Lights, Camera, Action

Lights, Camera, Action

New IP video technologies will play starring roles in 2013 and beyond

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.

Lights

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 from view.

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 IP camera.

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.

Camera

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.

Action

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 signal incidents.
  • 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 IP camera.
  • 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 populate them.

Reviewing the Nominees for 2013

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 best cinematography. • 360o/180o panoramic for best direction. • Edge storage and video analytics for best scriptwriting.

Now grab some popcorn, and enjoy the surveillance shows of 2013.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Security Today.

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