Video is Still Young

Analog still has a vital role to play in the future

The video security industry is still a relatively young one, and like most technology-related sectors, it has experienced and continues to witness rapid changes brought about by technical advances and new applications. JVC’s own 80-year existence goes back well beyond the dawn of video security, but the company has been at the forefront of the industry since its first major growth period in the early 1980s.

For the past few years, I have heard much talk of the “death” of the analog CCTV system and seen a lot of mumbo-jumbo written about the entirely networked future of the industry. Our view is that nothing so clearcut or dramatic is really likely to happen anytime soon.

For certain, we can see from reliable and well-researched market analysis by companies such as IMS that the analog CCTV market is relatively flat or declining while the IP security sector is growing at more than 20 percent a year. However, this does not mean IP will simply continue to “eat” the analog market until it disappears.

We envision a scenario in which the IP sector will continue to expand rapidly. The significant improvements in IP systems’ ease of implementation in practical applications -- which have occurred over the past few years -- is ensuring that most major “new build” installations will be of the IP variety.

Nevertheless, for many applications, an analog--or perhaps, more accurately, “non-networked” -- installation is likely to remain the most practical, effective and efficient. In addition to such a picture, JVC is working hard with its sister companies, Kenwood and Zetron, leaders in the mobile communication and emergency control sectors, to develop truly innovative and integrated solutions for major infrastructure and security applications.

We live in a society in which it is unfortunate that the importance of security and surveillance continues to grow. Yet in the media, we are still frequently hearing of events or crimes occurring where CCTV images are either not available -- due to malfunctioning cameras or recording devices -- or are available but with image quality so bad it is effectively useless.

This informs us of the crucial nature of reliability and quality in CCTV systems. In spite of this apparently obvious fact, one regularly encounters marketing or promotional activities in our sector that seem to address only the fantastic latest gizmo facility or technology feature, rather than the real-life practical benefit to the user or application.

I am occasionally asked why our cameras use CCD imaging devices rather than the latest CMOS technology.

The answer is not that JVC has some “technology bias.” Rather, it is the result of the application of our belief that we should produce products that offer the best practical results for our users. At the time of writing, we are confident that the light sensitivity, color fidelity, reliability and overall picture quality offered by the CCD devices used in our CCTV cameras are superior to those from CMOS devices.

This is not to denigrate CMOS devices, many of which I am sure produce excellent results. We simply believe that the complete balance of all performances that we can produce from our CCD implementation is better than those of CMOS. Our engineers in Japan are constantly evaluating and researching the best possible solutions, and I have no doubt that future CCTV products from JVC will implement CMOS.

The whole point of such technologies is that the details should remain largely irrelevant to the user, who instead is concerned with solving his problems in the most practical, effective, reliable and efficient manner possible. Who cares what the technology inside is called, as long as it provides excellent and accurate pictures day-in, day-out, year after year? After all, the cost of sending an engineer up a ladder to replace a faulty camera is frequently greater than the original purchase cost of the camera.

From a marketing perspective, this issue is one that poses perhaps the greatest challenge to a company such as JVC. The raw ingredients for manufacturing a CCTV camera are readily available, and the technical barriers to setting up a manufacturing facility to build them are few. However, as every chef knows, there are ingredients and then there are ingredients.

The difference between a Bolognese sauce crafted with freshly ground, lean beef and handpicked herbs and one made in a similar manner with previously frozen ground beef and dried herbs would be obvious in the taste test, but brochures advertising the two dishes may list the exact same specifications or list of contents.

The same principle applies to the components used in security cameras. Individual electronic components, circuits and processors can be rated for their performance under heat stress: some are built to last better than others, though in principle they perform the same task. JVC is rather particular when it comes to designing, manufacturing and selecting such components, as well as testing the performance of the combination of hundreds of such components in the finished product.

This exacting design philosophy is then carried forward with rigorous testing to establish reliable mean time between failure (MTBF) and failure rate data, which we are uniquely proud to publish. Further, we ensure every product is UL tested regardless of whether it is legally required. IP security cameras, on the other hand, may be legally sold in the United States without UL certification -- which requires expensive testing at independent, registered laboratories.

However, in our litigious society, it is not difficult to imagine an insurance assessor pouncing on the absence of UL certification on a group of products within a system as a reason for increased premiums, or worse, to delay or deny a claim.

Thus, the security industry today, with its plethora of suppliers -- some with established brands, some without, and some with a brand but with products manufactured for them by someone else -- represents a challenge for the user or integrator.

How does one see through the murk of features, specifications and technology to a solution that will provide practical, accurate, useable images, reliably and cost-effectively? It is not easy, but talking with a brand that has been innovating and producing practical technology solutions since 1927 is, perhaps, a start.

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Security Today.

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