Nostalgia has No Place in Video Surveillance
Why IP video will eventually supplant analog technology
- By Fredrik Nilsson
- Dec 01, 2014
When network cameras first appeared on the market in 1996
who could have imagined this fledgling technology ever
gaining a toehold in an industry dominated by analog cameras?
Fast forward to today and one marvels at how much
IP video has transformed the surveillance landscape.
In fact, market projections show that 2014 will be the year when IP video clearly
surpasses the dollars spent on analog surveillance technology. What makes this
all the more significant is that IP video is only reaching 30 percent of today’s channels,
which means there is enormous opportunity for further market growth.
Why IP is Gaining in Popularity
There are a number of factors propelling the industry to supplant long-entrenched
analog with more advanced IP video systems. Foremost is image usability. Resolution
has progressed from a mere CIF resolution (352x240 pixels) to stunning
multi-megapixels and full HDTV clarity. Superior H.264 compression standards
and greater in-camera processing power have changed streaming from a few jerky
frames per second to a smooth 30 frames per second, and in some instances even
up to 60 frames per second.
The constrictive 4:3 aspect ratio reflective of old CRT computer screens has
been replaced by an expansive 16:9 ratio to complement the widespread adoption
of widescreen HDTV monitors, a carryover from the home entertainment market.
Open standards afford another advantage. With so many business applications
operating on the network, users have come to expect open platform architecture
from all their IT products. IP video delivers.
Instead of being locked into proprietary DVR-based analog solutions, IP-based
video surveillance systems allow users to pick and choose the best components for
their environment. They can integrate storage, fiber network and switch, operating
systems, processors, network cameras and video analytics from multiple vendors
with cost-saving off-the-shelf components. Because each component adheres to
open standards, systems integrators can interconnect all the elements into a single
cohesive system and replace or update components at will. This allows users to
acquire ever-increasing functionality and performance throughout the life of their
surveillance system and extend the return on their original investment.
Remote accessibility also has contributed to IP video’s growing acceptance. As
a network-based system, video cameras and storage can be accessed over the web.
Unchaining security from their desktops and enabling them to view cameras live from remote devices like smartphones and tablets delivers
unprecedented situational awareness wherever
the user may be. It also means that integrators and
service providers can troubleshoot, service and upgrade
systems remotely, saving the expense and delay
of an on-site service call.
Cementing IP Video’s Place
as a Frontrunner
As with all technological innovations, IP video continues
to evolve. With that evolution, high-end features
are swiftly permeating the market at ever more
affordable price points. Take, for example, Lightfinder
technology that delivers full color even at night under
poor lighting conditions. The advanced image processing
and in-camera software required to produce
life-like color in HDTV resolution without artificial
illumination cost $999 when it first debuted in 2011.
In 2014, the price has dropped to $699.
The same economies apply to the wide dynamic
range with dynamic capture feature that solves the
problem of delivering a usable image in a scene comprised
of both deep shadows and bright light. When
the technology debuted in 2012, it sold for $999. Today,
cameras featuring both Lightfinder and the latest
wide dynamic range innovation—WDR—Forensic
Capture start at $1,099.
Built-in optimized infrared LED is another example.
Built into the camera itself, these LEDs are power
efficient and automatically direct IR light exactly
where the camera is pointed so that the illumination
angle automatically synchronizes with the remote
zoom. They produce less heat than their predecessors
and therefore generate far less image noise. Unlike old
IRs that burn out in a few short years, these new IR
LED lights last at least seven years, even if used 24/7.
Cameras with built-in IR LEDs first came on the
market in 2012 for an already attractive cost of $499.
Given all of IP video’s advanced capabilities, it is
no wonder that nostalgia for grainy, proprietary analog
surveillance systems is sharply waning.
Accelerating Growth at
Both Ends of the Market
IP video is a far more scalable technology than DVRbased
systems, which makes it ideal for enterprise surveillance—
large corporations with multiple satellite
offices or citywide surveillance systems. In fact, most
enterprise installations with more than 100 cameras
are IP systems. While quite a few systems in the world
have more than 10,000 cameras integrated into a
single surveillance network, there are even a few with
more than 100,000 cameras. This level of scalability
can only be possible with network-based technology.
Despite the promise of IP video, there is still a high
percentage of mid-size installations with between 10
and 100 cameras tied to analog technology. Their decision
to cling to this older technology has been influenced
by integrators comfortable with the simplicity
of installing and operating DVR systems. But with innovations
making network systems even easier to install
and use, security integrators are starting to shift
their influence to IP.
Analog also continues to dominate small system
markets with fewer than 10 cameras due to the misconception
that the old technology is the most costeffective,
least complex solution. But that perception
is changing due to two important catalysts: cloud
computing and low-cost, high-capacity on-board
storage. In addition to making IP more affordable for
low camera-count users, these innovations deliver the
same technological advantages found in enterprise
level systems, namely HDTV image quality and full
scalability in single and multiple camera increments.
