Choosing The Right Video Equipment for the Job

There's always something new to discover at the security trade shows. A colleague of mine recently attended ISC West, and I asked him if he saw anything new while he was there. Obviously the answer was yes, but he was exasperated by the large amount of...


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There's always something new to discover at the security trade shows. A colleague of mine recently attended ISC West, and I asked him if he saw anything new while he was there. Obviously the answer was yes, but he was exasperated by the large amount of video technology on display, in particular video cameras. He had three questions:

1: How do you figure out which one to use?

2: What are the differences between them?

3: Which one is the best?

Video is a rapidly evolving technology, and vendors and products are literally flooding the market. Video technology also is being marketed through multiple channels: Retail; Distribution; Internet; Direct Mail; of course through professional security dealers and locksmiths. New players are also jumping on board such as electrical contractors and computer and network systems suppliers and installers.

Is the flood of product and would-be providers a phenomenon analogous to the Gold Rush, where the demand for equipment is not great enough to justify the supply? Or if it is a case of speculators with cash and a dream buying into offshore engineering and manufacturing firms who have product? Are our new trade partners, in particular China , endeavoring to flood the markets with junk in order to drive down prices and put the legitimate CCTV manufacturers out of business?

The fact that video is marketed and sold through multiple channels, and that the actual demand for video is growing presents both positive and negative influences as you try to sell video yourself.

The public is saturated in video. They watch TV; they go to movies; they buy DVDs. The images they watch are produced using the best equipment, under the best conditions. The video is extensively edited and is viewed in comfortable, low pressure environments.

Very few people have actually viewed security surveillance video; even fewer have sold these systems. The result is a lot of end-user disappointment because of unrealistic expectations or because of poor quality equipment installed by amateurs.

The best advice is to build up your knowledge on the subject, have an open mind to new technology, apply professional values and practices to the jobs to undertake, and pick your partners carefully.

This includes your distributor and the brand of equipment you use. Much low end video equipment is more or less orphaned gear because it doesn't really have parents. When it breaks (and it definitely will break), there will not be anyone to fix it or no warranty, or no parts available for it. So you'll throw it away.

However, you cannot always determine if a product is low-end based on its cost. You can more or less figure a $100 camera is low end, and if you get a couple of years out of it, that's pretty good. But a $1000 DVR could also be low-end, because it has more features for a lower price than similar models by other manufacturers, and that's because the cheap one is not built to last, is under-designed or uses marginal components.

Many video products are brands which are actually little more than an adhesive label attached to an item, and a desk chair and phone number somewhere in the world -- no factory, no technicians, no warehouse -- just a client who expects you to keep it running forever, because you installed it.

So stay with trusted and established vendors who hopefully have put in time and effort to build their brand, and will be there for you when you need them. I judge the new players (products) after doing some research and by the company they keep, meaning their distribution partners. Distributors frequently will be your first line of defense. They, like you, have a lot to lose if they are peddling junk.

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