Guest Column | May 30, 2013

IP Video Demystified: Fact vs Fiction

BSM-IP Camera Retail

By Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison, Axis Communications

Myth:  Network video cameras are too expensive

Truth: Mid- and large-sized video solutions (16 video channels or more) today are universally specified for lower total cost of ownership than analog CCTV due to shared/consolidated infrastructure, common off the shelf hardware, Power over Ethernet and improved forensic video coverage, scalability and more. It only remains to compare small analog and small IP video systems for cost – and that paradigm is shifting more in favor of IP thanks to continued innovation.

The three primary points of comparison in the case of small systems are camera cost, total installation cost and the total cost of ownership when considering coverage area.

Comparing costs between analog and network cameras requires a more complex analysis.  If the area of coverage is small enough to be a single room (approx. 10’x20’) with average lighting, the network camera cost is indeed higher than its analog counterpart.  When the user’s requirement begins adding complexity, however, this cost savings almost immediately disappears.

Should the area of coverage be larger, the network camera, with its higher resolution imager, especially in the case of 720p and 1080p HDTV network cameras, allow for a single camera to be used in unobstructed views where the user would need to deploy multiple analog cameras to achieve the same quality forensic video.  The actual cost of both 720p and 1080p HDTV network cameras continues to decrease to the point that a 720p camera and a high quality analog camera are approximately the same cost (less than $250) or have a negligible difference.

Should the lighting or subject complexity become challenging, the use of more powerful in-camera processing in network cameras for image enhancement allows for a lower cost alternative to more expensive imagers that are optimized for only a small set of uses.

Installation cost is a big factor in many cases, even in small systems and the cost of PoE network switches continues to decrease for this category.  To save cost in small systems, many lower cost analog video small system packages must use proprietary cables to achieve fast installation at a low cost.  Network cameras can easily meet this challenge in difficult small system installation through the use of wireless or Ethernet over powerline, negating the analog camera advantage in this subcategory.

Finally, regarding total cost of ownership in the small system category, the birth of in-camera recording on solid state media like an SD Card offsets not only any analog system price advantage, but is often lower cost as there is no DVR or PC required to record video within a two week retention period.

Myth: Network video cameras are too difficult to install or require specialized training. 

Truth: Achieving a manufacturer’s certification does indeed help the deployment of all ranges of an IP video system as the systems integrator is simply better prepared to deliver a unified solution that serves their customer better.

However, the use of small systems with embedded recording and systems of all sizes with cloud-based video services have simplified deployment to the point where today’s network camera can be compared to the simplicity of a cable set-top box, pre-provisioned and ready for installation.

Traditional IT integrators already work with many of the same protocols, equipment and standards required for an IP video system. Manufacturer partners will have extensive training and support for configuration and usage, as well as education on optics and lighting, that prepare integrators for official certifications. More importantly for the IT integrator, however, is to learn how to procure a system and install in line with security best practices. Here, manufacturer partners and industry association bodies are exceptionally valuable.