Cisco Unwires Surveillance Cameras

Updated: The company's new cameras, video surveillance software, and scalable video recording and storage platform free users from dependence on a single control room and VCR technology.

Cisco is snipping the wires from hardwired surveillance cameras, rolling out IP cameras that hook into Cisco networks and that can be watched from any network point—not just the traditional central control room.

"Our mission in life is to run physical security applications across the network," said Steve Collen, director of product marketing for Ciscos Converged Secure Infrastructure Business Unit, based in San Jose, Calif. "If you want to look at whats happening on those [hardwired] cameras you have to be in that control room."

Collen said 99 percent of surveillance cameras are now analog. IP cameras from Axis and Sony are out there, but what differentiates Ciscos new camera is its ability to interoperate with the Cisco network.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about Ciscos strategy for addressing video surveillance as an IP security opportunity.

As an example, Collen said, Ciscos camera supports protocol 802.1x, a way of authenticating a camera against the Cisco switch to which it connects. "That value proposition is critical: We need to glue the camera to [the Cisco] network to make it interact with that network in a way no one else could do," he said.

Cisco is also looking to banish the rooms full of antiquated VCRs and tapes that store most surveillance video. "Its not easy to buy a VCR anymore—theyre about 15 years out of date. You have to be in the control room, and everything is hardwired into your system, which makes it very, very inflexible," Collen said.

To address the VCR problem, Cisco has introduced a scalable video recording and storage platform, along with new video surveillance software that provides greater security scalability and that integrates with other security and business systems. These products also interoperate with third-party storage arrays, meaning that customers dont have to give up on the expensive storage systems in which theyve already invested heavily.

Besides which, Cisco storage products can hold up to 6 terabytes, Collen said. Because of that limitation, the company had to provide interoperability with more capacious storage options.

/zimages/3/28571.gifFor advice on how to secure your network and applications, as well as the latest security news, visit Ziff Davis Internets Security IT Hub.

Finally, Cisco has unveiled a new version of the software that runs Cisco video surveillance products, Stream Manager 5.0. The update comes with policy-based alarm handling, multi-camera synchronized playback and display sequencing. It also supports higher video compression using H.264 encoding.

That last feature is going to reduce the amount of bandwidth that video streams suck up by about 60 percent, Collen said. The other new features mean that when something happens thats caught by the video camera and thats been identified as a critical incident, the video stream can change its frame rate or transmission resolution in real time.

For example, if a door is opened inappropriately, the camera can boost its resolution and frame rate to capture more image detail.

Ciscos safety and security product portfolio already includes an integrated communications and surveillance product for mobile and outdoor environments, the Cisco 3200 Series Wireless and Mobile Router, along with third-party video software and hardware modules.

Another new product to enter this portfolio is Cisco IPICS 2.0 (IP Interoperability Collaboration System), which is software that can automate responses to specific events. For example, in the event of a fire, IPICS can notify security personnel by hooking them together with pagers, radios, IP phones or other devices.

Ciscos new IP camera and its scalable mass storage recording services platform are due out by the end of May. Cisco Stream Manager 5.0 is available now to existing customers as a free update.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments about Ciscos video surveillance products.

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