Video Surveillance: Growth By Innovation
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Analysis Articles | November 8, 2012, 8:00am AEDT
Q: What’s your sense of the market at the moment, JB? Asia is generally considered to be doing better than Europe and the U.S. and the Australian economy, while doing better, remains patchy.
A: I would say the market is going through a difficult time. There is a slowdown in the global economy. If you look at India for example (I was there a couple of weeks ago), we are looking at a GDP growth rate that’s the lowest in 9 years. So when you look at macroeconomic data the global economy is slowing down. In Australia we see a 2-tier economy – we have mining and resources which are growing and the rest of the economy is flat so I think the economic situation is difficult. In such an environment success is about innovating in order to stay ahead of the competition. That’s where we are at.
Q: What about the future – where are the regional growth areas at the moment? China and India still have to make a complete transition to full industrial economies, the U.S. is predicted to grow its population to more than 400 million by 2050, so the underlying fundamentals of core demand are strong, aren’t they?
A: I agree. I think part of the world economy is going through a correction period but when we look at other parts of the global economy there’s growth in the future. If you look at the potential of China and India in all areas it’s just massive. This is why I am in China because I believe there is growth there and there is growth in the whole of this region.
Q: Is it possible for quality manufacturers to maintain their margins in the face of the competitive nature of the electronics market? There are times I wonder whether or not down the track all the best features will be crammed into cameras worth 50 dollars. Do you think if manufacturers keep working on the smarts of their products and technologies they can maintain their viability and their relevance?
A: In China the market is very competitive and there are a lot of local players and what they are doing is impressive. Trying to compete in this market on price would be very difficult. I would say the challenge for foreign companies in the context of the China market is to differentiate and to innovate faster than the competition and I think that’s an area where there’s a lot of challenge. While the competition is very tough, it’s also very good for end users in that it’s driving innovation and users get better solutions for less money. So I see it as a tough environment but a positive environment.
Q: That fast intuitive development really applies to something like the SDK in Surevision which clever developers and integrators can really option the camera up in a range of cool ways. Is this the type of smart product you are talking about – something that is intrinsically customisable and upgradeable over the course of its life? Do you see people using that functionality now?
A: All our product ranges are opened to partners with SDKs. We have about 400 partners at this time being and we are pushing that openness to have more partners in the near future. I think that is a great trend.
Q: Schneider Electric has a strong focus on smart value-adds like power saving – in fact a lot of the company’s technology is all about saving people money. Is this core Schneider Electric ethos being applied to the security part of the business?
A: That’s a very good question. That’s exactly where we are at, trying to provide better efficiencies for our customers. Schneider Electric is the leader in efficiency management and we have exactly the same approach on the security side as in other parts of the business. We call this ‘return on security investments’. We have 3 layers of approach. First there’s security effectiveness – the second is about risks management and asset protection and the third one is about business applications and business values for customers.
When we look at the first one we have observed a trend where customers are asking for more and more integrated solutions and by providing integrated solutions there is clear value in the effectiveness of the security solution. They want to have one guy looking after an integrated solution comprising multiple systems including access control, CCTV, intercom, building management and other things.
What we are looking at doing especially in Australia is providing integrated solutions to customers. We provide seamless integration between platforms. When you integrate CCTV, intercom and access control systems you can have a security officer viewing images from an intercom station, speaking with a visitor and allowing access to a building from a workstation.
The second value is about value protection – a high end solution providing the best asset protection. This is what I call critical security where you need to have a very reliable system and where security is a critical process to the customers. Consider nuclear power plants. In this market the users must have a list of mandatory staff to be on the site to be able to run some operations and to manage critical situations. When you have a very reliable access control system you can check every morning that this team is complete so you don’t have to cancel vital operations.
The third layer is about business applications. Taking CCTV, it’s about video analytics and using the surveillance system as a sensor – being able to use this information to support the customers in markets like retail where management might want to measure the length of queues during peak hour. Another way you can use it is when you look at subways – you can watch areas like gates and turnstiles to check pedestrian traffic flow – you can set up an analytic to monitor aberrant behaviour, pop up an alarm and alert security officers.
Q: The world is going IP but I still see a lot of hybrid solutions being installed, or systems being upgraded that retain a hybrid component. I tend to think the pain in the world economy is translating to a more extended hybrid period and is also extending the lifespan of some of the very early and comparatively poorly performing IP gear. Do you think this is true or is there another reason?
A: Some users do not really perceive the advantage of going IP yet. They do not realise that with one MP camera you can replace 3 analogue cameras so you make a saving on installation, there’s no home run cabling, it’s just cabled to the nearest switch. And then there’s the potential for analytics to offer even more return on investment.
