Options and Challenge for Video Surveillance Integration

Author: John Honovich, Published on Aug 26, 2008

It's tough and getting tougher to figure out the best approach to integrate video surveillance with other security systems. While the industry conversation centers on the value of integration, the real challenge is how to make this happen, effectively, cost-efficiently and simply.

This challenge is growing and is not simply the standard issues in technology selection and design.  A few years ago, the options were fairly clear (if exceedingly limited). Or speaking more precisely, the option was fairly clear: The access control system functioned as the command center and the other systems, such as video feed into the access control's platform.

Today, we have three categories, contenders if you will, for the role of master application in security systems:

  1. The Access Control System: the classic approach
  2. The PSIM system: the emerging trend of deploying a dedicated application managing traditional security systems
  3. The Video Surveillance System: a growing movement by video vendors to manage other systems

Which one do you choose? Which one is best? Which one will win?

Access Control

Access control is the most well developed of the options available, having been fostered over the last decade.  Most access control systems can interface with a variety of video management systems.  Key advantages include the fact that almost everyone has access control and adding in the interfaces is fairly inexpensive. The main customer drawback of access control systems as the central platform is that they tend to limit 3rd party support to products that most help their immediate sales.  The larges incumbents such as GE, Tyco (Software House) and Honeywell have all been cited on these issues.  Also, access control systems almost never support other access control system so if you need to support multiple access control systems, this generally will not work.

PSIM System

While PSIM stands for the concept of managing physical security information, it also covers a group of companies that are building dedicated applications whose sole purpose is to manage security systems such as access control and video management systems.  Notable vendors include Orsus, Proximex and Vidsys.  Because they are not owned or controlled by access control or video vendors, they can and do offer a wide variety of support for different manufacturers.  They also are optimizing their solution for large-scale security management rather than extending an existing access control system.  The downside is that you have to buy a new product that is neither cheap nor trivial to implement ($100,000 USD - $1,000,000+ USD).

Video Management

More and more, video management vendors are adding in PSIM functionalities into their system.  For instance, VideoNEXT, traditionally a video management vendor, is now marketing a video + PSIM solutuion. Verint's Nextiva and OnSSI's Ocularis are bringing in PSIM features such as mapping, third party system integration, workflow management, etc. A key advantage is that it can be cheap and easy to add functionalities into a User Interface that a customer may already be using.  However, limited or no support of other video systems is an important downside.  To make it even more confusing, two of the PSIM vendors, Orsus and Proximex, offer powerful video monitoring solutions that provide better large scale camera monitoring than many video management vendors.

What to Do?

At a high level, I do not see one clearly winning approach nor an approach that is destined to win.  The segment that has the best chance to win is the PSIM companies however they are clearly a niche player until they can bring the cost and complexity of implementation down so that it can be rapidly deployed at cost minimally higher than today's video and access systems.  Until that time, it will make sense for most users to strongly consider expanding the functionality of their video and acccess systems (even if it constrains the functions and systems they can support).

That being said, I find this to be a disappointing state of affairs. While the benefits of integration are so frequently cited, until integration can be done broadly and inexpensively, most users will opt for low levels of integration.

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