Define the basic parameters for software and hardware classification
- By Bill Brennan
- Aug 02, 2021
The physical security industry, and the technologies
that drive it, continue to evolve and advance at a
rapid pace. Much of the attention has been focused
on new software products and applications that
enable a host of intelligent video surveillance
and security capabilities. These range from new imaging
and biometrics to smart analytics and highly integrated and
autonomous software platforms.
But what is the underlying driver behind these programming
advancements? There are two opposing schools of thought
when approaching this question: one being the decades-long
developments in software and the other being the continued
advancements of the physical hardware devices that provide the
foundation for the software to run on. Before diving into this
deeper, let’s establish some basic defined parameters for what
classifies as software and hardware.
PROCESS AND PROCEDURE
Software is a rather general term used to describe a collection of
programs, processes and procedures that perform given tasks on
a computer or are embedded in products like IP cameras, video
servers or access controllers.
Software is typically classified as being either system or
application specific, such as video management or access control
system platforms versus facial recognition or object identification
applications. Hardware is essentially a physical device that you
can see and/or touch, even if on the tiniest scale.
Software and hardware interact with one another with the
software directing the hardware on which series of tasks it
needs to execute and at the precise moment those tasks should
be performed. While it is common to switch and/or enhance
software or use multiple software applications at a time, hardware
is less frequently changed. In most cases, software can be more
easily created, changed or deleted than hardware products.
Adjustments or replacements to hardware typically are more
complex and expensive.
There is much to be said for the “hardware as a foundation”
school of thought, as all software must use some form of
hardware to operate. To get a better grasp of this concept, let’s
look at three fundamental hardware classifications prevalent
in the physical security industry: cameras and imaging devices,
recording and storage products, and microprocessors.
It wasn’t that long ago that analog surveillance cameras, once
referred to as “CCTV” cameras, and dominated the physical
security landscape. The transition from tube cameras to imaging
sensors to digital signal processing and on to megapixel sensors
with 1080p and 4K resolution has transformed video from grainy
black and white pictures to laser sharp color imagery that is
viewable under even the most challenging lighting conditions.
These and other hardware advancements enable today’s cameras
to capture better images and deliver enhanced situational
Multi-sensor panoramic cameras are a perfect example of
this advanced technology. They are capable of providing widearea
HD surveillance with powerful processors driving versatile
features and intelligence at the edge.
Although the performance benefits of today’s highly advanced
surveillance cameras are quite obvious on the surface, their hidden
advantage is the vast amounts of video data they produce to feed
specific software applications. Identifying subtle facial details
and characteristics, the precise color of an individual’s clothing
or vehicle, license plate numbers on moving vehicles and more
are capabilities that are totally reliant on the quality of the video.
The same holds true for most video analytics like motion
detection, object detection, and direction indication built into
today’s more advanced imaging edge devices. To put it simply, the
higher the image resolution, frequency and density of information
transfer, the more data is available for precise analysis.
Image storage is another hardware-dependent requirement
driving advanced operations. Beyond pure storage capacity,
the writing and access speeds of new storage technologies is
paramount. Consider the evolution of storage media specifically
for physical security operations ranging from celluloid film to
videotape, to hard disk drives and now to solid state or chip-based
storage media. Today’s digital storage systems enable software to
run at incredibly fast speeds capable of processing millions of
operations in miniscule amounts of time. These hardware devices
enable AI-embedded features and functionality to run virtually
in real time.
Microprocessor development is also a hardware-based
technology that is co-dependent on software to the extent that
without one the other could not exist. The development of single
board computers and central processing units in the mid-seventies
spawned a new era of processing devices that are now employed
in a multitude of physical security solutions. Microprocessors
control almost every function of every video, access control and
fire/alarm security product available today, carrying out millions
of operations every second.
Such accelerated processing speeds allow
products and the systems where they are
deployed to react to various inputs and triggers
quickly and automatically.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Security Today.