The electronic security industry is playing a game of
twister, bent between its customers’ demands for both traditional performance
and the flexibility offered by fully networked solutions.

TRADE shows give industry commentators an opportunity to
get a snapshot of where their industry is heading and ISC West in Las Vegas early April was
no exception to this rule. Before we get waist dip in this, bear in mind some
of the gear we’ll be talking about here isn’t available in Australia so if
it takes your fancy you’ll have to wait for it. Products mentioned here will
also be available through local channels and they may not be the companies we
talk about here.

Ok – with that disclaimer out of the way, what was clear
at ISC was that manufacturers are caught between analog and digital solutions
in a way that’s starting to look decidedly uncomfortable. It’s also apparent
that, when it comes to networking, our manufacturers are torn by the need to
build solutions that leverage open architecture/off-the-shelf flexibilities
while maintaining proprietary profit margins.

These 2 imperatives don’t always go together. In the IT
industry, hardware margins languish between 5 and 15 per cent and that’s
territory even the most forward thinking of our IP security manufacturers seems
in no great rush to explore.

The complexity of the modern electronic security business
and the delicacy of the technological situation is seeing most manufacturers
hedging their bets and doing a bit of everything. Most are offering analog,
hybrid and full digital solutions – not just in CCTV. It’s a trend that’s
apparent in access control and intrusion alarms, too.

Meanwhile the big boys, as you’d expect, are building
overarching management solutions designed to bring together their current and
future product stables in single monster interfaces. If the big players decide
not to develop their management systems inhouse (as Bosch has done), they’re
buying companies who’ve done the development (as March Networks and Pelco have
done).

On the floor

This is a challenging and competitive time for electronic
and networked security manufacturers. Downstairs at ISC were huge numbers of
Asian manufacturers from Taiwan,
Korea and China that had
been clumped together in one area. These manufacturers cop stick for the
sameness of their designs and for pushing low prices over innovative feature
sets but no matter which way you slice it, their latest kit is streets ahead of
what was on offer 5 years ago.

The similarity of the smorgasbord of Asian-built products
in Vegas really attested to the maturity of the electronic security market.
There were few stand-out products and those that caught the eye were more about
clever application than awesome feature sets. Having said that, all the DVRs
seemed to have attained a uniformly high standard of finish and specification
with 16 inputs, 400ips (PAL), at 2 or more HDD bays being the order of the day.

If you thought DVRs were dead, ISC West provided a solid
rejection on that score. In an odd conundrum, there were truckloads of analog
and hybrid DVRs side by side with vast numbers of IP cameras in the Asian
manufacturers’ area. If a single thing stood out in Hall D it was that the high
volume manufacturers at the competitive end of the Asian market seem have
deserted analog cameras – it was very much IP with a leavening of megapixel
cameras from the more adventurous builders. Most these IP cameras where driven
by CCD chipsets. This is almost certainly because it’s cheaper to buy Sony CCD
chipsets than to develop proprietary CMOS processing functionality that’s
competitive inhouse.

The majority of stuff in Hall D was CCTV – perhaps 95 per
cent or even higher.  There was a bit of
biometric stuff – just a smattering and mostly fingerprint and eye gear. The
slow uptake on biometrics has crushed most the smaller players. Something else
that was noticeable was that there was very little sign of access control or
alarm panels among the Asian makers – it was all CCTV. Some of the camera gear
had impressive specifications with powerful networking capabilities but as is
the way with these things, it was impossible to know if the specifications went
further that the promo material.

Walking around this busy area I felt a sense of deja vous
with a lot of the gear – much of it looking like the product available from the
big guys with lots of shiny silver DVR cases similar to benchmark DM products
from of a couple of years ago, as well as shiny silver Panasonic and
Sony-looking cameras that you’d assume would be relying on a very sharp pricing
to get themselves over the line.

Interestingly there were no big networked software
management solutions. You could argue this is because Asian manufacturers are
concentrating on their strengths – that’s the ability to manufacture low cost
electronic gear of good quality. It may also reflect the fundamental that these
manufacturers have realized hardware is where the serious margins are – even
given the big price falls of recent times. The overall feeling in the Asian
manufacturers section was one of consolidation rather than a major leap
forward.

