Exploring the Surveillance Frontier

Exploring the Surveillance Frontier

Superior images and efficiency are driving megapixel video into the mainstream

Numerous factors are accelerating the video surveillance industry’s transition to IP-based systems, including ease of integration, flexibility to interface with other systems and the ability to make video accessible on the enterprise level. One of the greatest influences driving the transition to IP systems is the superior image resolution of megapixel IP-based cameras, which also can boost overall system functionality while lowering costs. To get a better grasp on this trend, let’s take a closer look at the advantages megapixel technology has to offer.

Image quality improvement is stunning, and needed. For an industry used to making do with the quality of analog video images, the bigger, clearer, more-detailed images IP megapixel video cameras provide can be a real eye-opener. Megapixel video represents a new frontier in video surveillance technology, providing new and exciting applications. Old assumptions about how video performs in various situations can be thrown out the window. Now there are megapixel solutions with the resolution—whether 1.3, 5, 10 megapixels or more—to handle virtually any application. This is critical, because today’s systems can now be designed to fit the application instead of being restricted by the limitations of the old NTSC standard.

Fewer cameras are necessary. Megapixel imaging makes it possible for a single camera to take the place of three, 10 or even more analog or standardresolution network cameras. Megapixel cameras can view much larger areas without missing any details. One megapixel camera can view an entire parking lot, for example, taking the place of several PTZ cameras. It can also continuously capture all activities in the viewing area while an operator electronically zooms in on a specific area of interest, which is simply not possible with conventional cameras. As a result, megapixel cameras allow you to deploy fewer cameras while actually improving coverage. Fewer cameras also translates into lower costs relative to the initial purchase of cameras and related equipment, as well as less infrastructure overall. The ability to zoom in on recorded images allows customers to opt out of hiring people to monitor video, saving labor costs. The cost savings can be substantial, are measurable and provide a strong return on investment for megapixel systems.

Customers expect more and better image quality. Viewers’ expectations for image quality are higher than ever. The proliferation of HD content in people’s homes, on their mobile devices and on their desktops means that most people have a higher expectation of what looks good. With megapixel cameras, security professionals can cost-effectively deploy video surveillance systems that deliver great detail—not because they look great, but rather because these detailed images best serve the applications enterprises desire. The primary objective of most video surveillance systems is to provide better security, and nothing matches the detail and forensic capabilities that megapixel cameras provide.

Storage and bandwidth issues are a thing of the past. Obviously, storage and network bandwidth are important considerations when designing any IP-based video system, but the issues that plagued early systems have been resolved. New cameras and network video recorders have embraced the H.264 video compression standard, which minimizes the storage and bandwidth needs of high-resolution images. Megapixel cameras can be programmed to switch resolution levels based on user-defined criteria. This ability to change resolution also greatly reduces bandwidth usage across the system.

Megapixel cameras provide a systemwide solution. Megapixel video cameras have become a mainstream imaging solution due to numerous advances and are no longer relegated to specific niche applications within a system. They work best anywhere you need camera coverage. Today, major commercial firms and government agencies are deploying megapixel cameras on a systemwide basis. Many of these installations deploy hundreds, sometimes thousands, of megapixel cameras. Megapixel cameras have achieved mainstream status for good reasons.

Megapixel cameras are available for any application. Megapixel cameras are available in a wide range of sizes and configurations. There are all-in-one megapixel dome cameras, outdoor bullet cameras, compact cameras, dual-sensor day/night cameras and multi-megapixel panoramic view cameras. Megapixel cameras can be vandal-resistant, employ infrared illuminators, and feature a variety of environmental housings and range of resolutions to meet the needs of any application. Image quality is paramount, but frame rates and compression efficiency (using H.264) also are key considerations.

Simplified installation and maintenance. Megapixel IP video systems are configured using the same “building blocks” as IT systems, including servers, network switches, digital storage and workstations. This allows megapixel cameras to integrate with other video surveillance and security devices with cost-efficiency. Using IP network infrastructure minimizes the need to run separate cables from every camera to every recorder, and the need for fewer cameras creates further efficiencies. Structured cable—Cat-5 or Cat-6—is less expensive than coaxial cable. It weighs less, is far less bulky and has a faster transmission speed. Cabling is also simplified with PoE, where power is supplied to cameras over the same cable as video and data signals, thus eliminating the need for a separate power source to the camera. The overall system and economic benefits of megapixel cameras are significantly stronger than those of conventional IP and analog cameras.

Education is vital. Education on the overall performance and ROI advantages of megapixel imaging solutions is key to the continued growth and acceptance of megapixel technology for mainstream applications. In challenging economic times, end users face an unprecedented need to justify expenditures. In this business climate, it’s critical to show that new systems are cost-efficient and perform at a superior level to the systems they are replacing. Decision-makers can literally see the benefits of a clearer megapixel image and appreciate the cost advantages of using fewer cameras, less infrastructure and simpler installation. And the security industry will benefit with a new, more effective tool to fulfill its mission.

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

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