Video Surveillance Platforms

Author: John Honovich, Published on Oct 03, 2008

A platform for video surveillance could dramatically improve the effectiveness of video surveillance. However, no manufactuer has developed an actual platform despite frequent marketing claims to the contrary. This report explores the customer benefits of platforms and the key operational elements needed to make a platform.

The Customer Value of Platforms

From a customer perspective, platforms are valuable because no manufacturer can meet the diverse needs of all customers. For instance, in security, we have thousands of uses -- farming, hospitals, mines, ships, etc. to name a few.  It's impossible for any manufacturer to develop a solution that is simultaneously optimized for all of these applications.  Instead, basically all video management systems are designed for a general, average use case.  This approach limits significantly the value of video management.  A true platform would allow hundreds of customized applications that delivering optimized solutions for a variety of security applications that have traditionally been underserved.

Criteria for a Plaform

The solution in software development is to develop a framework that allow 3rd party organizations to:

  1. Develop specialized solutions
  2. Leveraging extensive tools and functionalities provided by the platform provider
  3. Distribute/sell those specialized solutions to other users

Why Video Surveillance Does Not Meet Those Criteria

In the video surveillance industry, the first two are weakly developed and the third is non-existent.  You can develop limited forms of specialized solutions (point 1).  However, the functionalities provided (through APIs) are fairly weak.  While you can do basic things like live and recorded video, the abilities to customize UIs and add advanced features are often limited.  Perhaps more importantly, even if you can develop a specialized solution, it is almost always a 'one-off.'  That is, if you are an integrator or developer in Australia, no one else in the world gets to benefit or use your specialized solutions for farming.  You must have a distribution system where developers in the US, France, etc can obtain and easily reuse your customizations in their applications.  Contemporary examples of this are the Apple AppStore, platform model and perhaps the most famous of all - Windows itself.  They all have distribution models in place where developers like myself can easily share code and consumers can simply access the end product applications.

Why Video Surveillance Vendors Need to Develop True Platforms

With the convergence of IT, DVRs, NVRs and IP video surveillance software providers will all be competing against one another.  It's bad enough that each sub-category has dozens of providers who are pretty much the same.  You will very soon see 50 providers who are basically the same - all supporting IP cameras, providing recording, mapping interfaces, enterprise management, analytics, etc.  Technical differentiation will become increasingly difficult, leading to price drop and unhealthy competition.  The basis of competition will then more to marketing and channel strength - an inefficient outcome to customers and society at large.

A true platform is a way to explode the value and technical differentiation that a video management system can offer.  With a genuine platform and the development of reusable, sharable applications, it is possible for a video management system to dominate the market (this is the outcome of winning platforms).  Simultaneously, a winning platform will benefit both customers and integrators.  Integrators can easily share and reuse the customizations of others to solve niche problems (like farming or mines, etc).  Customers will, of course, be the ultimate beneficiary, getting solutions optimized for their use case rather than a generic package.

Will it happen? How will it happen? Who will make it?  I do not know.  However, I am sure that just like in other aspects of software and technology development, this will ultimately become the driving force of major advancements.

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