By Jonathan Newell
Several years have gone by since IP networks began to revolutionize the security industry, merging computer networking technology with physical security systems and the advantages of pulling everything together onto a common network protocol are well established and well documented.
The amount of common ground between computer networking technology and security systems is becoming greater each year as more hurdles are cleared and more opportunities are seized but one aspect of computing that everyone is familiar with has remained elusive, the ability to plug and play.
The concept of plug-and-play is that any hardware attached to the computer (or network) is recognised and can be used immediately without having to install interfacing software or go through lengthy setup or configuration procedures.
At ProSecurityZone, we've always been advocates of simplifying the installation and configuration of security systems, de-skilling the task as far as possible and making the technology more accessible to smaller businesses and even home users with the kind of budgets that can't cope with labour-intensive installations that require high levels of skill. This is one of the reasons plug-and-play has always been high on our wish list.
It was still at the forefront of our minds when we visited the IFSEC 2013 show in the UK in May and so we were interested to see what Korean surveillance company IDIS had to offer. The company was one of the very few companies that approached us to introduce their plug-and-play surveillance equipment so we went along to their stand to see if it lived up to expectations.
The company has been operating for a little over 15 years and in that time has produced a wide range of surveillance related products, the latest of which is the DirectIP system which is marketed as being plug-and-play.
Made up of a range of hardware including cameras, switches and network video recorders as well as Video Management Software, the concept of DirectIP is to provide the end user with automatic network detection and the configuration of settings, the basis of plug-and-play. When we looked at the system, it was clear that the NVR is the key to its simplicity with an interface which uses plain language to enable users to navigate menus and network objects in a familiar way. Using this interface also means that individual camera setup isn't required, it's all done from one console.
Additional cameras on the network are detected as soon as they're plugged, recognised by the NVR and is available to use right away. The DirectIP system also supports Power over Ethernet (PoE) and so running power cables to the cameras isn't required either. As long as there's a data port available, a camera can be plugged to it. The DirectIP system also supports other protocols including the ONVIF standard and major camera manufacturers.
So is it truly plug and play?
Achieving the holy grail of surveillance systems of being able to attach any device to any network isn't quite as simple as plugging a mouse into your laptop. There are legacy systems and hybrid configurations to consider, third party software applications like ANPR and video analytics and there is always the question of integrating surveillance networks with alarm inputs or access control systems.
Achieving total plug-and-play compatibility is still in the future but companies like IDIS are taking the right steps towards that goal by making their own systems easy to set up and by providing mechanisms for configuring hybrid networks and accepting simple alarm inputs. The more complexity that's added to the system, the more configuration it needs but IDIS is proving that plug-and-play is not being ignored in the surveillance industry and is already available for those who want a camera network with simple configuration.
Jonathan Newell is a broadcast and technical journalist specialising in security systems and transport safety. He contributes to a range of titles in the technical press. He shares his time between the UK and Kazakhstan