S2 Enters Surveillance MarketBy Ethan Ace, Published on Feb 02, 2012
Convergence between access control and video is a growing trend. While historically, independent systems from different vendors would be intergrated together, recently, manufacturers are developing and deploying both simultaneously. This 'converged' approach offers potential increases in functionality and decreases in cost.
This week, S2 Security, entered the converged market with the release of its VR series [link no longer available] combining access control and surveillance management into a single appliance.
Due to the complexities and costs in integrating 3rd party access control and video, growing interest exists in using such an approach. Indeed, Next Level has gained significant attention for their all in one appliances that combine video and access. Moreover, major VMS provider Genetec, has focused its efforts into seamlessly combining access and video in their Security Center.
The S2 Pronto VR [link no longer available] is a new hardware series, created specifically for this release. Here are key points:
- Pronto VR will be offered as an option/alternative to the traditional S2 Pronto line which will remain access control only.
- The Pronto VR manages both video surveillance and access control. While it does not contain physical connections to readers or inputs/outputs, it serves as both access control and surveillance "server". It is offered in desktop or rack-mounted form factors.
- Connections to field devices, such as readers, inputs and outputs, will be made to Pronto or MicroNode controllers, which connect to the Pronto VR via the network. No third-party controllers are supported in the Pronto line.
- For the recording platform, the Pronto VR will use Exacq as a component for its recording server with its own S2 client software / front end.
- Two versions will be released, one supporting eight camera channels and a 2TB HDD, and the other with 16 channels and a 4TB HDD.
- This storage will be partioned between the OS/application and archived video. The OS/application will be mirrored for fault tolerance.
- Users needing longer retention periods than what is provided by the storage on-board may use iSCSI storage for expansion. No direct-attached storage options are available.
MSRP pricing for the two Pronto VR versions is as follows. Note that S2 uses a traditional security dealer discount structure, offering deep discounts to authorized integrators.
- 8-channel, 2TB HDD: $7,050 USD
- 16-channel, 4TB HDD: $9,590 USD
Like DVR pricing, units are shipped with 8 or 16 channels per box and individual channel licenses will not be sold. Upgrade licenses will be available to move from 8 to 16 channels.
These prices represent an increase in MSRP of $4,660 from the non-VR Pronto panel to an 8-channel Pronto VR, or $7,200 to a 16-channel unit. While users could likely purchase a standalone Exacq NVR for this amount, Pronto VR offers advantages. First, no integration work needs to be performed, as video surveillance and access control are integrated out of the box. Second, using an external Exacq recorder also incurs an integration license fee ($1,000 MSRP), which is avoided using the VR. Finally, integration with external recorders differs from the Pronto VR integration, which we detail below.
Video and Access Integration
The Pronto VR's video features will be integrated into S2's Widget Desktop, which is their web-based client application. The client is platform independent, using Microsoft Silverlight instead of ActiveX, and may be used across Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
S2 says that integration between access and video is tighter when using the Pronto VR as opposed to third-party recorders. First and foremost, other integrations only allow searching of video based on events, providing clips associated with specific access control or alarm occurances. The Pronto VR allows for full forensic search by timeline, or by name of specific cardholder or portal, in addition to this. PTZ controls are also handled in each video frame, instead of through separate buttons in the user interface.
Maturity of Access Control Offering
S2 has been in the access control market for about ten years, longer than both Genetec and Next Level. Genetec has offered Synergis, its access control platform, which integrates tightly with Omnicast, for some time. Broad adoption has been sluggish, however, with Synergis seeing more use as an add-on to Omnicast instead of an access control platform standing on its own. NLSS, on the other hand, entered the market with an integrated platform. NLSS's background, and focus, however has been more in video, so limited movement in using NLSS for access has been seen.
We believe the slower adoption of both of these competitive offerings is at least partly due to the nature of the access control market. As we mentioned with Axis's upcoming entry to the access control market, it can be a difficult market to break into for even seasoned surveillance providers. Access control users are far more concerned about reliability and stability than users of IP surveillance. Bugs in an access control system can mean users are locked out of a facility, or doors do not lock or unlock properly or at the right times. Both of these concerns are normally higher-priority than surveillance concerns. For this reason, longevity and maturity often outweigh capability and featureset in the access market. S2 is at an advantage because of this, and current S2 customers may see this as a strong advantage to the Pronto VR.
Immaturity of Video Surveillance Offering
While S2 is at an advantage in terms of access control maturity, it is at a disadvantage against an established player such as Genetec, in the video surveillance market. Given that the VR is a version 1.0 release, uses should be careful to review the video offering, as desired features may be missing. Using a VMS offering from one of S2's integration partners may be an option, instead. While this would likely not provide the same ease of integration as the Pronto VR, the feature set is likely more complete.
Comparison to NLSS
NLSS provides the most similar comparison to the S2 Pronto VR, with their Gateway Micro product. The Gateway Micro is capable of managing up to 16 cameras and 64 doors compared to a maximum of 16 cameras and 32 doors with the Pronto VR. NLSS also supports hardware from HID, Assa Abloy Wi-Fi locksets, and Mercury, while the Pronto is limited to only S2 hardware for expansion. Mercury hardware is supported by S2 only in higher product tiers, the Netbox line, which will receive its own VR component, as well.
Based on the Pronto VR's MSRP pricing, and deep dealer discount, we estimate that street pricing for a 16-channel unit will be about $5,500. Compared to the NLSS Gateway Micro, which can be found online for around $2,300, this is a substantial increase. At nearly double the price, S2 comes at a substantial premium over NLSS. Comparing field hardware, S2's MicroNode (~$900 street pricing), a two-door PoE-powered control panel most closely compares to the HID EdgePlus (~$400 online) supported by NLSS, a single-door PoE-powered controller. At these prices, S2 comes in about $100 more expensive per two doors, as well. S2 has plans to release a single-door PoE-powered controller, which may narrow this gap.
Comparison to Genetec
Genetec currently offers no pre-loaded integrated systems, so users would need to purchase a COTS PC or Server and licenses separately. Note that Genetec currently only supports HID Edge and VertX hardware. Support for Mercury and other hardware will be available in future releases. MSRP for a 16-camera Security Center system would price out as follows:
- Omnicast Standard Base License: $590 USD
- 16 x Omnicast Standard Camera License: $2,400
- Synergis Standard License: $1,000
- Total: $3,990
- Approximate street pricing: $3,300
Depending on configuration, a rack-mount server can be found to run this for between $1,500-2,000, bringing the total up to $4,800-5,300, much closer the Pronto VR's $5,500 approximate street price. Note that this Security Center configuration is capable of managing up to 50 cameras and 64 doors, however, substantially more than the Pronto VR.
S2 Pronto VR will likely appeal primarily for those interested in S2's acces control solution. Smaller facilities, such as retail and small or mid-size offices in need of both access and video may also find it a good fit, as it is simpler than deploying separate systems to handle both needs. However, more cost effective systems, such as NLSS, will likely satisfy these needs just as well. Facilities with more demanding video requirements, with greater need for scalability and higher camera counts, may find other solutions, such as Genetec's Security Center, more attractive.