Interfaces, Integration and Interoperability
Inter-system Communication More Important than Ever
If you are only interested in a stand-alone CCTV system for screening and recording video - full stop - then this article is probably not for you. However, most CCTV users these days want much more for their money. Many want their video system to communicate with other security, management and technical systems, to form an integral part of a multifunctional system which supports staff and contributes to the organisation's physical and financial well-being in as many ways as possible.
Even those CCTV users whose focus is limited to security, also recognise that a comprehensive security solution which has all its sub-systems, including CCTV, linked together transparently and intelligently, offers considerable added value. It fulfils individual needs better; is easier to use and more manageable. It presents relevant information quickly in a readily understood form - particularly important when handling alarms or critical situations. And, by allowing the user to concentrate on the current situation rather than the technology, it promotes better management of events and hence better security.
Achieving inter-system communication and interoperability requires interfaces to act as simultaneous interpreters, to convert the coding used by CCTV equipment into the coding used by other systems, be they access control, building management, ATMs, or computerised payment systems - and vice-versa. However, the standard of service offered by interfaces can vary. Code conversion may be limited to the translation of just a basic range of coding which supports only a basic range of functions, or it can be extensive and sophisticated enough to support the full capabilities of the systems involved. It depends on the philosophy of the CCTV manufacturer as to what he includes as standard, whether he charges for its provision, and whether he offers additional help in dealing with additional individual project requirements. Where the CCTV manufacturer does not have a free interface, SDK and developer support policy, there can be significant extra costs involved in achieving the desired level of system integration.
The SDK or software development kit is a set of tools which enables a software developer to develop individual applications for a particular device or system.
Besides the relevant software interface, the SDK usually provides source code examples with supporting technical documentation. It may also include a full digital test environment - a virtual device enabling the developer to test out his new software for a limited period.
Developing interfaces and SDKs to enable their products to communicate with third party devices and systems is an expensive business, and consequently many manufacturers charge for this work. Others see facilitating integration as part of a broader marketing strategy, in which the provision of free SDKs along with free assistance to outside developers enables higher levels of integration, greater customer satisfaction and long term customer loyalty. So when choosing a CCTV system supplier be sure to think about your current or future need for integrated functionality and check out the supplier's interface policy. That can avoid surprises and significant costs later in the project.