Testing Central Management System (NUUO)

By: Benros Emata, Published on Jun 13, 2010

Larger surveillance systems generally demand centralized or enterprise management to provide simplified access and administration of hundreds (or more) cameras. Increasingly, VMS systems provide such functionalities either built in or through add-on modules.

In this test, we examine NUUO's Central Management System (CMS). We focus on the CMS in regards to event / alarm management and monitoring and how they work as a system with the NUUO's VMS (review our test of NUUO's VMS). This test was hosted on a Windows XP system, connected to the IQInvision Series 4, Axis Q1755  and Basler BIP-1300/1600 cameras.

When evaluating NUUO, the following 9 key criteria / decision points should be considered.

Criteria Strength Description
 Pricing  Moderately Strong  Even including CMS, price is still fairly low
 Simplicity  Weak  Problematic defaults, maze of options, fractured monitoring between VMS / CMS
 3rd Party IP Camera Support Moderately Strong Broad Support
 3rd Party System Support  Weak  Less than a handful of systems
 Analytics Support  Moderately Weak  Extensive built-in options but questionable accuracy
 Enterprise Management  Weak No enterprise administration, only enterprise monitoring via CMS
 Alarm Monitoring  Moderate Fragmented administration and operation with VMS / CMS
 Video Distribution  Moderate Fragmented with VMS / Matrix Client
 Redundancy  None Not supported

Recommendations and Key Decision Points

NUUO does provide a range of advanced features such as video distribution over the network, map capabilities, event monitoring and analytics; however, this is contrasted with the fragmented architecture. Although a distributed architecture is not uncommon in amongst other VMS's at this price point, NUUO's implementation of numerous clients and server front-ends that require administration create confusion and is prone to error. Other key points include:

  • NUUO's expanded their IP camera support to over 40 manufacturers (31 supported our last review)
  • The included Matrix Server / Client with the CMS adds video distribution but with an awkward workflow
  • The alarm client provides real-time enterprise event monitoring capabilities but fragmented from live and investigations
  • Administration is a maze of options between all the different clients and servers requiring configurations

Product Overview

Computing Platform Support

NUUO's CMS currently does not support Windows 7 so those that have adopted the operating system should take note.

We tested NUUO using a Windows XP server for all software components:  Main Console, Alarm Server and the Matrix Server. Additional supported operating systems include Windows Server 2003 and Vista. The installation specifically for the CMS included the Alarm server / client and the Matrix server / client, which also bundles SQL database. 

NUUO support has advised that users check http://support.nuuo.com for the most  updated software release. You will also find a list of compatible hardware [link no longer available] to ensure optimal performance of your system.

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Third Party Support

With over 40 manufacturers [link no longer available] supported, NUUO offers a broad range of IP camera support in addition to their own line of encoder cards [link no longer available].

Pricing

The MSRP for the IP video software tested in this review is $2,130 USD for 16 channels (about $133 USD per channel).

The Central Management Software (CMS) is sold separately from the base IP video software. The MSRP for the CMS is $2,665 USD for 4 server. Assuming 40 channels per server, this is an additional $16 USD per channel (2,665 / 160).

The approximate MSRP for a central managed NUUO installation is about $150 USD per channel.

Usability

The following screencast provides usability highlights of NUUO's VMS, in addition to items we found challenging. Key points include:

  • Architecture overview (00:40 min)
  • Server-side requirements (01:39 min)
  • Configurations in NCS Client are independent of the Main Console (03:33 min)
  • Working with the Matrix server / client (04:44 min)
  • Bulk live streaming profile change on demand (07:08 min)
  • Working with exports (07:45 min)
  • Helpful support documentation and wiki (08:50 min)

Administration

The following screencast examines how to configure/setup NUUO's VMS system. Key points include:

  • Reviewing the Main Console / recording server (00:36 min)
  • Configuring cameras in the Main Console (01:31 min)
  • Installing CMS (01:56 min)
  • Configuring the NCS Client (02:54 min)
  • Administering the Matrix (06:17 min)
  • Important reminders (09:37 min)

Live Monitoring

The following screencast examines monitoring live video with NUUO's VMS software. Key point include:

  • Accessing live streams from the map view (01:22 min)
  • Camera windows are limited in the map view (01:45 min)
  • Monitoring real-time events (03:01 min)
  • Video distribution with the Matrix Client (03:51 min)
  • Accessing Remote Live Viewer via web browser (05:32 min)

Investigations

The following screencast examines how to conduct investigations with NUUO's VMS software. Key points include:

  • Working with the events pane (00:43 min)
  • Playback in the live map view (01:18 min)
  • Exporting from the live map view (02:16 min)
  • Remote Playback client bundled (4:00 min)
  • Accessing the web client (06:27 min)

VMS Questions - Basic Use (Live and Recorded)

How do I watch live video?

