Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The long road to IP video standards

Together with my european counterpart, Gerard Otterspeer, we wrote this article (http://www.securityinfowatch.com/Cover+Focus/the-long-road-ip-video-standards) for SecurityInfoWatch.com about the standards.

Simple plain English, and touches on both ONVIF and PSIA, as well as IP cameras, encoders and DVRs. The specifications themselves are technical and low-level, yet the benefits for the world are very high level and simple. In doing the research for this article I wanted to add something to the relative void of information in-between.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reality Check for SecurityInfoWatch.com

I was asked by SIW to be blunt and contraversial. They didn't have to ask twice. Hope you enjoy this article as much as I did writing it.

http://cctv.boschsecuritynews.us/e_article001607911.cfm?x=bgkKsL0,b2pH22nP

Understanding RAID

I wrote this white paper to try and turn RAID mumbo-jumbo into plain English. It goes on to explain how Bosch's global storage partner, NetApp, does 'RAID 5' and 'RAID 6'. It's important to understand the differences, especially with RAID 6 (RAID DP in NetApp terminology) because without it you will start losing video as drives sizes continue to get bigger. Maybe RAID 5 is perfect for your needs, but it's always helpful to know what you're not getting by not upgrading one more level, especially when the disk array itself is the same cost.

http://cctv.boschsecuritynews.us/e_article001607916.cfm?x=bgkKsL0,b2pH22nP

Friday, November 6, 2009

Educational IP Video Webinars

We are launching a series of educational webinars that will address a variety of IP video surveillance topics. The sessions will provide objective information important for designing IP video systems regardless of the brand of products selected.

The first webinar, scheduled for November 17 at 2:00 pm ET, is titled “Learn Where Intelligent Digital Recording is Headed.” This online session will detail the evolution and applications of DVRs, NVRs and video storage area networks. During the session, Dr. Bob Banerjee will address topics such as hybrid DVRs, the popularity of DVRs and NVRs, and other options for video recording.

Future webinars will explain how attendees can take advantage of the benefits of IP connectivity while maximizing investments in analog technology. Scheduled topics will focus on video analytics, infrared for IP systems, and bandwidth and storage considerations.

To register for the first webinar, “Learn Where Intelligent Digital Recording is Headed,” visit http://event.on24.com/r.htm?e=174874&s=1&k=6FBC093113B204379028A497F0DFAFB3.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

King Tutankhamun

Summary of how the famous exhibit, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, including artifacts from King Tutankhamun tomb dating back to 1,500 years B.C., is being protected with a variety of techniques including video and RFID tags. Classic combination of FlexiDome IP cameras, some running IVA, recording to DiBos hybrid recorders. Elegantly simple.

http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/print/4999

Friday, October 23, 2009

ONVIF and PSIA parallel view

I like how Sam Pfeifle (of Security Systems News) drew the parallel between the feelings surrounding the plug-fests for both these organizations. And I agree with those who say good luck to both - competition is always healthy and market forces will decide the outcome. We are certainly heading towards towards a world of plug and play IP video, and that day is more than welcome.

Personally I'm particularly looking forward to the ONVIF 2.0 specification when it includes support for playing back other people's recordings. I'm waiting for the day that DVRs (not just NVRs) are ONVIF compliant, offering their live and more importantly recorded video to ONVIF-compliant clients. Traditionally 'IP' video management systems have largely ignored the world of DVRs, but this could offer a new option as part of a migration strategy.

http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/blogs/?p=2626

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Clip showing IR and 70% bitrate drop

Great little clip showing the bitrate fall by up to 70% during low light by using IR lighting. Simply uses a live scene and Task Manager in Windows to show the bitrate graphically. http://video.boschsecurity.us/avc-view.aspx?videoid=143&categoryid=0

It's in addition to this clip which shows another scenario but without the graph. http://ow.ly/jXw5

