Many people want to go IP but 95% of deployed cameras are analog. Encoders are the most common solution but is that the best approach?
What are Encoders?
Encoders are appliances that convert analog video feeds to digital so that the video can be transmitted over IP networks and stored on digital storage like hard drives. Encoders generally cost $300 USD to $400 USD per analog camera.
While DVRs encode and store video, encoders simply encode video and transmit the video to a remote storage location. If you are not familar with encoders, I recommend a very good encoders tutorial from SDM.
Axis Makes the Case for Encoders
In a recent whitepaper on encoders, Axis recommends using encoders as "the easy path to network video."
In it, Axis dismisses DVRs as an alternative, saying:
"[DVRs have] never been able to deliver more than a handful of the benefits that can be provided by full-fledged network video systems. With DVRs, video is still stored on proprietary equipment, which makes integration with the fast-growing market of software applications for network and video management."
We have 2 claims: (1) a general claim about lacking benefits and (2) a specific claim that DVRs do not integrate with software applications.
The Key Need for Encoders
Encoders have clearly been the best and most frequent option for migrating to network video. I see two practical reasons:
- DVRs generally did not support IP cameras
- IP Video Software generally did not support video stored in DVRs
It's the combination of these two factors that makes designing systems so difficult. On the one hand, if you connect analog cameras to a traditional DVR, you are stuck with not using IP cameras. On the other hand, because IP Video Software has very limited support for DVRs, you cannot integrate your analog cameras connected to a DVR with your IP cameras.
What's Not a Barrier
Other technical elements in using DVRs or IP video software are generally not a barrier. Both DVRs and IP Video Software offer significant capabilities in access control integration, remote viewing, client UIs, PoS/ATM support, mapping, analytics, etc.
In the old days, you had to use encoders because of these two historical barriers. They were used despite the fact that separating encoding from storage almost always significantly increased the cost, complexity and service requirements of deployments.
However, with DVRs adding supporting for IP cameras and IP Video Software expanding their support for remote storage, the benefit of encoders will continue to be reduced. There are many solutions on the market today where not using encoders for migrating to IP video is better. This will continue to grow in the future.