To deliver good integration we need to do two things well; get the video images to the monitors and allow full control of the entire system functionality.
There are many ways we can deliver the video, usually the most effective is to switch the HDMI output of a DVR or NVR to the chosen monitor, where multiple monitors are required then an HDMI matrix may be used. We can also pick up the stream from a camera or NVR, or DVR and decode that in a controller – usually tablets and smartphones can do this reasonably well, most Home Automation control units don’t manage quite so well as they usually don’t handle H.264 easily or just don’t have much processing power, however they may be able to display a decreased resolution at a slower frame rate. Finally there is the option of using a decoder at each monitor and connecting this to the IP network, we will discuss this in more detail in a later article.
To get the camera images little control is required so the protocol or driver needed is usually quite simple but displaying a camera view has much less usefulness to the end user than control over playback and multi-screen splits. In order to do this we need to control the DVR/NVR and this requires much more complex drivers. Some devices can be controlled by using the IR commands and an emitter bug but the most resilient method is to use TCP/IP based commands to control and interrogate the recorders, when done properly this gives the end-users intuitive control – just like operating a DVD player.
So when looking at manufacturers of surveillance equipment the following need to be ascertained;
- Are drivers available for ALL of the surveillance equipment you want to use?
- Are those drivers available for ALL of the control systems you want to use?
- Are those drivers freely available, certified and maintained in line with firmware updates?
- What level of functionality and control is supported?
- How are the control commands sent?
- Can the video streams be used on the room controllers, touchpads and mobile devices?
- Is audio supported? In both directions?
- Are events, alarms and alerts supported – can they be used to trigger other actions?
There are hundreds of manufacturers, importers, OEMS and re-branders of surveillance products, it is a highly contested market and a confusing arena to enter for the uninitiated!
When done well, an integrated surveillance solution will work seamlessly and deliver beautiful HD images of the property to the owner wherever they are.