The Best Video Surveillance Solutions

By John Honovich, Published on Jul 13, 2008

The most novel or powerful product is usually viewed as the best. Though usually wrong, it is attractive nonetheless.

The solutions most likely to be the best are the most likely to be narrowly focused. This report will examine 10 leading video surveillance companies and examine how that is the case.

When looking for the best video surveillance products, determine if they:

  • Focus on a Vertical or 
  • Focus on a Single Component

Conceptually, most people like bigger, broader, more ambitious offerings. If a single company can capture, transmit, record, analyze and display video all in one and for every user, it seems better than having dozens of companies to select and integrate.

Investors and analysts like big. A company that can solve all people's needs and do lots of different things has a broader addressable market. The potential is much higher than someone who is simply specializing in one thing in one area.

The problem is that if you are an end user or integrator, you stand to lose the most from this. Products rarely can solve broad ranges of problems for broad ranges of people. When you select an overly ambitious product, the risk is very high that you will disappointed with the detailed operation of the product.

Missing Key Functionalities

To build a product that solves the problems of a broad range of users can require dozens of functionalities. The time and effort to build all of those functionalities can be enormous. Functionalities can also be in conflict, meaning that the presence of one functionality can cripple the ability of delivering another functionality. So optimizing a product for the military may undermine the product for retailers.

From talking to many manufacturers it is obvious how often companies underestimate the complexity, cost and challenges of adding in functionalities. I hear this all the time that companies can add in missing functionalities. Doing it timely and doing it right are huge challenges. When manufacturers fail to deliver, the end user and integrator pays.

Costs Driving Up

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Because ambitious solutions need to add dozens of functionalities to meet the diversity of real world needs, the costs go up.

  • The cost of hardware goes up because the product needs to be built to handle lots of functionalities
  • The cost of software goes up because the company feels pressure to justify its increased investment
  • The cost of redundancy often goes up because you find yourself having multiple products that do the same thing

The Answer is Focus

Focus limits the complexity of the problem to be solved. This increases the probability that a company can build a full solution for whatever area they are targeting. This also allows the company to economize and reduce cost because they can ignore many functionalities that are out of scope.

I recommended looking for products that focus on verticals or on a component. By component, I mean one part of a solution, e.g., camera, NVR, or analytics. The more parts a single product offers, the more likely it will fail. For instance, putting a camera, NVR and analytics into one product is the most risky of all because the product needs to address all the issues of each of the 3 elements. A product that combines many components may be successful if its focuses on a vertical. Vertical focus helps because it reduces the complexity and allows optimization for a narrower audience.

It is obviously not as sexy as the magical product that does it all but focus maximizes the probability that you get a product that works optimally for your needs.

Examining Video Surveillance Companies

Ortega InfoSystems: One of the classic burnout companies in video surveillance of the last 10 years, Ortega never could focus. They started as a building management system, then expanded into a physical security information management system and then extended themselves into being an NVR. When it was all said and done, they spread themselves so thin that it was incredibly difficult to satisfy any customer's need.

Covi Technologies: Burned through over $45 million in investment, Covi is a classic case of being too broad. Their analog cameras were literally targeted to “fit every application.” [link no longer available] Products that are targeted to fit all applications usually fit none. Far better to truly solve one user's need then trying to fit all. Then Covi offered a proprietary camera / video management system. This made it very difficult for all customers who already had a DVR (What would they do with the DVR?). Also, Covi's video management system had to compete with the dozens of functionalities that customers already expected from leading video management systems. Some may say that Covi was too early but IQinvision [link no longer available] has been around for even longer. Iqinvision is doing quite well because, unlike Covi, they focused.

Cernium: Cernium started out broad, being both an analytics solution and a video management system. However, Cernium has adpated and now focuses on being a video analytics solution. They have partnered with Milestone (one of the leading video management providers) and can now specialize in building the very best analytics. This is not unusual for young companies but it is critical for buyers to recognize when a company is too broad. Cernium's increased focus does not guarantee success but it makes it much more likely.

3VR: 3VR started out being a facial recognition and video management solution for many markets. Today, 3VR is much more focused with a product optimized for banking. By focusing on specific verticals, customer needs can be much better addressed with fewer resources.

Intellivid: Intellivid has always been focused on the retail market. They combine analytics and video management into a singular solution. Providing this to many verticals would be a great concept but, in practice, would be a disaster. By focusing on retail, Intellivid can optimize its combination of analytics and video management in ways that generalists cannot do. Read my review on Intellivid for details.

ioimage [link no longer available]: If you ranked video analytic providers by how many cameras they support or how many flavors of analytics they do, ioimage would score very poorly. Nonetheless, ioimage is consistently judged quantitatively and qualitatively as one of the best companies in the space. Their focus on only doing analytics in their own appliances let's them optimize their performance in ways other solutions cannot do. Read myreview on ioimage for details.

Steelbox [link no longer available]: Most video management systems try to be one size fits all but Steelbox clearly does not. Steelbox optimizes its product for very large camera counts and by doing so provides cost savings and unique features for that segment of the market. These benefits are driven by its focus. Read my review on Steelbox for details.

Milestone: Milestone is widely considered to be the market leader in NVRs/IP Video software. Key to that success has been focus on video management. Unlike DvTel [link no longer available], for instance, Milestone does not sell cameras, access control systems or video analytics. Not doing these things, I believe, is an asset. Customers are better served by Milestone supporting a broad range of components and letting users choose the right parts for their needs. I think Milestone's discipline here will help them extend their leadership position.

IBM: IBM offers an intriguing video analytics solution. The biggest problem I see is that it is so broad and there are so many other providers offering video analytics. When you talk to IBM, they seem open to any market – retailers, banks, corporate facilities, municipalities, military, etc. I am sure it makes them feel good that they think they can do anything. Nevertheless, I suspect they would have a lot more success if they selected one or two verticals and simply focused on optimizing the product for that use. Customers would obviously benefit from it to as IBM could optimize its offering and eliminate costs that are not needed for that verticals needs. Read my review on IBM for details.

VideoIQ: Recently releasing a camera that has built in analytics and storage, VideoIQ offers an-all-in one camera,video analytic and NVR. Lacking a vertical focus and trying to build a solution that does it all, this is a textbook case of a high risk product. Inevitably, customers will find considerable elements lacking in VideoIQ's NVR or its analytics or the camera bodies, etc. It's breadth invites problems. Hopefully, VideoIQ finds a vertical focus so it can optimize a solution for real use. Customers should beware in the meantime.

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