Frankenstein Spec?

Low quality surveillance RFPs are quite a problem. Often the specs simply make no sense, sometimes because they are cut and pasted from a variety of sources, creating an impossible request.

A member shared his frustrations recently with me about this specification:

1- The cameras use an image sensor no less than (CCD Super HAD sensor)
2- 24hr day and night
3- IP67 waterproof housing
4-minimum illumination (0.005 Lux)
5-minimum distance for IR 35 meters
6-no less than 2 megapixel cameras
7-digital zoom 10x optical zoom 12x
8-lens length 2.8 to 16 mm.
It looks like they want a bullet camera with integrated optical zoom, super long range IR that's multi-megapixel and uses a CCD. First, I have no idea why they require a CCD. Second, who makes a 2MP CCD surveillance camera?
Is this a real camera or a frankenstein spec?

I have, as a non native speaker, no clue what a Frankenstein spec might be.

The whole CCD specification is intresting to say the least. What does it matter if it's CCD or CMOS when you already specify the min lux (which is missing IRE values ??)

Did someone say Frankenstein?

Check this camera.

Don't forget they want minimum 30 FPS, motion based recordings, and 16TB of storage. (But how do you know if you're going to get 30 days if you use motion based recording, unless you err on the side of 24/7 motion but which exceeds the 16TB of storage you specified. And do you want motion based recording on the outside cameras? Are you going to trust the free, basic, high error rate activity detection that comes with most systems to keep an eye on that large expanse of storage container area of the shipping port that the Coast Guard is breathing down your neck to secure..?)

Roger, Frankenstein references a monster assembled from various parts.

Sean, that's close but its analog rather than 2MP. Also, it may not have integrated optical zoom.

Yeah its just amazing what oddball 3headed monsters get churned out of China..

I wish this system had a "Like" or "Thanks" feature so I could Like this comment about a thousand times...

I see stuff like that all the time. For me it's even more fun when a dealer takes an RFP, barely glances at it, and then emails it over with "Can you take a look at this and fill in any relevant parts that your product would fit?". Sure thing, would you like me to do the installation also?

It seems fairly common for end users to sift through a varity of presentations and spec sheets, assemble a "best of" list and then put it out to bid hoping that somebody can uncover some odd unit that fits all the listed requirements. It's really a pain in the ass for everyone involved and is likely to end up producing a "solution" that is sub optimal and fails on at least 10% of the required specs.

The bit that really stood out for me (given that the whole thing feels like a proverbial sore thumb... you know, one that's been mashed by a 20oz framing hammer), was this:

7-digital zoom 10x optical zoom 12x
8-lens length 2.8 to 16 mm.

Well waitasec... 2.8-16mm is <6x zoom... so which is it??

Why does this make me picture a camera version of The Homer??

Matt, thanks for pointing that discrepancy. Funny!

Btw, we are planning to add likes and 'editor's choice to highlight top comments.

And that's just for a camera. You should see a full RFP for Access Control, Video Surveillance, Intercom, Network Infrastructure, etc., i.e. an Integrated Security System.... A whole army of Frankenstein Specs.

Thanks Seth! If you or anyone else has any frankstein specs to share, please do. I'd like to raise more awareness of this in a future lead post.

One of our regular customers, whom we've been working with for a good 5 years now and who call us their "A-Team", recently retained a "Security Consultant"... one of his jobs was to provide a written specification for their security systems (alarm and access controls, in addition to surveillance). When I looked over his specs for the surveillance system, all I could think was, "All of this, is what we already do." A lot of seemed to be slightly-tweaked boilerplate. Wasn't all-out "Frankenstein" spec, but with a lot of boilerplate, you see a lot of things that you think, "Well duh, that's just common sense, why would you put that in there?"

One of the Frankenstein things I've noticed to be very prevolent on RFPs (especially government ones), is having the cameras spec'd as 2 or 3MP, and then a recorder spec that is obviously for an analog recorder.

