A Conversation with Bill Taylor
Video cameras are better than ever, and the newer surveillance systems have vastly
improved functionality. One of the suppliers leading product improvements in the video
arena is Panasonic, which offers IP addressable, analog and hybrid video systems for
the surveillance industry. We spoke with Bill Taylor, president, Panasonic System Networks
Company of America, about changes and enhancements users and integrators
are seeing in the latest video cameras.
Q. How has the arrival of high-resolution IP cameras changed the approach to
A. By providing more data to be analyzed, higher-resolution cameras are one
part of a larger equation. The technology works in tandem with the addition
of more intelligence inside the camera. There are many benefits to having
more intelligence here, at the edge of the network. For example, any operation
performed inside the camera frees up other network components to execute other
functions. When high resolution is combined with in-camera intelligence, the camera
is able to provide a higher level of functionality for the user.
Our i-PRO SmartHD cameras combine higher resolution and enhanced processing
for improved imaging along with more intelligent functions such as face
detection. The cameras also offer more flexibility related to functionality and the
use of system resources. For example, variable image and resolution technology
enables a less-important part of an image (such as the sky) to be coded at a lower
resolution to save data file size. Ultimately, smarter cameras do more at the edge
of the network, which frees up intelligence and data capacity at the server level for
other uses and applications.
Q. How do new imaging and processing capabilities actually improve security?
A. Historically, advanced functions such as object left behind or face detection
have been outside the reach of mainstream applications. Such abilities
were seen as specialized and too expensive to be used as part of day-to-day security
functionality. The systems often involved expensive software and per-camera
licensing fees, and they were not robust for many applications. However, some
newer cameras provide a cost-efficient means of applying advanced capabilities
even in smaller, budget-conscious systems.
There is no complicated integration involved; the components are pre-engineered
to work together as a system, and installation is simple. Image processing also combines
with higher-resolution imaging to expand the ability of operators to identify
details, such as the face of a person, a questionable object or a license plate number.
Megapixel cameras provide clearer, better images and capture more information.
Forensic zooming in recorded megapixel video enables better identification
of individuals and vehicles, and the megapixel camera captures more of the details
in any given scene. Some cameras offer “intelligent resolution” to prevent deterioration
of an image during digital zooming. Megapixel images also provide more
information for video analytics.
Q. Aside from the performance advantages provided by high resolution cameras,
what are the effects on total cost of ownership and return on investment?
A. From a cost-justification standpoint, one megapixel camera can take the
place of many standard-resolution cameras in applications such as a parking
lot. Fewer cameras mean lower total costs. At the same time, intelligence inside
the camera compresses the signal to minimize network bandwidth requirements,
another way of minimizing costs and boosting ROI.
This is an important consideration for any installation using megapixel cameras,
which require more bandwidth. Intelligent cameras provide the needed computational
power to handle the highly complicated algorithms and high-speed processing
needed for H.264, a compression standard used to minimize bandwidth
and storage needs. H.264 high profile provides even better picture quality using
lower bandwidth compared to H.264 base profile.
Q. What applications outside of traditional security and surveillance can these
new imaging technologies be applied to?
A. New imaging technologies can have applications in processes as diverse as
inventory management, retail traffic pattern analysis, manufacturing, medical
processes and diagnostics, and crowd and traffic management. Any true business
application that can benefit from high-resolution imaging can leverage the
new imaging technologies.
Interoperability and the availability of video anywhere on the network open the
door for utility in any department in the enterprise, not just security. The market
will continue to develop these applications based on user needs. With the capabilities
of intelligent cameras and the ubiquity of networks in today’s companies,
there is no limit to what can be achieved.
Q. As imaging technologies continue to commoditize, what if anything differentiates
one supplier from another?
A. There is a big difference between a supplier with core expertise in a market
and a supplier that duplicates or re-engineers existing technologies. Companies
like Panasonic earn their reputation as imaging leaders in multiple markets,
from consumer electronics to broadcast technologies. Extensive investments in research
and development in these related fields provide a wealth of usable technology
innovation in the arena of video surveillance equipment.
One great example of this is our UniPhier® LSI chip, which derives from Panasonic’s
digital still camera technology and drives many of the advances in our
newer video surveillance cameras. New technologies and even software innovations
like this continue to emerge based on fundamental research that relates to
multiple markets. This kind of innovation helps to move the industry forward. It
is also reflected in the diversity and innovation of products that evolve from the
broader approach. Our customers also tell us that the initial price of a camera is
only part of the cost equation.
Dependability of cameras over time can more than offset a higher price tag,
and many lower-cost camera models may not perform as well or as dependably
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.