Which video management software platform is the right solution? Markus Kissel of leading CCTV distributor Videor, provides a summary of the most important selection criteria.
The number of commercially available software solutions for IP-based video surveillance is increasing. But the complexity of systems, numerous features and the required IT skills
| Choosing the "right" video management software solution is key
make it difficult to choose the "right" product. The summary below gives support in this.
In simplified terms, a video management system is designed to cater for viewing, management and recording for a large number of cameras. Video surveillance systems of today often have hundreds or thousands of security cameras and have the same requirements as in IT: communication over the TCP/IP network along with demands for 24/7 operation, unlimited memory capacity and global access. With such magnitudes it is not possible to assign a single monitor to each camera. A video management system allows manual camera selection and assignment to specific monitors or automatic switching to monitors for camera groups or individual cameras. Personnel no longer need to attend to system operation and control, as the management system controls all picture-switching functions during an alarm as well as at all other times.
Clarify video management system requirements
Firstly, the requirements to be fulfilled by the video management system should be verified in the planning phase. Ideally, the software bundled with a digital recorder should satisfy the required application criteria. Some software contain power tools that can control and manage a complete video surveillance system. Another option is to use a recording and image analysis platform that features advanced management functions.
If the system is to have a large number of surveillance cameras and support future expansions, then solutions based upon client/server architecture and involvement by the network manager are advisable.
Open software architecture advantageous
Client/server solutions based upon TCP/IP are ideal for operation in LAN as well as WAN environments regardless of the transmission media. Menu-prompted screens define all functions required for IP-based audio and video surveillance: live observation, recording, alarm management and image analysis. After the functions have been specified, the management
Open architecture video management solutions allow integration to many different security systems and business applications
system takes over control of the video control centre and works fully automatically in the background. Appropriate interfaces for such a solution allow integration to many different security systems and business applications.
Additionally, users can access the surveillance system from any location over a standard browser and find out what is happening on-site without having to be present at the scene of action. Configuring the systems as a closed Video LAN and using the encryption functions for ultimate security can protect sensitive data.
Flexibility thanks to the client/server solution
The client/server architecture and modular structure of video management systems permit flexible adaptation to different application scenarios. Open software platforms offer demand-led system expansion of additional video sources and therefore maximum flexibility with an application-oriented system design structured on the number of active video inputs and normally based upon specific licence models. This is because analogue security cameras can also be connected in addition to further system components and network cameras offered by leading IP-CCTV suppliers.
Systems are expandable with suitable software modules step-by-step, as they comprise a modular server as well as a Windows client for users and administration that communicate over TCP/IP. The server operating system can be Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 as well as Linux systems such as Red Hat Enterprise or the free open source version CentOS.
Linux-based surveillance software solutions offer the advantage that the operating system can be free for customers depending upon their application and high system stability is assured. The Windows versions mentioned above could be used for the client, though operating systems such as Mac OS or Linux / Unix are also possible depending upon which programs are run. Some high-tech video management software also allow any operating systems to be used on the client. Clients, on the other hand, can use all operating systems that support JAVA. Hardware requirements are dependant upon the required application with the general rule: the more, the better. Numerous manufacturers specify a 2.8 GHz processor (Pentium 4, Pentium Dual Core 2.8 GHz 2M L2 or comparable) and 1024 MB RAM as the minimum server requirements.
Expansion variant and features
Most management systems offer numerous expansion variants and features. Therefore, in addition to continuous recording at different frame rates and quality levels, recording can also be set by activity, time or by operation of external contacts.
The fundamental rule is to focus initially upon the decisive functions: if the video management system features motion detection, camera images can not only be continuously recorded, but recording can also be activated only when there is motion in the picture. It is also possible to combine both variants. Programmable motion detection supports server-based motion detection that reacts to changes in pixels, colour or brightness as well as in-camera motion detection. It is helpful if motion detection is linked to the archive. The enhanced archive playback allows direct jumping to scenes where relevant motion was ascertained.
Various software solutions support the AAC audio format including voice anonymisation: in some EU states legislation prohibits the transmission and recording of human voices. The possible identification of a person based on voice is the crucial factor. Anonymisation of audio signals by distortion prevents identification of a person through their voice.
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Expansion variants and features allow recordings to be set by activity, time or external contacts
Additionally, attention should be given to client optimisation for multi-monitor operation when choosing a video management software platform. Ideally the system has the potential to operate three or four monitors at one workstation. Some solutions support multi-screen graphics cards and clients are launched automatically and by batch files in full-screen mode as well as without window frames. A site plan function is extremely advisable, as it permits automatic actions as well as camera tracking and switching in response to motion detectors or door contacts. And finally, there should be the capability to store archived recordings externally when the storage media is full. Commonly used export formats include JPEG, AVI, MPEG4 and SAFE (tamper-resistant export).
Video analysis with intelligent features
Some video management systems can be extended with vehicle number plate recognition, people counting as well as image analysis modules such as object detection. These added video analysis features allow less time to be used up monitoring multiple video feeds within surveillance system and enable quicker response times.
Integration in third-party vendor systems and universal interfaces
Image analysis tools maximise benefits of video management systems
Universal interfaces and the capability for integration in third-party vendor systems are further features that identify a high-performance video management software platform. They allow integration of external POS systems, vehicle number plate recognition systems, video analysis and people counting systems, RFID systems as well as connection to fire and hazard alarms systems. Whilst fire or intrusion detection systems can be connected over API or the OPC interface, some systems even give access to full functionality over a HTTP / SML interface (SNAP). This allows interchange of live and archived imagery data and events, as well as data and control integration with external applications and systems (control centre, access, alarm, POS systems, etc.). Requirements of different application areas can therefore be catered for in combination with expansion options in the form of software modules.
Conclusion - key criteria for video software platform selection
Selection of the correct video management software platform is not easy and is dependent upon network structures as well as many additional factors. The most important criteria for reaching a decision include flexibility through open system architecture, and a modular structure to ensure system expandability and adaptability to new conditions. Equally critical are intelligent features such as motion detection for recording movement, activating alarms automatically and for supporting precision programmable detection routines. Image storage functions and video analysis functions are vital when imagery is submitted as evidence.
Additionally, the financial aspect must also be considered when, for instance, existing CCTV components such as analogue cameras are to be integrated into the system. Last but not least, attention should be given to user-friendliness as well as clarity when selecting a video management software platform, otherwise there will be operating errors just when a hectic alarm situation occurs. Ideally, the user interface can be adapted: the simpler the console and access to key functions, the earlier the system satisfies customer requirements.