Cisco Sees Video Surveillance as IP Security Opportunity

The networking giant says it can help enterprises integrate their existing video surveillance technologies-using a centralized IP network-based approach-to create new applications for keeping their operations even more tightly under wraps.

Now more than ever before, enterprises and organizations such as banks, financial services companies and government agencies are looking for new ways to automate their video surveillance systems to allow for real-time analysis, remote monitoring and other emerging security applications.

Networking giant Cisco Systems contends that it can play a major role in this transformation by allowing these organizations to begin pulling together their often disparate video technologies using IP-based tools.

Most businesses still rely on proprietary video surveillance technologies made by vendors who have little interest in making their products work together, and many companies utilize tape-based systems that dont correlate well with emerging network-based security tools, according to Mark Farino, general manager of Ciscos Converged Secure Infrastructure Business Unit.

Companies such as Bosch, Pelco and Siemens, which build popular video security systems, have had something of a monopoly in the surveillance market, but the increasing demand by businesses and governments to find ways to share and consume the content derived by those vendors technologies is pushing a whole new set of opportunities for providers who can link the products, Farino said.

Cisco is planning a major push in the sector, built largely around the technologies gained via its April 2006 acquisition of SyPixx Networks, which markets video surveillance tools that allow analog-based systems to link over IP networks. Cisco officials are playing up their products ability to serve as a backbone for a whole new breed of physical security capabilities.

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"Even the most advanced network-based video surveillance systems out there today have largely been limited to one building or one network," Farino said. "There needs to be a lot of bandwidth available to allow for these new applications, and we want to provide the IP transport capabilities necessary to unbolt these systems from a cable and bring them into the larger networked world."

Cisco, based in San Jose, Calif., has already begun dipping its toes in the market for physical security technologies that can be linked to IT systems, as with its September 2006 partnership with Swedish facilities defense specialist Assa Abloy.

Through that relationship, the two companies have already demonstrated a so-called networked door that combines IP-based access management technology from Cisco with Assa Abloys external locking and scanning components. The marriage of the technologies promises to allow organizations to link physical security controls with their IT-based authentication systems to provide new levels of employee identification, among other benefits.

Along with video surveillance and integrated badge management applications, Cisco has plans to lend its networking expertise to new, IP-based facilities alarm systems and physical intrusion detection technologies, but the opportunity to help automate the camera-oriented technologies is one the firm says it believes it can tap into right away.

"We can help organizations convert any analog network-based system to IP to offer new surveillance applications today, while preserving their investments in existing technologies," Farino said. "And there are other added services that we can offer around storage of video, for instance, that will offer companies increased ability to view live streams or review footage for incident management."

While the executive said the market for such video surveillance integration and transport technologies remains somewhat small at present, Cisco believes there is a $2 billion opportunity addressed by the products it already has in-house today.

Despite its contention that it is better positioned than any other company to help bridge the gap between todays physical security technologies and the integrated systems of tomorrow, Cisco isnt the only major IT platform provider attempting to cash in on the growing integration between physical tools and network-based systems.

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In Aug. 2005, storage market leader EMC launched its SAMS (Surveillance Analysis and Management System), which includes video-server software, storage capabilities and management applications and promises many of the same advantages proposed by Farino and other Cisco executives for Cisco products.

Industry experts observed that the traditional players in the space such as Siemens arent likely to sit back and allow Cisco and others to become leaders in the networked video surveillance market without a fight. However, said Sandra Palumbo, an analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group, the networking giant is well suited to try and bring the technologies it already has in place, and its omnipresence in the networking environment, to bear on the market.

"If any of the larger IT security vendors is going to have a chance in this market, Cisco could be one of them. Id have to think that businesses as large and diversified as Siemens will want to get in, but Cisco is the kind of company that could allow for the type of convergence customers are asking for," Palumbo said. "Their real value is tying things together from an enterprise perspective, simplifying the process and making the data more usable."

Palumbo said she would not be surprised if Cisco continued to invest in technologies that could help forward its interest in the video surveillance space. However, she said the firm is most likely to see how far it can get with the technologies it has in place before adding a company or technology that fills a gap in its product portfolio.

Ciscos security leaders said there are parallels between their companys opportunities today in the video surveillance market, and the prospects it had in the IP infrastructure space as demand for PBXes shifted from analog systems to modern-day technologies.

"If you look at the evolution of the PBX market, more and more people are jumping on IP as a technology, and thats true of the physical security market, which has traditionally been highly fragmented," said Mick Scully, vice president of product management at Ciscos Security Technology Group. "We will see IP apply to this equation for the aggregation of separate systems, and we already have the right mix of technologies inside the company to help facilitate that change."

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