Lights, Camera, Action
New IP video technologies will play starring roles in 2013 and beyond
- By Fredrik Nilsson
- Feb 01, 2013
Just as cutting edge movie-making technology has changed the face of
the entertainment industry, cutting-edge IP video surveillance technology
has changed the face of physical security. While many newcomers
show enormous promise for strong supporting roles, there are
some emerging technologies that I think will demonstrate their star
quality in the coming year.
Last year provided an enticing look at coming attractions and, with end-users
and integrators giving the nod to the standout performers in early screen tests,
we’re in for some blockbusters in 2013. So sit back and enjoy the show. Lights,
camera and action.
Stunning visual clarity. Just as the wow-factor of Technicolor forever changed
Hollywood’s view of cinematography, today’s high-quality lenses, sensitive image
sensors and advanced video processing are wowing security professionals and
opening their eyes to new possibilities for surveillance. Today’s IP cameras are
focusing on stark realism.
Lightfinder. Unlike their day/night predecessors that switched to the typical grainy,
black-and-white video that we see in the nightly news, Lightfinder technology delivers
color fidelity and applies exceptional light sensitivity with carefully tuned
image processing and in-camera software to produce life-like colors in HDTVquality
resolution even under poor conditions—down to mere moonlight. This
new breed of IP camera provides a wealth of details without artificial illumination,
enabling business owners, law enforcement and security staff to identify suspects
and vehicles by discerning critical information about the scene under surveillance.
This technology could be cast in a variety of demanding video surveillance situations,
such as low-lit parking lots, school campuses and construction sites. It also
can play a leading role for outdoor perimeter surveillance, such as at power and
water treatment plants, prisons, bus depots, and rail yards and tracks.
The technology garnered accolades when it first debuted in 2011 and racked up
several physical security awards in 2012, including the coveted Wall Street Journal
Technology Innovation Award.
Wide dynamic range with dynamic capture. WDR technology has been a star in
both video and point-and-shoot applications for years. But in 2012, a best supporting
role was cast alongside WDR: Dynamic Capture. WDR that applies dynamic
capture techniques solves the problem of widely varying lighting conditions
within a single frame. By using several images with different exposure times for
each object in a scene, WDR brings visibility to objects both in the bright and
dark areas of the video frame. WDR-equipped cameras assimilate information
from all light levels in the scene at the same time, enabling users to detect and reliably
identify people, objects, vehicles and activity that would otherwise be hidden
WDR technology could be cast in a variety of surveillance scenarios with extremely
bright sunlight and dark shadows, backlight situations and environments
with a lot of reflected light. For instance, the technology could be a front-runner
in installations close to large picture windows such as office buildings and shopping
malls, or in entrances to buildings, tunnel passages, parking garages and other
areas with strong variations in lighting. WDR could play a pivotal role in city surveillance,
public transit and other environments where vehicles with strong headlights
are driving directly towards the camera. It could also co-star with Lightfinder
technology to cover the full spectrum of day/night lighting challenges.
WDR with dynamic capture technology debuted in the surveillance world in
2011 with fixed network cameras and has started to stretch its repertoire to include
indoor and outdoor-ready fixed dome cameras. Like Lightfinder, advanced image
processing and sensor technology make WDR-dynamic capture a contender to
watch in 2013.
Built-in IR-LED. In cinematography, lighting draws the viewer’s attention while
darkness stimulates the imagination. But in video surveillance, lighting is meant
solely to illuminate reality, not mask it. While infrared lighting has been a stock
player in the physical security industry for decades, the technology has been known
for its temperamental personality. It’s sometimes hard to match-up the camera’s
view with the IR illumination angle, so you have to work after sunset to see exactly
where the IR light falls.
It’s hard to adjust the illumination angle with the remote zoom to avoid wasting
light. And after a few years of solid performances, traditional IR has been known
to burn out.
Now a newcomer to the scene is changing all that. Built into the network camera
itself, this talented and efficient IR-LED technology automatically directs the
IR light exactly where the camera is pointing and the illumination angle automatically
synchronizes with the remote zoom so no light is wasted.
Additionally, unlike traditional LEDs, known to produce heat and cause picture
noise, the new LED lights are more efficient than their predecessors, which
means fewer are required to illuminate a given area. Thus, there’s less heat output
resulting in far less image noise. While the old LED technology burns out in a
few short years, the new LED light has been screen tested to last a minimum of
seven years, even if used 24/7, which, coincidentally, mirrors the lifespan of a highquality
When a scene calls for subtlety and discretion, built-in IR-LED technology
delivers a discerning performance whether the setting is a retail outlet, restaurant,
hotel or office complex. This just might be the year this new IR-LED technology
really gets to shine.
