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Looking Ahead at Digital CCTV? Look to the Past for Answers

Following the lessons that technological history provides begets three concepts to follow when considering digital CCTV systems. Education, forethought and prudence are necessary elements to making the right decision.




There is a world of electronic engineers, specification writers, manufacturers, distributors and salespeople out there who say the CCTV industry is in a position to go completely digital. There are still a few pitfalls to digital recording that everyone must be aware of. History provides lessons to any company looking to invest in this new technology.

Three concepts are most valuable when deciding whether to make a head-first jump into digital CCTV technology: education, forethought and prudence.

History Provides Technological Lessons

In the early 1980s, the banking industry made a change in its perception of surveillance. In a short period of time, the majority of banks jumped into time-lapse video recording for security purposes. The biggest consequence was that still images from videotapes had too much distortion and not high enough resolution for police use.

The lesson here is to not completely junk existing technology simply for the sake of using new technology.

In the late 1970s, Quadraphonic sound entered the stereo market. It gave the listener the ability to have stereo sound from four corners of the room at the same time. Within one year, the entire idea was dropped. It was too much trouble for the record industry, and there was not enough product demand.

However, about four years ago, a new technology called surround sound was widely adopted. Surround sound gives the listener the ability to have stereo sound from all four corners of a room.

The lesson learned here is to be careful of investing large money into a technology that is unproven.

To apply both of these lessons, dealers must educate themselves about the benefits of the technology, think ahead when deciding how to integrate digital technology, and be prudent when dealing with product manufacturers.

Educating Yourself About the Benefits of Digital CCTV

Educate yourself on what digital recorders offer that is not available on standard video tape recorders.

Digital storage and reproduction. Digital promotes accurate playback of color and detail.

Advanced search capabilities. Digital search capabilities make it easier to find archived information.

Smaller storage mediums. DAT tapes are about 1/5 the size of a VHS tape.

Built-in features and equipment. Many digital recorders include built-in multiplexers as part of their overall design.

Expandability. Many units are designed to expand with needs.

The difference between digital recorders and digital storage systems is that a storage system is made up of one or more “juke boxes,” an electronic device that gives the operator the ability to utilize multiple digital audio tapes in simultaneous functions.

Thinking Ahead About Digital Tech’s Limits

What do digital recorders offer that could be conceived as a disadvantage in the future?

There is no set standard for recorded digital information. Today, there are four different digital storage methods or formats.

Today’s digital recorders are event recorders only. These recorders should not to be considered real-time or even time-lapse units.

Resolution is a factor with new as well as old recording technologies. The average digital recorder on the market today offers 325 to 375 lines of resolution in event mode and up to 500 lines of resolution in movie mode.

Courtroom acceptability of video evidence. One potential problem facing digital recording is whether or not the recorded information will be accepted in court.

Being Prudent Can Assure Success

Be prudent when entering the market. If your application requires more than a recorder, look at a digital management and storage system. Prudence also includes staying with those manufacturers that you have long-term relationships with. Don’t be afraid to give the new kid on the block a try. But be smart about how much you are willing to invest with new companies. For the next couple of years, there will be a lot of competition. You can assume the long-term industry players will still be around.

Pierce is president of LRC Electronics and LTC Training Center in Davenport, Iowa. For more information, contact him at (800) 778-7920.

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