Within the NCS Client, the map is used to display live video. Right-click on a camera indicator (icon) and choose "Open Live Video Window - a small pop-up will be displayed showing the live stream.

It should be noted that up to three (maximum) of these windows can be displayed, which also includes alarm windows.

Optionally, a workstation can also run the Matrix Client. The Matrix Client is used for viewing only (no controls) and will display streams specified in the matrix configuration tab within the NCS client.

Lastly, the web interface provides access to live streaming (in addition to remote playback).

What ways can I monitor many video feeds simultaneously?

If the operator wishes to view more than three streams, the Matrix Client must be running. NUUO confirms that up to 64 cameras can be displayed on a single Matrix client.

How can I be notified and review alarms?

There are multiple components involved depending on which application is taking priority of viewing.

First, and most importantly is within the Main Console configuration settings within the Guard menu. 

When a camera is enabled for an event (e.g. signal lost), an action can be associated with it and are meant to notify operators. Some of these options include:  send an e-mail, dial a phone call, send to Central Server, etc. When running the NCS client, an alarm notification window will automatically be displayed providing the live stream.

Additionally, the alerts will be displayed within the Alarm Overview Window where the operator can review later.

If running the Matrix, a pane must be "flagged" to accept the alert. This is similar to other VMS's that we've tested which a pane must be "armed" to recieve the alarm. This flag acts as a guide or beacon to properly recieve the notification.

How do I search for recorded video? 

Search capabilities are fairly light within the NCS client and would recommend the Playback System for richer search functionality. With that noted, there are still options for searching within the NCS client.

To access the Playback System:

In the main menus, select Tools > Remote Playback. This launches the Playback System where the operator can connect to the recording server and retrieve video.

To access archived video in NCS client:

On the map, right-click on a camera and choose Open Playback Window, then choose from a sub-menu. Options include pre-defined time frames (1, 5, min., etc.) in addition to Custom that allows a calendar / time selector. Once a desired time frame is selected, the playback window appears providing controls that also include a snapshot and export feature.

Additionally, the user can access recorded video via the web client using the server's IP address and proper login credentials.

What ways can I search multiple video feeds?

Using the Advanced Alarm Search in the Tools menu, provides the operator search criteria to their permitted entities. 

Search can be conducted per server or device (camera, I/O, etc.). Search results provide a list of alarms and their associated entitiy that can be r-clicked to access details of the event.

For more detailed searching other than alarms, it would be ideal to launch the Playback System.

How do you share images from video?

Both the live and playback windows provide a screenshot button, represented by a camera icon.

How do you share video clips from recorded video? 

Both the live and playback windows provide an export button, represented by a file folder icon. The formats to export video are .asf and .avi, which should be compatible in most commercial off the shelf media player such as Windows Media Player or VLC. 

How do I know if I am in live or recorded video mode? 

The nature of the NCS client is not to provide a mode for live or recorded as there are two separate applications for this(Surveillance and Matrix Client). To view live video, the user must be explicit in this action so it is very clear when righ-clicking on a camera indicator in the map view and choosing Open Live Video Window.

Recorded mode simply does not exist within the client as the opeartor would be launching the Remote Playback client from the Tools menu.

How do you switch between live video, investigations and configuration?

As mentioned above, there are multiple applications for each of these core functions are as follows:

Live video - Surveillance Client (separate client)

Investigations - Remote Playback (separate client launched from NCS Client) or the Playback System which is installed from the same executable as the Surveillance Client

Adminstration - NCS Client / Main Console - configuring alarms is conducting in combination of the two. 

Are there any limitations or potential issues with the video playback controls?

Playback controls are fairly standard - as mentioned NCS client is primarily for managing events. Playback controls are standard pause, play, stop, frame-by-frame, next/previous minute and up to 16x speed. The jog bar can also be dragged and the preview window will provid a visual as its adjusted.

As mentioned above, third parties requiring playback (e.g. police officer) can use most commercial off the shelf media players.

VMS Questions - Administration

How do I add/setup a camera?

Use the Main Console. When recording servers are added in the NCS Client, associated devices will be included.

How do you set up alarms to be displayed? 

The Alarm Overview Window provides the listed events. The Recent tab will provide a thumbnail of the event and the Real-time tab will provide a text list of the same events.

As mentioned in the usability video above, to create alerts requires access to the Main Console in addition to the NCS Client.