Saturday, October 17, 2009

ZX55 - ONVIF-ready long-range IP/IR camera

This rugged camera (ZX55) is a great example of IP meets ONVIF meets H.264 meets IVA meets IR meets long range. With the 9-90mm IR corrected varifocal lens I can pull it back to get a wider field of view if I want to look along a fenceline, or I can zoom it all the way in to focus on a remote spot, say a barrier, gate or a remote door up to 1,000 feet (300m) away. In both scenarios Bosch's built-in video analytics (IVA v4.0) can detect loitering, idle object, object removed, trip wire, speeding, wrong direction etc., with a single IVA license. And because it has IR we avoid the light pollution and keep the power consumption low, which means a lower demand on the UPS. The Black Diamond IR illumination eliminates hot spots so that the scene is equally lit, which is particularly important for reliable video analytics. As you can imagine this kind of camera plays a key role in applying DCRI to a system.

Remember good lighting means less AGC-induced noise. And less noise means a better image, reliable video analytics and less storage because of the lower bitrate. If you're relying on wireless then the low bitrate is also important.

The long range capability gives the option to avoid trenching power and networking to a remote location and mounting a camera high on a pole exposed to the elements.

Like all the Bosch IP cameras and encoders running firmware 4.0, it's ONVIF ready.

http://products.boschsecurity.us/en/TAMS/products/bxp/SKUPFT6649354763.P1.F.01U.127.219-P1

Monday, October 12, 2009

ONVIF Update

At ASIS 2009 I was lucky enough to attend ONVIF's public reception with 146 attendees from 58 companies. It was an open event where 9 manufacturers hooked 10 different IP cameras (including 2 Bosch IP cameras) to a single network switch, and demonstrated them being viewed on 4 different pieces of software. It was a real Pick 'n' Mix - precisely echoing the vision of both ONVIF and PSIA.

The epiphany though, was realizing that ONVIF is not only real, nor that it is achieving milestones in record time, but that it is utterly unstoppable.

As I entered the room I saw all defenses were down. Arch competitors were shaking hands and discussing experiences as if they finally had a common goal that was bigger than the individual companies and their personalities. I was also surprised at how much staff-time the active ONVIF member companies had donated to the organization to support the progress through a multitude of working groups, especially in this economy. Sure, the members will have the advantage of first-hand familiarity of the standard, but remember that anyone can join. And knowing how many brilliant minds there are out there it will take some people just days to weave ONVIF into their devices' firmware or management software.

Another thing I noticed without intending to, was the range of accents. It felt like being in the UN. ONVIF is global - I had read it, but now I heard it. I know that's a strange thing to write, but since I actually sensed it, I wanted to share it in case I'm not alone.

Other than Bosch, the other 8 companies that proved successful ONVIF v1.0 implementation in their products at the event were AVerMedia, Axis, Canon, IndigoVision, Lilin, Panasonic, Sony, and Vivotek.

ONVIF has published a press release, available on the right hand side of their website under 'October 2, 2009' at www.onvif.org.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

IVA 4.0

Our latest video analytics offering, IVA 4.0 is now out. The focus is usefulness - (i) making it easier to set up and (ii) improving reliability.

IVA 4.0 has a completely revamped approach to calibration, which is important so that the camera 'understands' perspective, which leads to a better appreciation of distance and speed, which ultimately reduces false alarms and improves reliability. We believe you can calibrate in under 2 mins, and I've seen that with a number of tests at the office with random people, but more importantly we ran the same test at ASIS. Since it's hard to describe in words here's a link to a short video that explains how we now do calibration - basically if you can draw lines in PowerPoint you can now calibrate a Bosch IP camera. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqXvGptLp_U&feature=related