Commanding stage presence. Wide screen movie making has been winning cinematography
awards since its debut in the mid-1950s. First it was CinemaScope
and Vista Vision, then finally Panavision, which has earned a record 15 Academy
Awards for technical achievement over its lifetime. But the drive to increase the visual
impact of movies didn’t stop there. Today, digital 3D and IMAX technologies
are creating a movie-going experience that’s truly up close and personal.
Similar strides have been taken in the world of surveillance with 360 degree/180
degree panoramic network cameras. These discrete mini-dome cameras provide
HDTV-quality wide overviews that help security professionals detect incidents
while tracking and managing the flow of people in areas as large as 7,000 square
feet. Advanced algorithms have solved the fisheye and barreling effect that plagued
earlier panoramic cameras by de-warping the image, meaning that it digitally
straightens horizontal and vertical lines to produce a clearer, more detailed image.
Ceiling-mounted for a circular 360 degree bird’s eye overview of an entire room
or wall mounted for a 180 degree view, this omnidirectional technology gives security
professionals unprecedented command of surveillance activity. These cameras
offer double- and quad-panoramic video streams with separate digital PTZ capabilities
in each quadrant. The quad views are especially useful when the camera is
positioned at the intersection of corridors and aisles, such as those found in hotels,
school, offices and retail stores.
The new technology may be designed to blend in with the environment, but its
star potential will be hard to hide in the coming year.
Nuanced character development. The transition from dumb analog cameras to intelligent
network cameras capable of independent action is changing our expectations
of what users can learn about the environment they’re watching. Instead of
streaming uncompressed video over a coaxial cable like their predecessors, IP cameras
take on more action, such as storing, analyzing and transmitting the video to
different users depending on the script they’re programmed to follow.
Edge storage. Equipped with their own built-in SDHC memory card slots for edge
storage, network cameras can now store days, or even weeks’ worth of valuable
recordings, and be accessed directly from a desktop or mobile device, or streamed
to an external NAS server for local archiving. But as storage capacity continues to
improve, the versatility of this onboard technology will make it the go-to talent for
a variety of surveillance venues.
Intelligence. Much like independent filmmakers, open application platforms are allowing
third-party developers to create nuanced analytics for specific viewing tastes.
Some of the specialized intelligent video programs that may draw a wider audience
in the coming year include:
- Cross-line detection. A virtual trip wire, the application detects people, vehicles
and objects that cross a pre-defined line, making it possible to automatically
- Motion detection. This tried and true video analytic will bring new layers of understanding
to the scene with advanced programs that can collect more granular data such as movement areas, object
size and time intervals.
- People and vehicle counting. A number
of intelligent video applications
provide customer and operational
insight in real-time—everything from
the volume of foot and vehicle traffic
during specified hours to customer
dwell time and suspicious loitering.
- License plate recognition. Capable
of recording plate images of moving
vehicles, this application can
store the image to an internal SD
card and send alerts against a userdefined
watch list. Specialized and
expensive LPR cameras should soon
be phased out by software running
on a more versatile and off-the-shelf
- Video search and forensic analysis.
This application instantly performs
forensic searches for specific video
segments. It analyzes traffic trends
and heat mapping patterns, and
extracts statistical data for security
and post-event analysis. There are
inexpensive, peel-and-stick RFID
tracking tags that can be used in
conjunction with intelligent software
to associate certain high-risk
products—laptops, courtroom files,
products in the shipping bay—and
use video to verify who left with the
item or if the right one was packed
up in the latest shipment.
- Line management. A number of analytics
are designed to help customers
facilitate the flow of people in
line and enhance customer service,
whether at a checkpoint or a checkout
line. The software often links
to an indicator line that tells an individual
where to stop and when to
proceed to the next available booth,
desk or station. Conversely, store
managers can use alerts to decide
when to open up additional registers.
Like an actor researching a role to
create a riveting, multi-dimensional
performance, a prediction in the coming
year is that analytics will give network
surveillance users an unprecedented
depth of understanding about
their environments and the casts of
characters, vehicles and objects that
Reviewing the Nominees
While the ballots have yet to be cast
and counted for 2013, a number of contenders
for video surveillance stardom
show great promise. Which technology
will ultimately shine and which will
prove to be a flash-in-the-pan is up for
debate. But my vote goes to:
• Lightfinder, WDR and IR-LED for
• 360o/180o panoramic for best direction.
• Edge storage and video analytics for
Now grab some popcorn, and enjoy
the surveillance shows of 2013.
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Security Today.
Fredrik Nilsson is the VP, Americas, for Axis Communications, Inc. He has more than 15 years of experience with IP video systems and is the author of “Intelligent Network Video: Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems” published by CRC Press and now available in its second edition.