Analyze This!

The security industry has been captivated by video analytics technology and its capabilities for more than a decade. Until its introduction there were few solutions on the market, if any, that provided an intelligent way to analyze video and quickly transmit an event alert. 

Video analytics brought to the market significant improvements in automating security surveillance and, therefore, has been touted as a revolutionary monitoring tool. Security guards could receive an immediate alert to an event thanks to a technology that could visually detect an intruder and then track that individual as it entered a facility.

But for years this breakthrough technology proved complicated and unwieldy. The market saw it as relevant only for the most secure and high-budget locations — homeland security applications such as airports, seaports, nuclear power facilities and military bases. To many installers, video analytics seemed feasible only for the biggest of players — those systems integrators with IT expertise and hours of training and knowledge about the intricate details of how to configure video analytics systems that operated with multiple surveillance cameras.

However, during the past few years, the once fledgling video analytics paradigm has developed into a far more inclusive proposition. A solution once considered complicated and out of reach for the average systems integrator has begun to migrate toward the mainstream security market. The advent of new video analytics solutions, such as standalone digital signal processing (DSP)-based appliances and Internet protocol (IP) cameras with built-in analytics, are making intelligent video accessible to a broader audience.

Sophisticated Designs, Installations Once Considered Too Big a Hassle
For installers, implementing video analytics used to be a tedious undertaking. To configure a single surveillance camera with video analytics could easily take a day or more to complete. It required installing software on a server, an IP network and, frequently, custom configuration for each camera within the surveillance network. Some systems even required certification of specific cameras to ensure specific models could integrate with the analytics system.

To top it off, many systems on the market required a manufacturer-provided technician to be onsite to assist with implementing the solution from start to finish. It was not uncommon for some video analytics solutions to require a dozen hours of a field engineer’s time per camera, guaranteeing that only experts install and fine-tune the intelligent video software. It was simply too complicated for the average security installer to master. As a result, many installers shied away from adding the service to their portfolio.

These solutions often proved expensive as well. Not all video analytics systems worked with existing camera systems; to ensure the system worked properly, camera upgrades were a common requirement. Adding to the expense of software-based video analytics was the need for patches for each analytic rule — if an end user sought a solution with unattended baggage and intrusion detection capabilities, each feature came from an à la carte menu of items with an additional cost for each one. 

On the end-user side, the need for custom configuration might have done little to deter government and military agencies from deploying video analytics, since such markets are often flush with financial resources. However, mainstream markets such as the retail, education and corporate sectors, rarely have this luxury and often will seek out security solutions that are easy to deploy and more economically feasible. 

Research Report: Growth Projected for DSP-Based Devices
To solve the notion that systems are too complicated and expensive to deploy, video analytics solution providers have turned to DSP-based appliances in lieu of software to serve as the backbone for newly developed video analytics solutions. Research shows that DSP-based appliances are a growing segment of the video analytics market. IMS Research, in a recent report, noted the video analytics market took a huge technological leap forward because DSP technology now enables video content analysis algorithms to be embedded into field devices, such as cameras and encoders. DVRs have been added to that list and there is the likelihood other security devices will also contain this technology in the near future. In the past year, several security companies have introduced appliance-based video analytics solutions, such as encoders, decoders and IP cameras. By 2010, IMS Research predicts that the shipment of network cameras with embedded video content analysis will exceed 800,000 units. Overall, the intelligent video devices market is expected to flourish worldwide during the next five years, according to the research. 

In Frost & Sullivan’s “World Video Analytics Market” report, published September 2006, the research firm credits the growth of the video analytics market to the constantly evolving surveillance market. The report says video analytics is now available for high-end as well as midrange and small applications. Frost & Sullivan notes in the report that while video analytics was developed originally for the military, it is now finding use in “diverse sectors such as retail, banking, transportation, gaming and education among others.” 

DSP Offers Fully-Embedded, Simple-to-Install Solutions
So what exactly is DSP? In layman’s terms, the technology filters and converts analog signals into a digital format (see side bar on page 66). The output is then converted back to analog form using a digital-to-analog converter. Simply, DSP-based appliances take the analytics function out to the edge of the network. When embedded in security devices, taking video analytics to the edge eliminates loading transmission of image-processing data, latency, bandwidth consumption and system instability. 

The DSP counterpart — software solutions on a network — often require one server for every four to eight cameras. That means a minimum of 12 servers for a location with 100 camera channels. These types of systems require an entire IT room, special PCs with enormous amounts of memory and multiple components to certify, integrate and maintain.

Embedding the analytics processing onto the DSP prevents tight coupling of multiple system components and servers, and enables the DSP-based appliance to operate as a standalone without requiring further PC-based processing. With this type of self-contained video analytic device, DSP turns a once complicated solution into an adaptable plug-‘n’-play system.

Installers can connect an edge device to a camera, configure it on the network, establish analysis rules and have the system operating in a matter of minutes. DSP-based appliances are also small, self-contained devices with the ability to distribute analytics processing at the point of capture — namely, very near the camera. There is no need for separate patch software for each analytics application, separate encoders, high-powered PCs or a dedicated server room with racks and racks of servers. 

These self-contained intelligent video-edge devices offer high performance and an architecture that is better than PC- and software-based intelligent video systems. For these reasons, the security market has begun to recognize these technological changes that now make it easier than ever to implement a video analytics solution.

Beyond nuclear facilities and airports, the security market has started to see universities and even car dealerships implement video analytic solutions. A few years ago, the institutional and the retail vertical markets would be less likely to view video analytics as an economically feasible security tool were it not for
intelligent video edge devices.

The interest in video analytics holds true for systems integrators who are not only taking notice of this solution, but are now called upon for actual implementation. Since edge devices do not require hours of technical training, installers are more willing to consider and are interested in adding video analytic devices as a solution for their clients. And because IP cameras and encoders with built-in video analytics are now sold through distribution channels, the market is embracing intelligent video as a true of the- shelf solution similar to other traditional security devices.

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