The CCTV Project Planner

CCTV implementations face a lack of product standardization, a confusing bidding process, and a limiting market structure. Here is expert guidance on critical considerations about bandwidth, frame rate, image quality and more

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Both the global issues of the CCTV market and the organic nature of the systems level we've discussed together help to frame end-user systems planning and implementation. Additionally, achieving your idea of a video solution is better aided with an awareness of these issues. Another result of this framework is an early focus on the day-to-day usage of your CCTV system, getting data to the right place at the right time, at the right resolution, with minimal bandwidth consumption.

Having this knowledge in place will also help in conducting site walkthroughs, or if you're in preconstruction, blueprint reviews and preconstruction meetings. Let's cover some basics of this phase that will help you conduct a mutually productive walkthrough. If at all possible, have accurate blueprint copies for your bidders. This small step alone may help you to better compare quotations, receive more accurate quotations, and save money.

If the blueprints are scaled, you'll be providing your bidders with a far more accurate measurement than manual measurement. This can save significant cabling costs. Also, if you are managing the CCTV project but you aren't the expert on the physical aspects of your building, you should schedule that individual for all walkthroughs, and system-planning meetings. Other individuals that commonly need to accompany walkthroughs are building management personnel, elevator company personnel, parking lot leasing companies and the like. Take the time to schedule these individuals, they will likely be the ones with the most contact with the installation team, have intimate knowledge of your facilities, and can make or break projects. If you're on a new construction project, be sure you ensure communication between your video system provider and the general contractor or the electrical contractor, whoever is overseeing the low-voltage installations at your job site.

Oftentimes video and more generally, security installing companies, do not get accounted for in the initial job planning. As a result, video and other low-voltage systems don't make it onto the job blueprints, instead joining the job while it is in progress. If this happens, be especially sure to coordinate schedules and facilitate communication between these groups.

When working with bidders, be sure to request line-item breakouts of labor and materials costs on your quotations. Separate breakouts will allow you to evaluate depreciation of equipment. Generally, installing companies will have three types of pricing options; lease, purchase, and third-party lease. As previously mentioned, camera systems will generally last well over ten years. Evaluate your building lease, likelihood of relocating and the like when deciding on a pricing option. Purchase options require large capital outlays. If you purchase your system, you'll have to evaluate taking a maintenance agreement, which are monthly payments to cover normal systems issues. Or, you can also request the installing company's time and materials (T&M) rate.

Some installing companies also honor their products' warranties. Be sure to request their warranty policies when you are requesting quotations; this can be a significant cost factor to side-by-side in evaluating quotations. If a product is covered under warranty for a year or more, you might not want to contract for a maintenance agreement prior to that expiration, especially if the installing company also covers labor costs during the warranty period. Lease options generally require a lower initial payment, with a higher monthly payment. Most lease options are probably better described as rentals, as you don't retain ownership of the system at the end of the lease period. This option may be good if you are likely to relocate, don't want to outlay a large amount of capital, and want to have full maintenance on your system. Third party leases are generally structured with lease to own options and the like. They also require very minimal initial payments, usually the equivalent of the first and last month's payments. Third party lease options usually have higher finance rates, and significantly increase the total cost of ownership over lease and purchase options for systems.

Lastly, when working with contractors there is a crucial aspect of CCTV systems that is frequently overlooked. When your contractor finishes installing your system, you'll generally be asked to sign-off on the installation, or certify it. This certification essentially is your agreement that the system is working as expected. This also means that you've just been handed a complex software and hardware platform and it's time to start using it every day. You will likely have questions, and need on-site assistance during this initial familiarizing period. Be sure to plan for this by writing in a few post-installation on-site technician visits (at your scheduling). During these visits cameras can be refocused or repositioned as needed, any complex system-level improvements to alarm functions, and the bandwidth and other functions can be improved. It's difficult to overemphasize the importance of support immediately following certification. Video systems that aren't attended to tend to function poorly, especially when an incident does occur and it's lost due to lack of ongoing interaction with the system.

Taken together, a solid understanding of the CCTV market and its effects on systems-level planning, along with common systems-level issues, provide a fundamental background for the successful implementation of video systems. Each of these individual and key areas mentioned throughout can be explored in depth for greater technical expertise, but a general awareness will greatly reduce costs and improve security through efficient system functionality. In this way, managing a video system implementation can be successful for end-users who have a wide berth of security responsibilities, and for those who work only infrequently with CCTV.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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