.

I've been writing about the transition to digital and IP video for several years, and after spending three-and-a-half days at ASIS International in Dallas last week, I'm happy to say that the market is at last truly grasping the significance of this shift. This is largely due to the fact that the industry now has something more than sizzle to sell.

Up to last year, when it came to communicating the benefits of digital, vendors had little more than concepts and the occasional prototype to offer. Like any disruptive technology, appreciation comes through actual use. Users who have deployed megapixel cameras certainly knew they would see the difference in image quality. They also knew that digital video could be transmitted and managed across multiple platforms. The value proposition of the benefits, though, remained elusive until they had product in their hands.

In short, jargon about pixel counts and lines of resolution takes a back seat when you can view and manipulate real time surveillance video on an iPad.

The rapid and energetic convergence of wireless, networking and HD video consumer electronics is a sub-story to the digital video revolution in surveillance. CSOs and CISOs now know what HD looks like. They go home to 16 x 9 plasma HD flat screens that can provide indisputable visual proof of an umpire's blown call. Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone and Google's Droid finally have delivered on the promise of mobile broadband. Usually it's business that leads the applications curve, but in video security, it's the other way around.

I'm not saying that these systems are easy to engineer. Significant back-end integration is still necessary (and poses both technical and competitive challenges for physical security integrators). Users are learning, however, that the investment is worth it because they can get digital video--and its inherent information--to more people faster. What's more, the information is delivered via platforms that are familiar - smartphones, text messages, social networking, to name three.

Not if, but when

That's why the question today for most organizations about digital video is not if, but when. One of the major product trends at ASIS from established VMS companies was their introduction of IP video and video management for the medium- to low-end. As Eric Fullerton, chief sales and marketing officer for Milestone Systems, told me, "We don't want people to choose analog over IP simply because they don't have the budget." Milestone, Avigilon, Genetec, March Networks, NICE Systems and Timesight all in some way announced versions of their high-end video management software for small and medium-sized systems. Even in cases where these vendors may have had an existing package targeting the SME segment, that offering is being replaced by a version that contains or adapts the core software in the higher end system.

The idea is to offer users an easy way to shift incrementally from analog to digital, then set an upgrade path as users grow their installations. Additional features and functions, such as storage and analytics, can be purchased a la carte as needed.

Speaking of analytics, digital video is also giving users a better handle on the capabilities and limitations of the technology, while sparking vendors to develop better algorithms and interfaces. Digital and megapixel images can boost the performance of analytics, and, since the digital video is data, it can be processed into information that can be presented graphically, such as a bar chart showing foot traffic by hour.

Finally, the networking benefits of digital video may help larger users navigate the often confusing terrain of physical security information management (PSIM). Again, once agencies begin to integrate and manipulate video data through geophysical databases like Google Earth and route them through computer-aided dispatch and mass notification systems, the increased value and utility immediately become tangible.

Integrated security, illustrated

In fact, the whole value proposition of convergence and integration got a practical demonstration during ASIS. One night during the show, several laptops were stolen from the Moog booth, which was in the field of view of live IP cameras mounted in the adjacent Milestone booth. Using Milestone's XProtect software equipped with an archiving system from Rimage and BriefCam's Synopsis viewer, which allows users to search hours of video to find key events within minutes, the Dallas Convention Center security staff was able to get a high-resolution picture that could positively identify the thief as an employee of the nighttime service staff. When confronted with the video, the employee confessed and implicated at least two other employees as part of his ring. He returned the stolen Moog equipment, along with products stolen from another recent trade show. He and his confederates were fired and will likely be prosecuted.

The article below appeared in yesterday's e-newsletter, Convergence Callouts. Subscribers have a jump on the material, but we opted to make it available to all readers.  Look for more ASIS coverage this week.

I've been writing about the transition to digital and IP video for several years, and after spending three-and-a-half days at ASIS International in Dallas last week, I'm happy to say that the market is at last truly grasping the significance of this shift. This is largely due to the fact that the industry now has something more than sizzle to sell.

Up to last year, when it came to communicating the benefits of digital, vendors had little more than concepts and the occasional prototype to offer. Like any disruptive technology, appreciation comes through actual use. Users who have deployed megapixel cameras certainly knew they would see the difference in image quality. They also knew that digital video could be transmitted and managed across multiple platforms. The value proposition of the benefits, though, remained elusive until they had product in their hands.

In short, jargon about pixel counts and lines of resolution takes a back seat when you can view and manipulate real time surveillance video on an iPad.

The rapid and energetic convergence of wireless, networking and HD video consumer electronics is a sub-story to the digital video revolution in surveillance. CSOs and CISOs now know what HD looks like. They go home to 16 x 9 plasma HD flat screens that can provide indisputable visual proof of an umpire's blown call. Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone and Google's Droid finally have delivered on the promise of mobile broadband. Usually it's business that leads the applications curve, but in video security, it's the other way around.

I'm not saying that these systems are easy to engineer. Significant back-end integration is still necessary (and poses both technical and competitive challenges for physical security integrators). Users are learning, however, that the investment is worth it because they can get digital video--and its inherent information--to more people faster. What's more, the information is delivered via platforms that are familiar - smartphones, text messages, social networking, to name three.

Not if, but when

That's why the question today for most organizations about digital video is not if, but when. One of the major product trends at ASIS from established VMS companies was their introduction of IP video and video management for the medium- to low-end. As Eric Fullerton, chief sales and marketing officer for Milestone Systems, told me, "We don't want people to choose analog over IP simply because they don't have the budget." Milestone, Avigilon, Genetec, March Networks, NICE Systems and Timesight all in some way announced versions of their high-end video management software for small and medium-sized systems. Even in cases where these vendors may have had an existing package targeting the SME segment, that offering is being replaced by a version that contains or adapts the core software in the higher end system.

The idea is to offer users an easy way to shift incrementally from analog to digital, then set an upgrade path as users grow their installations. Additional features and functions, such as storage and analytics, can be purchased a la carte as needed.

Speaking of analytics, digital video is also giving users a better handle on the capabilities and limitations of the technology, while sparking vendors to develop better algorithms and interfaces. Digital and megapixel images can boost the performance of analytics, and, since the digital video is data, it can be processed into information that can be presented graphically, such as a bar chart showing foot traffic by hour.

Finally, the networking benefits of digital video may help larger users navigate the often confusing terrain of physical security information management (PSIM). Again, once agencies begin to integrate and manipulate video data through geophysical databases like Google Earth and route them through computer-aided dispatch and mass notification systems, the increased value and utility immediately become tangible.

Integrated security, illustrated

In fact, the whole value proposition of convergence and integration got a practical demonstration during ASIS. One night during the show, several laptops were stolen from the Moog booth, which was in the field of view of live IP cameras mounted in the adjacent Milestone booth. Using Milestone's XProtect software equipped with an archiving system from Rimage and BriefCam's Synopsis viewer, which allows users to search hours of video to find key events within minutes, the Dallas Convention Center security staff was able to get a high-resolution picture that could positively identify the thief as an employee of the nighttime service staff. When confronted with the video, the employee confessed and implicated at least two other employees as part of his ring. He returned the stolen Moog equipment, along with products stolen from another recent trade show. He and his confederates were fired and will likely be prosecuted.

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