NLSS (Next Level Security) Product Examination

Author: John Honovich, Published on Oct 30, 2009

NLSS is developing an all-in-one NVR, access control and intrusion server with built-in analytics in an appliance smaller than your cable box at a price point less than today's mid-level DVRs with a managed services option.

[NOTE: This report is out of date and has been replaced with a March 2011 report covering the current competitive position of NLSS.]

NLSS Background

An ambitious offering, NLSS is led by Pete Jankowski and senior engineers who previously started and sold video surveillance companies to Verint and Cisco (respectively, Loronix and Sypixx).

Open Unified Platform

Leveraging two of the most powerful trends in today's market, openness and convergence, the NLSS product line plans to converge the 3 most commonly used security systems. Simultaneously, they plan to launch with support for both PSIA and ONVIF interoperability specifications.

Target Market and Timing

The product is scheduled for commercial release in Q2 2010 and will be sold through traditional security channels - integrators and alarm dealers.

The product is targeted at smaller facilities including multi-site chains and small/medium businesses.

Questions and Challenges

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Given the ambition of this goal, it certainly faces some serious questions and challenges. First, will consumers want or be able to use an all-in-one solution? Two, will the NLSS product's performance and features be sufficient compared to the offerings of independent solutions?

Competitors

Given the breadth of the offering, it will face challenges from established competitors providing integrated solutions for distributed smaller sites including S2's integrated security management system, Exacq's embedded series3VR's smart recorder, Envysion's managed retail offering and Axis hosted video solution (AVHS).

Product Details

The NLSS appliance is approximately the size of and looks similar to a small office router. The appliance is about 1/3rd the size of a 1RU server.

The appliance supports an internal 2.5" hard driver as well as eSATA and (4) USB interfaces for external storage.

The appliance supports a wide range of physical interfaces for security solutions. Interfaces planned include VGA, HDMI, DVI, audio, dual Gigabit Ethernet, dry contacts, RS-232 and RS-485.

The appliance supports only IP video feeds and does not have any integrated coaxial inputs or encoder cards. Analog cameras shall be supported through separate encoder appliances. The appliances plan to support up to 32 IP video feeds.

A managed option is planned for a separate monthly fee. The managed option can simplify setup by automatically synchronizing newly deployed appliances with a central management service. Additionally, remote access of video can be improved through a secure public website (rather than being limited to local LAN viewing). 

NLSS will support PSIA and ONVIF interoperability standards both for IP cameras and for recorders. The recorder standard will allow NLSS appliances to be viewed and managed from 3rd party systems.

The built-in analytics will provide a suite of video analytic focused on internal applications. The analytics are being integrated from an undisclosed 3rd party who has extensive experience in video analytics. The number of total channels supported was not disclosed.

For access control, NLSS will focus on supporting basic access control functionalities to enable key replacement. NLSS plans to support panels as well as edge IP readers.

For intrusion detection monitoring, NLSS plans to integrate with Central Station Monitoring software.

NLSS plans to support ATM or PoS protocols in a latter release.

Key Factors that Impact/Impede NLSS

Widespread adoption of NLSS appliance depends on 3 emerging trends within video surveillance. The NLSS appliance assumes the availability of the following:

  • Use of IP Cameras at Small Sites: Since the appliance does not support direct encoding of analog cameras, the cost and complexity of an NLSS based solution for sites with analog cameras with be significantly higher. By contrast, many mid-range hybrid DVRs are available on the market that will likely be easier to deploy and cost the same or less.
  • Adoption of Standards: Almost all potential users of NLSS will already have existed video recorders. Recording interoperability standards will be important for 2 important use cases: (1) allowing users to monitor both NLSS and the incumbent recorder on the same interface (e.g., NLSS and Verint NetBox II) and (2) allowing NLSS to be used as the branch office compliment to a VMS system designed for corporate offices (e.g., NLSS in the branches and Genetec in the corporate offices). The challenge for these standards is both the time to implement them (drafts have just been released in October 2009) and the motivation of incumbents to adopt them (who may delay or decline out of competitive threat).
  • Use of IP Card Readers: To the extent that users have existing access control panels, the economic benefit of adding the NLSS appliance is minimal. These panels tend to be expensive ($1,500 - $4,000) and have sufficient intelligence to manage all the local access control activities of a small site. NLSS will be most attractive to sites that do not have panels and are migrating to IP card readers, using the NLSS appliance as the 'local manager'.
None of these are widely adopted today.  While all are expected to gain strength over the next few years, the pace of migration to these technologies will be important for the growth of NLSS.
Challenges for a Unified Solution
Two general challenges exist to any provider developing a unified solution:
  • Consumers who cannot or are not interested in the whole package: Many customers only need 1 or 2 of the many security functionalities that NLSS plans to offer. Alternatively, these customers may already have an investment in 3rd party products for some of these functionalities. In either of these cases, the value proposition will be severely constrained and customers may find buying just the piece that is missing or that they need to be inclemently less expensive.
  • Customers may demand more advanced functionalities in each specific domain than NLSS can provide: The colloquial way to express this concern is "jack of all trades, master of none." Specifically, competitors who specialize in only one system may have deeper or better optimized functionalities in those narrow areas. In video, examples include more or better analytics, exception based reporting, mapping, health monitoring, etc., etc. While NLSS may be able to do many of these, how many they can do and how quickly they can deliver it will be important questions to consider.
Competitive Comparison
Because NLSS is developing such a product, it has the potential to compete with a wide range of product offerings. Specific threats and advantages these products may have compared to NLSS include:
  • S2 Security offers appliances with a similar concept to NLSS but more focused on access control and intrusion detection. With over a decade of experience and led by another industry leader, John Moss, S2 Security has a sophisticated solution for access control that would be difficult for NLSS to compete with head to head. However, S2 is more focused on integrating with third party video management systems, rather than being one itself.
  • Exacq offers low cost hybrid DVR appliances as well as IP video surveillance software. Customers that have existing analog cameras and are focused on providing a video surveillance solution, may find this to be better targeted for that need.
  • 3VR offers hybrid NVR appliances integrating video management and video analytics. Customers who want analytics and are looking for a video centric solution may find this to be a better fit.
  • Envysion offers a managed video solution that has advanced PoS integration and exception based reporting. Retailers that are focused on loss prevention may find Envysion's solution more effective on meeting their specific LP needs.
  • Axis Hosted Video offers a solution for those using IP cameras who want to eliminate the local appliance or replace it with a simple inexpensive NAS device. For those who are moving to IP and are looking at video only, it may be easier and even cheaper to go this route.

Conclusion

As the offering fits within overall growth trends, NLSS's appliance has potential to be fundamentally different and disruptive. However, the amount of time needed for these trends to mature and for NLSS to optimize a product to compete with mainstream product offerings is still to be determined. A better assessment of the overall impact will be available in 1 to 2 years as the pace of both factors become clear.

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