IVA 4.0 still works with Forensic Search so that you can test your IVA rules against days or weeks of existing video, which instantly tells you how reliable your configuration is, during the day, night, rain, wind snow etc. Whatever video you have recorded. This is immeasurably important to installers who are fed up with returning to the client site to address the false alarms caused by unforseen circumstances. Sure they were unforseen, you only had a few mins to set up each camera - you couldn't sit there for weeks waiting for nature to throw everything it can at you. Here's Forensic Search combined with Head Detection - also featured in IVA 4.0. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8oJYuAopBQ&feature=related

IVA 4.0 also introduces FLOW 4.0, a new algorithm that does not need to learn a background scene - instead it tracks every single pixel as it flows across the screen and alerts based on rules you set up. This makes it attractive in busier scenes where it is hard or impossible to extract individual objects (e.g. people in a crowd). Good for vessels on water, trafficand counterflow detection. For a short video clip try this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0U_fukK8Bc&feature=related or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7_VUND-6yQ&feature=related . The latter scene is particularly smart because even though the gates swing the wrong way the algorithm completely ignores them, instead focusing on people.

Finally IVA 4.0 is also integrated into our AutoDome IP PTZ cameras. Yes, this means you can have video analytics on a PTZ camera. The camera can have up to 10 predefined scenes, each with its own IVA settings, so basically you're gettng ten IVA cameras for the price of one.

Oh yes, and it works with our H.264 compression too. And Direct-to-iSCSI. And Video Recording Manager. And the DiBos and Divar XF hybrid recorders, VIDOS and Bosch Video Management System. It runs on all our IP cameras and encoders - but please consult an expert as different edge devices have different amounts of horsepower to do all the things you want it to - e.g. encoding, dual streamings, recording direct to iSCSI, scripting and IVA. For maximum power the new VIP X1600 XF module has the latest hardware accelerators to be able to handle everything. At ASIS I showed this as well as a Dinion IP running the same analytics.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bosch Releases ONVIF-Ready H.264 Cameras

We've just released major new firmware for our IP cameras and encoders, delivering among other things H.264 streams, a PC-less IP virtual matrix and personally, most significantly from an industry-trend perspective, makes the devices ONVIF-ready.

This applies to all our IP cameras including the Dinion, Flexidome, Extreme and AutoDome Modular PTZ cameras. It also applies to the VideoJet X10/20/40 encoders and the rack-mounted VIP X1600 multi-channel encoder.

You still have the option of running MPEG-4 part 2 and JPEGs on these devices using firmware 4.0, but it's good to have the option of H.264. The flavor of H.264 on these existing devices is called Base Profile, but Bosch has also released 2 new products which run H.264 in full-blown Main Profile, which means better video and better compression. More about that soon.

You can read about it here http://secprodonline.com/Articles/2009/09/15/Bosch-ONVIF.aspx

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Video clips of bitrate dropping under IR

These two cool videos show the beneficial effect of lighting (in this case IR light, which explains the monochrome image) on the bitrate of IP cameras. Of course this applies equally to encoders and anything else, like most DVRs, that compress based on the difference between successive frames, typically MPEG-4 and H.264.

The bitrate drops from over 2000 Kbps to 364 Kbps on high quality settings and 30Kbps to 13Kbps on lowest quality. Imagine the storage and bandwidth savings on a Megapixel camera at night.

Quite incredible and never ceases to surprise people, but very easily for you to duplicate.

Feel free to watch the 1 minute videos at http://ow.ly/jXw5 and http://ow.ly/jXwx

Monday, July 27, 2009

Intrusion Technology Workshop

In mid-July, we hosted a customer workshop to showcase our offerings in the area of intrusion systems. During the daylong event, we demonstrated how easy it is to convert a standard control panel to IP using our Conettix C900V2. After learning about the technology, the workshop participants witnessed a live demo, where several conventional panels used the C900V2 to communicate to a local central station over IP.

In addition to the focus on IP alarm communications, we also introduced the new Commercial Wireless platform powered by Inovonics, and highlighted the innovation built into our Professional Series Intrusion Detectors, which outperform competitive detectors in nearly every assessment category.

