A good reason to not specify an alternative to video over IP

In recent years, any visit to an exhibition involves an inevitable number of manufacturers offering technologies which they claim are ‘alternatives’ to IP. Some will cite the ease of installation, others the quality of the live image, and a few will simply shrug and declare that it’s ‘better than IP’. However, after discussing the technologies with a number of end users, there’s something else to consider.


t Benchmark we are pretty much technology-agnostic. If a specific solution enhances the system being offered, adds value and delivers genuine benefits, then we’re all for it. However, we readily admit that we don’t fully agree with many of the marketing claims made in favour of the numerous ‘IP alternatives’ that have cropped up in the video sector.

Looking back at the analogue days, composite video had hit the ceiling when it came to image quality. Manufacturers made significant investments to try and tease a last little bit of something extra from their devices, and when the IP world moved into megapixel and HD video, the choice seemed obvious.

Of course, many manufacturers had stockpiles of materials and components, and factory lines set up to deal with certain products. As with any manufacturing business, it became a case of trying to wring the last revenues from the market before investing in new approaches.

The marketing message was almost universally that the ‘IP alternative’ technologies offered quality in line with networked devices, but with the simplicity of an analogue installation. The message was pitched at installers and integrators who weren’t interested in, or feared, learning new skills. However, it ignored the person who actually pays the installer, the distributor and the manufacturer – the end customer!

When 960H first emerged, many manufacturers – and some experts – shouted about its enhanced image quality. To view 960H video you needed to replace all your cameras, the DVR and the monitor. The result, despite the claims, was not enhanced image quality. The image was the same quality, but a little bit wider. That was all. Most of the video equipment in a system needed to be replaced for very little gain. Despite this, the marketing message saw some switch.

Just as 960H seemed to be everywhere, along came 1280H. Of course, if an end user had allowed an analogue system to be replaced with 960H, the journey to 1280H relied upon replacing the cameras and the DVR. The benefit was that the image was wider still, approximating a HD format, but with quality from the composite video era.

Before the wider analogue options could grow legs, the HD-SDI bandwagon rolled into town. This required new cameras and lenses, plus new recorders and an HD monitor. The HD-SDI evangelists even created an organisation to ensure continuity. The body preached HD-SDI … until HD-CVI came along.

This IFSEC will see further proprietary options join the list.

Now, let’s think about the end customer; your customer! Let’s assume they started with a composite video system, and let’s also assume that they’re only willing to do one ‘rip-and-replace’ every few years.

If they opted for 960H, they’re stuck with a limited technology. If they opted for 1280H, ditto. If they opted for HD-SDI, they’re seeing the trend shift to HD-CVI, and if they opted for the latter they’ll just be waiting for a new trend to shift the market. In short, all will have limited systems in return for an investment in what they were sold as the ‘future’.

Here’s the point: if they had invested in IP, they’d have a system that is open to growth and development, and which consistently gets better without a need to replace 80 per cent of the hardware.

The other technologies have their place – there will always be some who want them – but is it worth the possibility of having a customer who feels you sold them a dog?


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