The Future is Now

With ASIS right around the corner, this month’s Industry Insight column is presented in a question-and-answer format, in which network video surveillance expert Fredrik Nilsson and editor-in-chief Ralph C. Jensen discuss surveillance industry trends, as well as what to expect at the show.

Q. At ISC West, we spoke on-camera about the surveillance market in general and touched upon many different trends, from newer technologies to the economy and what it means to security professionals. How are things looking seven months later?

A. A lot of the trends and buying patterns that we predicted earlier in the year were on target. While the economy was tough, we saw some positive momentum for the IP surveillance and network video market. Recent IMS Research supports our prediction that the economic downturn would help accelerate a technology shift from analog to network surveillance. The industry as a whole has done a good job educating the market on the benefits of IP-image quality, scalability and lower total cost of ownership -- and end users are willing to spend their money on newer technologies that will benefit them today and in the long run. IP-based surveillance installations are still on pace to own half of the market by 2013.

Q. Is it safe to say the analytic market is finally primed to take off?

A. I’m not sure if that’s a fair assessment.

There are many good analytic applications running well today and have been for quite some time, such as motion detection, audio detection and trip wire applications. In the early 2000s, there were some overzealous predictions for what was possible with video analytics, and I think the market as a whole is still recovering from some ill-advised promises that were made.

That said, the three main factors needed to run successful advanced analytic applications -- premium image quality, processing power and advanced algorithms -- are finally in place.

Especially on the image quality side, there have been some great strides made by manufacturers in the last two years. This started with a rise in megapixel technology and continued with the incredible interest in HDTV network video. Most security directors and integrators have flat-screen, high-definition TVs hanging on their walls at home, but were still stuck watching or installing 4:3 analog monitors at their job.

It’s certainly one case of consumer technology driving business demand. In fact, the quality of video from an HDTV surveillance camera is so good that even TV studios are using them for producing live TV shows.

Q. Speaking of HDTV, I’ve spoken with many different vendors and each seems to have their own definition of what makes an HD surveillance camera. What’s your definition?

A. I think this is a case of competing vendors confusing the industry with clever marketing tactics. The term “high-definition” has been used pretty ambiguously, which has confused both end users and integrators.

In the security industry, HD is often used to refer to any picture greater than SVGA resolution, which is where the confusion lies. The two missing letters here, T and V, are extremely important. Megapixel and HDTV are two different concepts. Megapixel simply refers to the number of pixels in an image.

Specifically, a megapixel image is made up of at least 1 million pixels. Therefore a 1280x1024 image, or SXGA resolution, equals 1.3 megapixels.

A true HDTV camera is much more specific. If a camera claims to be HDTV, it must comply with the standards set by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. This standard guarantees a 16:9 aspect ratio (widescreen format), 720p or 1080i/p resolution, color fidelity and full frame rate at 30 fps. The full-frame-rate piece might be the most important aspect for security installations, yet it is often where end users are misinformed.

If you’re not running at full frame rate, you’re not using the same HDTV video image that you’re used to at home.

Some users have purchased what they thought were HDTV cameras but were really megapixel cameras running at lower frame rates due to performance, storage or bandwidth limitations.

Q. That’s often the problem with the video surveillance industry. There are so many vendors selling so many different products. During ASIS, there are said to be about 700 exhibitors educating nearly 20,000 attendees. How can customers sort through all of them?

A. That’s easily one of the toughest jobs for security professionals today. If you asked any of the thousands of sales and marketing reps at the show if their solution is the best, of course they will say yes. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t.

But there are certain factors integrators and end users should look for when choosing a vendor. First off, make sure that they are in good financial shape and are investing in the future through R&D. There’s nothing worse than finding out your supplier has gone out of business or can’t manufacture a specific component in the middle of your project. Second, choose a product that runs on an open platform and in an open ecosystem so you’re not locked into one security vendor. Also, don’t make your decision solely based on MSRP -- always consider total cost of ownership and ROI. After you make your purchase, make sure you’ll receive the necessary training and technical support before and after the warranty expires.

Q. Well put. Any final thoughts about what Axis is looking to see at ASIS or accomplish after the show?

A. You’ll certainly see more Axis products that stress image quality, processing power, reliability and affordability as we continue our heavy R&D investments. More specifically, with the rise of hosted video and video surveillance-as-a-service, the potential for network video to expand into different markets is really exciting for us. We’re working closely with our partners to put all the pieces in place, and the end-user community is responding.

Together, we’ve developed a model that provides quick, one-click installation with limited investment on the end-user side and recurring revenue opportunities for our integrator partners.

By offering a range of network cameras at different price points and with no need to invest in onsite storage, we’re able to bring the benefits of IP surveillance to those who would typically consider outdated analog technology. It’s a situation where everybody wins.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .


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