A highlight of the day was when participants saw some of the extreme engineering tests that go into making Bosch detectors the best in the industry. Tests included high voltage static discharge, radio frequency immunity and even a mechanical rat and a human analog robot. You don’t see these things every day.

Scott Goldfine, Editor-in-Chief of Security Sales & Integration magazine, attended the workshop along with our customers. He posted a blog entry about the day, providing an excellent recap. Read all about it here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Webinar- Video Quality

A few days ago, Security Magazine invited me to give an objective (non-manufacturer specific) webinar on factors that affect video quality. I was overwhelmed and humbled at the number of attendees - apparently a new record. I was really glad to have Willem Ryan (Product Marketing Manager for Bosch's Extreme portfolio) sitting next to me - he's forgotten more about lighting than I'll ever learn. He answered a lot of key questions at the end.

The webinar applies equally to analog and IP video, although some aspects are different. For example with both, poor light means a poor picture, but when you digitize it in a DVR you will probably consume disk space faster, and for an IP camera you will also consume more bandwidth.

Thanks to the folks at Security Magazine for hosting and archiving the webinar. You will have to register your name to play the recording, but that will really help me quantify the demand for such webinars, and if it is as high as it appears to be I will focus more time on them.

Quick note to Bosch's competitors - if you see any value you are most welcome to play the recording - there's no need to register with a false ID since I presented no secrets. It's all publicly available information.

Click here
for the webinar.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Forensic search

All video content analysis solutions tell you that something bad is happening right now. That's a given, and some solutions do it more reliably than others depending on the scene, and they also vary in their detection capabilities.

But one of the great strengths of the Bosch Intelligent Video Analysis (IVA), like a few others, is not just its ability to generate live alarms, but to search back through days, weeks or longer of video, hunting for that critical event - that needle in the haystack. In the simpler world of motion detection the analogy is smart motion search, also known by other names. With SMS you can highlight the area of a parking space and ask it to search for whenever motion happened there. Very simple and effective with the well known limitations of pure motion detection. The same concept is true with IVA, but it's just taken to a new level. With Forensic Search you might want to search through 6 months of video and ask it 'Tell me all the times someone parked in front of this gate' in order to find out if it is a common occurrence. Or to find out when the graffiti was artistically applied 'When in the past week have people been loitering in front of this wall for more than 2 minutes'.

Equally important to searching after-the-fact, it is also a critical set up tool. Set up the camera and record it for a few hours, and use your friends to reluctantly simulate the kinds of stunts you want to detect and ignore, but don't set up any rules just yet. Then using forensic search define the rules and test them against that recording. It will instantly tell you which events caused alarms and which ones were ignored. Tweak the rules until you get the performance you expect. The great thing is you don't have to go back time after time to re-enact those scenes, because they're all already recorded and analyzed. Consider this a life saving tip for saving time during IVA setup. And you will keep your friends for longer.

As a final note, some people understandably can't get their heads around 'metadata'. Video content analysis information, in the form of metadata, is generated and stored with the video. The recorded metadata, comprising simple text strings describing specific image details, is much smaller and easier to search through than the recorded video. The metadata includes many things including an objects size, aspect ratio, speed, location and direction and color. The kinds of things that help you to draw a new trip wire and ask 'Has anything, over the size of a small bunny rabbit, crossed this line in the past month?'

For background reading, a brief but good step by step article is Campus Safety and Security's 8 Factors to Consider When Deploying Video Analytics by Craig Chambers. It raises many great points, as valid now as it was back then
http://www.campussafetymagazine.com/Articles/?ArticleID=124

Steve Hunt, one of the industry's premier movers and shakers, at least on my Richter scale, paints a complete primer in his podcast at http://www.securitydreamer.com/2008/09/this-video-anal.html.

