Surveillance Goes the IP Way
Your IT department will soon have another thing to worry about-managing the surveillance system of your organization. Wait! Isn't that the job of the admin department? It has been...till now, just like the telephone lines and the EPABX were their responsibility until VoIP and IP telephony came along. Now the same thing is being talked of for the conventional CCTV based surveillance system. A new buzzword in the market called IP based surveillance is supposed to take over from it, and questions are being raised on whether it will really catch on.
As far as technology goes, IP based surveillance follows the standard path that all other technologies have followed when they moved to IP. VoIP is one as we mentioned, and video conferencing was another. As soon as IP lends its open standards way of communicating with other devices to a technology, the other benefits follow. One is that so many different applications can be developed for it. Second is that it can take advantage of existing applications. Remember all those toy motion detection applications that used to ship with webcams, which we used to have fun with? Well, these are now being scaled up to work with CCTV cameras. The third benefit is universal accessibility?
You're no longer restricted to viewing everything on the small TV monitor. You can view it in a web browser, which also means that you can actually view it from anywhere in the world, and from any system, if you want. A fourth benefit is remote control. You would be able to control all your IP surveillance cameras from one console. Not only that, but you could even record all videos in standard formats like MPEG and AVI. These can then be edited, archived, shared, etc. The digital recording allows far better control than analog. Since everything is recorded on a hard drive, access to the data is much faster. You could view and record at the same time. A fifth benefit is that you can use your existing network infrastructure to deploy IP based surveillance equipment. No need to lay fresh cables and put in new and expensive multiplexers. Your existing structured cabling, hubs, routers, and switches would be able to take care of it. All this opens up a plethora of opportunities for most organizations. If you're a construction company, then you can view your construction sites sitting in your office, and keep track of the construction progress. You could be a retail chain with branches in multiple cities. Using IP surveillance, you could remotely view all branches. Likewise, it could be used just about everywhere surveillance is required, and with greater flexibility. Thanks to IP, you can do surveillance of a remote site from anywhere in the world if you really want to.
All this does sound exciting, but there are a few downsides that need to be kept in mind as well. As it is video being captured, the standard quality vs bandwidth debate comes in. If you need high quality captures, which you obviously would, then you would require oodles of bandwidth for it. You can't compromise quality in something as critical as surveillance. Hopefully, but the time this concept really catches on, the bandwidth costs would have come down even further. Moreover, while it's easy to say that the equipment will integrate with your existing network, it won't be all that easy. Was integrating VoIP easy? Or did you seamless integrate all the video conferencing equipment overnight? Likewise, even the deployment of an IP based surveillance system would require careful planning. Moreover, since it's surveillance, you would need to move this data over secure links.
With so many benefits, will IP based surveillance really take the market by storm? There are several companies who are already offering IP based surveillance equipment. But it's not as if IP surveillance will completely take over the conventional systems over night. For one, organizations wouldn't throw away all their old equipment, in which they've already made huge investments. Moreover, if we go by the history of VoIP, then it doesn't look as if things will move very fast. VoIP took a long time to become mass market, and even now it's not completely taken over. The same thing is likely to happen to IP based surveillance as well, and in fact, the adoption might even be slower. The reason is simple.
Every organization has an EPABX, so the shift to VoIP makes a lot of sense, especially due to the cost savings. A surveillance system isn't something that organizations fall over each other to setup. So it's very much likely that the speed of adoption of IP based surveillance will be even slower at least at the organizational level. The steps for moving to pure IP based surveillance are already visible. Already there's equipment available that connects proprietary CCTV equipment with IP. This will make the two types of systems coexist. From there, gradually pure IP based surveillance system will come in.