Experts Tell Which Video Innovations Are for Real

New video surveillance products and solutions are often touted as having a game-changing influence on the market, leaving security integrators and end users to sort out fact from fiction. SSI queried industry experts to highlight several technologies whose time really has come.


Today’s various applications can range from the basic to the advanced and include analytics that detect the deviant (motion detection, tripwire); improve business operations (people counting, dwell times); increase the value of surveillance (auto p/t/z tracking, tampering alarms); and intelligently search recorded data.

Prior to installation, Nilsson advises, always make sure the end user fully understands the percent accuracy of the analytic application that is being recommended. For example, if you’re working in an airport on a mission-critical application, 95-percent accuracy is not good enough.

Be sure to select cameras with high image quality and exceptional processing power for optimal results. About 60 to 70 percent of effective analytics today can run inside the camera, or “at the edge,” which will increase the scalability of the customer’s system by reducing the need for additional servers or power. And as processing power increases according to Moore’s Law—which states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 24 months—this percentage will only increase.

Another important message to deliver to a potential customer: Video analytics, long considered a cost center, now has the potential for creating an actual return on investment (ROI) for a company, according to Jim Talbot, CEO of Ionit, a provider of digital video solutions.

“Video analytics is sometimes viewed as a purchase add-on. However, it’s more than just the integration of traditional video surveillance systems with video analytics software. Today’s systems gather information from multiple sensors,” Talbot says.

Understanding shopper behavior in stores, for example, is paramount to retailers improving operations and increasing sales and profits. Video-ce
ntric business intelligence systems can provide permanent, verifiable data for analyzing customers’ in-store experience. The systems correlate customer traffic counts with point-of-service (POS) data and other sensors such as radio frequency identification (RFID), shelf-monitoring systems to report conversion rates per shopper (how many people are entering vs. how many people are actually buying) and by individual SKUs. 

“It is cheaper, more reliable and provides longer-term data than surveys or simple compilations of merchandise purchase statistics,” Talbot says.   

Evolving From VHS to SDXC

Even as the antiquated VHS cassette still remains in use to record security-related events, a sea change in storage technologies has occurred since the time tape was king. From DVRs, NVRs and hybrid devices, to server-based solutions and IP-based storage area networks (SANs) that connect multiple servers to a centralized pool of disk storage, seemingly there’s a recording platform to fit any requirement.

Among the recent developments in video surveillance storage is the use of solid-state drives (SSD), which allow video data to be stored onboard the camera. Also known as flash drives—the most common of which is the Secure Digital (SD) memory card—consumers commonly use these removable storage cards in camcorders, cell phones, MP3 players and the like.

In the past few years, many IP camera providers have begun to offer onboard storage capability with SD cards. Ever-increasing memory card capacity and compression standards such as H.264 are helping fuel wider adoption.

“SD cards are a valuable backup tool. It should be employed not as redundancy, but as a backup tool, which is especially useful when relying solely on a network in the event of a failure,” says Ken Jones, director of strategic accounts for Hikvision-USA.

Standalone IP cameras outfitted with the removable storage—normally with 16GB or 32GB Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) cards—are able to record a few days of footage inside the camera. Typically these models are geared toward applications such as small office settings or retail shops.

Notably, in 2009 the Secure Digital Association, which develops and publishes technical standards for SD card technology, released a new specification for the cards called Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC).

This next-generation SDXC memory card specification increases storage capacity up to 2TB. Although it could be five or more years before 1TB or 2TB SDXC cards hit the security industry, 64GB and 128GB SDXC cards are expected to provide viable onboard storage options in a far shorter time frame.

The greatly increased memory capability of SDXC cards clears the way for new opportunities to provide video surveillance at sites that are otherwise not conducive for installing servers and other recording platform infrastructure.

Nonetheless, as with the adoption of most technologies, there are various limitations that must be considered. Namely, video management systems (VMS) for the most part do not currently support data transfers from SD cards, although VMS providers such as Milestone Systems are developing this functionality.

Emblematic of technology’s sometimes “game-changing” evolution, higher performance network cameras and greater memory capacity offered by SDXC cards has some industry pundits foretelling the demise of today’s centralized storage. The suggestion here is that storing video at the edge will offer end users greater surveillance flexibility. Case in point: An organization could install freestanding cameras throughout its facility without increasing its existing centralized storage capacity.

Of course, a scenario in which centralized storage is widely deemphasized has its detractors.

“There is going to be a lot of benefit from having more processing power in the cameras and having the capability for local storage. However, it’s very difficult to see how users will benefit from the centralized management function going away,” says Eric Fullerton, chief sales and marketing officer for Milestone Systems.

As video surveillance systems become more and more integrated with access control, building management and other systems, it is going to be a benefit to have a powerful end point, Fullerton explains. “There is going to need to be a centralized management function and storage of all of this information.”

About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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