At ISC West, halls A, B and C were the province of the
big international manufacturers and they were out in force. The first
impression was that this show did not have had so much of the froth and bubble
of past years – promotional money is being spent, but more carefully. There
were not so many of the multistory exhibits apparent at IFSEC last year.

I spent a day and half in these three halls and that was
inadequate. After an entire first morning trawling I realized I’d seen about 10
per cent of what there was to see – this show is vast with a registration area
bigger than the exhibition space of our local exhibition in Sydney.

Taking all this into account it made sense to focus on
those manufacturers whose gear is available in Australia while keeping a
weather eye out for anything that really stood out from the ‘unavailable in
Australia’ crowd. Moving around the main halls upstairs at ISC reinforced the
impression that this was an exhibition of serious fence-sitting – almost
certainly driven by the demands of end users who are simultaneously demanding
the best features of analog and networked solutions.

Questioning 5 of the big CCTV manufacturers (the U.S. reps, remember) I was able to broadly
ascertain that IP camera penetration in America is a little more than 5 per
cent and not greater than 8 per cent. This doesn’t mean that huge numbers of
analog cameras aren’t finding their way onto networks, of course. A sight that
brought this home most clearly was the presence of a newly released
analog-to-digital encoder on the stand of a highly respected IP camera
manufacturer. What’s clear is that shaking out end users out of the analog
habit is proving a little stickier than expected.

In general networking was a key element of almost every
major stand and typically for a U.S.
show, the stands emphasized end user solutions in a way our local expos seldom
do – being more focused on products. Even given the fence sitting there’s no
doubt where we’re heading. Megapixel network cameras using highly efficient
H.264 compression protocols and with modest sensor sizes around 1.5m looked
promising.

Who had what

The first port of call was IBM which showed its upgraded
WebSphere Premises Server offering SOA software (Version 6.1), as well as the RFIDInformationCenter at ISC. The focus
of this gear is that it allows users to more easily gather, analyze and act
upon data from radio frequency identification tags and other sensors. This sort
of gear is not just about security of shipments or items in building, it also
value-adds by streamlining management of assets.

IBM has added a new location awareness feature to the
server and says the technology in this version is better able to combine data
from sensors that have multiple purposes. In particular, the ability to detect
relevant events for a business – say a shipment of perishables that has been
placed in a storage unit that is not temperature controlled – is much easier
with this application. 

Features included the ability to manage multiple sensor
technologies in one application: passive RFID for object identification; active
RFID for location information; and other types of sensors for such condition
information as temperature, vibration and humidity. Then there’s real-time
location tracking services that support the use of active RFID technologies to
monitor for incidents in refineries, plants and office buildings; and an
event-processing engine that can establish business rules that act upon events
the sensors report.

More traditional was Honeywell which showed the Lynx
alarm panel with GSM and VoIP capability and the stand’s overall focus looked
to be built around simplifying the management of commercial and domestic
solutions. There was blue cable peeking out from the back of the neat Vista 48 panel – Honeywell’s big alarm panel is capable
of integrating things like HVAC and lighting.

On the Pelco stand were additional signs of the maturity
of networking with a computer rack incorporating integrated air conditioning.
Another standout at Pelco was the presence of Integral Technologies’ Digital
Sentry solution. As industry watchers will know, Integral Technologies was an
early Schneider Group buy, and an astute one. Cleverer still was handing the
Integral Technologies business over to Pelco after that company was purchased
more recently.

It’s not that Pelco is lacking when it comes to IP
solutions but Integral’s Digital Sentry is the sort of monster globally
networked security solution that lends itself best to the MPLS networks of
tomorrow. Digital Sentry sits at the next level – a battleground that’s going
to be churned over by the likes of Genetec, DVTel, March Networks’ with its
Cieffe product stable along with IBM, Cisco, Bosch’s BVMS, and probably GE.

Another important product on the Pelco stand was Version
5 of the DVR5100 featuring Endura integration and upgraded software. DVR5100 V5
is a smooth piece of work that delivers on the promise of earlier versions of
this flexible DVR. Pelco also showed Spectra IP, which is an unashamed
integration of the benchmark Spectra IV camera with an onboard digital encoder.

