Big Blue eyes video and security integration

Hoping to tap the burgeoning market for digital video surveillance, IBM Corp. on Tuesday rolled out new consulting, integration, and deployment services aimed at the government, travel, and transportation markets.

The new services include consulting, system design, hardware and software installation, and the integration of digital video systems into existing IT system architectures. IBM officials said it will work with the suppliers of video camera systems to deliver a range of soup-to-nuts solutions involving all of the new services.

According to IBM executives, users are finding it increasingly difficult to battle the built-in limitations and cost of analog videotape-based surveillance systems. They note that tape-based systems need a video recorder for each camera in order to maintain a visual record. In addition, picture quality tends to diminish as the tapes wear out and it is often time-consuming to search through tapes.

“We don’t get into businesses lightly. Customers are asking for this,” said Mike Maas, vice-president of marketing for IBM Communications Sector in Armonk, N.Y. “We’re increasingly seeing a convergence in the market of IT security…with physical security and the need for tying it all that together in an end-to-end comprehensive system.”

Maas noted that Tuesday’s announcement is essentially an extension of moves Big Blue has been making in the digital media space. He said IBM plans to use services to push digital convergence into business functions, such as better management of large archives of video data and bolstered transportation of materials over the Internet.

A big concern, IBM officials claim, is that existing tape-based systems are rarely integrated with a company’s other security technologies, such as badge readers and intrusion detection systems.

Among the technical advantages of digital-based systems, according to IBM officials, is their added flexibility because they can store information electronically; transmit instantly to police digital images of a crime in progress; be programmed to automatically pick up irregularities such as someone holding a weapon; create a searchable index of digital images that allows authorized users to display everyone who passed by a location on a specific day; and can use an IP network to transmit images and data.

“It’s an immediate need for a lot of folks, mission critical for some folks, and extremely expensive to implement in the traditional way,” said Lou Latham, research analyst for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. “People don’t realize the volume of content that builds up over time is considerable, because you have to have archives going back every minute as long as you can store. The content management aspect of it can be considerable.”

According to the Gartner analyst, the movement of surveillance onto the network is not only more efficient but also expands functionality and enables easier implementation, particularly on the server side for search and motion detection and triggering alarms. Latham said IBM’s new services could play a vital role in the future surrounding retail environments, protection of public areas, construction sites, and ATMs.

“It puts expanded security capability into the hands of folks and makes it possible in a lot of situations where you would need a lot of infrastructure upgrades to do it in a conventional way,” Latham remarked.

The various solutions that IBM video-camera suppliers piece together will involve a number of IBM’s existing products, including its Content Manager, Tivoli storage management products, WebSphere application server, and its eServer line of hardware.

According to the JP Freeman 2001, the closed circuit television and video surveillance market will generate some US$1.6 billion in revenue by the end of 2005. IBM officials said they expect that industry’s services revenue to be approximately US$4.8 billion, or three times the revenue generated by products.

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