Another good set of warnings are presented as objectively as always by John Honovich of ipvideomarket.info fame at http://ipvideomarket.info/report/top_3_problems_limiting_the_use_and_growth_of_video_analytics.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Quick tour of ISC

This brief movie doesn't replace flying to Vegas for ISC to meet us at the booth, but it takes less time than it takes to pack your favorite party shirts for the evenings.

Take a whirlwind tour of cameras we baked, drowned, froze and pulverized with dirt, sand and fine dust. I need to dig up the video where someone was beating the living daylights out of another camera with a hammer. I found it ironic that the camera survived the 3 days of continuous beating, but that the table actually broke. And yes, the hammer was OK too. Finally check out the fully automated License Plate Recognition solution (including the DiBos DVR, Access Control and the barrier) that was reading Bond-like revolving plates on a Mini with the camera overloaded with full headlights.

Courtesy SP&T News (Security Products and Technology News) and my Canadian heroes, Norm Hoefler and Willem Ryan. Click here to watch the movie http://www.sptnews.ca/index.php/component/option,com_seyret/Itemid,119/id,10/task,videodirectlink/.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bosch's first H.264 PTZ

For those of you unable to visit us at ISC I'm pleased to announce Bosch's first true H.264 IP camera - the AutoDome Easy IP Compact PTZ Camera.

It's a small rugged indoor PTZ camera but with 100x zoom (10x optical, 10x digital). Delivers H.264 as well as JPEG for backwards compatibility to many head-ends.

It is well matched to Bosch's Divar XF hybrid H.264 recorder, which with v2.0 is now shipping with the option of RAID inside an embedded recorder, DVD burner and front-replaceable hard disks. A neat little all-in-one package for a technology that many are quick to claim as dead-end. Funny how our Divar XF and DiBos hybrid recorder sales do not seem to support that hypothesis - oh well :-)

For more information on the camera click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Security Magazine Webinar

Security Magazine is hosting a webinar called Lighting the Way to High Quality IP Video, on Wed 3rd June, 2009 at 2pm ET.

It's actually a very simple topic, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people go 'wow' when I do a camera demo with the lights out and then switch on an IR illuminator. The majority of us have come to expect barely usable night-time video as the norm. Of course, it's more than just image quality, it's also bitrate (aka cost of storage) and its the make or break for most video analytics.

"One of the most important aspects that can make or break the success of your IP video system is the quality of images produced. While the right camera selection is important, the right amount of light at a scene can dramatically improve clarity of images and the efficiency of your system."

Hope you can make it. It's not manufacturer-specific so everyone's welcome.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Quadruple the resolution?

Just received an email from a global IP camera player reminding me that they've released their 1.25 megapixel IP security camera. What confused me was this statement "...the user can see an image at four times the resolution of standard IP network cameras."

Assuming that a typical NTSC IP camera is about 0.33MP (704x480=338,000) then indeed 1.25MP is four times this number. But four times the resolution? I thought they doubled the width and doubled the height. That's double the resolution (in both directions). In some people's apparent eagerness to put a bullet in the head of not only analog cameras but also NTSC IP cameras, let's not forget the basics.

I used to think that resolution was related to my ability to resolve two very close parallel lines. Evidently image quality is being taught to be nothing more than a function of the number of pixels. I guess cameras in PDAs and cell phones are helping to propagate this myth. Maybe there's an emerging market segment that doesn't know, or possibly simply doesn't care.

As Jack Gin of Extreme once put it, and I'm adapting it to suit my purpose - would you rather have 333,000 bright pixels or 5 million dim ones. Same light, less surface area. And please don't brainwash me with the AGC nonsense - you're adding more noise, driving up my bit rate and storage costs and my video analytics won't work any more because of all those nasty nasty ants crawling all over my screen. At least let's hope people use decent visible lighting, and if that's proving unacceptable consider IR - it works wonders.

Infrared for IP

In his December 12, 2008 posting, In the Dark, Dr. Bob Banerjee discusses the effect low light environments have on IP video surveillance, including increased bit rate, increased storage requirements and inconsistent video analytic performance.

