"If you have only a small number of cameras and don't intend to integrate with your access control or building management system, that lends itself to proprietary systems," Harris says. "As they get bigger and more complex, that's when they go for open platform."
This is what Jeff Hinckley, a systems integrator at Norris, ran into when he designed and implemented a video surveillance network for the cities of Lewiston and Auburn in Maine. The schools were working in conjunction with Lewiston-Auburn 911, an organization created by Auburn and Lewiston to provide dispatch and radio communications to first responders. The school system had obtained federal funding for a surveillance system to help with increasing criminal mischief.
The surveillance system was designed to work with a large-scale, 4.9 GHz wireless mesh network designed by Norris and deployed throughout both cities. The network was intended for emergency access to municipal security systems as well as the deployment of remote cameras. Early in the endeavor, some of the Auburn schools were equipped with analog cameras and DVRs from Pelco, as well as some IP cameras managed by a Pelco video management appliance. But as the surveillance system was expanded, it became increasingly desirable to use high-resolution megapixel cameras in some areas and to use a more unified, single-application approach to accessing both video and other security-based services.
Using encoders, Norris tied the analog cameras into the schools' fiber-based network, added megapixel cameras and replaced the Pelco VMS with software from Exacq Technologies. Exacq's system, which runs on a Windows or Linux server, is able to support all the cameras and can integrate with access control systems.
VMS Versus Hybrid DVR
Some DVR vendors have begun selling software that enables their DVRs to support both IP cameras and directly connected analog cameras. VMS-based systems can also support analog cameras, but they require the use of an encoder to translate the signal to digital. With hybrid DVRs, both types of cameras are supported directly.
The hybrid option will be particularly attractive to companies during the economic downturn, when many end users will be motivated to make modest, incremental upgrades to IP, while staying with their existing DVR providers, says John Honovich, founder of IP Video Market Info, a video surveillance information portal. "In the past, if you wanted to add megapixel or other IP cameras to your surveillance system, you were forced to go to an IP-based VMS solution," he says. "That has become much more complicated now that DVR vendors are rolling out increased IP support."
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