Security Electronics: Are Open Systems Closing?
ARE we witnessing the end of the open platform model? Will the electronic security industry of the future bear a new generation of proprietary systems supporting most major projects? On face value, that seems likely but on reflection it’s unlikely much will change but buyer attitudes – for the time being, anyway.
Fuelling speculation over the past 18 months have been multiple manufacturers positioning themselves to mirror what many in the surveillance industry are calling The Avigilon Model but which might just as accurately be called The Geutebruck Model, The Indigovision Model, or The Mobotix Model.
What they are talking about is the now-proven strength of Avigilon’s decision to manufacturer quality cameras as well as developing a quality VMS platform that although opened up to other manufacturer’s product, is often installed as a proprietary solution alongside Avigilon’s high resolution cameras.
The success of Avigilon and what it means for the market is a fascinating study but I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it reveals. Is it that users desperately want proprietary solutions, or is Avigilon’s success down to the fact the company’s cameras are excellent and CCTV techies love the cleverness of Avigilon’s HDSM High-Definition Stream Management solution? Perhaps it’s a little of both.
Certainly, a key underlying influence is pressure from buyers demanding a solution in a box. This is in part because as IP-based systems get more complex one brand is easier for bean counters to understand. It also reflects the fact that buying everything from one supplier means a bigger discount. Another influence is coming from distributors and integrators who commission a single brand they know and trust.
Regardless, after years of preaching open systems, there’s a definite swing towards proprietary ecosystems going on, with Canon purchasing Milestone and now making a play for Axis Communications, and Panasonic snapping up Video Insight. In other parts of the market companies like Dahua, Hikvision and Samsung are working much harder at VMS to go along with their cameras. We’ll see a lot more of this in the future, in my opinion.
How far acquisitions will go with straight VMS makers is uncertain but it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last buy in this part of the market. The last company standing in terms of the well known open platform providers is Genetec and having spoken to Pierre Racz recently, that company’s focus on hardware agnosticism is not going to change anytime soon.
I think something that’ll be interesting to watch is how the new ownership structures impact on the way the market views particular products. There’s inevitably going to be some collaboration between brands under single ownership. You might suggest this would be negative but it’s not been negative for Avigilon, which continues to go from strength to strength.
And there could be advantages as demands for resolution and compression get more intense and pressure continues to build on prices across the entire CCTV market. To a particular level, scale helps with price but it’s less valuable when organic solutions are required for tricky applications. For these sorts of solutions you need a supplier prepared to live and die for you, and that’s another thing entirely.
So, are we likely to see hardware and software from single manufacturers being used in the old monolithic way we saw over the past 30 years? My instinct is yes but no. There’s too much legacy gear out there, too many clients depending on the support of contracted software suppliers and too many relationships between software makers and camera makers in the industry for that to suddenly happen.
In the end, the idea security management software makers must be entirely open or entirely closed is a false dichotomy. Consider Geutebruck, which although it manufactures quality IP cameras with its G-CAM range will integrate with pretty much anything that comes within sniffing distance. And certainly, no one could say Geutebruck doesn’t put its engineers where its mouth is.
This sort of entirely-open-yet-proprietary-if-you-like model may come to typify the security management software offerings from most the bigger players in the future. But for those who are worried, the chances any VMS maker could suddenly stop supporting the thousands of cameras they currently support is zero. ♦
By John Adams