At one of the Bosch breakfast sessions during ISC West last week, I presented on this topic and conducted a live demo that provided hands-on experience with this issue.

The white paper IR for IP is now available for download and provides an in-depth look at this phenomenon and how infrared lighting helps overcome these challenges.

Click here to read the white paper.

Willem Ryan

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An IP system that is and isn't

Samuel Pfeifle wrote this story for Security Systems News about a new system that went into Gaylord National Convention Center.

Analog cameras connected via NVT on CAT-5e (so that they could swap them out for IP cameras one day if and when their security director, Webb Rizor, feels the time is right). Home runs to closets of VIP X1600s which are recording Direct-to-iSCSI with an impressive security operations center with multiple VIDOS Monitor Walls. Pure virtual matrix.

Seems like another good example of the pragmatic use of cutting edge and mature technology to solve the problem reliably. Thanks ADT, Steve and the others at Chesapeake Marketing, for ensuring the success of this prestigious project.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hands-on experience

Bosch is putting a ton of effort into the ISC show this year. We're including more of a hands-on experience rather than the more traditional observe-my-demo approach.

The IVA game in particular will spark a lot of interest, and controversy. But before people fire away with the usual attack of 'over-selling video analytics', and how some people think Bosch is 'low-end analytics', I encourage them to come and see it for themselves - we want people to experience IVA, not just watch a demo, and that's not easy in a tight and chaotic space. The game uses 100% authentic Bosch home-grown video analytics. Come and see how the game works, and if that doesn't give you the depth of insight you are looking for, come to the Conversion Center of the booth where we will have 4 different hands-on examples of real video analytics at work. I'll be there, with other experts and you're welcome to take over the keyboard and drive.

No more canned clips. Play around and decide for yourself whether it is ready for You.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hybrid H.264 recorder

Bosch just announced its latest Divar XF recorder, the H.264 DVR that's just had a major brain transplant to join the DiBos as another hybrid recorder. Unlike the DiBos which focuses on MPEG-4 and JPEG cameras, the Divar XF is a pure H.264 recorder that accepts both analog cameras as well as Bosch's H.264 cameras and encoders. People will probably be familiar with Bosch's Dinion IP, FlexiDome IP, AutoDome IP and the Extreme IP cameras as well as the VIP X1600 and VideoJet X10/20/40 encoders, but with the Divar XF-specific firmware upgrade to v3.7 these cameras and encoders will stream H.264 to the Divar XF.

Firmware 3.7 is ONLY designed to record those devices on Divar XF. Please don't upgrade your VIDOS, BVMS or DiBos edge devices' firmware to v3.7 - you will have a bad day.

The other great thing about the Divar XF v2.0 is the internal RAID - a Bosch first. You don't have to use a RAID configuration - it's a licensable option, but if you do then you will sacrifice one of the hard drive's capacity for parity information, and therefore be able to survive a single drive failure with no loss of video. So with the 4TB model you will have 3TB usable. As you will no doubt remember that the drives are field replaceable from the front, so don't feel obliged to send your unit in for a drive replacement, especially since it is full of your corporate sensitive video.

Finally we've also released some models with internal DVD burners. IP video is great, and with its flexibility comes lots of components. It is quite amazing how hybrid recorders have evolved to contain so much functionality in such a small embedded unit. It's power is its simplicity.

Monday, February 23, 2009

SANs in Schools

I personally visited Dallastown Pa. area school district as they were configuring the FlexiDome IP cameras on their iSCSI-based SAN. With a remarkable IT department that would put more commercial organizations to shame, it was clear that they get 'IP video'. They were the ones who told me "We didn't understand what you were talking about when you kept saying iSCSI RAID, until we realized your just meant a normal SAN." Believe me, they got it.

