CCTV Test: Wavestore A-Series NVR

The move towards VMS-based video management and storage solutions has seen a number of changes with regard to the design and installation of surveillance systems. Topologies are more flexible, and the creation of distributed systems allows a high degree of customisation. Even the associated hardware has changed dramatically. Wavestore offers its A-Series NVR Appliances, which are Intel NUC mini PCs running the company’s VMS software.

The world of ‘traditional’ video surveillance was one where large black-box products ruled in terms or archiving and management, displays were fixed in banks showing multiple streams of video to bored operators in gloomy control rooms and interfaces required clumsy controllers. Even until a few years, it was somewhat at odds with the world of IT or, for that matter, building management.

These other worlds, where the latest technological advances were embraced, delivered benefits for the customer. Data and control could be shared amongst authorised personnel, no matter where they were.

The systems could be accessed from a wide range of devices. These two advances eliminated the need for dedicated control rooms. This represented a great cost saving for businesses, as the required ‘real estate’ for a dedicated systems management space could be put to more productive use.

The security sector did move towards miniaturisation (well, some black boxes reduced in size), increased flexibility (video streams could be viewed on mobile devices and video could be distributed) and leveraging economies of scale from other sectors. However, it has only been the past few years that we’ve seen a wider use of hardware from other tech-based sectors become more prolific in the security market.

Some argue that IT devices should not be used for security, as the always-on nature of security places more demands on equipment than typical IT-biased usage. While this is true of certain devices such as laptops and mobile technologies, the reality is that many of the smaller footprint computing devices are being deployed widely in M2M (machine to machine) applications.

Because of the increased use of VMS applications, sites no longer require a centralised approach. The distribution of resources allows for the creation of cost-effective and flexible solutions. When a centralised system with a complete overview of an application is required, the VMS client can present this. A more distributed approach to system topologies can be beneficial, and one tool that can help in the creation of such solutions is the A-Series NVR Appliance from Wavestore.

Specification

The Wavestore A-Series NVR Appliance is a miniature PC running an embedded version of Wavestore’s VMS v6. It is based on an Inter NUC (Next Unit of Computing) device. It measures approximately 110 x 110 x 45mm and can either be desktop-mounted or fitted to the rear of a monitor with VESA mount options.

The Appliance uses an Intel Celeron N3050 processor. As with all Wavestore servers, the operating system is Linux. The unit supports up to eight cameras (eight video channel and eight audio channels) per unit, and appliances can be linked to create larger systems. The Appliance can also be linked in with other servers to form part of a cohesive single solution via a unified client.

Maximum throughput is 100Mbps, and the Appliance can include a 1TB or 2TB internal HDD. Recording rate is a maximum of 100FPS from all channels.

The Appliance has two video outputs: HDMI and VGA. Only one output can be used at any time. Other connections include gigabit ethernet via an RJ45 port, four USB 3.0 ports, two audio ports and a 19V power input. There is also an SD card slot. The A-Series server is supplied with a PSU and VESA mounting plate, plus a CD including manuals.

The A-Series device can have any version of the Wavestore VMS embedded, dependent upon licensing. The three variants are Basic, Premium and Enterprise. Wavestore’s VMS is an open platform management solution. It is ONVIF compliant and features automatic device discovery.

All versions of the VMS support 4K UHD video, HD streams, megapixel devices, 360 degree fisheye cameras and thermal imagers. Video formats for recording include H.264, M-JPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MxPEG and JPEG2000.

The VMS can also support a wide range of optional analytics and integration with security management and business intelligence add-ons, including third party applications, dependent upon the license applied.

Other VMS features include recording multiple channels from one device, configurable recording schedules, event-based triggering, user-definable event and alarm handling, cause and effect rules and notifications on alert. Some versions also include failover and interactive mapping.

The A-Series server is also preloaded with the Waveview Client which delivers a flexible interface for the user. The Client is compatible with Linux and Windows (the latter is useful where a distributed system is implemented – more about that in a moment).

Client features include configurable screens via a drag-and-drop interface, synchronised replay, client-side 360 degree stream dewarping and a ‘three-click’ evidential export function.

