VMS Mapping Shootout

By: Sarit Williams, Published on Oct 30, 2013

Maps are used for situational awareness, but what is that exactly? What features do they have and how do VMSes differ in what they offer?

In this report, we share our test results of reviewing the map features for Milestone, Genetec, Avigilon, Exacq, AxxonSoft, and Network Optix/Digital Watcdog.

Key Differentiators

Maps research revealed a number of important differentiators that separated the 'best' from the 'worst' in VMS map features, including:

  • Map Types: There are 3 Map types. Which is more powerful, easier to use and/or configure?
  • Map Interaction: Which actions can you actually perform with maps?  open doors? playback video? view live video? It is so much more than just viewing cameras. 
  • Layout Precision: How correct is that map representation?
  • Map Alerts: what type of notifications exists and how effective are they?
  • Suspect Tracking: Is it possible to use the cameras to track a suspect- visually - from view to view with use of maps? Response time would be greatly improved.
  • Cost/Installation: Are these features included or are there hidden charges?  We uncover the details.

Key Findings

Six primary differentiators emerged from our testing:

  • Map Types: There are 3 maps: images only, multi-dimensional, and GEOSpatial maps. All VMSes offer  image file integration while Axxon Next, and Genetec offers multidimensional map integrations for an immersive 360 experience. In addition, Genetec was the only VMS to offer a GEOSpatial map integration.
  • Map Interaction: Genetec, AxxonSoft, and Milestone pulled in most other VMS actions (live, playback, access control) into a centrally managed visual view.  Exacq, Avigilon, and Network Optix/Digital Watchdog added maps as yet another feature to be used- in other modules outside of the map view.
  • Layout Precison:Genetec's allows to enter exact FOV and mounting details of each camera allowed for greater accuracy of the area monitored by displaying any gaps in coverage or blind spots. The rest of the VMSes layout of the cameras is representative at best and does not include this level of accuracy. Exacq, however, lacked an FOV representation on the map.
  • Map Alerts: Avigilon, AxxonSoft, Exacq, Genetec, and Milestone include the ability to tie alarms to a camera and have it trigger on the map visually. However, Network Optix/Digital Watchdog did not.
  • Suspect Tracking: Only Milestone's Camera Navigator (odd implementation of live camera view as background and was difficult to view camera icons) and Genetec's Visual Tracking (easy to setup and use) options offer tracking options. Milestone's he other 4 VMSes lacked a suspect tracking type feature where the cameras are linked together based on location. 
  • Cost/Installation: Only Genetec requires both a separate installation and additional costs for their Standard and Advanced map features. The Plan Manager server/client application feature sets differ depending on the edition selected: Basic, Standard, and Advanced. The other VMSes all included maps as a standard feature with no additional costs.

Manufacturer Differentiation

All VMSes offered the use of images, such as .jpeg, .bmp, .png, .gif and others.

With respect to those differentiators, here is how manufacturers matched up:

Avigilon

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Maps feature is available in Standard and Enterprise editions, but not the entry level Core.

  • Map Types: image files only
  • Map Interaction: interactions with the map include the ability to view alerts via blinking or icon color change or click a camera for a single view though that removes the user from a map view and into a layout view. There is no thumbnail view or the ability to zoom in on a location in the map.
  • Layout Precison: representative FOV only. Also includes map artifacts such as cameras, layouts and nested maps for multi floor buildings.
  • Map Alerts: map will show the camera or object that triggered the alarm visually by changing colors and pulsating which is hard to miss.
  • Suspect Tracking: No suspect tracking
  • Cost/Installation: it is included in the cost of VMS and configuration was quite simple and intuitive to setup with no extra installation steps.

AxxonSoft

  • Map Types: image files or a multi dimensional view of vector images seamed together for an immersive view.
  • Map Interaction: User can zoom in and out via slider, and switch from a flat map only view to a split screen of live view with map. Moreover, for ceiling mounted Fisheye 360 view the actual live image will be displayed on the map rather than just an arbitrary colored FOV.
  • Layout Precison: Allows for placement of cameras, event triggering devices such as relays and sensors, and 'switches' (nested maps). Representative FOV only and no ability to customize the color of FOV (may be difficult to see such a light color) or objects' icons.
  • Map Alerts: arm/disarm objects (visual red/green on map)
  • Suspect Tracking: Axxon Next offers an Object Tracking feature, but it is limited to one camera's FOV and not across several different cameras.
  • Cost/Installation: feature is included in the cost of VMS. Adding a map was hidden and hard to find (must be in edit layout), but actually adding objects to the map was quick, and most other options relied on users to know right click is used on the map.

Here is a short overview video:

Exacq

basic mapping is available in Professional and Enterprise, and nested maps in Enterprise. But no maps in Start.

  • Map Types: image files only
  • Map Interaction: interactions with the map include the ability to view or trigger alerts. Thumbnail live view or playback can be accessed via right click, navigating up from nested maps can be difficult to see the icon is quite small.
  • Layout Precison: No FOV outline at all. Includes map artifacts such as cameras, event trigger checkboxes, audio, intercom, layouts, and nested maps for multi floor buildings. Map icons change colors to indicate motion/event and all objects offer a myriad of customization for names, colors (not to interfere with map colors), and camera icons differ depending on camera type.  
  • Map Alerts: map will show the camera or object that triggered the alarm visually by changing colors and pulsating which is hard to miss.
  • Suspect Tracking: No such feature
  • Cost/Installation: it is included in the cost of VMS and configuration was quite simple and intuitive to setup with no extra installation steps.

