Digital technologies propel video doorphone R&D despite high costs as makers set sights on more advanced systems.Digitization trends are driving developments in China’s video doorphone industry. Manufacturers are stepping up to TCP/IP networking and home automation, exploring these technologies’ advantages to boost product performance and penetrate the high end.
Companies are likewise integrating digital signal processors, which together with Arm solutions, are replacing MCUs found in many midrange and upscale models. This shift is resulting in more powerful functions such as interactive GUIs, fire and intruder alarms, and smart home attributes. New processors also enable digital image and voice compression, transmission and local storage. Most midrange variants adopt the M-JPEG format, while premium ones use MPEG-4 or H.264.
Digital networking technologies CAN, LonWorks and TCP/IP are increasingly enabled in latest releases. These deliver larger bandwidth and longer operating range than RS-485. TCP/IP, in particular, is seen as one of the future mainstream communication protocols in this line. It simplifies network structure and reduces wiring equipment and installation costs by unifying traditional video, audio, data and control cables into one Cat 5 or fiber-optic type. Besides bigger bandwidth, it supports remote control over the Internet and expandability.
One major downside is the steep hardware cost, which is in fact hindering market expansion despite decreasing wiring outlay. IP-based units are usually twice as expensive as conventional video doorphones with similar specifications. While several suppliers, especially those with a strong R&D base, have begun work on such configurations, they admit pure IP models will take more time to gain a foothold.
Currently regarded as secondary products, these are typically installed in high-end residential buildings, and some midsize and small-scale apartments. The products use TCP/IP networking to connect all function modules, including the indoor unit, outdoor station and management host. To reduce total costs, most suppliers retain an analog interface to ensure compatibility with standard modules.
As part of companies’ transition to full IP variants, hybrid configurations are rising in supply. These are targeted at villa and apartment projects with different system capacity, and are also recommended for old structures due for an upgrade. The solutions retain the bulk of traditional architectures while introducing an IP converter in the trunk line. As most existing function modules are compatible with such a layout, overall costs are close to that of conventional frameworks, but with flexibility and ease of use as added advantages.
Home automation is another key R&D direction. Tier 1 enterprises such as Xiamen Genway Security Technology Development Co. Ltd and Competition Co. Ltd are integrating smart home capability into their releases. Some midsize makers, including Shenzhen Cnaec Tech Co. Ltd, have designed units with an interface reserved for future upgrades.
Basic models in this category pack an intruder detector, and a fire and gas leak alarm, and is capable of receiving information from the community center over the intranet. Mainstream ones adopt a Linux or Windows CE OS and TCP/IP transmission technology.
Controls for the lighting, home appliances, curtains, HVAC systems, the elevator and automatic meter reading are optional in high-end releases. Some companies bundle individual remote controllers. To differentiate products further, suppliers are integrating weather forecast, fire detection and intruder alarm capability. Together with digital networking and home automation, these upgrades are expected to help manufacturers penetrate the upscale categories and broaden market reach in the next few years.
The positive outlook is attracting new entrants, which is expected to intensify competition. The step up to automation is bringing in enterprises specializing in access control, video surveillance and intruder alarms. Additional players include local enterprises Dahua and foreign leaders Siemens, Honeywell, GE and Samsung. Makers from related security products industries are also expanding their portfolios to include video doorphones.
Besides traditional and IP configurations, products from China can be classified based on target use. Selections include villa and apartment types, and individual and network-ready models. The system capacity ranges from single indoor-outdoor stations to setups comprising dozens of the first and hundreds of the latter.
Mainstream products are equipped with a CMOS or CCD sensor with a resolution of 380 or 420 TVL. These have an infrared LED illuminator for night vision, a 3.5 to 7in color LCD screen and chord ring tones. Some entry-level items use a monochrome or color CRT screen.
Password authentication is the main identification method. RFID cards are optional.
Most suppliers offer modular designs that can be customized according to buyers’ specifications, from the external appearance and mold to the GUI and software. A few companies have turned to application-oriented product development, manufacturing video doorphones with optimized systems such as those used in correctional institutions and medical facilities.
A typical set includes several indoor and outdoor units, power supplies, electric locks and other fittings. Traditional analog releases generally have wires that contain one multipiece RVV cable with five or six pieces for signal control. Such configurations likewise incorporate an SYV-75 coaxial cable for video transmission and a 2-piece cable for the power supply. Some makers provide dual-cable solutions to cut wiring costs and simplify construction. Xiamen Genway, for example, offers a C-5 system that includes a Cat 5 and 2-piece cables for signal transmission and power supply, respectively.
The bulk of China exporters concentrate on models for villas. Standard releases in this category comprise one to eight outdoor stations and indoor units. Several suppliers include software development kits in their catalogs. Among the popular external designs are outdoor stations with a metal housing and keypad, and wall-mount indoor units with large LCD screens and touch controls.
Makers offer wired and cable-free versions. Models belonging to the latter use either analog or digital RF technology running on 1.8 or 2.4GHz. The effective range reaches 300m without obstructions. Only a few releases adopt Wi-Fi or ZigBee due to cost considerations.
Apartment-type video doorphones are more popular in the domestic market. The bulk of products are targeted at midsize or large-scale residential setups.
Mainstream network models usually adopt an EIA-485 bus. Latest releases, however, are increasingly migrating to CAN or LonWorks, which boast flexibility, reliability, convenient installation and easy maintenance.
Most suppliers update cosmetic designs several times a year. Buyers can also specify their requirements. Trends are pointing to glass or metal flat front panels, vivid colors, and high-resolution and wide LCD screens with touch controls.
Prices are mainly determined by the system structure and features. An individual villa-type outdoor station with a CMOS sensor is about $70, while a network outdoor station with a CCD sensor for an apartment reaches $150. A basic indoor unit with a CRT screen starts at $30, and a model with a 3.5 to 5in LCD is between $100 and $200. High-end indoor versions with digital processing exceed $300.
Product quotes are directly affected by climbing raw material costs and the appreciation of the yuan. Some interviewed companies are considering increasing prices accordingly.
NSK Shenzhen Control Technology Co. Ltd
Xiamen Genway Security Technology Development Co. Ltd
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.