In the world of video surveillance, the increased demand for flexibility, scalability and added value has driven the growth of video management systems (VMS). Where once the NVR was king, today’s users are increasingly seeking software-based solutions in order to exploit the diverse range of benefits that such an approach offers. Pelco has recently launched VideoXpert, a next generation VMS designed to offer an efficient and robust solution for a wide range of applications.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t could be argued that those involved in the video surveillance sector are currently experiencing something of a golden age. In the past few decades, developments in video surveillance were slow. The industry was dependent upon out-dated technology, and only when equipment entered the lower price points at the end of its lifecycle did it become affordable.
Whilst advances were seen as significant at the time, the reality is that moving from 480 TV lines to 520 TV lines wasn’t exactly a sea change, especially when few DVRs could replicate the camera resolutions. The PAL standard was, in itself, a limitation, and analogue infrastructure led to restricted topologies. To remain price-competitive, few manufacturers were able to utilise cutting edge processing, and R&D teams invariably worked hard to coax a little bit more performance from devices that were already pretty much at full capacity.
Even when networked technologies first emerged in the security sector, issues with the compatibility of legacy systems often meant that those wishing to embrace the emerging changes were restricted by not having the full ‘toolbox’ in terms of peripheral devices. However, in recent years the situation has dramatically changed.
Today’s surveillance market has a true depth of innovative solutions. Flexibility and performance have become our watchwords, and the creation of bespoke systems that meet user demands is a reality. The age of formulaic system design is behind us.
This brave new world of surveillance requires evolving solutions which can expand to deliver future advances as well as the innovative benefits available from today’s systems. The answer for many lies in the inherently flexible world of the VMS, and it is into this market that Pelco has pitched VideoXpert.
A solid core
VideoXpert is a genuine video solution. Comprising a Core, Media Gateways, an Ops Centre and storage modules, it enables installers and integrators to build a system which meets the needs of any given application.
Whilst Pelco has always offered advanced video management products, these were very much born out of the way that the surveillance sector used to work. This wasn’t to say that they were bad; many users still swear by these systems, and their deployments continue to deliver.
However, it must be accepted that today’s video market not only benefits from more flexibility and freedom than was ever available in the past, but also is able to work in a very different way. System design practices which became established when technologies were limited will not always translate well for cutting edge solutions.
As such, VideoXpert represents a radical rethink of all that went before. While legacy systems still can provide some significant positives with regards to reliability and credibility, the new VMS platform adds to these with overall ease of use, flexibility and increased operator efficiency.
VideoXpert has been designed to recognise that a robust solution is no longer enough in today’s market. Ease of operation and the ability to integrate are also essential elements. A VMS is not just a video security tool; it needs to fit into a larger site management ecosystem whilst still retaining its security elements.
Importantly, Pelco set out to deliver a system which was intuitive and allowed the operator to logically access information and progress incidents without requiring training or constant references to documentation. Given that VideoXpert implementations support a six monitor video wall, it is important that operators can navigate the system with ease in order to realise its full range of benefits.
Many of the screens and layout designs have a familiar look. The layout is reminiscent of modern browsers and mobile smart devices. These have proved that highly functional interfaces can be presented in an intuitive way. After all, when was the last time you saw a smartphone or tablet which needed a user manual?
Not only is the GUI more intuitive than those traditionally associated with security devices, but it also allows user-defined customisation. This is not just on a site-by-site basis, but also on an operator-by-operator basis, such is the depth of personalisation.
Views and layouts can be saved and called up by an individual, ensuring that personnel changeovers don’t prompt a ‘dead’ period while the new operator focuses on adapting the layout to their liking. A single action can call up their saved preferences.
Some might think that the screen layout isn’t that important with a VMS, but it’s clear that operators and users who are confident with a solution will actually use it more effectively. Anything that detracts from usability has to be a negative, and VideoXpert does deliver a logical layout that makes navigation intuitive.
For example, when a system is handling multiple video feeds across a number of screens, it can be easy to lose track of which cameras are displayed. At-a-glance icons confirm to an operator whether cameras are currently selected in on-screen views or not.
The use of tabs allows operators to create new layouts on the fly. These can be useful if an incident is developing, allowing the personnel to group video streams while assessing situations. The use of multiple tabs will not overload the system, as background displays are effectively ‘disconnected’ until brought to the front.
Footage associated with on-going investigations can be grouped together and saved, allowing operators to resume work on them at a later time if necessary. Associated video can be synced, and entire investigations can be ‘pushed’ to another operator or exported if required.
VideoXpert lacks the ‘fear factor’. Sometimes users are loathe to go too deep into a system in case they either end up in a situation where they’re unable to backtrack, or create a situation that cannot be undone. However, the familiar use of tabs and icons eliminates that.
The main control element resides in an independent screen in the layout; this can be moved or scaled as required. This ensures that operators always have quick access to all aspects of the system regardless of what other tasks they are undertaking.
With the tabbed displays, ‘cells’ can be populated by a wide range of content. Inclusions can be made up of live video, recorded footage, maps or web browser pages. The latter allows additional relevant information to be presented to the operator while handling events.
Other benefits include the use of ‘hot keys’. These can be user configured, and in the future should also support Macros, allowing the creation of automated processing.
VideoXpert is a Windows-based system. While such a statement would have sent some running for the hills in the past, today the platform is more stable and ensures that maintenance and upgrades are simplified.
The VMS is available as either a software-only product or as a server/recorder combination. There are slight differences in licensing. The software-only product requires licenses for each block of cameras added, while the latter option is licensed per server.
VideoXpert is available in three different versions. Professional supports a single operator and a maximum of 256 video inputs. Enterprise supports unlimited video inputs and unlimited operators, and also gives the benefit of failover clustering. Finally, Ultimate delivers the benefits of the Enterprise version, but with the addition of a unified database to allow the aggregation of numerous systems into a single control interface.
The system is made up of four components. These are the Core, the Media Gateway, the Ops Centre and the storage manager.
The Core is, effectively, the management hub of the system. It controls the system database, enables management of user permissions and ensures the flow of data. This is supported by the Media Gateway which manages the flow of video. Part of its remit is to deliver footage as requested, in the relevant format for the device and connection type from which the request is being made.
In most applications, both the Core and Media Gateway would reside on a single server. However, in complex systems with very high camera counts it might be advisable to split these out onto individual servers.
The Ops Centre is the operator client, which has already been discussed. One point to note is that functionality of the Ops Centre can be expanded through the use of plug-ins. There are some Pelco expansions available, and third party integrations are due to follow.
Finally, the storage manager handles all aspects of video and data archiving.
Sites using the Endura or Digital Sentry platforms might want to take advantage of the benefits offered by VideoXpert. To simplify the process, a seamless migration can be carried out from either system.
With VideoXpert, Pelco has created a user-friendly VMS platform designed to evolve with a site’s needs and requirements. It represents a new approach that retains the strengths of the past and enhances them with the latest emerging video technologies.