Are so many choices for video transport a good thing?

They say that choice is a good thing, and it arguably is. However, when you have choices for the sake of it, and the various options don’t always add a real alternative for those making a decision, can it still be a positive?

The past weekend saw Mrs Dave and our Kylie go off to see her Mother. Now, I know what you’re thinking: how did I get out of going to see the Mother-in-Law. Well, it’s quite easy. Mrs Dave has been banging on about me painting the kitchen for a good few months now, so as soon as I got a heads-up about the planned visit I nipped down to the local DIY emporium and bought up a whole load of paint.

I was carrying it into the kitchen when she came to give me the news. However, the sight of the paint and brushes distracted her, and once she asked what was I going on I explained.

‘Well, I know you want the kitchen painting, so I figured I do it next weekend because if I don’t it’ll be at least … mmm … Christmas before I get another chance. Was there something else you wanted to do, because if the truth be told, I don’t really fancy…’

She didn’t let me finish. No, she confirmed, there was nothing else. Actually, there was something else. In order to give me a clear run at the decorating, she’d take Kylie off to visit her Mother. It was, even if I say so myself, a job well done!

I paid a few of the lads who do odd jobs for me to paint the kitchen, while I prepared for a weekend at the Dog and Duck. After a few pints I realised I wanted something to eat so I asked for the menu. It was huge. There must have been a few hundred dishes on it. I asked the lad behind the bar what was good, and he told me it was all a bit mediocre really. With so many dishes, it was impossible to keep fresh ingredients for all of them, and buying little amounts of everything pushed the costs up, which meant they only used the cheapest stuff.

I asked why they didn’t cut the menu down to some core dishes and do them well. He told me that people, apparently, like choice … even when it’s a choice of stuff that isn’t good!

This got me thinking about the security industry, and especially the surveillance sector. Years ago we had one option: composite video. Then networked video using Ethernet for local transport arrived. As that has developed, it has given us performance that we couldn’t have achieved with composite. Then we got HD-SDI, which gave us some of what networked video gave us, with a dedicated digital platform. Now, it seems that every week someone is launching a new platform. Why? Apparently, because we – the installers and integrators – are demanding it.

Every time I hear that I smell a big bunch of something, and it ain’t bananas!

Numerous platforms – and many of them are proprietary platforms – isn’t good for anyone. Most do pretty much the same thing as other choices, and some even deliver lower performance than existing options.

Some of the proprietary platforms are hyped as ‘open’ because the manufacturer in question will release – under varying conditions – the spec to others. However, often other manufacturers are wary of placing a reliance for future support and development on a competitor.

These various platforms raise the level of ‘noise’ in the industry, to a point where it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the facts from the fictions. A great example is one of so-called ‘enhanced’ analogue formats. It claims to be higher resolution, even though image quality is the same as composite video. How do they get away with it? Simple; they’ve changed the way resolution is measured for the platform!

The huge number of choices mean distributors cannot enjoy economies of scale, true ‘mix-and-match’ design goes out the window, and specifying product gets a lot harder.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve a plate of Number 45,376 to polish off!

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