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Beware of Multi-Vendor Video System Design

January 22, 2021

You may think you are keeping costs down by sourcing individual system components for an end-to-end video system from different vendors, but the costs associated with system integration and installation can often deteriorate any initial savings realized and also increase program risk and schedule delays. 

Multi-vendor video system integration can increase costs, risks, and scheduling delays

Ballooning Non-Recurring Engineering Costs

Choosing the least expensive video system components that meet your requirements for a complete system design, then requiring vendors to make them work together will increase the cost of non-recurring engineering (NRE) that is required to interoperate the individual components.  Not included in the product price, NRE is often required to ensure the data exchanges between the components (a video recorder and display, for example) and cybersecurity certificates work together on a system level. The integration of just two components can quadruple the NRE costs, which become exponentially inflated when more components are brought into the system.

The cost of NRE isn’t the only issue, it’s also the time required to ensure the system-level components work together.  Just recently we were chosen to provide one of three video system components.  Due to challenges outside of our control, the commitment by the customer to use three different suppliers to create the complete video system delayed their schedule by six months, from the outset, to ensure system interoperability.  Ultimately the program was canceled, and we can only assume it was due to this, and other delays caused by a multi-vendor approach.

The Program Management Headache

When you have too many cooks in the kitchen and the dish gets ruined, people start blaming each other.  This also happens when multiple vendors are working together to get a system up and running and they are confronted with scheduling delays or difficult integration issues.  No one wants to take responsibility and the endless communication that is required, often across time zones, only adds to scheduling slippage and can often damage relationships with vendors and customers. 

Once a system is deemed functional the issues don’t end.  Every task, from dealing with multiple contracts and invoices to scheduling deployments, coordinating configuration changes, and managing component obsolescence and future upgrades involves multiple different companies and, often, multiple teams within those companies. Over the life of a platform, multi-vendor system management can add delays, risk, and cost to every aspect of the program.

System Performance Takes a Hit

When creating a system from different components from multiple vendors, often you don’t know until integration starts what cabling and adaptors are needed to make the components work together. When installation is required on a space-constrained vehicle, even the smallest increase in system size, weight, and power (SWaP) can have a large negative effect on the performance of other systems on the platform. Furthermore, the complexity of the installation increases maintenance and upgrade difficulty, especially if cables or adaptors need replacing.  

When it comes to video, reducing latency is critical to ensuring operators receive vital visual information in as close to real-time as possible, ultimately reducing risk for personnel in ground and air platforms.  The key to reducing end-to-end latency in a video system is to reduce latency in each video system component. However, even when individual video system components are selected for their low latency specifications, they may not be able to achieve those specifications when integrated with other vendors’ components. Physical and software adapters, complex cabling, and inconsistent performance across multivendor system components can all increase latency and reduce system-level performance.

Download our white paper, The Hidden Costs of Video System Integration, to learn more the risks to program costs and schedule when using a multi-vendor approach to system design.

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