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It's Big Blue Brother as IBM enters video surveillance fray

Looking to cash in on the security boom, IBM is to offer digital video surveillance and security services.

The new services are designed to help companies make a transition from older, videotape-based surveillance systems to IP-based surveillance networks, IBM said.

As opposed to analog video equipment, digital video makes possible new, more flexible systems that can store images electronically while communicating with the rest of an organisation's IT and security infrastructure such as badge readers and intrusion detection systems, IBM said.

IBM will be offering consulting, system design and integration services, as well as hardware and software installation and maintenance.

Switching from videotape to IP-based surveillance also enables company to add intelligence to the images captured by the digital video cameras, according to IBM.

For example, customers could deploy systems that recognise a brandished weapon or suspicious movements in a customs line, or allow security professionals to index and quickly review the faces of all individuals who used a particular entrance to a building, IBM said.

In addition to its consulting expertise, IBM plans to tie a variety of products in to its digital video surveillance offerings, including the company's eServer servers, WebSphere application servers, storage systems and Tivoli storage management software, it said.

IBM will also work with a number of independent software vendors (ISVs) that make digital video surveillance products, said Amy Lipton, marketing executive for IBM's global digital media services group.

"This is a huge opportunity in the services area, the software area, the content management area, as well as in the storage area and the server area," said Lipton.

The retail sector as well as transportation, travel and government customers are all areas where IBM sees demand for digital video surveillance technology solutions. IBM is predicting the market for digital video surveillance will reach $5bn (£3bn) by 2005.

One example of the types of projects that IBM will undertake with the new service is National Car Parks (NCP), which has installed more than 400 digital video cameras in its commercial parking lots that can be monitored from a single control room, according to Lipton.

By centralising management of the cameras, NCP has been able to increase its hours and staffing during crucial periods, Lipton said.

In making its move into digital video surveillance, IBM will be competing in a market populated by specialised small and mid-sized companies, according to Lipton.

"It's an emerging market, but it's emerging rapidly," said Lou Latham, a research analyst at Gartner Inc.

Accordingly Big Blue is showing an uncharacteristic pluck in entering the surveillance market.

"IBM is known for being conservative -- moving into a market when it's more mature. With video surveillance they've been more aggressive than usual about getting out in front of the curve," Latham said.


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