Why Customers Choose Centralized Analytics
Performing analytics at the DVR/NVR is a very popular choice in video surveillance. Reading the trade magazines and viewing marketing materials, you probably would not think so because 90% of the attention goes to analytics at the edge.
To me, this is a classic case of what vendors want the world to be rather than what is best for customers. For many customers, centralized analytics are a far better choice. Here are the top reasons:
- Reuses your existing cameras.
- Less expensive than analytics at the edge.
- Simplifies maintenance and upgrade of analytics.
Reuse Existing Cameras
Customers, justifiably, hate to throw away usable assets. The problem is to use smart cameras you will generally have to throw away existing assets or purchase new assets that are redundant. Over 80% of cameras deployed are analog - none of them support analytics. You will either have to replace them or add an encoder with built-in analytics. Furthermore, most of the IP cameras do not have the capability to be upgraded to video analytics. As such, even if you deployed new IP cameras 6 months ago, those too would have to be replaced (perhaps you can relocate or resell those cameras).
You may be in a situation where you are adding new cameras or are ready to throw away existing cameras. In that case, great. This is not a problem. But most people are not in that situation.
Consolidating video analytics at the DVR/NVR reduces cost. Smart cameras are usually a few hundred dollars more than traditional IP cameras. Smart DVRs/NVRs (systems that consolidate analytics and video recording in one) are usually no more than a thousand dollars more than a DVR.
Here's what happens. If you buy a smart DVR/NVR you pay about a thousand dollars more. If you buy smart cameras and need to replace your existing cameras, you can easily pay $5,000 to $15,000 more. Even if you do not have to throw away existing cameras, it can cost you a few thousand dollars for the premium of smart cameras.
Fairly small companies like Clickit and i3DVR [link no longer available] are being selected by many customers for just this reason. They have built DVRs with analytics inside that only cost modestly more than a traditional DVR. The economics are such that this is obviously very attractive and despite the fact that these companies do not have big marketing dollars, there are getting some impressive wins.
Simplifies Maintenance and Upgrade
Not a lot of people are talking about this yet but maintenance and upgrade are going to be very problematic with smart cameras. Smart cameras are shiny today but in 3-5 years, your smart camera is going to look like the first generation iPod - big, bulky, stupid and uncompetitive with the 2011 state of the art. It's not practical to replace the chips inside each camera where it is very practical to upgrade a centralized server than handles analysis for numerous cameras.
While I am not opposed to analytics at the edge, the radical imbalance of coverage and treatment of this issue is a disservice to security managers. Hopefully, this article helped to shed some light on the oft-overlooked benefits of centralized analytics.