Some people were heard to criticize the Spectra IP camera
on the basis it simply combined existing components into a single whole but
that misses the point. Products like Spectra IP and Bosch’s IP-capable Dinion
AutoDome remain the speed domes of choice for real time operations.

At ISC West Bosch showed a bunch of new gear. It’s
somehow possible to forget Bosch is an engineering company of extreme
capability and that’s always a mistake. New at this show were the Bosch Video
Management System, Bosch VMR software, a new Divar MR and a new Divar XF. On
the intrusion side Bosch had the new Easyline Intrusion control panel with wLSN
and the new Professional Series detectors with multipoint anti-mask with spray
detection (not available locally yet).

New from Panasonic

Panasonic has released some exceptional cameras over the
past 5 years but in the past 18 months has been quieter than its competitors.
ISC West showed Panasonic has used its time wisely, unleashing a broadside of
new products.

This company was one of the early adopters of IP-enabled
analog cameras and seen in this light its strong push into the IP camera market
makes plenty of sense. Along with the i-Pro range of IP cameras, Panasonic
showed plenty hybrid gear, analytics and a generally strong network focus – and
it was all typically nice looking Panasonic gear.

Standing out for Panasonic was the i-Pro WV-NF302
Ruggedized Megapixel Day/Night Fixed Dome Network Camera which features a 1280
x 960 megapixel image sensor with dual streaming capabilities. On the stand
Panasonic was pushing its megapixel cameras as offer full digital performance
matching that of the best analog cameras.

This WV-NF302’s image capturing features include Adaptive
Black Stretch to enhance dark areas, progressive output to provide clear images
of moving objects, Day/Night capabilities for 24-hour surveillance, and focus
assist which automatically achieves best focus. Additional features include
automatically adjustable image compression to conserve bandwidth and deliver
higher quality images in alarm mode, a built-in network interface, and Power
over Ethernet (PoE).

Meanwhile Panasonic’s new i-Pro WV-NP304 Megapixel
Day/Night Network Camera is a box camera that delivers the same levels of
performance and connectivity as the WV-NF302. The numbers sound impressive.

Backing up these strong new megapixels were new analog
cameras – yep it’s a hybrid market alright. Panasonic’s new WV-CF324 Ruggedized
Day/Night Fixed Dome Camera offers 540 lines of horizontal resolution, simple
Day/Night function for 24-hour surveillance, Auto Back Focus to reduce
post-installation intervention, and Adaptive Black Stretch to enhance
visibility of dark areas without compromising bright areas.

Then there was the new WV-CW384 Super Dynamic III Weather
Proof Day/Night Camera featuring Panasonic’s SDIII technology. This shielded
bullet-style camera offers Auto Back Focus, Day/Night function and 540 lines
color horizontal resolution.

Also on display was the new WJ-GXD400 Multi-Channel
High-Definition Video Decoder. Registering up to 256 cameras, this decoder
offers a high-speed network interface, browser GUI and embedded real-time
operating system for optimum reliability.

Meanwhile the new WJ-ND400 Network Video Recorder from
Panasonic provides MPEG-4 and JPEG recording, connection and recording of up to
64 cameras simultaneously, installation of up to 9 hot-plug hard disk drives,
Panasonic camera control, flexible playback controls for audio and video,
motion detection search, digital zoom and quick IP setup for Panasonic i-Pro
cameras, plus much more.

Also of note where the GP-US932 Remote Head HD Camera
System which is both 1080i and 720p selectable with 3 1/3″-type 16×9
high-sensitivity progressive HD sensors running at a full 60 frames per second.

Close by was GE which had a bunch of new stuff including
the Simon X30 and a solution called the Director which has an PoE IP door
controller. Another newbie was Simon XT, a home security system with new
Web-enabled capabilities through interactive services provider Alarm.com. That
last applies to customers in the United States.

Simon XT is a wireless security system offering burglary
and fire protection functionality, is the first two-way, voice-over-GSM
wireless communications platform that communicates critical alarm signals to
the central station and allows instant, hands-free audio communication with
response personnel. Simon XT’s GSM wireless communications eliminates a
would-be intruder’s ability to disable it by cutting the home’s phone or cable
line. 

