Digital cameras and television have made their impact on the consumer market in recent years, offering computer compatibility and good visual quality. Last year, digital technology made a splash in the security arena, revolutionizing closed-circuit television (CCTV) as security and surveillance pros have known it.
"It's a digital tsunami," says Yehuda Katzman, vice president of marketing and business development for the Video Interaction Management Division of NICE Systems, Secaucus, N.J., a maker of digital video and audio recording products for commercial and institutional buildings. "Companies like ours are bringing the digital revolution to the customer, enabling them to take control of the conversion from analog to digital CCTV," he says.
Among the benefits digital technology brings to the table are advancements in video storage and recording; in respect to faster, more efficient search and retrieval; compatibility with Web-ready cameras that allows camera installation in any room with LAN or WAN lines; and remote video-transmission capability.
Mitch McKenzie, physical security manager for Dell, Round Rock, Texas, says his company's evolution to digital video recording hinged on the company's need for added storage capability with hard-drive solutions. "We no longer have video tapes," says McKenzie, who adds that his investigators managed 200 tape decks. "It's an antiquated way to record. The tapes get eaten and there is a lot of service involved."
Digital technology allows users to be active rather than passive with images, according to Randy Dunn, product manager of video systems for ADT Security Services Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. "We can now create events," says Dunn. "Customers can use products to tie information in with their databases. This enables them to more adequately respond to potential loss-generating events."
"Remote video surveillance is becoming more popular. Soon video will be able to be assessed via PDA [personal digital assistant]," says Alan R. Matchett of Eyeseeu.com, an Alexandria, Va.-based security consulting company.
Matchett adds that a few companies are using the Internet to provide remote video transmission. A device with local storage is installed in the main building while an automatic backup is placed in an offsite location. In case of fire or theft, evidence is preserved, says Matchett.
Last year at the American Society for Industrial Security annual convention in Orlando, Fla., 50 exhibitors showed digital video products, more than double those seen in 1999. The increasing numbers of product offerings are confirmation of the digital explosion, but there is some skepticism about the quality and long-term life of some of the products.
"It's amazing to me how many manufacturers of new products I can see at shows now that won't make it to the next show," says Charlie Pierce, president of LRC Electronics, Davenport, Iowa. Pierce, whose company specializes in the repair of CCTV equipment, recommends that designers and end-users take a cautious approach in making the transition to digital CCTV. "Make sure the company is reputable with a long-term investment in the product," he says.
According to Pierce, there are four problem areas of which potential buyers and specifiers should be aware:
Lack of standards (protocol). The system may soon be out of date.
Lack of manufacturer testing standards. Results favor makers' products.
Lack of specification sheet standards . Spec sheets information varies.
Lack of industry knowledge among new product suppliers. Makers may not know the security market.