September 22, 2008

Technology Advances Accelerate Adoption Of IP-Based Surveillance & Security Systems

By Cynthia Freschi
September 22, 2008

It wasn’t very long ago that some in the industry were forecasting that IP video surveillance systems would be a long time in gaining ground over traditional analog video surveillance systems. Initial forecasts placed IP systems growing at the rate of roughly 5% a year. Although formal statistics are very hard to ascertain for security industry related businesses, this growth prediction seems rather low given the sheer number of systems being specified with some IP component. And aside from the edge devices used to actually capture, record and view images, the many influencers driving the growth of IP based video surveillance systems are also foreign to most security professionals as they derive from industries with core expertise in IT – not physical security.

From a security industry perspective, many of the new video surveillance systems products introduced over the last 18 months have been developed with security objectives and concerns in mind while incorporating functionality designed to meet IT requirements. Specific examples include megapixel cameras, control software and a whole slew of processing devices that enable hybrid systems.

One specific new development driven by camera manufacturers is H.264 compression. Something not new in technology circles, H.264 has been adapted to improve the bandwidth consumption of megapixel cameras making them more practical for security applications. H.264 compression dramatically reduces the bandwidth and recording capacity requirements in some cases by multiples in the double digits. This can best lend itself to video surveillance applications on a network platform where bandwidth may be limited or for newer system installations which may contain large numbers of megapixel cameras.

Another technology development that has helped expand this segment of the market is the high efficiency of IP megapixel cameras. From a practical standpoint, they are easier to install using PoE (Power over Ethernet) and the system can be readily expanded as needs change. It is also much easier to relocate cameras by simply tapping into an existing LAN at any point. From a purpose-driven standpoint though, megapixel cameras and their high performance characteristics provide volumes of detailed video data that allows video analytic middleware to perform more complex operations with greatly expanded policy-driven features. And, these high performance cameras can be deployed for general surveillance applications where the benefits of the more advanced video analytics and push technology can be readily achieved.

By way of explanation, video analytics moves video surveillance systems beyond basic security monitoring by having the ability to only push video to monitors when an actual event occurs or when a specific alarm is triggered within the system. In other words, video analytics is a proactive rather than reactive system which can anticipate and/or predict actions and thereby take the system to a higher and more productive level. Content analytics can be applied to both live and recorded video, with multiple detectors and unlimited detection rules per camera, as well as offering interoperability with analytics on edge devices. Some examples where video analytics is being employed include perimeter protection, abandoned objects, license plate recognition, retail applications (people counting/line queue analysis) and facial recognition.

In a related area, the video analytics and push technology will greatly reduce the number of video displays required to monitor large scale systems, the number of personnel required to monitor the displays, and the server/recorder capacities needed to record all pertinent action in real-time at full frame rates. These are all contributing factors to further reducing the total cost of ownership for networked systems and incentives to deploy IP-based systems.

Along with high performance megapixel cameras, video analytics and push technology, the other significant reason for the increase in acceptance of networked systems is that of improved software-driven IP video surveillance management and control systems. These sophisticated programs also allow powerful, mission-specific third party applications such as access control, fire panels, alarm and sensor controls, POS (Point of Sale) systems, visitor management systems and the like to be controlled from a single operating platform, along with the IP video surveillance. The result is a comprehensive, enterprise-wide management system.

The key to this new system however is the design and engineering of products that feature open architecture, necessary for integration with other applications running on the IT backbone. More and more, manufacturers “get it” and are introducing new products and concepts that fit seamlessly into larger, enterprise-wide solutions – many as a result of the manufacturer’s participation in industry alliance programs. Finally, management software programs complement the open architecture solution by tying it all together and in so doing, the system evolves from one of management to one of management and control.

From a strategic standpoint, an enterprise level integrated solution with software control allows users to adopt comprehensive planning and management that is supported by uniform responses and rules across systems and facilities. Further, information can be leveraged more easily when it is structured and consistent and ultimately allows for better control of more valuable information.