Simon XT’s robust lineup of enhanced features, and the
associated portfolio of DesignLine wireless peripherals, further solidifies its
position as the industry’s leading UL-listed, GSM enabled, 40-zone,
self-contained wireless residential alarm panel solution.

Simon XT also offers customers Web-enabled services
through Alarm.com, enabling a host of new capabilities including remote
monitoring and control from any Internet-connected computer or PDA. Also
from Alarm.com, Simon XT uses patented Crash and Smash technology, which can
safeguard security system communications even if the system is tampered with or
dismantled. 

The Alarm.com thing is interesting and we may see a
similar service here. It provides a Web-based monitoring service, which
complements traditional monitoring with wireless control and notification as
well as interactive functionality. Alarm.com’s interactive service offers end
users attractive features that increase the likelihood they will use their
alarms and offers GE Security’s partners access to another potential recurring
monthly revenue stream. GE is also thinking about IP video with the Hybrid
SymDec 16 plus 4 which it says bridges the gap from analog to digital video
recording.

A buzz about Cisco

On the Cisco stand was a lot of IP gear as you’d expect.
At the time I came by Cisco seemed to have the most buzzy and interesting crowd
on its stand. From the outside the stand was all about networking and once I
got onto the stand it was clear Cisco is looking to meld all ends of the
physical security spectrum – and that’s as you’d expect it to be. The guts of this
stand was that it underscored Cisco’s vision of offering a single unified
security product suite that enables users to integrate all security operations
within the IP network.

Spicing things up where Cisco’s new IP cameras –
hardware’s where the money is, after all – and Cisco’s first access control
solution. Cisco says its 4500 IP Camera is a high-definition camera that
combines the best resolution, video compression and intelligent digital signal
processor (DSP) available in a single camera – you’d need to test this on the
bench but Cisco isn’t given to outrageous claims.

The new camera utilizes H.264 Main Profile video
compression and a high-speed imager that captures video up to 1920 x 1080 at 30
frames a second. The camera has an optional high-speed DSP completely dedicated
to intelligent video functions such as video analytics.

Meanwhile the Cisco Video Surveillance 2500 IP Camera is
a standard definition camera available either as a wired Power-over-Ethernet
(POE) or DC power through an optional external power supply, or as a wireless
version supporting 802.11b/g/n standards.

These new cameras feature a browser-based interface for
easy installation and management and provide excellent image quality in
variable lighting conditions. They can provide DVD-quality D1 video up to 30
fps and feature dual streaming so that users can adjust frame rate and/or
resolution to control the quality of the video for different purposes
simultaneously. Both cameras feature event notification so a camera can examine
designated areas for activity and notify users or other applications when it
detects activity that exceeds a predefined threshold.

Perhaps most interesting was Cisco’s IP-based Physical
Access Control (PAC) system – an IP-based physical access control solution that
utilizes the IP network as a platform for integrated security operations. The
product includes both hardware and software components and offers a complete
solution for IP-based Electronic Access Control.

The new system is built to work with existing door
readers, locks and biometric devices. The core of the system is a hardware
component called the Cisco Access Gateway provides a modular and scalable
platform to connect readers, inputs and outputs to the system. The system
scales from a single door to thousands of doors. The software component, called
Cisco Physical Access Manager (Cisco PAM), manages the hardware and provides a
platform for integration with other IT systems. Cisco PAM integrates with the
Cisco Video Surveillance offering, delivering enhanced features while lowering
the total cost of ownership.

It would be a mistake to think Cisco was the first to
think of modular door controllers that can be globally networked but the fact
this gear is Cisco does mean something. In some ways the big IT players seem to
be turning themselves into networked electronic security companies rather than
claiming the industry with off-the-shelf servers and clever software as we once
feared they would.

Moving on, IP camera maker Arecont (distributed locally
by Pacom) showed a new lineup of H.264 IP. With 4 models offering 1.3, 2, 3 and
5 megapixels, the new line features Arecont Vision’s proprietary H.264
compression technology. The new megapixel cameras support multi-streaming
capabilities for the transmission of several H.264 video streams at different
video formats, frame rates, and/or resolutions.

The new camera line was developed by applying the
company’s expertise in the field of FPGA-based hardware image processing. The
resulting proprietary H.264 encoder implemented on a single FPGA delivers 80
billion operations per second, a feat that would require 25 Pentium computers.

