Public Sector & Education • Business & Enterprise • Home Security
Milestone’s XProtect video management software remains the market leading package for video surveillance and it’s a product that we at NW both sell and use and don’t hesitate to recommend as the go-to platform for video surveillance and recording.
XProtect’s underlying performance and feature-set has always been good (they’ve been developing XProtect now for 15 years or so), but the 2016 variants bring some welcome improvements in performance for the end user, for the operator and for the integrator.
XProtect 2016 brings performance improvements under the hood, mostly in the Smart Client but there are some performance gains within the recording server too. The Smart Client now supports hardware acceleration and enabling this on a PC which supports it makes a huge difference to image processing in live view and playback, meaning that more cameras at higher resolution can be viewed live. Other VMSs have had this capability for some time, but Milestone’s direct tie-in with Intel means that its hardware decoding is among the best there is.
What this additionally means is that as demand for higher resolution (1080p, 4K and above) grows, the Smart Client will maintain a suitable performance level, allowing more high resolution cameras at higher frame rates to be viewed at the same time. Or, save money and use fewer workstations for the same tasks.
Note: correctly specifying the PC hardware to run the viewing client is an enormously important factor in the use of any VMS and we vigorously recommend spending time to get this right
The benefits of hardware decoding are seen when the Smart Client is run on Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 and you should ensure that Intel drivers are up-to-date and the PC processor supports ‘Intel Quick Sync’. This Intel Graphics Technology decodes video streams on the CPU before they’re sent to the graphics card for rendering to screen, speeding up image processing.
In some cases a further BIOS settings change can increase performance significantly as well (increase memory used for display purposes to 512MB for instance).
The video below demonstrates the improvements quite well:
Milestone claim a more than 80% increase in performance over previous versions of the Smart Client, given the correct PC spec, but we have yet to see a performance jump this high.
One further extremely helpful new facility within Smart Client is that logging overlays are now available for investigating live video performance issues. When investigating video performance problems, this is invaluable.
We’re pleased to see this has now been implemented because it makes managing a system which is filling up on the storage side, or underperforming much easier. This can also be done on the fly in runtime and the move is performed without interruption to the live video feed. All recordings remain on the old recording server when a camera is moved, but new recordings are stored with the new recording server. The process of playback over the join is seamless.
Operators can now set up preset views and patrols directly from within the Smart Client. Previously this was done through the management/admin clients and this made it difficult to give operators and end users the amount of control they may need, especially with Expert and Corporate where administration and use are more separated.
Smart Wall (free with Corporate, paid for in Expert – no support in other versions) has seen some performance improvements but the most useful change is that any kind of content can now be used in Smart Wall and pushed to views as you would push a camera or layout. This includes text (such as warning messages), alarms, bookmarks and pretty much anything else. This is a very useful tool for multi-screen control rooms.
The Milestone Web Client has seen a complete redesign and major performance improvements and is finally a useful alternative to the Smart Client. In thin client environments such as Citrix (often used by larger organisations), this will make a real difference.
In the mobile client it’s now possible to view video with alarms and react immediately to video events. Previously this was a fairly cumbersome process with video being ‘pushed’ to the app.
This new Smart Connect feature (requires CarePlus) is DDNS for Milestone. Provided a system is connected to the internet and uPnP is enabled on the router then Milestone can connect out to Milestone’s notifications cloud and keep a connection alive, providing a channel for those rapid alerts.
Mobile users can be created via an ‘invite’ with a link to the mobile app download and if the site’s external IP address changes, the mobile user won’t notice. This is most useful for home users who will have uPnP on their router, but can also be utilised without uPnP. However, this is http only. The connection is text data only – video always comes ‘locally’ and securely.
This is a ground-breaking development, turning Milestone XProtect into an encoder of sorts, allowing other VMS or ONVIF (Profiles G + S) platforms to ingest video and support playback of footage. This can be useful for multi-vendor installations and will provide alarm receiving centres with a seamless way to integrate with Milestone’s alarms, cameras and video. Whether this gains traction remains to be seen, but it has real potential to be a disruptor, we think.
Finally, another feature of note in XProtect 2016 (Expert and Corporate only) is the revised system monitor. System monitor can now be calibrated with some flexibility as to when warnings and alerts are generated. Rules can then be set on these alert levels in a much more granular manner.
2016 is a fairly big leap after some challenges with the early 2014 versions. These changes, plus other improvements such as backwards compatibility between recording servers, improved incident handling within Smart Client, better access control and point of sale integration and a more streamlined trial and licensing experience will ensure that Milestone XProtect continues to be our go-to Video Management Software.