How do they work?
Cloud security. Also known as hosted video or video as
a service limits a user’s surveillance system investment
to network cameras and a secure Internet connection.
The user pays a service provider a monthly fee to store
the recorded data in the cloud and maintain system
components remotely, eliminating the need for onsite
storage hardware as well as in-house technical expertise
to manage, troubleshoot, upgrade and service the
system. This shifts the bulk of the surveillance budget
from a hefty upfront capital investment to a more affordable
monthly operating expense. A hosted video
operating model can also easily tie into a monitoring
service, enabling an alarm operator to visually verify
an event before calling responders to the scene.
SD memory cards. They equip IP cameras with
highly-efficient, programmable internal storage. A robust
technology that can be accessed remotely over a
network, an SD card eliminates the cost of an onsite
server, DVR, NVR or PC to house the recorded video.
Basic SD cards range in capacity from 64MB to 4GB.
SDHC cards offer more storage—from 8GB to 32GB.
SDXC cards start at 64GB and can go as high as 2TB
of storage. Instead of consuming bandwidth streaming
video to an external storage device, the on-board
storage can be accessed remotely over the network.
When used in conjunction with hosted video, users
gain the best of both worlds: having a monitored service
and minimizing bandwidth consumption by storing
most video on the camera itself.
Making Smarter Use of
In the early days of surveillance, cameras were primarily
installed as a deterrent to crime. In the last
decade, surveillance has advanced to a forensic stage
whereby video was tagged and viewed to identify details
of an incident after it occurred. Most recently,
we’re seeing a shift from that reactive use of video to a
more proactive use through real-time analysis.
Foremost is using intelligent analytics to bring
the most relevant video to the foreground so that the
operator can direct attention to a certain area as an
incident unfolds or shortly thereafter. Some of those
- Cross-line detection: sending an alert when a person,
vehicle or object crosses a perimeter • Motion detection: sending an alert or initiating
a video recording when there is movement in the
field of view
- People and vehicle counting: tracking the volume
of foot and vehicular traffic to manage location capacity
- License plate recognition: converting license plate
images to OCR data for easy retrieval
- Line management: triggering an alert when the
number of people in line exceeds a specific number
Now that intelligent video has proven itself in security,
its use extending into other areas of the business
as well. Some of the typical retail and industrial
applications for video analytics include:
- Dwell time analysis at merchandising displays
- Demographic analysis of shoppers by product category
- Stock replenishment review
- Video verification of cash register transactions and
Because IP video is network-based technology, it
can be seamlessly integrated with other physical security
information management systems (PSIM) for
more complete protection of people and property.
Adding video verification into the mix affords a number
- Video verification on alarms: save
on penalties for false alarms
- Access control systems: confirm the
identity of badge users
- Intercom systems: screen visitors before
Delivering Even Better Details
The next big game changer for IP video
is Ultra HD, also known as 4K, which
will bring even higher image quality to
the table. Nearly four times the resolution
of HDTV 1080p, 4K adheres to
the following standards:
- Resolution: at least 3840x2160 or
- Frame rate: up to 120 fps
- Aspect ratio: 16:9
- Color fidelity: a much larger color
palette than HDTV
For the surveillance industry this
translates into an unprecedented level
of detail, making it easier for security
professionals to identify people, objects
and incidents from greater distances.
But with four times the resolution
of HDTV comes at least four times the
bandwidth consumption when streaming
the video, and, of course, at least
four times the volume of video data being
stored. Therefore the only way 4K to
have any practical application, compression
technology will have to keep pace.
To use 4K at full resolution and
frame rate, H.264 advanced compression
technology requires a bandwidth
of roughly 20-30 MBps. Compressing
the video stream below 10 MBps sacrifices
frames per second, video quality
There is a new compression standard
on the horizon, however. H.265,
also known as High Efficiency Video
Coding is the intended successor to
H.264. A more efficient compression
algorithm, it’s designed to improve video
quality and double the compression
ratio of its predecessor. The standard
was formally published in June 2013
and the consumer electronics industry
anticipates products equipped with
H.265 to reach the market by the end
of 2014. But the transition to the video
surveillance world is still several years
out since the standard has to be incorporated
not only in video cameras, but
also in all the associated components
like graphics cards, video displays and
video management systems.
IP Video Continues to have
IP video has come a long way from its
rudimentary debut in 1996. As its leading
edge advantages over analog continue
to exceed expectations—at the
enterprise, mid-size and small system
levels—the potential customer base for
IP video continues to expand exponentially.
This presents an attractive opportunity
for security integrators and
installers looking for solutions that will
benefit all aspects of their customers’
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 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.