The compression improvement – the stream size reduction –
with high video resolution is up to 25 times greater than conventional MJPEG compression
when capturing a typical street surveillance scene with moving vehicles and
people, Premier says. As a result, a high-quality 3 megapixel video stream at
20fps can be as low as 2 Mbps.

Images from Arecont’s megapixel cameras can be scaled to
1920 x 1080, or 1280 x 720 resolution with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio for a High
Definition format. Up to four virtual cameras can be streamed by selecting
regions of interest within the image and acquiring them independently.
Resolution is fully controllable making it possible to stream full resolution
or less in order to conserve bandwidth. It is also possible to stream the full
field of view at a lower resolution while streaming regions of interest at full
megapixel density.

Elsewhere, Dedicated Micros had the DV-IP HD (high
definition) video server, developed specifically to offer end user customers a
full desktop CCTV system which can operate in association with up to eight of
the company’s advanced CamVu 2,000 megapixel cameras.

The NetVu Connected video server readily supports HD CCTV
recording, playback and local HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface)
monitor output. In addition, a built-in TransCoding capability allows
bandwidth-optimised images to be streamed to remote operators without impacting
the network in any way.

The DV-IP HD is targeted at sectors including retail
where the recognition of faces to identify suspects from CCTV images – both
being viewed and recorded – is a key requirement.

Sony was another big player at the show with new additions
to its lineup of IP-based security network cameras. Sony’s first megapixel
cameras include the SNC-DM110 Megapixel Normal mini-dome, SNC-CM120 Megapixel
CS mount Day/Night, and the SNC-DM160 Megapixel Rugged Day/Night mini-dome
models.

Each of these new Sony megapixel cameras has advanced
complementary color progressive scan CCDs with Sony ExwavePRO technology.
Unlike conventional progressive scan CCD imagers, this color filter
technology provides increased levels of light sensitivity needed to achieve optimal
performance from today’s fixed-type megapixel systems.

The units are also the first to feature Sony’s Light
Funnel technology, which

combines image data gathered from multiple horizontally
and vertically

aligned pixels to provide extremely bright image output
even when

monitoring moving objects. This function can be activated
automatically in

response to surrounding light conditions or on a
pre-specified time

schedule.

The flagship SNC-DM110 network mini-dome camera, the
SNC-DM160

mini-dome and the SNC-CM120 mount are all equipped with a
1/3-inch

complementary color progressive scan imager.

The flagship model will come with a 2.8-9.5mm, 3.4x
varifocal auto iris

lens with minimum illumination of 0.8lux @ F1.3 and
0.2lux @ F1.3 using

Light Funnel technology. It also offers Intelligent
Motion Detection, a

microphone input, line out and Power over Ethernet. The
SNC-CM120 and

SNC-DM160 models are similarly equipped.

In addition to the megapixel cameras being introduced at
ISC West, Sony

is debuting three new intelligent units for its lineup of
IP-based network

security cameras. The cameras include model numbers
SNC-DS60 Rugged

Day/Night mini-dome, SNC-DS10 Normal mini-dome and
SNC-CS20 Day/Night

fixed-type.

The units enhancements include the use of the same advanced
ExwavePRO

technology as the megapixel cameras; one of the highest
available image

capture resolutions for a standard definition security
camera; progressive

interlaced video to optimize image capture during
movement; high

sensitivity imagers that operate at minimum illumination
of 0.3 lux; and

six gamma correction settings modes that can be preset
for best possible

performance depending on the environment.

The SNC-DM and SNC-DS series cameras operate on Sony’s
DEPA(TM)

platform, which provides users enhanced capabilities,
including rules and

filters, a tagged feature and utilization of metadata to
analyze object

movement.

Additional key capabilities of the family of cameras
include a

Day/Night mode setting that provides extremely bright
images even when

monitoring objects during challenging settings such as
dusk and in dimly

lit environments; variable gamma settings that help to
capture

high-contrast images; bi-directional audio options; a
slow shutter mode for

additional bright image output; voice alert function for
pre-recorded audio

files and solid PTZ which allows users to conserve
bandwidth by viewing

images at lower resolutions. The cameras also feature
dual streaming

capability at up to 30fps.

