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Adding Flexibility: Milestone XProtect+

by Benchmark

One valuable tool in the arsenal of installers and integrators looking to create smart solutions is the flexibility and ease-of-programming exhibited by Rules engines in VMS solutions. One negative has always been that this functionality is typically only included in Enterprise level solutions. However, that has changed and now even free-of-charge VMS packages can be found which allow a bespoke approach.

Milestone Systems offers an advanced and flexible Rules Engine in its XProtect VMS range. The Rules allow the creation of ‘cause and effect’ programming, both for security and site management tasks, and as such allows a great deal of diversity in how applications are configured. For many installers and integrators, the Rules Engine is key to delivering a truly bespoke solution.

If the Milestone Rules Engine had one negative, it was that is was only available in the XProtect Corporate and XProtect Expert VMS packages. These represented the Enterprise end of the range, and as such meant that smaller applications wishing to benefit from the added value on offer had to invest in a solution that include many functions that were effectively ‘overkill’ for the protected site.

The situation has changed, to the benefit of those seeking to implement smart and bespoke solutions at small- and medium-sized sites, with the launch of three new products from Benchmark Smart Solutions partner Milestone Systems: XProtect Essential+, XProtect Express+ and XProtect Professional+. Essential, Express and Professional are already established versions of the VMS, but these do not include the flexible Rules Engine.

However, the significant difference between the standard and the ‘+’ versions is that the latter include Milestone’s Rules Engine. In the past only the Corporate and Expert editions had this functionality because they used a different code base to the more entry-level packages.

The launch of the new ‘+’ versions puts the flexibility and power of Rules into all applications, even those with very tight budgetary constraints. It is worth noting that XProtect Essential+ is free-of-charge and supports up to 8 devices on a single server. It does have some restrictions but offers a perfect opportunity for installers and integrators to try out the Rules Engine and demonstrate to potential customers what can be added to their solutions by investing in a more flexible VMS.

Milestone’s Rules Engine is the most flexible Benchmark has seen in any VMS. It allows installers and integrators to quickly and easily add value and performance benefits to any security system. Rules use simple drop-down menus and clickable links to allow any features and functions of connected devices, status data or even the VMS itself to be used to create ‘cause and effect’ scenarios.

For example, the Rules engine can take any camera and use VMD, IVA, I/Os or other signals such as video loss to create triggers. It can use these alongside status information (time, date, etc.) and system information to generate very specific alarms. For example, if VMD is triggered on Camera 1 and a input received from a detection device within a five minute window while the site is closed for business, a specified action (or series of actions) can be triggered.

Using AND/OR logical programming (via simple controls), criteria can be combined to allow bespoke solutions to be created in minutes without any need to write code or create Macros.

The first step is to define a Rule type. This specifies if the Rule is triggered by an event (multiple events are supported) or if it is scheduled. An event-based Rule can include a trigger from a device – motion detection, video analytics, inputs or outputs, detection devices or interactions with access control systems – or system triggers such as recording server or system monitor events, time, date, etc.. Rules can even be instigated manually via a user-defined event or by way of a generic event.

Rules can then have conditions added to control or filter events. Parameters can be applied to filter potential triggers by time, date, duration, motion detection window, etc.. This allows different actions to be instigated for varied site status conditions.

The type of event, its source and the parameters are predominantly configured using clickable links. These show all of the valid choices and the user simply selects the appropriate choice.

With triggering and conditions configured, the resultant actions to be performed can be defined. These are diverse and cover any relevant options based upon the set-up of the system. Actions are effectively the results of the Rule. Multiple actions can be selected such as recording changes, PTZ commands, notifications, switching outputs, etc.. The final step is to establish Stop criteria if required.

The creation of Rules is intuitive, and despite sounding complex it is an easy and straightforward process. With the launch of XProtect+ VMS packages, this is now available to all as a cost-effective option.

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