In an industry predicated on leading-edge technology, video surveillance is security’s belle of the ball insofar as sex appeal and innovation are concerned. Combine that with proven, reliable success in security and operational applications alike; reasonable price points and exponential growth; and an upside that’s off the charts. It’s no wonder video has been such a dominant phenomenon the past decade.
Video surveillance, or CCTV as it was referred to then, has captivated security dealers and their customers since VCRs were introduced in the 1970s and then became widespread during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the possibilities, features, applications and interest level began to skyrocket when DVRs hit the market around the turn of the century. The fascination with video has continued unabated with further developments such as IP-based systems, high definition images and sophisticated software.
Given its high visibility and unlimited potential to shape and redefine the marketplace, any assessment of what 2011 holds for the security industry would be remiss without a thorough examination of the latest video surveillance innovations. To find out, SSI interviewed experts from a dozen leading developers and suppliers of video products and solutions. What follows are their insights on exciting technologies such as megapixel cameras, HDcctv, video management systems, video analytics, night vision and many more.
Megapixel Provides More Details
Even casual observers have noticed the significant impact megapixel images and cameras have had on the video surveillance industry. High definition (HD) video (defined as a minimum resolution of 720 to 1,080 pixels) allows for better identification of subjects, requires fewer cameras to cover a given area, provides for specialized applications such as license plate recognition (LPR) and a host of others only now beginning to be realized.
“Once most end users have seen megapixel images, they want megapixel cameras for their system,” says Sara Scroggins, senior product marketing manager for Pelco by Schneider Electric. “That means successful integrators will have to know how to optimize networks for megapixel streams.”
According to SSI’s latest research, 31 percent of installations involving IP cameras now include megapixel models. However, successful deployment of megapixel cameras requires carefully balancing design elements such as network configuration, bandwidth, compression and frame rates, among other considerations.
“The greatest challenge is how to make these systems easy to install and consistent in their behavior, video quality, network performance, etc.,” says IQinVision President/CEO Pete DeAngelis. “At this point in time, these systems are too close to being ‘one-off’ with too much individual tweaking for every system. Variability in system performance in the form of networking and image quality/encoding requires a good deal of expertise.”
And these challenges are becoming both easier and more complex to deal with as resolutions continue to escalate with larger megapixel images. However, certain advances mitigate some of the aforementioned issues as well as the technology’s history of struggling with dimly lit scenes.
“Some of the most exciting developments are coming in the advancement of wide dynamic range imagers with megapixel resolution,” adds Scroggins. “These developments are being driven by advancement in CMOS imager technology. Historically, CMOS has not performed as well as CCD under low-light conditions.” DeAngelis, agrees, “There has been dramatic improvement in multi-megapixel CMOS sensor technology. We have reached the point where you do not have to sacrifice video quality for resolution anymore.”
HDcctv Allows Analog Upgrades
Although almost the entire high definition discussion in the surveillance realm has revolved around megapixel video, recently an alternative has surfaced. HDcctv is built on technology pioneered for broadcast television. It transmits video uncompressed and without being encapsulated in TCP/IP. HDcctv promises many of the benefits touted by megapixel IP cameras while permitting the use of conventional analog equipment.
“Some installers have stayed away from IP system applications because of the networking and bandwidth issues,” says Pat Lathouris, director of communications for Speco Technologies. “HDcctv now gives installers a high definition alternative to megapixel-quality IP cameras. HDcctv digital cameras deliver high speed digital video over standard coaxial cable and BNC connectors, giving installers a familiar platform.”
Reliance on coax, though, and its ability to typically transmit signals only 100 meters, is at the root of one of two leading challenges HDcctv faces in the marketplace. The other issue is limited product selection. However, according to Shaun Kim, director of CNB Technologies, those matters will soon be resolved.
“HD displays are readily available and HDcctv cameras are being developed by all the major camera manufacturers. Development of HDcctv DVRs has been slow, but that will change in 2011,” he says. “A lot of installed coaxial cables are not adequate for HD. Technologies are under development to maximize the transmission distance over copper cables, and the use of fiber optics is another option.”
Once a wider assortment of equipment becomes available and the cabling restriction is conquered, Kim predicts swift and significant HDcctv adoption across a variety of end customers.
“HDcctv systems will spread throughout the industry rapidly,” he says. “Facilities that demand high security will be the first targets — casinos, airports, power plants, etc. HDcctv can provide real-time high quality video in mission-critical facilities.”
Lenses Critical to Image Quality
With so much attention placed on HD cameras, NVRs, storage capacity and so on, a vital element sometimes lost in the shuffle is the need for precise and high quality optics. Much in the way a sound system is only as good as its speakers, surveillance images are critically reliant on lens choice.
“The clarity of the images is very important and also that of distortion, especially in the case of the wide-angle lenses,” says Chuck Westfall, technical advisor for Canon USA Super Imaging Group. “When I’m talking about clarity, I’m not just talking about the center of the image, but all the way out to the corners. This is something that tends to get overlooked.”
The emergence of megapixel cameras has only served to make any lens shortcomings more glaring than ever before. Yet the overriding quest continues to be both extending the capabilities of the human eye to see farther and a larger field of view, while also trying to replicate the ability to simultaneously focus on subjects in a scene both near and far away. As manufacturers like Canon continue to address these and other optic needs, making end users aware of such challenges helps keep expectations reasonable.
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