How do you restrict access to the system? 

Operators will be provided a user account and assigned a group. The group cam be limited by system and functionality

How do you restrict access to certain features or functionalities?

Operators will be provided a user account and assigned a group. The group cam be limited by system and functionality

How can you setup the VMS to handle failures to servers/appliances?

No features currently offered to handle redundancy.

How can you access reports or alerts on the health status of the servers/appliances/applications?

From the Tools > Server Summary menu, the administrator can access information on the server and associated devices. Examples of information provided are:  disk space, CPU temperature, fan speed, current status of devices, total licenses, etc.

How can you upgrade the VMS software?

This is conducted outside of the interface via executable. There is a procedure to 'Transfer' licenses and should be taken into consideration when upgrading the software. 

What are the key steps to install the server?

Its key to understand that the Alarm Server is different and generally physically separated in from the Main Console where video is recorded. 

Once the alarm server has been installed, the configuration menu will require the IP address and credentials of the server to receive alarms from (Main Console). 

After this communication has been established, the NCS Client will require the addition of the desired server(s) to receive alarms from.

Are there any complex steps or potential problems in the server install?

No, installation was straightforward using the InstallShield Wizard.

Are there any complex steps or potential problems in the client install?

Currently, no support for Windows 7.

VMS Questions - Usability

How does the VMS handle the higher resolution of megapixel cameras?

NCS Client does not handle the streams, Main Console does.

How does the VMS perform with low bandwidth connection (256 kb/s)?

The resolution of the camera will be decreased.

What, if any, VMS functionalities regulary take more than 10 seconds to load? (When software is unresponsive, users are less likely to use it and be more unsatisfied)

Within the NCS Client, performance has been responsive.

What happens when the VMS client cannot connect to a camera?

If no alerts have been configured to notify on camera status, the map view will provide a visual reference. The camera indicator icon will appear with a big red "X" infront.

To be clear, the hierarchy trees within the System Control Window do not provide visual status indicators of the entities.

If the operator attempts to view the live stream, a message showing "CONNECTING" is displayed indefinitely. The system attempts to reconnect and displays "DISCONNECT" and cycles back to "connecting." 

What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?

The devices "Stream Profile" can be changed from the map view by right-clicking on the icon. The operator can use the "Apply To..." feature to apply the profile to numerous cameras.

What help functionality does the VMS provide while using the client?

Assuming that the operator has a PDF viewing application (e.g. Adobe Reader), then the user manual can be accessed in the Help menu. 

How similiar is the use of the VMS client to a DVR?

NCS Client is specifically for event management so this if far from a DVR. However, contrast this to the other applications such as the live monitoring and playback clients. These run in full screen and controls are generally on on screen. In these cases, it is much like a DVR.

How similar is the configuration of the VMS server to a DVR?

The more advanced features provided in NCS Client delineate this from configuring a DVR. Video matrix distribution further concretes this.

How simple is it for an untrained operator? 

Assuming that the untrained operator will be configuring alarms, Main Console will require access. If the oeprator is free from this administrative duty, then monitoring events are fairly simple. The two panes can be easily viewed to access devices and events; the map view remains in constant site

However, there are some fragmented  aspects within the NCS Client. For example, playback is offered but via launching Remote Playback application and is not integrated into the NCS interface. Additionally, the NCS Matrix is also not integrated into the NCS Client and further framents live streaming into yet a separate application. 

How powerful is it for the expert operator? 

Some advanced features will provide the expert operator with some flexibility. For example, an alarm can be configured to notify users via SMS or send the event to the matrix.

Video can also be distributed via the Matrix. For example, if a guard has the Matrix Client running on their dedicated surveillance workstation, another operator accessing NCS Client can push an event to that guard. This options is withing the alarm details window.

VMS Questions - Scalability

What ways can I add/setup many cameras at the same time?

Access the Main Console, no camera setup is conducted within the NCS Client.

How do you do restrict access when using multiple servers/appliances?

Operators will be provided a user account and assigned a group. The group cam be limited by system and functionality

How can I watch live video feeds from different appliances/servers?

This is the same as viewing live video from a single server but assuming that the user account credentials provide proper permissions. The added servers to the NCS client will list all associated devices.

How can I conduct searches from video feeds stored in  different appliances/servers?

The Advanced Alarm Search window provides the ability to choose several entities to search events. After the search is conducted, the list of events will be displayed and the investigator can playback one camera per instance (no multicamera playback). 

Optionally, the investigator can launch the Remote Playback application from the Tools menu for more detailed searching.

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