'Do It Yourself' RFP ProblemsBy: Ben Wood, Published on Jul 25, 2013
What's worse than having a crappy consultant prepare your RFP? Perhaps doing it yourself, as this case shows.
Everyone thinks end users should be more educated and more proactive about spec-ing equipment for surveillance projects. "They should do their research," people say. A small community in Arizona took this to heart designed their own surveillance project through Internet research, advice from integrators and online templates. But just days after the 48-page invitation for bids was drafted and published it was rescinded, and the project was cancelled. In this note, we talked to the director of the project and review this invitation for bids and explain how the IT department got put in charge.
Earlier this summer, the Gila River Indian Community Department of Community Housing released an invitation for bids on equipment for a surveillance system to monitor quality of life in public housing for the elderly. It wanted cameras installed that would cover the main windows, all doors, and every entry and exit gate at seven different sites. But right before the pre-proposal meeting the department abruptly cancelled the project.
A Mix of Analog and IP Cameras
Gila River specified mix of analog and IP cameras for the project. The cameras were required to be Bosch or ViconNet and the project calls for one Solar SolsticeCam [link no longer available] fixed camera from Sun Surveillance.
One of the cameras, was listed as a bullet camera with 6-50mm lenses, 600 lines of resolution and an IR range of 300 feet. An integrated IR camera that can 'see' 300 feet is practically impossible given the limitations on the number and strength of LEDs integrated. Indeed, the model spec'd is a generic analog integrated IR camera from Supercircuits [link no longer available]. It is misleadingly spec'd to 300 feet, probably because of its long max focal length (50mm). However, the IR light emitted is certainly not strong enough to illuminate at that distance in the dark.
The document says all of the cameras must have vandal resistant housings and clear domes, but failed to provide an IK rating that would quantify the level of vandal resistance.
Low Frame Rates and Resolution
"Cameras shall be set to record and live stream at full resolution," however the system would operate at 1 fps normally and 10 fps on alarms. This is quite low considering the average frame rate is 6-10 fps.
Additionally, the housing office said it would also be using some of the cameras for facial recognition (human based, not automatic). However, analog cameras, even at max recording resolution, can only capture faces at ~10' wide max FoV.
Recording / Storage
After reviewing the specs with the IT department and senior management, it was agreed that the amount of surveillance suggested was more than what the housing department needed. For example, senior management questioned the 2000GB storage spec and noted that would be likely be reduced. This change however, would have little impact on the budget of the project as there is ~$25 difference in 1TB vs. 2TB while it would substantially reduce recording duration or quality.
The VMS specified was Vicon’s Kollector Strike Hybrid DVR with ViconNet software. It had to support analog channels at 120 fps and up to 8 additional IP channels at 30 fps each and provide 2000 GB of storage. The housing department’s loyalty to Vicon products suggests that they might already be using Vicon for an existing system elsewhere in the community, and that they are likely unaware of the company’s slow downward spiral. The community has an existing surveillance system, but the manager for the project said he did not know the details of the system.
Additionally, the spec says a minimum of "five IP camera manufacturers must be supported from leading companies such as Bosch, ACTi, Arecont Vision, IQinvision, Panasonic, Sony and Pelco" where they could have just specified that it be ONVIF compliant.
The housing department wanted a one year warranty with options for an ongoing service agreement. As part of that plan, the installer would be responsible for maintenance and repairs during the warranty period and would be expected to fix any problems within six hours. It was eventually decided that a plan like this would be too expensive so when the housing department does add a surveillance system, the IT department will be in charge of maintenance.
The project was cancelled for both design and budgetary reasons, according to the project manager. After researching more of the technical aspects and costs of the project, the manager found that a reliable system was going to take more than an invitation for bids and that they probably needed to put out an RFP instead so an integrator could have a chance to design a system that would best fit their needs rather than getting the lowest prices on a list of equipment they weren't that familiar with.
Instead of the housing department, the IT department will be creating the final RFP.
Many of the specs, including the "300 ft IR camera" were pulled from Internet research, advice from integrators and video surveillance system templates online, according to the project manager. We agree that end users should take more of a role in finding surveillance to fit their needs, but unfortunately this is an example of how they are often unequipped to make good decisions, even when they are proactive.