Making the Most of Megapixel Marvels

Find out how to select, apply and connect IP cameras, as well as store the data and build an infrastructure to support it all.

The three foremost general mission criteria used when choosing an IP camera include the following elements: identification of people and things, threat determination in real-time, and behavior analysis.

Where the identification of an individual(s) is necessary and the situation involves a single door with a camera placed above or nearby, a 720p or 1080p IP camera may do an adequate job. However, if the application requires identification of license plates, motor vehicle attributes or facial characteristics from any appreciable distance, then a megapixel camera is likely the best candidate.

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IP & Behavior Analytics

Behavioral analysis is becoming a significant part of the IP camera mission. Two good examples of where this relatively new technology is commonly used are airports and museums.

“Direction of movement is a relatively new analytical technology. For example, when you walk into a jetway to board a plane, everyone goes in one direction. Now, someone is going in another direction, and that raises a red flag in the camera surveillance system. A worker is understandable but anyone else isn’t,” says Roberto Testani of Honeywell Video Systems.

This technology is especially helpful in museums where the camera knows there’s a picture on a wall and that it should remain there. If someone happens to move it, or if they should deface it, the system will initiate an alarm.

Behavioral analysis, for example, will detect a package that someone has left behind. This is a common concern in public places, such as a busy city street or an airport.

“In the case of a suitcase, someone will put it down and they don’t touch it for a period of time. You can set a technology in the camera that will detect that a package hasn’t moved in a certain period of time – say five minutes. This triggers an alarm to someone telling them what the problem is,” says Testani.

Special processing of IP camera data also can help security determine when someone has sabotaged a camera when no one was watching. An example is where someone has gained physical access to a camera, moving it so the system no longer can monitor a specific location within its original field of view.

Behavior analysis also will detect when someone defocuses a camera so the resulting image is no longer discernible. This technology also makes it possible to detect when someone places an object over a camera’s lens to obscure the view.

Megapixel cameras are available from 1.3 to 5 megapixels. Larger megapixel imagers also are available, such as 8- to 16-megapixel cameras, the latter was released to the market in 2007. This camera produces a digital image of 4872 X 3248, which is more than two times larger than a 5-megapixel model. Clearly, bigger is better.

If the application involves threat determination, then most likely the end user will be monitoring the camera in real-time. Here, depending on the need for identification, a simple 720p or 1080p IP camera may also suffice. On the other hand, if identification of a perpetrator is required, then a megapixel camera may be required. Although IP cameras offer the best results, there are times when a high-resolution analog camera will do an adequate job without the huge price tag commonly incurred with megapixel technology.

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“I use the IP cameras for critical viewing jobs only. I still use way more analog than IP due to cost. It makes no sense to install an [expensive] IP camera in a [children’s] group home so it can be destroyed,” says Markowitz. “In addition, most of my customers do not want to spend the extra money for IP even though these cameras will see and do so much more.”

Placement and the field of view of an IP camera are also important. For example, if a single IP camera overlooks multiple points of interest, it may be possible to use a 3- or 5-megapixel camera with management software. This will enable real-time viewing as well as the recording of multiple points of

Real-time manipulation of specific areas of interest using the same camera is also possible using a pan/tilt mechanism and possibly a zoom lens. It’s also possible to view multiple locations within a single megapixel IP camera’s field of view in a number of video monitors while electronically panning, tilting and zooming in another without an actual pan/tilt mechanism. All of this is accomplished using camera management software.

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