A Conversation with Steve Carney
IP cameras didn’t come into the market
on their own; they came as part of a solution.
At first, they simply replicated analog
resolution and functionality in an IT world.
But as the IP space matured, such technologies
as megapixel cameras began to
advance the video surveillance market.
Five years ago, megapixel technology
most likely was not part of the IP video
equation. At that time, customers wanted
control of the system and wanted to ensure
it was future-proof.
We wanted to know more about IP
cameras and how technology began to
deliver on the promise of connectivity,
improved image resolution and the
ability to manage bandwidth, so we
talked with Steve Carney, senior product
manager of IP cameras and encoders
at Tyco Security Products.
Q. What are the primary reasons for
implementing IP cameras?
A. One of the primary reasons is
to take advantage of megapixel
technology that would allow customers
to get far superior images. Initially, IP
cameras started out with the promise
of future-proofing the video solution.
It was when megapixel became manageable
with H.264 that the technology
delivered on that promise.
Analog creeps along with small incremental
growth of a few TV lines at
a time. IP cameras, conversely, multiply
their resolution with each new release
along the megapixel continuum. Megapixel
resolution transforms video images
from simply being used for general
awareness to being used for actionable
evidence of events. It also vastly widens
the viewable scene, allowing customers
to deploy fewer cameras with better image
Q. What role is the standard-resolution
IP camera playing in the
A. Standard-resolution cameras
are ideal for customers who are
price-conscious or who have shortrange
applications that don’t require
the long-range detail or wide field of
view enabled by megapixel. Additionally,
there are markets just beginning
to embrace IP technology for which
standard-resolution cameras would be
a more efficient solution.
Q. What are the challenges to megapixel
A. The challenges tend to be twofold.
First, early megapixel solutions
struggled with low-light performance.
Sensor and chip manufacturers
have worked hard to rectify that issue,
though, so new releases are showing
The second challenge with megapixel
technology is bandwidth consumption.
Increased resolution comes with
increased data. Megapixel cameras
were limited in the marketplace until
H.264 compression allowed the images
to be transmitted and stored efficiently.
The market didn’t really tip favorably
toward megapixel technology until the
processors in the cameras dealt with
the computing needs of H.264 and
high resolution in a cost-effective way.
As a result, HD cameras and 4:3 format
megapixel cameras are becoming a core
element of camera portfolios.
Q. How is the industry addressing
A. The sensor and chip manufacturers
have really taken the next
technological leap to allow for very
good low-light sensitivity in cameras
that are two megapixels and beyond.
That started in 2010, and the market is
beginning to introduce that core technology
now with solid, low-light level
performing cameras in 2011.
On bandwidth consumption, the industry
is behind. Even though it’s commonly
thought that storage is cheap and
getting cheaper, the fact is, it’s not inexpensive
enough to support the amount
of data that megapixel technology often
produces. We often see customers
reduce the number of cameras they intend
to deploy because the storage costs
exceed their budget. One way we are addressing
this challenge is by identifying
dynamic regions of interest.
For example, a customer can select
specific areas of a scene and increase the
bit rate around that area while keeping
the rest of the scene at a lower bit rate.
Customers can get the detail where and
when they want it without the full-time
penalty of megapixel data rates. This
remains an active area of development
with plenty of room for innovation.
Q. With numerous IP megapixel
cameras on the market today,
how does a customer select the right solution
for his or her application?
A. It all starts with what you want
the camera to accomplish in
that scene. Is it a camera that is viewing
a fence line at a secure facility?
If so, do you need to know who is at
the fence, because no one should be
there? In this application, thermal
imaging and low-light performance is
the solution. Megapixel might not be
necessary because you are not worried
about the details.
If you want to minimize the camera
count at the front of the building,
a megapixel camera with a Theia lens
is the ideal choice to see a non-distorted,
wide-angle view where you want a
general view of the scene. If you want
to identify license plate numbers or
faces, then you need to focus on pixels
per foot. Selecting the right camera for
your application is driven by the specific
Q. Beyond megapixel technology,
what new innovations has IP
A. IP has enabled the development
of multi-sensored cameras and
cameras that string together wide-angle
views. These cameras expand the
field of view when compared with the
view provided by a traditional, single
camera. So here, one camera can take
the place of many cameras with improved
Q. How are IP cameras affecting the
installers in the field?
A. A key battle occurring in the
market is ease of installation,
which is important to all systems integrators
in the field. They want to see a
reduction in the cost of the installation
and margin for error.
It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility
to integrators to provide tools that
ensure cameras can be quickly and easily
installed, both physically and configured
on the network. With that in
mind, American Dynamics offers the
Illustra 600 IP cameras with integrated
recessed and hard-surface mounts,
instead of using separate mount kits
that add time and cost. This is a huge
time-saver, especially for tough installations
when an integrator is recessing the
mount in the ceiling.
On the networking side, there are
many improvements taking place,
which is where our Illustra Connect
comes into play. This discovery and
configuration tool allows the installer
to save time with auto-assigning static
IP addresses, quick views of snapshots
from all of the cameras and super-fast
firmware downloads. We’ve worked
hard to identify and address some of
the common pitfalls in installing and
managing cameras on a network.
Q. What’s in store for IP and megapixel
A. Intelligence. A number of years
ago analytics took the industry
by storm. The storm was short-lived,
with delivery that did not really live
up to the hype. There has been enough
consolidation and refinement in this
area that intelligence at the edge is
It’s maturing to the point that edge
devices can be relied upon to make decisions
and act dynamically. This maturity
can now transform intelligence
into solutions that meaningfully address
customer needs, solve customer
problems and enable new business opportunities.
Edge intelligence is getting
to the point where it can transform
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Security Today.