John, I can see that happening. Any chance that the recorder is hybrid one that also supports IP?

Some definitely fall into that hybrid area with just some poorly worded specs; but I've recently seen a few that were obvious cut-and-paste from an old RFP or spec sheet.

The most recent one I worked with was a RFP for a city where they asked for all 3MP cameras, specifically stated that there were not existing cameras; then asked for a recorder with 1.5TB of storage, 32 BNC inputs, 480 frames, a 10/100 NIC, and the ability to maintain 45 days of storage.

Another one I recall from a few weeks ago, again for a city, asked for MP cameras and the recorder was a Frankenstein. They wanted a 2U with an embedded Linux OS and 480 frames, but then asked for 8 removable front drive bays and 64 network camera channels.

That's awesome! not in a good way!

What does that say about the technical skills of the specifier / RFP writer? That's such a basic concept.

I'd say it speaks more to laziness than (lack of) skills - as John L says, probably just a cut-and-paste from an older document, without bothering to go back over it for... well, relevance.

When did you become such a softie?

Even if you are cutting and pasting, how much time and intelligence does it take to say, "Wait a minute, these two products are totally incompatible with each other?"

Softie? Me??

In general, I think laziness is worse than lack of skill in this sort of thing. Lack of skill can be fixed... laziness is a choice.

Matt, I knew I'd get your attention with that :)

My point is that it's so incredibly lazy and the resulting problems is so fundamental, that they should be fired immediately. I can understand someone not checking minor details but if the specified cameras don't work with the specified recorder, you have a huge problem.

I suppose that would be a firing offense (or at least key to demotion) in MOST cases. Alas, I've seen the kind of mentality that would let it slide:

  • outfits where they'd rather pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars, repeatedly, to replaced dead equipment, than spend $100 to put it on a UPS when it's in an area with known bad power
  • where they'll spend thousands on surveillance systems on a site, but not allow them to connect to the network to facilitate failure monitoring, and then shrug their shoulders when an incident is lost to a drive that failed months ago but nobody noticed the machine beeping away in its cabinet
  • corporations where surveillance systems seem to be more of an ass-covering afterthought than an actual security measure

What baffles me is when a public sector client works with the manufacturer to release a spec designed integrate their legacy analog with the new IP, and the General Contractor changes and releases the tender to a design that he believes is better. The tender is awarded and goes to be installed and gets to the point where the two systems wont talk. Now they are telling the client they need more money to make it work! By the way I am hiding my name b/c our company is being consulted to come up with the solution.

Undisclosed, that's fine. Thanks for sharing. Do you have any idea why the GC changed it? Did they think they knew better or were they trying to cut corners?

Do you have any idea why the GC changed it? Did they think they knew better or were they trying to cut corners?

How about a little of both?

The GC would not answer that question. From our point of view the only thing that makes sense is that when the first design was released it was done by an unqualified integrator. We corrected it and then had the client send to the manufacturer for verification. If that's the case it could be an honest mistake if it weren't for history pointing to arrogance on behalf of him. It's very challenging when they are the predominate choice for this client to build new buildings and the Security Department are forced to deal with them. Any suggestions?

One thing to note that may or may not apply to undisclosed situation: Sometimes municipalities have procurement regulations that will preclude anyone nice enough to 'fix' tendered specs for them from participating in any bids relating to the 'fixed' documents. Conflict of interest and whatnot.

It happened to me personally in dealing with a decent sized city in Connecticut. I had done previous work for a Performing Arts high school there and when a new bid for two middle schools came down, the guy from the high school that I had worked with saw it and recognized deficiencies in it (the copy and paste/non-compatible issues mentioned by other posters).

He asked the guy who showed the specs to him if he could run it by me... So, as a favor to the high school guy, who I liked and respected, I 'fixed' the specs and almost immediately after was made aware (by some apologetic suit from the school district) that my actions now precluded me from even bidding on the two middle schools job! :( sonofa...

Yay bureaucracy.