Technology Integration: Video

Sept. 1, 2007

Video Everywhere ... and Why?

By Chuck Wilson

The social acceptance of video systems and the corresponding responsibility of decision-makers have significantly changed over the last decade. Incidents resulting in loss of life, human suffering, and lingering unanswered questions have spawned a new level of acceptance regarding privacy. In addition, technology advancements have increased capabilities and demand for video in commercial building projects.

The industry is scrambling to determine best practices for video installations. College campuses and schools are installing video systems. Corporations are spending millions of dollars to protect employees and track their status within buildings. Life safety is paramount and integrating emergency systems will become the industry standard in design specifications. In the near future, every construction project will likely include some level of video surveillance integration.   

The acceptance of video surveillance in major cities will drive this technology to be deployed inside buildings. As with crime prevention, having instantaneous video documentation and the ability to track movements from one camera location to the next has changed the way we live and work. It will increasingly protect assets, property, and people.      

For example, colleges are rapidly expanding their ability to protect their students and secure facilities. Millions will be spent to ensure peace of mind for parents. These systems reside and coexist on a data network. Applications such as fire detection, emergency voice evacuation, and CCTV can now be integrated in a way that allows efficiencies and interaction, ultimately enhancing speed and reliability.

Security and privacy may coexist if the architect, client, and technology consultant clearly understand the laws and rights of employees and customers. Such technology drivers as facial recognition, RFID, edge technology, and network integration can be used as part of a comprehensive solution to protect people and property. These advancements have allowed systems integrators to develop amazing applications and solutions. If a digital network used for multiple applications can serve as the backbone for video applications and can handle the bandwidth requirements, this technology will grow rapidly. Today's cameras are basically optical digital devices with IP addresses. The Internet will be a reliable medium for video surveillance traffic if stringent standards emerge to allow a level of wide acceptance. Without question architects will need to develop a credible IT position with their clients prior to offering to design any of these systems. Easier said than done.      

Video and networking standards may create a problem within the industry. Standards in videoconferencing are evolving to increase performance and operate effectively with less expense. There is an increasing number of standards, terminologies, and buzzwords used within the videoconferencing industry, making understanding what is both available and compatible like navigating a minefield.

For example, ISDN, LAN, WAN, ADSL, and VPN are mixed with video standards such as NTSC and PAL. End-to-end performance is removed from the hands of the systems integrator as we depend on a publicly switched network to deliver quality. This "cloud," as we call it, is the wild card. It's the big thing we can't control without paying outrageous costs for dedicated circuits. 

By the time we accept these standards, new wireless standards and applications will emerge to muddy the mix.  The latest trend is that end-users will want their media-enabled mobile devices to be linked into existing videoconferencing and surveillance systems. Our industry needs to work hard to make technology practical and seamless in order for architects to specify projects.

As a technology-enabled architect, you will be asked to provide advice and designs for many of these systems. The good news is that you have great resources available. There are security and/or AV systems design consultants and integrators available who are well equipped to be part of your design team. CSI MasterFormatTM 04 is also a tool you can use to have this discussion with your clients.

Chuck Wilson ([email protected]) is executive director at the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA).

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