Ease of use is the name of the game
Editor / Provider: Christina Phillips, a&s International | Updated: 2/12/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner
With the advent of affordable IP cameras and storage devices, the drastically enlarged surveillance market has given birth to a mammoth amount of surveillance data that needs to be properly maintained. Ease of access and management has become the name of the game.
Affordable IP products from major manufacturers have helped accelerate the digital migration, said Tim Biddulph, IP Product Manager for Europe, Samsung Techwin. "The main driver behind the migration from DVRs to NVRs is standardization. The vast majority of current buildings utilize a structured cabling system designed to support all the systems within, from telephones to building management. It is only logical that security systems should also use the same infrastructure."
New projects, as well as upgrade projects, in EMEA are gradually moving to IP, while in the Americas, government and enterprise sectors have already adopted IP solutions, said Evelyn Kao, Product Manager at Qnap Systems. "However, some developing countries are still using analog solutions," for presumably even lower prices and technical entry barriers
While larger projects are demanding networked solutions of some sort, analog is still the dominant choice for smaller installations or home applications, Biddulph added. However, with the advent of network home cameras and cloud solutions, even these sectors are starting to go with IP.
"Worldwide NVR sales will certainly expand. Among others, Asia's migration to IP systems is remarkable, and such a trend will reinforce the growing number of NVR sales," noted Alex Iida, Senior Manager of Visual Security Solutions for APAC, Sony Electronics.
NVRs are also starting to be used in more scenarios, especially with the launch of 4- and 16-channel units that look and feel much like analog DVRs, Biddulph said. With a monitor output and DVD writer, these NVRs make IP solutions easier for smaller installers and operators.
Another factor is PoE-enabled NVRs that allow for plug-and-play. "We are the first manufacturer to develop and successfully implement PoE NVRs. The plug-and-play capability makes everything much easier, especially for the SMB and DIY markets," said Colin Wang, PM for NVRs at Dahua Technology.
These days, NVRs are rack-mountable and are even available in one-rack unit sizes. Many NVRs are open platforms to facilitate maximum flexibility and scalability, which is especially useful when deploying large or enterprise solutions. Many of the embedded NVRs' functions bear resemblance to their DVR predecessors. In addition, many NVRs' GUIs are exactly the same as DVRs, so switching from DVRs to NVRs does not put any unnecessary burden on users as they do not need to change their usual routine or undergo additional training.
For 16 channels and under, only basic IT knowledge is required. With PC-based NVRs, the number of channels is "unlimited," and even more convincing is the VMS providers who offer free software that is preinstalled in their NVRs. For an even smaller number of channels such as 4 or 8, one can opt for a PC-based NVR approach by using a desktop PC and entry-level VMS; however this set up offers limited flexibility and functionality.
[NextPage] NVR Requirements
Thanks to the advent of storage media such as IP-SAN, eSATA, NAS and FireWire, embedded NVRs have overcome the perceived notion that their storage capacity is limited. Without storage capacity concerns, embedded NVRs are quickly gaining traction; now both types of NVRs are on a level playing field. Although everything is embedded, embedded NVRs offer more than what meets the eye; they support the interfaces of other surveillance devices to enable convenient integration with alarm and access control systems, as well as PTZ remote control systems.
Functions and features that a decent NVR should encompass are flexible recording and playback capabilities, a user-friendly and remote-controllable GUI, intelligent motion detection and PTZ camera control. "Based on our experience and industry reports, the CAGR of embedded NVRs is approximately 40 percent. Therefore, we predict the global market for embedded NVRs to reach $460 million in 2013," Kao said. "Both APAC and EMEA regions, especially with the popularity of smartphones and tablets, are showing strong demand for mobile surveillance. Access control, storage expansion, I/O and VCA features and capabilities are also frequently requested. For the Americas, most requests are for vertical integration, mobile surveillance and storage expansion."
SMB applications are taking an increasing market share of NVR products, especially with the price of embedded NVRs being relatively lower compared to PC-based NVRs (with additional VMS fees). "Embedded NVRs enable users to experience superior performance in terms of ease of use, system stability and decoding capability," noted Eric Shen, Product Manager at Hikvision Digital Technology.
Linux OS optimizes stability by only running relevant surveillance applications. Embedded operating systems contain only the software components necessary for the specific functions of the NVR, and are configured with optimum configurations (backed by rigorous testing) straight from the factory.
The precise architecture of embedded NVRs ensures that they are less prone to crash, such as fanless designs and wide temperature operations etcetera. As the controls are embedded right into the NVR, the activity of users can therefore be more easily restricted to work-related use. An industry expert warned that many security personnel who, not surprisingly, get tired/bored from staring at monitors all day think to themselves upon seeing the Windows logo, "Perhaps it's ok that I play or download games like I do with my home computer or perhaps I can download or upload stuff from my phone through the USB port." Entire security systems have regularly been interrupted by staff members "merely" plugging in their phones. With embedded NVRs, foreign devices are not recognized. In addition, most run Linux OS, which is basically free from the risks of being infected with viruses, spyware, adware and malware.
Embedded NVRs consistently outperform PC-based NVRs in terms of complex decoding as well as being able to provide more reliable video playback and preview. Some of these NVRs are able to perform both local decoding and playback, and can decode up to 16 channels at 1,080p. To achieve comparable performance, PC-based solutions require more expensive CPUs to accommodate the processing demands.
The power consumption of an average embedded NVR is 70 Watts, which is less than a regular light bulb. In comparison, the average power consumption of a PC running an NVR is about 250 Watts.
Sending back faulty hardware through a manufacturer's return merchandise authorization (RMA) is costly, time-consuming and oftentimes frustrating. For mission-critical applications, extra hardware expenditure must be allocated for spares in order to eliminate down time. Another option is to look for NVRs that have VMS preloaded in the disk-on-module (DOM) chip. This way, instead of shipping the whole machine back, only the small DOM needs to be replaced, suggested Sara Lin, VP of Instek Digital. "Our NVRs can be equipped with a powerful DOM, which contains Linux operating system and management software."
Perhaps choosing the right systems integrator (SI) is just as important as deciding between DVRs and NVRs. Common belief is that SIs with IT background have a distinct advantage over SIs without sufficient IT or network background, for they are thought to be able to offer better service and support. “Many SIs also act as the platform developer and provider, and because they have more experience in platform development, many times they can meet customer requirements in a shorter time frame,” Wang said. Solution developers now put more investment in software and services, transforming themselves from merely product providers to total solution providers.
"When choosing an SI for surveillance projects, it is important to look for a balanced level of knowledge with regards to surveillance and IT systems," Iida said. "In addition, we believe offering better service and support is part of the value and identity of SIs."