It was particularly funny when some students asked which way the FlexiDome IP cameras were pointing. When asked why, they sheepishly replied they wanted to know where they could get away with things.

Long live the tinted bubble.

CCTV and The Origin of Species

Another thought provoking article that points out the obvious - that there is often more than one way to solve a problem. And each has its own pros and cons. The challenge comes when the 'sellers' brainwash the 'buyers' with the Single Truth. In fact, this just happens to be 'their' version of the truth.

I strongly agree with the sentiment of the article. Pure IP-players have a vested interest in positioning IP video as an evolution of analog video, that simultaneously deserves to replace it (rather like vinyl records to CD). Those who represent pure analog will cling onto that technology, claiming IP to be expensive and complicated. Those who have both can afford to be more objective and dare I say independent, because either way they win.

It is possible to think of an evolutionary step which brings something new, while the old branches off and continues to intelligently evolve without becoming extinct (e.g. humans and apes). Funny coincidence - we're celebrating Darwin's Bicentennial this month.

Click here for the article.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

2009 National Sales Meeting

Last week's national event's report out summarizing 2008 and outlook for 2009. Touches on several parts of the business, including keys product lines and areas like IP video, AutoDomes, Extreme and Intrusion, as well as functional areas like tech support, training. Also highlights a renewed focus on business development.

Click here for the full article.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Open Platform VMS. Really?

Yesterday, someone kindly pointed out to me that their video management software, into which they had integrated a number of IP cameras and encoders from different manufacturers, was an 'Open platform'. I agreed that it was a great achievement to work with so many hardware manufacturers and their respective SDKs, to integrate them, test them, support them and continue to keep up with the continuous stream of new and differentiating features that they add every other day. They said that Bosch's encoders were integrated, which made me very happy since I agree that end users should have the option to buy hardware from one provider, and software from another. Choice, I agreed, was in the interest of the end user.

Uncertain about a couple of things, I asked a couple of simple clarifying questions, since not everything is black and white - including integration.

"So, your Video Management System can see our Dinion IP cameras?". Yes he replied. "Great. What about our AutoDome IP camera?". Well, he replied, it should work - it's the same under the hood. "You mean you can control it?". No, but we could if we have a big enough project and prioritize it above the other cameras. "What about playing back our iSCSI recordings, VRM-managed SANs, or edge recordings like CF cards and USB hard drives? What about receiving our video analytics alarms or the precious meta-data that comes with it? Audio? Analog decoders?". No, we don't support those. We don't have time to implement the subtle strengths that make each piece of hardware unique. We don't have developers sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

Is, then, an Open Platform VMS one where its creators have integrated multiple devices so the end user is not tied to one hardware manufacturer? Or, is it a piece of software, where manufacturers of IP camera and encoder (and DVRs for that matter) can, independently of the software creator, make their edge devices compatible with the software, in all its differentiated glory. It reminds me of how every printer in the world works in Microsoft Windows, yet they did not wait for Microsoft to integrate it in, yet every application that runs in Windows can benefit from every subtle feature for the printer they are connected to.

Such 'plug-ins' or 'drivers' are an ancient concept, but I wonder how common it is with Video Management Systems. If not, then end-users are at the mercy of the software vendors, and not the hardware manufacturer, to integrate their hardware of choice. And even if it appears to be integrated, which features have been integrated, how transparently, and how reliably? Good questions to ask when selecting an open platform video management system. Make sure you're getting the most out of your edge devices - there's a lot of intelligence built into them nowadays. It's not just about being able to see a picture as it mainly was in the good old analog days.

Interoperability initiatives, like those proposed by ONVIF (www.onvif.org) and PSIA (www.psialliance.org) address a large number of these issues, especially around device detection, control and streaming. It is clear that a specification is desperately needed, and eventually it will be adopted by a standards body to become a true standard. It is also clear that it will evolve as its sophistication increases. I am optimistic that this is a giant leap to accelerate the rate of adoption of IP video.