Intelligent Integration

Thermal cameras offer different approaches to networks

Modern security networks are a complex collection of thermal cameras, CCTV cameras, fence sensors, video management devices and myriad other technologies. Most of these network elements are made by different suppliers who have given little, if any, thought to how all these components will communicate together to offer an integrated solution. Getting unrelated equipment to work together can be an integration nightmare.

Today’s thermal security cameras offer a different approach, with the creation of intelligent sensor networks. Unlike a typical network, where cameras, sensors and peripherals communicate with a central server, in an intelligent sensor network, each component handles its own communication with other network elements.

The backbone of this revolution is Nexus middleware. This technology is embedded in all of the latest thermal cameras from FLIR Systems. Nexus brings connectivity technology, not just cameras, to the entirety of a modern security network. Thermal cameras are no longer just physical devices but smart sources of information that interact with other sensors.

Nexus adds connectivity, compatibility and capabilities to thermal cameras and to any other sensor or appliance in a security system.

Nexus improves a device’s connectivity following an open architecture approach. Sensors that include Nexus do not use proprietary communications protocols. Rather, they include tools that are compatible with a vast array of pre-existing communications standards. These standards include plug-and-play protocols for discovery from Linux or Windows clients, Web standards for remote configuration and firmware uploads, video standards like MPEG-4 video streaming and interfaces to video management solutions.

Nexus technology makes any FLIR camera, or other third-party sensor or device, plug-and-play compatible between each other and with security management systems. In effect, it’s like building intelligence into each element in your network, be it a camera or any other device managed by a Nexus server. This distributed architecture-based network environment is more efficient, reliable and effective than having a wide disparity of sensors and systems that depend on one central server for communication between themselves and with network clients.

Intelligent sensor networks, like those based on Nexus middleware, make everything plug-and-play compatible. For instance, thermal security cameras can be made to interact with a variety of other sensors like CCTV cameras, nDVRs, video analytics, radars and fence sensors. They also can work seamlessly with third-party devices like video management solutions, recorders and displays.

Such a high level of compatibility also allows security managers to upgrade existing networks with the latest cameras and sensors. This seamless integration into legacy networks includes standard CCTV interfaces and communications protocols like Pelco.

Nexus also helps security managers easily handle issues with sensor obsolescence, as the cost and downtime required for changes and upgrades are eliminated.

A final benefit of the compatibility possible with this innovative intelligent sensor network approach is drastically simplified operation. Because the camera or sensor contains up-to-date drivers, cameras and sensors of differing generations and of unique manufacturers can have a common user interface. This reduces training costs and helps with adoption of a unified security system architecture within wide corporate environments, allowing clients to choose state-of-the-art sensor devices for each location and developing a common user interface on top of it.

Sensors and cameras integrated within a Nexus environment have value added beyond the capability of the camera or sensor itself. They become “smart” sensors that collaborate to create an intelligent sensors network.

Sensor and camera elements within a Nexus environment can be individually geo-referenced so each camera or sensor knows its location. Each camera or sensor is able to accurately geo-locate targets in latitude and longitude coordinates independently. These smart sensors do not need an extra centralized server to store this information or to perform the geo-location calculations.

An ISN environment operates with multiple user control sensors. Cameras and sensors have a token mechanism managed by each network element so they can be shared by multiple users in a coordinated way. Like those operating within a Nexus environment, ISN reduces the integration and development costs incurred when setting up new networks or expanding legacy networks. Because sensor integration is plugand- play, operating in a Nexus environment obviates the need for proprietary software development, maintenance and support.

Taking all of these pieces together, Nexus networks take complicated, expensive network elements and make them easier to use, more effective and less expensive in the long run.

Software that can be embedded to make cameras and other sensors smarter is the wave of the future. The complexity of modern security networks, let alone that of their individual components, makes the establishment or modification of even the most uncomplicated network a complex undertaking. The lack of an industry-wide standard for communication between network elements of different natures only serves to further complicate the issue.

Intelligent sensor networks, like those enabled by Nexus middleware, address all of these problems. Nexus makes every network element’s software—whether from thermal and CCTV cameras, radars, fence sensors or video management systems—plug-and-play compatible, regardless of manufacturer or generation, and easier to maintain, upgrade and operate

This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Security Today.

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