sales director, IDIS Europe

Author Bio ▼

Jamie Barnfield brings with him nearly 20 years' sales experience in the security industry across IP-enabled video surveillance and security solutions as well as traditional CCTV systems. He has held sales management positions at The Solutions Group, March Networks, Silent Witness, and at Risco Group. Jamie joined IDIS in April 2013 and is responsible for value-add solution sales to support IDIS installers and integrators, as well as end-user sales from small businesses through to enterprise-sized organizations from a wide range of markets and environments.
September 30, 2013

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SMBs Face the IP HD Surveillance Paradox

Call it the IP HD paradox. Why are small to mid-sized businesses — usually early adopters of the latest technologies — the very market segments most hesitant to embrace the promise and reward of a move to IP HD surveillance?

Whilst many large and enterprise customers are already realising the benefits and efficiencies of truly integrated systems encompassing networked HD surveillance, small to medium companies are still waiting. Why?

Complex means inaccessible

The first culprit may be in the packaging and marketing of the IP concept itself. The security industry has often over-thought and over-complicated the move from analogue to IP. External communication from manufacturers is often conflicted and lacking in a clear messaging and direction. Potential integration partners and end-users are presented with a confusing array of systems from manufacturers that appear to be little more than hedged bets: hybrid solutions, edge storage, cloud-based, HD-SDI, and so on. IP-enabled surveillance made a clear splash when launched to the industry, and yet the clarity of the IP message was gradually eschewed in favour of technical jargon that would confound even seasoned IT professionals.

When the industry doesn’t appear to fully buy into the promise of IP (whilst still appearing to want to harness its clear rewards), why should small and medium sized businesses? They don’t have the time or the internal resources to cut through ambiguous messaging and will follow the leader for expediency and proven results. SMBs are left sticking with what they have whilst trying to decipher what they might need from a future IP and HD surveillance system, a climb up a hill made all the more steep by the mixed messages of an industry that hasn’t yet decided how to market itself.

Installations of broken promises

Early plug-and-play surveillance should have been perfect for SMBs, yet simply did not deliver. Projects ran overtime due to complex installations, especially when the mid-sized end-user had multiple sites and sought remote monitoring and management. Following a single-site implementation (that may well have gone without a hitch), the plug and play elements are frequently lost once the system needs expanding, as the installer begins the configuration of IP addresses and the challenge of integrating the network and a third party monitoring station.

When one considers that smaller end-users often have no dedicated IT department available to assist, it is easy to see how the over-promise of plug-and-play has burned the fingers of enough installers to see the recommendation of analogue systems continue as a strategy to generate new business, avoid further project overruns with IP, and simply keep their customers happy.

Analogue is everywhere (and inexpensive)

The sheer ubiquity of analogue cameras, especially in countries like the UK, has made analogue the comfortable standard. When one is comfortable with a standard in life, the old adage of not fixing what “ain’t broke” takes root. Uptake of HD IP is often incident-led, following thefts where the culprits cannot be identified due to low quality footage, or after security staff have spent hours poring over footage. But given the sheer number of cameras often requiring upgrade and the overall comfort with analogue systems, organisations have opted for hybrid solutions that by their very nature are complex, and can be out of reach of more local and regional installers.

The solution: delivering what it says on the tin

So how does the industry speed up adoption in the very large and lucrative SMB sector? As we move out of recession and SMBs put budgets back on the table it is important mistakes from the initial launch of IP and HD are not repeated.

The buying process must be simple, with one-stop-shopping and with bundled solutions that omit much of the technical jargon and focus instead on clear and concise features and benefits. Once SMB customers have made the leap to IP surveillance (working in partnership with installers), installation needs to be quick and simple, with little to no training, so that end users can quickly realise the benefits and return on investment. SMB end-users need to be better communicated the features and benefits of IP surveillance, rather than sold complex technology that may demonstrate technical brilliance but means little to the SMB customer — especially when compounded with a price tag to match.

Solving the IP HD paradox

The promise of IP HD is tremendous. The potential even more so. But the reality is sweeter, and the ultimate rewards in terms of long-term efficiencies and savings are the sweetest. It is time for the SMB sector to take a second look at IP HD surveillance and all it has to offer. But that look will be informed by the mistakes and challenges of the past. The manufacturer that can address those concerns head on, deliver on the promises made, and deliver to SMBs benefits that are currently being reserved for large and enterprise customers more willing to make the IP link, will be the manufacturer that owns this space and forever solves the IP HD paradox.

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rockoff
rockoff
October 1, 2013 3:38 pm

IP cameras have been around for 18 years. Why be surprised today about the slow rate of adoption? You dismiss HD-SDI out of hand. The HDcctv roadmap starts with SMPTE 292M and has no end in sight. We’re all using IP video, the question is where to convert HDTV signals to Ethernet packet streams. What are the advantages for a small to medium sized business that can be accomplished only with IP cameras? Your article laments that SMBs aren’t adopting IP cameras, yet you are silent about those advantages. If it’s not better, faster, and cheaper, economists will tell you… Read more »

holmesd
holmesd
October 3, 2013 2:55 am
Reply to  rockoff

It’s the same vicious circle: it’s expensive so there is very little take up, because of this small take up, the other users don’t really feel that they are being left behind/missing anything, and the appetite to swap to IP cameras is low..

rockoff
rockoff
October 3, 2013 5:41 pm
Reply to  holmesd

That’s a good observation Clayton Christensen wrote “The Innovator’s Dilemma” addressing this vicious cycle. His idea is that if an alternative technology is better, faster, and potentially cheaper, then there is a path to gaining mainstream traction and it will realize its potential. Absent a compelling value proposition, the technology will languish at the margins, as IP cameras have for the last 17 years. Ethernet transmission on the local site makes sense only for specialized applications, yet most of our industry’s incumbents committed their R&D and marketing to the proposition that every camera should be an IP camera. The market… Read more »

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
October 5, 2013 1:41 pm
Reply to  holmesd

Holmesd, it is a vicious cycle and in the end, if or when something happens, it’s the people who refused to switch who will pay for it in the end. At that point, the damage has been done, but it’s still not too late.

SunitaT
SunitaT
October 10, 2013 7:00 am

Simple installation and less required training are two universally acknowledged qualities of any system. These two qualities are more cherished in small and medium sized businesses because of their budgetary and manpower constraints. In the absence of dedicated IT departments, as is the case with most SMBs, users are forced to stick to systems that require little or no training.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
October 31, 2013 9:01 am
Reply to  SunitaT

That’s absolutely correct, yes. Also, it’s about systems that are affordable as budgets are tighter, invariably. So simple, and affordable is the name of the game.

SunitaT
SunitaT
October 10, 2013 7:00 am

Tell the customers what they can understand. That is the rule followed everywhere. There is no use of telling technical details to a customer who simply doesn’t understand. He/she will probably say: “Cut the crap and tell me what it will do for me.” Similarly IP HD manufacturers should cut the technical details and tell customers the features in a language they can readily understand.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
October 31, 2013 8:44 am
Reply to  SunitaT

It depends on the customer, though right? If the customer is seriously techsavvy then the vendor needs to be able to cover those queries. But inversely they also need to be ready to respond to novices as honestly as possible. No ‘oh, this customer’s stupid, so let’s sell them something they don’t need.’ That’s not a sustainable model.

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