Integrators get a sales edge with edge storage

More manufacturers offering video recording on the camera itself
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Steve Gorski has experienced some déjà vu at recent trade shows. As GM Americas for Mobotix, a network camera company that takes a decentralized approach to storage, Gorski has been evangelizing the benefits of storage onboard the camera for a while. Now, he finds that he’s not alone in talking about the benefits of storage on the edge.

While each manufacturer’s approach is different, in the past couple of years several video companies have come out with camera offerings that include edge video storage.

“Storage on the edge makes a lot of sense,” Gorski said. “It’s been interesting to watch more and more manufacturers decide to do this. … Off the top of my head I can think of three or four.”

All Mobotix cameras come with megapixel storage onboard, which isn’t the case with other manufacturers. And the actual onboard storage is only part of Mobotix’s decentralized approach. “If you need more, we have NAS [network attached storage] options,” he said.

One of the reasons other manufacturers have started to offer storage on the edge is because of rapidly increasing capacity. Today, you can store “five days of full frame rate recording of high definition video on a … $40 64-gig SD card,” said Fredrik Nilsson, GM Americas for network video manufacturer Axis Communications.

Looking ahead, Nilsson surmised that in 2015, that same $40 SD card will be able to hold 30 days of video, in 2018 it will store three months and ten years from now a $40 SD card could hold one year’s worth of video.

Increased capacity makes edge storage viable where it wasn’t ten years ago, Nilsson argues. He said that Axis came out with a camera about ten years ago that could store two minutes worth of video on the camera. “We thought it would be revolutionizing,” he explained. It wasn’t. “It didn’t change a thing,” he said.

Until the capacity increased, there weren’t obvious use cases for edge storage. Now that the capacity is there, Axis sees two main use cases: redundant storage and small video systems.

For redundancy, Nilsson sees edge storage as a great choice for places like airports where the camera takes the place of a security guard. If the network goes down, whether for planned maintenance or unexpectedly, video can be recorded “for a couple hours and then loaded up to Milestone or Genetec or OnSSI,” he said.

This kind of edge storage “is a great feature for an enterprise to have,” Nilsson said.

The other use case—small video systems—have historically been a challenge for IP camera manufacturers. With storage on the edge, IP cameras make sense in those applications, Nilsson explained. There are fewer components to deal with, less cost and the all-in-one camera is easy to install, he said.

Asked about the downside of edge storage, Bill Hanson, global product manager for Lenovo EMC, said that 30-day retention requirements are standard for many end users, and edge storage isn’t there yet.

And if you want to talk about high-capacity cheap storage, “network storage wins out … you can get a one terabyte drive for about 70 bucks,” Hanson said.

He also said that if you go with storage on the edge cameras, you may be restricted when it comes time to upgrade to a PTZ. “When you don’t have storage on the camera you can be more flexible when [moving to a newer system],” he said.

Mobotix’ Gorski noted that there are a lot of choices for managing the recording of video. “Are you recording all the time? At high- or low frame rate? Or are you recording just when there is an incident?” he said.

And what’s the process for re-recording? Integrators need to think about all of these things, he said. “Our product can really [help] extract all the relevant data,” Gorski said. But the integrator “needs to do their homework and configure it correctly.” However, Gorski pointed out that integrators need to take care with configuration “regardless of where the storage is.”

Gorski said the exciting thing about more capacity for storage on the edge is that it “enables us to do a lot more applications,” such as embedded analytics, and—in the future—embedded forensic technology, he said.

Rob Hile is CEO of systems integration firm IFSS in Florida. “If you have a solid network connection to the camera, having storage at the edge is not as critical, but if the camera is wireless or solar-powered, storage at the edge is very important.”

Hile likes to talk about triple redundancy with video, and said, “You always want a layered approach, no single point of failure.” Onboard storage can figure prominently in a layered approach, Hile said.

EMC Lenovo’s Hanson also believes that increased edge storage is a trend that integrators will benefit from. It’s part of manufacturers’ drive to consolidate and simplify systems.

Lenovo EMC “makes storage smart enough that it can run all in one place versus a server and storage.”

Looking ahead, Hile believes the camera/storage consolidation story is going to take an interesting twist “in the next year or two if not sooner.” Hile thinks “the VMS guys are going to be cut out” and annualized license fees will go away.

“In the near future, storage and camera manufacturers are going to get together. [Camera manufacturers] will process all the smarts on the camera and the storage guys will give the customer the ability of reviewing and retrieving the data without having a VMS.”