Guest Column | September 18, 2013

10 Pitfalls To Avoid When Selling Surveillance

By James Marcella, Axis Communications

For many of you, the prospect of adding surveillance solutions as a service offering is a compelling business proposition based on the transition of analog cameras to networked, IP addressable devices. Some installers had the networking expertise to facilitate the adoption of VoIP phones, resulting in entirely new revenue streams for IT integrators. That same skill set establishes a solid foundation for entering into an entirely new market: physical security. Knowledge of computer networking is only half of the equation. So what should you consider when addressing the needs of physical security concerns?

  1. Cameras are not the answer to every security risk encountered by an organization. Understand that to a security professional, video is used as an assessment tool in conjunction with many other electronic security countermeasures. In most cases it is used after-the-fact to determine the what, when, where, and how something happened.  Understanding this basic premise will help establish credibility with those making purchase decisions.
  2. In some states, you will need a license to actually install equipment that is used for securing a facility. This typically involves applying to the state and having your installers go through a background check. Sounds reasonable, right? Most people wouldn’t want someone with a criminal background installing their security system.
  3. A surveillance system should not be designed from blueprints alone. If you rely on establishing camera coverage without doing an on-site security survey, you might find that the ceiling mounted, vandal-resistant camera you sold is being attached to a drop ceiling tile barely stronger than cardboard. Imagine how upset a principal would be if all those expensive, vandal resistant, cameras could now be pulled out of the ceiling by any high school prankster.
  4. The optics of a camera is in many ways more important than the camera itself. Analog cameras can scale slightly beyond VGA while digital surveillance cameras scale into HDTV or higher megapixel resolutions. What is the point of an 8 megapixel camera if the lens can only resolve to 5 megapixels? Don’t get caught up in the “the more pixels the better” mentality.  
  5. The purpose of surveillance to security personnel is to detect, recognize, or identify a person or object entering the scene. Each operational requirement is defined by pixel count. For instance, to identify a person, the camera needs to deliver 80 pixels across the width of the face. This guideline helps establish design criteria and should be defined for each camera that is installed.
  6. Security professionals typically talk about frames per second (fps) of recording at a certain resolution — for instance, recording 10 fps at 720P resolution. Combined, these factors result in the bandwidth and storage demand of the camera, which are critical factors for designing the traditional IT infrastructure to support the demands of the systems and are important for situational awareness to a security professional.  
  7. Cameras require a certain amount of light to effectively produce an image, which is defined as the camera’s sensitivity level. “Lux” measures the amount of light in a scene, with 0 lux being the absence of any visible light. Understanding the light levels of the environment becomes crucial when specifying a camera for a scene. If you install a camera that is rated at 10 lux into an environment that goes down to 1 lux, you’ll have a rather disgruntled client.
  8. Traditionally, low light environments required the use of “day/night cameras” which switch over to black and white imagery at a certain lux level. Without color in the image, the security practitioner could not determine if a red, blue, or black car entered the parking lot. Today, there are network cameras that can deliver color images down to .05 lux. Installers that understand this can offer non-traditional solutions to customers and distinguish themselves from the competition.
  9. Many network cameras are manufactured with bi-directional audio capabilities, but there are laws governing the recording of audio. Make sure your installers don’t inadvertently expose you or your customer to liability and adhere to all federal and state laws.
  10. Why have a camera recording when nothing is happening in the scene? Intelligence at the edge incorporates the use of video analytics that run on the camera to trigger event-based recordings. Active tamper alarm is an analytic that alerts operators when a camera is redirected or obstructed, and cross-line detection alerts when a person or object crosses an imaginary line defined during installation and configuration. Both are examples of analytics that can reduce bandwidth and storage consumption while increasing effectiveness of the system.

These considerations may seem daunting, but remember, the IT infrastructure piece is a discipline that your company already brings to the table. Quality of services (QOS), authentication using 802.1x, and Internet group management protocol (IGMP) are just as confusing to the typical physical security integrator as field of view (FOV), f-stop and wide dynamic range (WDR) are to IT integrators. The trick is to have a balanced staff that covers both disciplines, whether you need to hire personnel or partner with other companies.