There’s also the openness of platforms, the ability to build a system that incorporates cameras from different manufacturers to meet different requirements of an application, the ability to integrate different recording systems. It’s also great when you do integration with CCTV, with access control and intercom. When everything is on one backbone it’s very easy to integrate – that’s a very big advantage.
Q: On that topic of integration, do each of Schneider Electric’s businesses do software development independently or do they work together – is there a common architecture across CCTV, access control and building management?
A: We really want to be able to have seamless integrations so we do a lot of inhouse work in order to deliver one common platform, one user interface, developing SDK, APIs to make sure all our different platforms offer seamless integration. When I spoke earlier about adding value, as part of this, the effectiveness, the value of a solution, comes from this seamless integration.
Q: You are involved with ONVIF, aren’t you?
A: Yes, our recording platform, DS (Digital Sentry), supports ONVIF. The latest release of Endura will be ONVIF compliant. All Sarix based devices support ONVIF with the new Sarix firmware – we are really pushing in that direction.
Q: What is the latest product from Pelco by Schneider Electric?
A: On the camera side there is Sarix thermal imaging – that’s a native IP platform and it has built-in analytics. It offers superior image quality, as a result of the digital design and lower signal loss. It’s been awarded the 2012 Camera of the year at IFSEC in Birmingham England. For hazardous areas, we have refreshed our Exsite range and offer a new 36X zoom lens.
It offers continuous 360-degree pan and 180-degree tilt and fully programmable operation. On the recording side we have the new Digital Sentry SRV, there’s a hardware-based (SRV) and a software (NVS) version of this product that can be installed on off the shelf hardware. DSSRV comes pre-loaded with NVS. The system can be deployed as an NVR with support for as many as 128 IP cameras, or as a DVR with use of optional ENC5416 analogue encoders for up to 64 analogue channels, or as an HVR with support of total 128 cameras. That’s a great product.
We find with customers some of them really want a software-based solution and some want a hardware-based solution. Then there’s our Surevision HD camera which, when you look at the picture quality, is the best camera on the market, in my opinion. There’s wide dynamic range, low light capability, it’s very good and wins all the shoot-outs.
Q: I understand when developing Sarix Surevision that Pelco’s R&D team got the third party cameras with the best low light and the best backlight performance and then built a camera that was superior to the 2 best performers in those 2 areas – is that right?
A: Correct. Surevision is a great camera. What’s good for the customers is that you can put these Surevision cameras into applications where they might be having issues with the other cameras in low light and backlight, where they need to see license plates, people’s faces.
In these tough environments Surevision performs. Sarix with Surevision can see color down to .005 lux. It takes away the bloom better than any other camera. It has an advanced sensor with multiple exposures at each pixel – for finer control over WDR scenes, and less blooming. It has a programmable image pipe – so image quality can be improved as part of normal camera firmware updates.
Q: The Pelco brand has a very good name in Australia and has had for many years. Perhaps less is known about Schneider Electric despite the fact it’s such a large and successful organisation and has an illustrious history in technological development. Tell us about Schneider Electric.
A: As a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries, Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments. The Group has 130,000-plus employees and we achieved sales of $E22.4 billion in 2011, through an active commitment to help individuals and organizations make the most of their energy.
Schneider Electric’s security offering includes digital video management, fire and life safety, access control and intrusion detection solutions. Schneider Electric as a whole is a company with a great strategy. It gets fantastic results and is a successful company.
Schneider Electric takes good care of its people. At the moment the company is continuing the transition from products alone to products and solutions with much more collaboration between the different teams and it’s really great and exciting for me being involved with this.
Q: Do you see anything exciting in the future for surveillance technology? Where will the next major development come?
A: If we look at future technology, I would say what is very interesting is the future of the video recording industry – the cloud. I think this will change things in the future. We have a lot of innovation going on in the area of the cloud. And considering the type of innovations we can offer in the cloud, I see this area as being as revolutionary as the change from analogue to IP cameras. This is going to completely change everything, especially for the small-scale recording devices. I think the end-point for video surveillance is going to be the cloud and everything that comes with it.
Q: Here in Australia the NBN (national broadband network) currently being installed with fibre to almost every door and widespread high speed wireless broadband in the inland, that’s going to amp things up in terms of cloud formation, too, isn’t it?
A: Absolutely. If you look at the NBN in Australia and improvements to network infrastructure in other countries you can see that this is going to accelerate the changes further. IP development has been fast up to now but wow – with Fast Ethernet-speed networks available everywhere, development is going to come very, very fast, I really believe that.