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reasons why embedded CCTV

systems are better than PCs!

Salim Idris
Dedicated Micros Middle East
1. Philosophy

This is a Swiss Army pen-knife, a multi-function tool that

has sold in its millions. Incorporated into its convenient
format are a wide variety of instruments; knife, wrench,
scissors, corkscrew, even a device for removing stones from
horses hooves! Yet, despite it’s iconic success, you won’t
find one in any professional toolbox. The compromises
adopted to deliver it’s multi-faceted utility, are also it’s
downfall. It does a reasonable job at everything, but an
outstanding job at nothing!

A PC is also a multi-function tool. It’s a notepad, a diary, a

games console, a picture frame. Sometimes, it’s even a
CCTV digital video recorder (DVR). But just like the Swiss
Army pen-knife, it is inferior to the purpose designed

The next nine slides explain why a general purpose PC can

never match a Dedicated Micros DVR.
2. Real-time Multi-tasking

Your DVR needs to be able to perform the following

• Record multiple video streams to disk
• Analyse multiple cameras for video motion detection
• Monitor and respond to alarms
• Send domes to preset positions on alarm
• Make available multiple video streams for remote
viewing over a network
• Instantly respond to user controls
• Archive important footage
• Log events and other key activity
• etc…

And remember, all this has to be achieved in a real-time

environment. That is, the pictures just keep coming, and
just like the juggler and his clubs, the system cannot stall or
drop them.

PCs are just not designed for this level of relentless activity.
3. Reliability

Unfortunately, criminal behaviour is impossible to predict –

you never know when any incident is going to occur. That’s
why your security team has to be ever vigilant, and why
your CCTV equipment has to be “always-on” recording.

Manufacturers that try to build robust, real-time recorders

on a general purpose Windows platform are doomed to
failure. This configuration screen from a reputable,
branded PC-DVR manufacturer shows where the user is
asked to select the time of day that the machine will
automatically reboot to enable its “garbage collection”
routine. The restart occurs at the same time every 24 hours,
offering an obvious security loop-hole.

Other PC vendors suffer from the same symptoms, though

few are honest enough to highlight such a crude solution.

Dedicated Micros DVRs are designed to operate

continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
4. Remote Viewing,
& Core Recording

All DVRs sold today, including those from Dedicated

Micros, are able to use PCs as remote viewing terminals.
Similarly, some related security applications, such as access
control and intelligent video analysis packages, also run on
PCs. Why then, are PCs regarded as such bad news?

It is important to draw a distinction between viewing

applications, and core recording functionality. If a PC
viewer crashes it is inconvenient, but at least it can be
rebooted and incidents can be subsequently investigated.

However, if the PC-DVR itself fails, then recording stops,

and potentially crucial information is lost forever.

Dedicated Micros offers a range of software development

tools to facilitate integration with PC applications, but all
DM recording devices are based on real-time embedded
5. User Interface Design

PCs are predominantly designed for text based operations,

driven through a QWERTY keyboard and a mouse. Sure,
there are some non-text functions that can be driven this
way, such as playing CDs or DVDs, but these are largely
passive activities. When it comes to real-time interaction
with an application, the traditional accessories are
decidedly limited. Don’t believe it, then ask any hardcore
gamer if he would swap his PS2 or X-box controller for a

The same is true for CCTV systems. If you are a casual user
who wants to look at a camera every now and again, then a
PC viewing interface is fine. But if you are a security
professional, responsible for the safety of the general
public, and you regularly need to track suspicious
behaviour around a town centre, then you will want the
ergonomic effectiveness of a purpose-built PTZ controller.
6. Electronic Security

“W32.Mydoom virus flooded the internet with more than

100 million infected e-mails in its first 36 hours!”
Source: F-Secure

A PC-based CCTV system is susceptible to virus attack just

like any PC in the organisation.

In fact, they can be even more susceptible! Firstly, some

DVR manufacturers try to hide their machine’s PC
heritage, meaning that the IT department may not install
the appropriate anti-virus software.

Secondly, loading a heavy-weight virus protection suite to a

PC-DVR can seriously limit the machine’s performance,
making it less capable of recording at peak rate during an
alarm, for example.

Since Dedicated Micros DVRs use a non-Windows,

embedded operating system, they are immune from PC
7. Operational Effectiveness

There is more to effective security than reliable equipment.

Top quality CCTV images are useless if the security staff’s
attention is elsewhere.

And a PC-based CCTV system is a box of toys to a bored

guard in the middle of the night shift. Computer games, the
Internet, even DVD movies are popular options.

A Dedicated Micros DVR offers no such distractions. The

user remains focussed on the job in hand, and the facility is
better protected as a result.
8. Beware “Specmanship”

Some PC-DVR vendors cite impressive performance “There are three kinds of lies:
statistics. But it is important to look beyond the hype, and lies, damned lies, and
ensure that your system will do the job you want it to do.
For example, companies who claim record rates of 400+
pictures per second often do not tell you that these are based
on recording low resolution images, yielding poor picture
quality on playback.

Similarly, some vendors argue that their products can cram

multiple months of CCTV footage on to a small hard drive.
But they fail to mention that to achieve this they have to
configure the machine for unrealistic resolution, frame rate
and compression settings.

Perhaps a more relevant statistic is that Dedicated Micros

equipment records in excess of 7,000,000 evidential-quality
images every second, across some of the world’s most
prestigious CCTV security installations. Source: Benjamin Disraeli
9. Total Cost of Ownership

At first glance, some PC-DVRs can look remarkably cheap.

But the headline price is not the whole story and, as with
most purchases, the least expensive option is rarely the best

It is important to consider the “total cost of ownership” of

your CCTV system, taking into account the extras
associated with:
• Prolonged installation and configuration
• Training and re-training of operatives
• Missed events
• System down-time
• False alarm reporting
• Repair charges
• Additional software costs
• Support contracts

Dedicated Micros’ DVRs work “out of the box”. Connect

the cameras, the monitor and the power, and you have a
reliable system, with no hidden costs.
10. Inevitable Technology Trends

Today’s PCs are powerful enough to replace many items

around the home; CD Players, DVD Players, Televisions,
Set-top Boxes and Games Consoles, to name but a few. But
many households still have all of these things – Why?

During the industrial revolution, whole workshops were

powered by one large, expensive engine using complicated
networks of belts and gears. But then, smaller, more
reliable devices were developed, and soon each machine
had its own source of power.

The first microprocessors were built into mainframes, and

shared between thousands of users. Now there is a silicon
chip in every TV, watch and washing machine.

As technology becomes cost effective, it stops being shared

and is replicated across multiple, purpose-built products.
The PC used to be the only option to store digital data. Now,
embedded systems are the preferred option. From Sky+ and
X-box, to iPOD and your Dedicated Micros DVR!