Subscriber Discussion

Setting Surveillance Standards - Performance Vs Technology

I've been asked to write a technical standard on Video Surveillance systems. From my domain which is IT based I focused on the architecture of the VMS, its ability to integrate into IT infrastructure systems and the enterprise management in a secure way. However from the Facility, construction and engineering side of the fence they want to focus on performance based standard to allow them to determine what they can put in and where and at the best price at the time. there are merits to both sides. I would like to here if not allready discussed the pros/cons of performance v technology based approach. As an reference point, from technology side, we would focus on 1 or 2 VMS products based on their ability to meet technical criteria. By doing so we get the cookie cutter model to allow for easy support, quick startup, checklist instructions. As opposed to performance which would define the minimum criteria that a product or device must meet, its installed quickly and someone is then left to support it.

Vasiles, this question comes up from time to time. However, I struggle with it. Also, given that no one else has attempted a reply, it likely means they do too.

On the camera side, performance is feasible to specify (e.g., I want to be able to read a license plate at X distance from the camera, at Y FoV and at Z time oday). Unfortunately, more people use pixels per foot, which is somewhat performance base but still ultimately derived from a technical metric (physical pixels on a camera).

On the VMS side, I rarely hear people specifying 'performance', mainly because it's hard and unclear what performance one wants to test against. Also, feature differences tend to drive performance variances and are therefore typically more fundamental (i.e., this VMS exports multiple cameras at once but that VMS only exports a single camera at a time).

Do you have some examples of what specific performance the user wants to obtain?

Btw, we have a Camera RFP template which might be of use to you.

Another aspect of the difficulty is being sure to specify what is actually important - parameters that will make or break the installation and use cases. Every available system has weak and strong points (and dozens of features) and focusing on many features makes selection almost impossible.

My approach is a mix of performance metrics and operational features but not too many of either.

What I focus on is that you can pick and choose whatever camera you want as long as it meets minimum specifications (device is secured and protected on network and not vunerable to cyber threat or used as a spring board or jump host, can multistream, uses minimum compression performance to not tax networks, and is supported by the VMS) as well as delivering the expected performance from a business requirements for the video image that has been specified for that particular purpose. Managing cameras is the difficult part which is where the VMS comes into play and that as the replies show is can be very complex. This is where picking a hand full of VMS products that have been tested and meet provides long term cost effectiveness in installation, maintenance and support. Having taken a look at the Camer RFP Template, it too focuses on the camera and comes back to what I see now as a general dilema, the VMS system which is easy to choose when its a small company but attempt to run systems globally across varying network capacities and areas where vendor support is limited or non existant makes it challenging.

Vasiles, can you ask a few specific questions? You made a long series of statements but I am still not sure what you are looking for?

A camera without the VMS is useless unless the camera is feeding directly to a monitor via coax. An analog Camera going to a DVR that writes to video tapes or optical drives is easy to go out to RFP and get the best bang for the buck. But a Camera that goes to a DVR that has software allowing you to access recordings, do smart searches and is accessisble over the network is not that easy since it requires various components to be in place. So how does one decide on a specification for VMS based on performance instead of specifying you can use any camera that does x,y,z as long as it works with any one of VMS systems A, B, C.

The question I get a lot from specific groups "I dont want you to tell me what VMS I will use, I just want to buy what is available at the time that meets the requirements". The question they don't ask or do not want to say is, by the way once it is in, its not my problem.

I still don't understand what you are saying, specifically about the performance element for VMSes.

Are you objecting to the specifying of VMSes based on specific features (i.e., must have multi-camera synchronous playback, must have digital zoom, must support recording x seconds before an alert is received, etc.)?

Appreciate your time and appologize for my unclear statements. Let me retry. I have actaully set performance specifciations to select a few VMS products for the business. This allows us to be intimate with the technology product and provide reasonable user support. But what I am actually asked is that the field can choose whatever VMS they can get their hands on as long as it meets those criteria.

Here are the down sides of letting the field run wild:

- no expectations on who will support it when it breaks

- no expectations on who will train who

- no control over the use of the system (governance, complaince)

- products maybe at either edge of the technology spectrum (manufacturer could be out of business after the sale)

- expectation that someone will have to do performance testing on the platform to approve the VMS

My original question was directed at the pros/cons of pre-selecting VMS systems that will be standard versus Allowing field to make their own purchase choice based on specifications and performance?

A follow on question was, one would go down the path of the later performance/specification, then what criteria would need to be included to ensure that the system selected can be supported and managed?

"I have actually set performance specifications to select a few VMS products for the business."

And you included no functional / technical specifications? I am confused. I am still not even sure what you mean by performance. Your examples are essentially functional ("can multistream" is definitely functional, also vague, how many streams, what codecs, what resolutions, what frame rates? "uses minimum compression performance" even that, how will you evaluate this? by codec choice or?)

Also, specs like "not vunerable to cyber threat" are extremely vague and will make it hard for the responder to know if they really meet it (and correspondingly easy to object that they have even if you disagree). This is why most would NOT specify such a criteria. Instead, they would ask for a group of features that would combine to minimize vulnerability to cyber threat (whether that was HTTPS streaming or 802.1x or AD integration or whatever).

Beyond that, how will you be sure that your users will find the system 'user friendly'. How are you specifying the 'performance' of the UI? This is a 'make or break' element in many VMS selections. You risk users coming back saying they hate it or find it too hard.

This is the sort of response I was looking for. I can go into deep detail on the ITish items I mentioned and did not want to write pages of this. The aspects of a VMS from experience so fare must meet various creteria in the field of:

- Image capabilities (frame rate, resolution, streaming, codecs etc)

- user interface (deployment, ease of use, meets user required capabilities...)

- storage efficiencies (operating sytems, storage media, archiving...)

- integration with IT systems (networks, AD, firewalls, antivirus, backups...)

- protection against physical and logical threats (physical security, network connections, running ports and services)

- scalability (datacenter scaling, LAN and WAN distribtution, client/server connectivity)

- licencing model (channel based, DVR based, ongoing license support)

- audit and accountability (user logs, account request processes and approvals...)

- authentication and authorization (secure authentication, granularity of priviledges once authenticated)

- maintenance, management and support (system health;OS, applicaiton, Devices; routine tasks; user training and support)

There maybe more than this, including the life expectancy of the system, continuity plan in event of system failure or most likely vendor going out of business.

I think I am answering my own questions here but I feel this thread may inspire more discussion on the subject.

I look forward to the IP Camera Course that is comming up and hope to have more conversations there.