Genetec

Genetec's Plan Manager is an add on module for Security Center and is available in 3 editions:

  • Basic: it's included Security Center base package and provides basic mapping capabilities to the Security Center system. Support is for JPG/PNG/PDF plan formats with up to 3 different maps and 30 entities (cameras, doors, intrusion panels, LPR) total. 
  • Standard: cost is ~$7000 (via GSA pricing). Available in six (6) different packages which are based on the number of entities including a site license option (50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, unlimited). Plan Manager Standard package provides all the feature set of Plan Manager except GIS support (Other than Bing, Open Street Map and Cloud Map). Only available with Professional or Enterprise packages of Synergis and/or Omnicast.
  • Advanced: cost is ~$13,000. An add on option than can be purchased separately to add support for GIS services like ESRI or KML. Plan Manager Advanced edition requires a Plan Manager Standard package.

Here is how it breaks down amongst our key differentiators:

  • Map Types: all 3 are available: image, multi-dimensional, and GEOSpatial
  • Map Interaction: interactions with the map include the ability to add and control (lock/unlock with corresponding different state icon images) any type of entity supported in Security Center: doors, cameras, I/O, nested maps, LPR, zones, etc. Thumbnail view and zooming both on camera and map are supported. Moreover, Cameras' PTZ patrol or control shows both in the thumbnail view and on the map itself as the movement occurs. And the lasso feature allows for multi object selections to reduce the number of actions needed. And finally, all colors, states, images and more can be customized.
  • Layout Precison: Allows for exact FOV on map by adding latitude, longitude, elevation, tilt, distance and more.
  • Map Alerts: Alerts can include both pulsating color on the object (customizable), audio or any automatic pre-created macro/alert or action (e.g. Start Recording).
  • Suspect Tracking: Security Center's Visual Tracking feature was fast to setup for one camera with two deltas (may be very time consuming with lots of cameras and a large facility with many paths).  However, once it is setup it was quick to follow an object crossing over multiple FOVs.
  • Installation: Plan Manager is a server/client application that must be installed in addition to Security Center and added to the Security Center client as a plug in.  Installation and client plug in configuration could take ~ 1 hour and installing Plan Manager server on a separate server is recommended which is added cost. Configuration could be lengthy due to the sheer magnitude of options and a quick training session is probably needed to learn how to configure all of the features.
  • Cost: There's no additional cost for the Basic edition, but any integration to a GIS server or KML requires the Advanced edition at an added ~$13,000 MSRP (GSA pricing), and an Enterprise level Synergy/Omnicast is required. Furthermore, Google or Bing business license will need to be purchased; Google prices can be upwards of ~$50 per month or opt for Bing customized Enterprise licenses.

Milestone

Maps and Camera Navigator features are available in the following editions only: Professional, Enterprise, Expert and Corporate. 

  • Map Types: image files only
  • Map Interaction: interactions with the map include the ability to view/trigger/acknowledge alarms. Thumbnail (can be enlarged) live view or playback can be accessed by hovering over camera, and zooming in and out of both thumbnail and map is available. However, navigating up from nested maps can be difficult to see the icon is quite small.
  • Layout Precison: Representative FOV only. Includes map artifacts such as cameras, event trigger checkboxes, audio, intercom, layouts, and nested maps for multi floor buildings. Map icons change colors to indicate motion/event and all objects offer a myriad of customization for names, colors (not to interfere with map colors), and camera icons differ depending on camera type (fixed or PTZ- no 360). 
  • Map Alerts: map will show the camera or object that triggered the alarm visually by changing colors and pulsating a red circle which is hard to miss and can be customized.
  • Suspect Tracking: Milestone's Camera Navigator implementation is odd.  It is used in conjunction with a map, but does not use it as a background!  it actually uses a live view of the 'Home' camera (e.g. Front Entrance) and on the right side will show a list of the maps as well as all cameras's thumbnails that are also adjacent for quick navigation. 
  • Cost/Installation: it is included in the cost of VMS. Configuration is similar to creating a View and all map configuration must be done from the Smart Client and saved as a Public map to be able to share with other users. 


 

Network Optix/Digital Watchdog

Network Optix maps feature is raw and in its initial stages when compared to the rest. It is a layout with an image background only.

  • Map Types: image files only
  • Map Interaction: No specific map interactions.  Any interaction will take place in the camera view as it does without a map.
  • Layout Precison: None, no FOV or objects.  The Map is just a background flat file to a grid layout.
  • Map Alerts: None
  • Suspect Tracking: User would have to manually click the representative camera tile on the schematic map to follow the suspect.
  • Cost/Installation: it is included in the cost of VMS. Configuration is similar to creating a layout only in this case the user is simply adding a background to it.

 

VMS Versions Tested

Avigilon Server/Client 5.0.0.62
Axxon Next Server/Client version 3.1.1359
Milestone Corporate version 6.0a/Smart Client 2013 8.0a
Genetec Security Center version Server/Client 5.2.1045.4018 SR3, Plan Manager 10.2 SR1
Exacq Server/Client version 5.8.1.48120
Network Optix/Digital Watchdog Server/Client version 2.0.2.4753 

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