Of the forward thinking companies at ISC West was Genetec,
a software developer that deserves more attention than it’s been getting.
Privately owned, and you’d have to think fending off buyout offers with a
stick, Genetec has some neat gear. At the show was the Synergis product, an
enterprise IP access control solution designed with end-to-end IP connectivity,
from access reader to workstation.

Also on show was Omnicast, an enterprise IP security
solution that provides management of digital video, audio and data across any
IP network in a seamless fashion. I had a play with this gear and it was
capable and intuitive to operate. Omnicast’s design provides the flexibility to
grow a system one camera at a time, from one to thousands of cameras across
multiple sites.

Some quick bites

At ISC West I also saw access, analog and IP cameras,
DVRs, mobile DVRs – the Synergex IP access control solution from Everfocus,
DSC’s sweet new 9047 – a wireless/hardwired panel, the Cardax PowerFence Trophy
FT, the Mobotix MX control panel Sony’s new networked video control product,
IPELA networked Solutions, the Smart recorder from 3VR and the Siemens SIVIQ
video surveillance solution.

Sagem showed its 100 and 500 outdoor reader biometric.
Sagem’s look most complete of the biometric products – it was getting plenty of
attention. March Networks also had a big stand – remember they recently bought
Cieffe, which has one of the most complete end-to-end IP product suites on the
market. March had Video Sphere on its stand – an intelligent video management
system. Nearby I saw a tight hybrid DVR from GoVision that’ll handle IP and
analog and has embedded analytics.

The NICE Vision stand focused on solutions – airlines and
industry with the solutions being constructed as software packages that are
specifically tailored for particular markets rather than being sold as a
general solution that integrators can work on – this is a clear sign of a
maturing market.

HID’s Smart ID reader looked nice, too. On the HID stand
the focus was on customers with a focus on core areas like critical
infrastructure, government, smart ID, transition solutions – IP and analog and
then multi-technology solutions.

Canadian CCTV manufacturer, Avigilon showed its Control
Centre 3.2 and later this received a Security Industry Association Award. It’s
a solution that enables users to switch from analogue to high definition
surveillance when they need to. ControlCenter 3.2 is HD software
with HD stream management that supports analogue video encoders and HD IP
cameras – its capabilities will be increasingly relevant as the current
generation of analog cameras face an upgrade.

Other things that caught my eye were 50 miles per
processor capability with FFT’s Foptic cable, the Texecom Premier range of
alarm panels along with management software. The Noble Peak Triwave camera
which gets performance in 0 lux and Geutebruck’s new GeViScope. Also of note
was ImmerVision’s IMV1-1/3 360° video surveillance lenses which give ordinary
CCTV cameras 360-degree panoramic vision.

 

2008 New Product Showcase Winners at ISC West were:

* SIA NPS Innovation Award (“Best in Show”): NoblePeak
Vision TriWave Camera

* Access Control: Tyco International/Software House iSTAR
Pro-Rack Mount

* Biometrics: Privaris plusID 75

* Convergence: Proximex Surveillint 3.0

* Fire/Life Safety: Linear LLC Wireless Carbon Monoxide
Detector with Add-on Receiver in a Kit

* Home Technologies: GE Security SmartCommand

* Intrusion Detection/Prevention: Winland Electronics
EnviroAlert-EA800

* Integrated Software, Products and Systems: Brivo
Systems OnSite SE

* IP Devices, Products and Software: JVC Professional
Products Company VN-V686WPU

* Monitoring: Dedicated Micros NetVu Console

* Urban Security/Critical Infrastructure: Avigilon High
Definition Surveillance System V 3.0

* Video Device: NoblePeak Vision Corp TriWave ® Camera

* Video Analytics: VideoIQ iCVR — Intelligent
Surveillance Camera with Video Recording

* Video Storage and Distribution: Pivot3 High-Definition
Storage for Video Surveillance

* Special Achievement in Innovation: Theia Technologies
SY125 Ultra Wide Lens

* Judge’s Choice Award for Residential: NAPCO Security
Group ISee Video EOP Kit

* Judge’s Choice Award for Commercial: Brivo Systems
OnSite SE.