Get Comfortable

Read a good book lately? Kick off your shoes and pour yourself a glass of your favorite drink— I’ve got a book that I think you’ll find interesting. And I trust it will improve your understanding of surveillance systems.

Even better, you probably know the author, which makes the twists and turns of any book a little more interesting.

“Intelligent Network Video” has recently been released from CRC Press. By Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications, the book opens an understanding of why network video and intelligent video are important. Why? Because these are two of the most profound changes in the security industry.

When you stop and think about technology, you’ll realize that IP is changing the way we live and work. Truth is, everything we know will soon be digitized, and everything we try to accomplish will move through the Internet. This technology is unstoppable; the only thing in question is its pace.

Nilsson is the face of the IP revolution. He oversees the North American operations for Axis Communications and has been the general manager since 2003. He has helped the company increase revenue by fivefold and is a leader in the industry as the shift from analog CCTV gives way to network video.

CCTV has had a great run, and it will continue to survive and sell. But its 30 years on the market will abate to the ever-increasing demands from customers. End users drive the technology changes that include better image quality, simple installation and maintenance, more secure and reliable technology, and a reduction in costs.

Nilsson points out in his book that size and scalability, remote monitoring capabilities and integration with other systems also are vital market demands. Lest I forget, Nilsson also stresses that system intelligence also will be an important, formidable player. Video surveillance shifted from analog CCTV to a full digital, network- based video surveillance system.

“Video surveillance systems started out as 100-percent analog systems and are gradually becoming digital,” Nilsson writes. “Today’s systems, using network cameras and PC servers for video recording in a fully digital system, have come a long way from the early analog tube cameras, which were connected to a VCR.”

Well, times changed quickly, as Nilsson points out. By the mid-1990s, VCRs gave way to the DVR. These hard drives would digitize video, then compress it to store many days’ worth of footage. As technology progressed, DVRs were equipped with an Ethernet port for a network connection, which enabled remote video monitoring using a PC.

The DVR was clearly a step above that old VCR, offering digitization of video from all cameras, video compression, recording and networking. But, it also had a downside: the DVR lacked scalability. Then the video encoder entered the scene, offering an open platform, and connections to analog cameras that would digitize and compress the video. From it, the video was able to speed along over an IP network to a PC server where it could be monitored and recorded.

Nilsson takes a short jump to review network video; the scope and potential of an integrated, fully digitized system.

Within the IT realm, the network, server and storage components are all standard IT equipment. All components are necessary, and the ability to use commercial off-the-shelf equipment is one of the main benefits of network video. Wait till you see what is emerging from intelligent video, or video analytics—an application that can reside in the network camera, video encoder or video management software.

“Unlike analog video systems, network video uses an IP-based network rather than dedicated point-to-point cabling as the backbone for transporting video and audio,” Nilsson writes. “In a network video application, digitized video and audio streams are sent over wired or wireless IP networks, enabling video monitoring and recording from anywhere on the network.

“Network video can be used in an almost unlimited number of applications; however, most of its uses fall into security surveillance or remote monitoring.”

Successful applications have already been deployed in the education niche where security and remote monitoring play a key role. Although schools may lack the surveillance systems, they most likely have a strong IT infrastructure for applications such as voice and data.

Banking also is an ideal test bed for network video because there are traditional applications already in place and banks have been using surveillance for some time. The scenario is similar in the retail sector where large retail chains have as many as 300 cameras deployed per store. This is the largest vertical market for surveillance because the solution helps in loss prevention or asset protection in a price-sensitive market.

Government uses network video to ensure a safe and secure public environment, but the solution also is employed at state facilities, military bases, court and justice centers, and prisons.

Nilsson’s book, “Intelligent Network Video,” is well written and worthy of a few hours of light reading. He writes, “I also am lucky to be part of an industry with some outstanding people who are in the industry not only to make a living but also to help provide a safer and more secure life for all of us.”

Aren’t we all that lucky?

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

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