Mobotix's Megapixel Offering ExaminedBy John Honovich, Published Dec 13, 2008, 06:57pm EST
While Mobotix sells the most megapixel cameras in the world, Mobotix's product strategy is significantly different from other well known megapixel manufacturers such as IQinVision, Arecont Vision, Lumenera and Axis (who is expanding their megapixel offerings). Most striking differences are:
- Mobotix manufacturers 3 megapixel cameras - no 1.3MP, 2MP nor 5MP as most other manufacturers offer (Note: SD options are available for most cameras and the BW sensor in the dual DN cameras is 1.3 MP).
- Mobotix offers MxPEG, a proprietary yet more efficient CODEC than MJPEG, in addition to standard MJPEG.
- Mobotix provides and advocates the use of its own IP Video surveillance software, provided at no charge. Where other megapixel manufacturers may offer basic recording tools, competitors essentially require the purchase of 3rd party IP video surveillance software offerings.
- Mobotix advocates direct recording to storage, eliminating the need for a video management server.
Mobotix's camera line is simple to understand, consisting of 5 camera lines (all 3 MP) each with a few dozen models.
- A outdoor camera line: the M22 line
- A day/night camera line: the DualNight M12
- An indoor dome camera line: the D22
- A 180 degree dome camera: the D12
- A 360 degree camera with a smoke detector design: the Q22
In addition, Mobotix offers a Vandalism camera (V12) and a DevKit for integration in ATMs.
Compared to other 3 MP cameras, the pricing is competitive and consistent. The key value propositions is their proprietary CODEC and their free video management system. Mobotix's refers to this overall architecture as a decentralized system and focuses on how this makes high resolution recording cost effective.
Mobotix offers a CODEC, MxPEG, that is up to 66% more efficient than MJPEG. Like MPEG-4, MxPEG reduces stream size by compressing portions of images than remain the same between frames. However, unlike MPEG-4, it is a less CPU intensive and powerful CODEC - meaning that it is easier to decode but does not reduce the stream size as much as MPEG-4 in scenes with high activity.
Relative to MJPEG, MxPEG can reduce storage costs by 50% or hundreds of dollars per camera.
Mobotix Video Management System
Mobotix offers its video management system, MxControlCenter, for free. MxControlCenter offers many fundemantal video management features such as live and recorded playback, multiple monitor viewing, matrix viewing, etc as well as more advanced functionalies such as alarm management and mapping integration.
Mobotix supports the recording of analog and IP cameras using MJPEG. All 3rd party cameras require the use of MxServer for recording and managing video (MxServer is not needed for simply live viewing). Analog cameras requires a specific brand of framegrabber for encoding the video.
Mobotix offers limited support for integration of PoS, ATM and access control, primarily through serial interfaces.
Mobotix does not offer centralized management of accounts nor configurations. Administrators can modify passwords and configurations by remotely connecting to individual cameras.
Direct Recording to Storage
Mobotix's video management system, MxControlCenter, does not require running on a server. MxControlCenter is a client side application that is run on an operator's PC (though the operator's PC can be used for storage if desired). As such, Mobotix's users do not need to deploy servers for video management system. Instead, they most frequently use NAS appliances or storage on-board the camera. On-Board storage can be accomplished through flash devices or on some models with an integrated Flash device up to 16GB.
Megapixel camera use is increasing rapidly (the segment is estimated at 60% growth for 2008) because of advantages in reducing camera count and increasing resolution relative to standard definition cameras. As such, the entire product category is strong and increasingly attractive to end users.
In comparison to other megapixel camera manufacturers, Mobotix's ability to reduce storage, server and video management license costs are the most critical financial drivers to Mobotix's success.
these factors can reduce overall system costs by $400 USD per camera or more. The breakdown with approximations for each area of cost reduction include:
- $200 reduction through the use of MxPEG rather than MJPEG
- 150 reduction through the elimination of a license for the video management system
- $50 reduction by eliminating the use of servers for hosting video management
For applications using MxPEG and MxControlCenter, common in small to mid size deployments, the value proposition for Mobotix is very strong.
Mobotix is most vulnerable to two factors:
- Widespread adoption of H.264 by competitive megapixel manufacturers
- MxControlCenter's feature may not be sufficient for certain required video management functions
In the past year, at least 6 companies have announced H.264 megapixel camera lines (with another 3 privately informing me of plans). Companies offering H.264 megapixel cameras (generally using baseline compression) contend that their cameras will reduce bandwidth by 80% relative to MJPEG and 40% relative to MJPEG or MxPEG. To the extent that H.264 can be produced and used without side effects, this would reduce the Mobotix value proposition.
The key risk in H.264 is the processing overhead for decoding in servers and clients. If, as vendors claim, this overhead is manageable, H.264 will be a major threat. However, this remains to be tested and verified.
MxControlCenter Insufficient for Certain Applications
For many enterprise applications, MxControlCenter will not meet key requirements or have significant drawbacks. The key issues are:
Custumers Needing Wider Range of Cameras: Since Mobotix only manufacturers 3MP cameras, customers will routinely prefer cheaper or simpler cameras for many applications (e.g., SD resolution is often good enough, why buy a 3MP Mobotix camera when they can buy a standard definition Axis or ACTi for significantly less). While Mobotix supports 3rd party cameras, they must be encoded in MJPEG which is significantly less efficient than MPEG-4 or H.264, common amongst standard definition cameras.
Lack of Enterprise Management: MxControlCenter does not support enterprise management which has become a critical requirement for many organizations that have hundreds or thousands of sites. While they are not free, many customers pay $200 per camera for this functionality.- MxControlCenter does not support integration of leading PoS or ATM systems. This is a significant limitation for retail and banking.
- 3rd Party Integration: MxControlCenter does not offer 3rd party access control integration with leading providers. This is a significant barrier to its use in large corporations and government organizations whereas access control integration is often viewed as critical.
This being stated, Mobotix is supported by a variety of leading video management systems including Milestone, Gentec, Seetec and Verint. As such Mobotix can and is used without MxControlCenter. Nonetheless, the value proposition is not as strong.
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