Genetec: Security Center vs. Omnicast

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Aug 29, 2011

VMS developer Genetec now offers 2 fundamental options for video surveillance applications - Security Center and Omnicast. The two are not simple licensing options where one version is a subset of another (e.g., a Pro and a Standard), Security Center and Omnicast have important functional differences. Moreover, Security Center aims to address a broader markeet. In this note, we compare the two so you can understand the tradeoffs involved.

Earlier this year, Genetec released version 5.0 of their Security Center security management system. This release added native video management to the Security Center platform. Previously, video was added to Security Center via an Omnicast plugin, requiring the user to install a separate Omnicast server. This was a notable improvement as it made it more attractive to use Security Center

Advantages of Security Center

Looking at Security Center 5.0, here are its main advantages over Omnicast:

  • Integrated Security Management: By far, the biggest advantage of Security Center is integration. The Security Center integrates Omnicast video surveillance, Synergis access control, and AutoVu license plate recognition, as well as third-party systems, such as the recently-released intrusion detection integration. Operation and monitoring of all these systems is performed via Security Desk, Genetec's unified client. This integration allows some operational advantages: cameras could be associated with doors, allowing verification of a subject on live video against their employee photo on file, for example.
  • Single Client: Users familiar with Genetec's Omnicast will recall that it used two separate clients, Live Viewer and Archive Viewer unlike most VMS providers who offer a single integrated client. The Security Center provides a single client with a tab-based workspace. Live monitoring views of access control and video may be opened in one tab, archive searches in another, reports or other tasks in another. These tabs may be moved between monitors as needed.
  • Smoother Playback: Video playback in SC5 has been smoothed, so video may be viewed either forward or in reverse at any speed without any choppiness. Typically, when viewing H.264 in reverse, only key frames are used, which creates jittery video playback, depending on how the stream is configured.
  • Video Caching: Along with this, Security Center now saves video from cameras being viewed locally. This means that users needing to view an instant replay of video no longer request video from the archiver, making playback quicker and using less bandwidth, especially when repeatedly viewing the same video.
  • Input/Output Integration: One of the limitations of using Omnicast for video in Security Center is the lack of access to camera inputs and outputs, which are not imported. For example, using an Omnicast camera input to trigger an event in Security Center is not as easy as simply choosing the camera's input in programming. There are ways to accomplish this through creative programming, however. Security Center 5 changes this, making all inputs and outputs, whether they're attached to a camera, an I/O module, or an access control device, appear together. This simplifies programming, and potentially wiring. If a customer wanted to add a remote door release button to the access control system, for example, they could land the button's wiring on a nearby camera, instead of requiring a homerun to the access control panel.

Advantages of Omnicast

Most of the functionality of Omnicast has been added to Security Center. However, a handful of features remain Omnicast-only:

  • Third-Party Plugins: Omnicast has been integrated to a number of third-party systems, including multiple vendors of access control, point-of-sale, and perimeter detection systems, among others. None of these plugins have been ported to SC5 as of yet.
  • Failover: Omnicast allows for both directory and archiver failover, whereas Security Center currently only allows for failover of the archiver. In Genetec, the directory handles logins and redirection of video, with the archiver physically storing the video. Failover of either may also be accomplished externally, with clustering products such as NEC's ExpressCluster [link no longer available], but this refers to the failover features inherent in the system.
  • Federation Flexibility: One of Genetec's most marketed features is their Federation capability, which allows video from external systems to be viewed very simply. Currently, SC5 video cannot be federated into an Omnicast system, while Omnicast can be federated into SC, as well.

Pricing and Recommendations

Pricing is the same whether users choose to use Omnicast or Security Center for video. MSRP starts at $590 base/$150 per camera for Standard (50 cameras and under) and runs all the way to $3,650 base/$250 per camera for the Enterprise version (unlimited cameras).

The key factor when deciding whether to deploy Omnicast or Security Center is if other systems will be integrated with it. Genetec's Security Center offers one of the most tightly integrated security management packages in the industry. While an external Omnicast system could be integrated as well, there are distinct advantages to using SC's own video engine, as noted above.

Another thing to consider is whether or not the system will need to share video with other entities. If the system will need to be viewed by external entities with existing Omnicast installations (a school sharing video with a city, for example), with no plans to upgrade, then Omnicast must be installed. If, however, there are no plans to share video with external entities, or if the entity installing Security Center is at the highest operational level (a corporate loss prevention department viewing regional stores, for example), then Security Center may be used.

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