Tech Talk: A Timely Tradeoff

Security in schools today is serious business. IP camera systems offer a great solution; they eliminate the need for digital video recorders (DVRs) and provide a district- or campus-wide solution for camera systems instead of an individual building solution. Network cameras are connected directly to an IP-based network and integrate into applications on that network. They enable users to place cameras at remote locations and view, store and analyze live video at another location, or multiple locations, over the network or Internet. IP network cameras are expected to make up more than half of the security camera market by the end of this year.

In a total IP camera solution, a district or campus IT department records, manages and makes CDs or DVDs of incidents. This makes it easier for a school or university administrator to rely on a stable surveillance camera system — putting the technology in the hands of people who are paid to understand it.

The problem with a total IP video-surveillance system in most school and university settings is that administrators have invested huge amounts of money in analog camera systems. This makes installing a total IP camera system cost-prohibitive. It is hard to throw out the investment in those analog camera systems, even though they no longer are being managed or viewed properly. Well, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater just yet.

Technology companies have been addressing this problem with an emerging technology. Digital video blade servers made by IP camera manufacturers allow for IP viewing of cameras that are analog. The digital video blade server completely replaces a DVR and comes in as a four-channel-per-card blade server offering full-frame-rate MPEG-4 or Motion JPEG. The blade server provides high-resolution video surveillance and remote monitoring, and is designed to migrate existing analog systems into high-performance, IP-based digital video solutions. More simply, the DVR that is hidden in the closet, data rack or in an office gets replaced with a box that turns every existing analog video camera into an IP video stream via the district or campus video network. Analog cameras of all types — fixed, dome, indoor, outdoor, pan/tilt/zoom and specialty cameras — can be integrated. This allows remote viewing, remote storage and a solution that can be managed by the IT department. Video servers save space by fitting into existing server rooms. Placing video blade servers in racks allows them to be managed centrally with a common power supply.

New IP products such as the digital video blade server are a cost-effective bridge to a total IP camera solution — making it easier for schools and universities to build upon their existing investment in analog camera products.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected]. www.kbdplanning.com

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