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Your One-stop IP Communications Shop


TMCnews Featured Article

January 15, 2008

Your One-stop IP Communications Shop

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

As businesses continue to adopt IP-based communications systems, they are finding there is much more to IP than just VoIP. Sure, telephony may be the most commonly deployed real-time IP communications application, but new variations of straight telephony are being introduced regularly.

One of the easiest ways for businesses to keep up with the latest available communications technologies is to deal with resellers that offer a wide selection of products from several vendors. According to Robert Messer (News - Alert), president and CEO of at ABP Tech in Dallas, Texas, an IP solutions distributor with a netwoprk of some 1,500 resellers under its wing, video is becoming a key factor in IP-based business solutions. That, in fact, is why he is so keen on promoting the IP video cameras ABP includes as part of its complete suite of IP Communications products, and the desire to be a one stop shop for his reseller commuinity is also why ABP has very recently added master agency agreements with SIP trunking and connectivity providers.
But back to video... Messer is not referring to merely video calling.  In fact, one of his favorite additions to the ABP product offering is a series of IP video surveillance cameras from Mobotix. He says the Mobotix line fits nicely into the IP world, not only because it adds a video component, but because it brings a series of intelligent devices that are able to enhance communications capabilities.

The cameras are SIP- based endpoints, which allow them to be easily integrated into other solutions offered by ABP — in fact, they are no different than the IP phones ABP provides other than having an advanced video codec. As Messer points out, this means the cameras can call you, or you can call them if need be. Now that’s innovation — talking to your video camera. Though perhaps it is nice to have someone, or something, to say good night to when you’re the last to leave the office.
In addition to incorporating voice technology, the cameras also include the latest video technology, including CMOS, which is considerably more resistant to backlight and provides higher video quality that most standard IP video cameras — up to 12 times the resolution, according to Messer. 
During a visit to ABP’s offices, TMC (News - Alert) was got a firsthand look at the video feeds from the Mobotix M12D camera and, indeed, they provide some of the clearest imaging available today.
These cameras from Mobotix are much more than an “eyeball on a wire,” as Messer refers to other video cameras; they are intelligent agents on your IP network. In addition to the HD quality they provide, the Mobotix cameras include all the intelligence businesses would normally require additional hardware for, like analog conversion equipment. The Mobotix devices have everything inside their weatherproof housing, which protects the devices in temperatures from -140 degrees F to 140 degrees F. It was the camera chosen for surveillance on the Panama Canal, in fact, because it was the only one the survived the test process and didn’t fail under weather conditions. They also work with standard Cat 5 cabling and draw the little power they require through POE.
Naturally, there are bandwidth concerns with video, but Mobotix is able to limit the bandwidth its devices consume by breaking down each image into a number of smaller units, and then sending only those units that have changed since the previous frame. This allows for the ability to capture all movement, while not requiring tying up bandwidth when nothing is happening.
In addition, the integrated audio capabilities allow for rules-based monitoring. For instance, during evening hours in a hotel lobby, loud noises might trigger a video feed from a camera to be placed on the viewing desktop, or the opening of the lobby door.
The cameras also include digital thermometers, which can enable safety rules. For instance, rising temperatures can suggest fires. Or the cameras have the capability to compare color differences between different carpeted areas to determine potential flooding situations. Or they can be set for license plate recognition in a driveway to identify people entering or exiting the premises. Any of these instances can then be set to trigger an alarm, or simply place the appropriate video feed on the monitoring screen.
The fact is, says Messer, these intelligent SIP endpoints allow for developers and resellers to be as creative as the want to be in creating solutions for customers.
They also replace a number of other external elements that are often required with other cameras, like the image sensor, CPU, software, and more — it’s all on board the Mobotix cameras. V12 CornerCam is also bulletproof, making it an ideal solution for banks and other similar facilities.
As expected, the cameras come with a slightly higher prices tag than their alternative solutions, but Messer says the all-in-one solution and the integrated high-quality audio make the 30% higher cost worth it for most customers.
However, because the Mx Control Center software is included with the hardware, the costs are limited to just the cameras. The software can be installed on users’ desktops and laptops anywhere, so monitoring can be done from anywhere, and can even interface with any number of video-capable mobile devices, like the iPhone (News - Alert).
In fact, despite the cost of individual cameras being higher, a Mobotix solution tends to be lower than traditional analog solutions because they require no peripheral equipment. For instance, Messer says 30 analog cameras can run as much as $76,000, while a 30-camera Mobotix system can be installed for just under $50,000.
By adding yet another component to its selection of IP communications solutions, ABP is evolving itself into what Messer says is his goal for the company — to become a one-stop shop for resellers. With several IP PBX solutions available — like pbxnsip (News - Alert) and SwitchVox — and a variety of VoIP phones — including snom and Pirelli Broadband — and now video devices to choose from, it seems to be well on its way to achieving that goal.
So, while, at first glance, you might think you’ve just boarded the Death Star when you first encounter one of these cameras — they bear a distinct resemblance to Darth Vader’s Stormtroopers — they provide ABP and its reseller community an advanced video surveillance solution that, because of its built-in intelligence, allows for adaptation for any number of environments with varying needs.
It’s just so powerful the things you can do with these,” says Messer. “It’s unbelievable.”
Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications (News - Alert).  Prior to joining TMC, he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask’s columnist page.
Mark your calendars! Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the first major IP communications event of the year — is just days away. It’s not too late to register for the event, which takes place in Miami Beach, FL, January 23–25, 2008. The EXPO will feature three valuable days of exhibits, conferences and networking that you won’t want to miss. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!
While at ITEXPO in Miami, be sure to stop by and visit ABP Tech at booth 212.

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