Mark Ross is the Director of Cathexis Europe, the company behind CathexisVision 2014 — a product aimed at making installing cameras, as well as using them, simpler. We sat down with Mark to talk about the challenges that IP video surveillance has brought installers and integrators alike.
IFSEC Global: The move to IP video surveillance has been pretty painless, hasn’t it?
Mark Ross: That would appear to have been the big selling point of migrating to IP video — it’s all plug-and-play and easy. For many it couldn’t be further from the truth.
With the plethora of IP video camera manufacturers out there, the huge variety of user interfaces, mixed protocols with widely differing capabilities, and dramatically varying quality control, it makes for a very challenging transition from simple good old analogue cameras connected to basic coax cable and into a basic DVR. Now you have to understand networks, IP video addressing, hugely diverse software interfaces, complex and poorly presented configurations — not to mention fault finding when something doesn’t work or goes wrong.
IFSEC Global: Has the development of IP video CCTV been hardest on installers, do you think?
Ross: We believe so. We feel very strongly about the added challenges the installer is faced with in a time when good projects are scarce, margins are low, and the installer can’t afford to spend more time than necessary on site.
The feedback we got in our market research was that most of the new VMS put a lot of effort into the end-user interface, but little thought was given to making life easy for the installers. Not only are they complicated to spec with regard to the required hardware platform but also difficult to design because of very complex license structures and then even more complicated to build and configure once on site.
We have tried to tackle all of these stages.
IFSEC Global: How can video management software make setting up and managing IP video security easier?
Ross: The challenge we find, especially with large installers with hundreds of installation and service engineers, is giving them an interface that is intuitive and doesn’t need a lot of remembering from one job to the next.
For example, an engineer could install brand X IP video cameras this week, brand Y the following week, and an entirely different brand the week after. For each of these brands, and often within the brand models, there will be a unique user interface, a unique set of features or capability, and quite often little quirks you have to know to optimize the performance. The engineers have to remember all of this.
The reality is they may use brand X most of the time and not see brand Y for another six months, forgetting most of what they know. We believe you can take most of this configuration out of the camera and put it into the VMS interface, giving the engineer the same configuration interface irrespective of the camera type, thereby relieving him of the need to remember everything about every model of camera out there.
We also believe you can automate a lot of this configuration, block together repetitive tasks, and provide help or Wizards to jog the memory. Simple things, but highly effective.
IFSEC Global: Tell me a little about CathexisVision 2014. What features have you added, and how do you think that will improve the experience of managing surveillance images?
Ross: Our wizards for one have been very popular. Unfortunately we can’t pat ourselves on the back with that one but have to pass credit on to some of our clients’ engineers who have been part of the beta testing process. It’s important, and something we do well — listen to the guys who feel the pain at the sharp end.
Also speed and ease of the build, which for some VMS takes ages to load, where ours takes five minutes and wizards take you through system optimization so you don’t have to be a Linux or Windows pro!
Another listen-and-learn experience was video motion detection configuration. When IP video cameras came on the scene they pushed the concept that video analytics could now be done at the edge, in essence in the camera. Analogue DVRs have always had this feature, but because analytics is a fast-developing feature you need a lot of development engineers to maintain a decent product. When the IP video guys said they will do it we thought: Great, we can off-load that responsibility.
The problem was, again, every camera has a different configuration, and so the installation engineers had to remember dozens of different ways of configuring video motion instead of what they had experienced with DVRs and analogue cameras where there was just one interface to remember. We got asked by a lot of people to sort that one, so we worked out a way of bringing the analytics back to the NVR. Now there is just one interface for the entire IP video system configuration, including VMD and irrespective of the type of camera.
IFSEC Global: CathexisVision 2013 includes Camera Parameter Cloning (or CPC). How does it work?
Ross: NVRs can support many more cameras than the old DVRs could. Unlike analogue cameras, where there was little or no control, in an IP camera there is a wealth of configurable parameters. To address each parameter for every camera and doing that multiple times can be a very time consuming and laborious affair and can lead to mistakes.
One of our closest clients suggested we develop a copy-and-paste feature, and that is CPC. In a nutshell, it is the ability to configure one camera according to the required operational parameters and right-click, copy-and-paste, however many more you need to add. You could have an NVR with 60 cameras up and running in minutes, and that’s including installing the software.