Earlier it was mentioned that the Client software is also available in a Windows version, and that underlines one of the benefits of the A-Series server. It can be used as a standalone device. With a keyboard and mouse, monitor and network connection to cameras attached, it will operate like a small NVR, albeit with an advanced management interface. The on-board Client allows it to truly be a self-contained system. However, is this the best use for it? The Benchmark team didn’t think so!

However, as an edge device that allows clusters of cameras to be added to a system, or where distributed sub-systems are pulled back to a control point (which could, of course, move dependent upon time, date or available resources), it makes more sense.

This isn’t a replacement for a small NVR (it could be), but an ‘extension’ in a larger system which adds flexibility with regard to system design and topology.

Installation

In effect, the A-Series Appliance is a miniature computer, so the physical installation is very much as per a PC. There is a choice as to whether the device is placed on a desktop or in a cabinet, or attached to the rear of a monitor using a VESA mounting plate.

At its most basic, for initial set-up, all that is required is a keyboard and mouse connected via USB, a monitor (VGA or HDMI connection) and a network connection to a switch, which in turn is connected the cameras. Where the A-Series will be used as an edge device, a PC running the Waveview client also needs to be connected to the switch.

With the basic connections made, the A-Series Appliance can be powered up. We did experience on anomaly at this point, in that the Splashscreen showed, but the boot-up process then stalled. The reason is that Linux has issues with some monitors (ours was a Samsung unit) which need a setting adjustment.

It wasn’t obvious as the Splashscreen and BIOS menus displayed correctly. We have seen this before with other systems so it’s not a fault with the A-Series server.

With the monitor switched the boot-up process completed as expected. The next step is to log in to the Appliance and complete the basic configurations.

Installer log-in is carried out using a default password. There is a setting that forces the installer to change the password (which is a single digit) but this set as ‘off’ by default. It is important to change this.

The same setting can be applied to users, allowing the installer or integrator to set basic passwords which the users must change on first log-in.

There is a checklist provided with the A-Series Appliance for basic configurations, and once these are complete the device will be up and running.

With regard to configuration, the set-up menus make use of a ‘ribbon’ of icons which makes navigation straightforward. The VMS discovered the attached cameras without any issues.

Performance

The Wavestore VMS is constantly being developed and that latest version – V6.8.78 – was stable throughout the test and never gave any cause for concern. The hardware also performed as expected when used as an element of a distributed system. It can be used as a standalone device, but you do end up having to balance video load with processing power.

Video streams were good quality with no real signs of the unit being overworked when using a networked Client. Recording is predominantly set up from the individual device menus, which does make a degree of sense.

The Client makes use of both standard menus and contextual menus, and if it’s the first time you faced a Wavestore device you may find a need to feel your way around. That said, there’s nothing that will be a challenge to most installers and integrators.

The system is supplied with a manual on the CD, but an improved Quick Start guide would certainly be beneficial.

The Wavestore VMS does offer capabilities for handling alarms and events, and makes use of Event Rules, as do many other VMS packages. The Wavestore option works well, but has one small limitation in that when setting actions, there is no option for AND clauses. This restricts the ability to combine trigger events, thus filtering potential incidents to create cause and effect relationships.

The Wavestore VMS certainly delivers a high degree of flexibility and allows individual streams to be configured in various ways, which can also be scheduled. This ensures that the VMS fits in with the way a user wants the system to work. It lacks some of the more advanced options that some other VMS products offer. However, for most applications it will deliver what is required.

Combining the VMS with a miniaturised server might not be the best option for the majority of installations, but it does add something extra for some sites.

Verdict

The A-Series Appliance from Wavestore does add something extra to the design options for installers and integrators looking to deliver flexible VMS-based systems. Whether used for distributed sites, system expansions or as an edge-based archiving option, it works well as a part of a larger unified solution; that is its strength.

It can be used as a standalone NVR, but it will creak a bit if you ask too much of the processor. However, if you’re looking for a temporary archiving option while a full distributed system is being installed it can deliver that.

As such, it achieves Recommended status in Benchmark testing.

BENCHMARK
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