Proper Use

Getting the most out of the 180/360 degree video surveillance

No one can argue that IP video surveillance cameras surpass their analog predecessors thanks to the higher resolution and vastly improved quality images these cameras produce, as well as the advanced functions they make possible, including analytics like video motion detection and audio/ video remote monitoring. While there are many excellent IP cameras to choose from today, the one soaring in popularity is the 180/360 degree video surveillance camera. Growing usage is credited to the many benefits 180/360 degree cameras deliver.

They do not, however, provide a one size fits all solution. Oftentimes, a mix of camera types is used to ensure complete coverage of an area. American Integrated Security Group (AISG) follows specific guidelines when choosing 180/360 degree cameras for each customer application.

Starting with the potential to reduce camera counts, 180/360 degree cameras have become an attractive option for a variety of video surveillance installs. The benefits offered by 180/360 degree cameras are numerous. In addition to quality and performance, 180/360 degree cameras offer the potential of lower costs for equipment, installation and maintenance.

The raw image captured by 180/360 degree cameras provides detailed video of a broad area, often allowing a single camera to replace multiple traditional cameras. You get greater coverage with no blind spots of very large locations like complete exterior storefronts of buildings or entire interior rooms with just a single camera. When specifying 180/360 degree cameras, be sure to emphasize the fact that the customer’s camera counts will likely be lower. You not only save the customer money now, but the cameras also keep maintenance costs low over the life of the system.

AISG Application Focus Group Discussi on

If designed correctly, 180/360 degree cameras provide a lower total cost of ownership and a higher return on investment for your customers. The basic rule of thumb is to use 180/360 degree cameras in your design for general wide area surveillance, and then add single-sensor cameras to cover specific points for detailed applications such as facial or plate recognition.

At AISG, it is crucial that system designers and installers are informed with knowledge of not only these cameras but every security product American Integrated Security Group installs. It starts with the AISG Application Group. To ensure the right choice for each customer application, the AISG brainstorms on a variety of technology topics and determines the required equipment necessary to maximize the performance of the systems needed by customers, who are from a wide range of vertical markets. Meeting with the AISG Application Group in New York, here is a summary of a discussion with Majlind Goranca, application engineer, Brian Thompson, application engineer, John Martino, director of applications engineering and Arnold Koble, vice president of engineering, on the use of 180/360 degree video surveillance cameras.

The major factors to determine if a 360/180 degree camera is the proper camera for an applicationn:

  • General coverage of a 360 degree or panoramic view.
  • Record/cover more area with a single 180/360 degree camera vs. 3-4 fixed cameras.
  • No blind spots for the covered area.
  • Cost effective when compared vs. multiple cameras to cover the same area.

The first factor AISG considers is field of view when determining that an application is right for 180/360 degree cameras. If it is general coverage, nothing beats a 180/36-0 degree camera. The amount of area one camera covers can replace three to four fixed cameras. It is the most cost effective solution to providing a broad overall view, recording the movement of people, vehicles, etc., in a large area and at a distance with no blind spots.

Factors that deter you from specifying a 180/360 degree camera:

  • When facial recognition or license plate reading is required.
  • Details of image.
  • Height of the camera placement.
  • Low light environment.

You cannot expect 180/360 degree cameras to do facial recognition because there is no pixel density within the area to cover. In a 5MP 360 degree camera, for example, it is a 5 megapixel lens and those 5 megapixels are spread across a 360 degree image. You cannot specify which area to focus and dense those pixels—that is not the purpose.

Height is also an issue. The cameras can only be up to a specific height. At a decent height, for instance, you will be able to recognize employees and people you know but if you install the same camera past 15 feet, you may not be able to recognize anyone. If the camera is installed up very high, it definitely gives a general view but you will not be able to see details.

Low light environments can be another deterrent to using these cameras. Cameras see light and more light tends to make for a better image. It is important to make sure you are getting good light coverage. What technical issues need to be addressed when installing 180/360 degree cameras?

  • NVR needs to support de-warping.
  • Height (i.e. warehouses, where clearance of at least 20 - 45 ft. is required).
  • Obstructions.
  • Field of view (range/distance).

The images from a 180/360 degree camera’s fisheye lens are distorted and need de-warping technology to unbend the globe-like picture that the cameras produce. The round and distorted image is the result of capturing such an ultra- wide field of view. De-warping is a processor intensive method that makes flat, rectangular images from the original images. While you can de-warp at the camera itself, AISG standardizes on, and recommends, client/server based de-warping.

With client/server based dewarping, you are recording at full resolution and are able to use digital PTZ within the full image and other views. Each user can manipulate the PTZ remotely throughout the different views while also viewing the live picture. With client based de-warping you get four streams to view. Conversely, when you de-warp at the camera, you have to pre-select the desired field-of-view you want to see and there is no going back to other views.

The physical location of the 180/360 degree cameras must be determined. Most cameras are placed on the ceiling or high on a wall. When it becomes a technical issue installing a180/360 degree camera in regard to height, it will limit camera placement options. There are also obstructions to consider. It is important to make sure your coverage is not cut short by any obstructions. For example, if you try to deploy 180/360 degree cameras in a warehouse environment where there are lifts going throughout a tight space, a clearance of at least 20 to 45 foot radius is required; as well as a 12 to 15 foot camera height placement limitation.

As mentioned, field of view is an important aspect to consider when selecting surveillance cameras. Fixed cameras that focus on one specific spot are usually used for entrance and exits. To cover a wider area like warehouses, parking lots, or stadiums, 180/360 degree cameras provide broader coverage. You have to be realistic regarding the range or distance you can view, for instance, you cannot have one 360 degree camera on a 100 feet radius and expect good results. The ultimate radius for a 5MP lens 360 degree camera is 25 feet. For example, outdoors, if it is 50 feet away, you will not be able to recognize the details of a vehicle.

Various Types of 180/360 Degree Cameras

Today, two options are available on the market for 180/360 degree cameras: single-lens/single-sensor 2 to 12MP and multi-lens/multi-sensor which uses four 2 to 5MP sensors with conventional lenses. A single lens camera solution uses a specialized fisheye lens which must be de-warped to produce either a 180- or 360-degree view.

In general, 180/360 degree cameras are ideal for situational awareness in wide open spaces like retail stores, lobbies, parking lots and building perimeters. Indoor and outdoor 180/360 degree camera models are available to provide interior and exterior video coverage. The 180/360 degree camera can also offer day and night functionality. Other features you find in 180/360 degree cameras are a choice of resolutions, as well as configurable privacy zones and video motion detection within defined areas of interest.

Indoor 180/360 degree cameras should be designed with a lightweight enclosure that can be completely concealed behind ceilings or walls for quick and easy installations indoors. For a 360° outdoor camera, make sure the model is designed for quick and easy installations outdoors and includes a professional and rugged enclosure to withstand harsh weather requirements.

The old school philosophy that placing a camera where it can easily be seen may scare off criminals is a fading concept and today, more customers are asking for cameras that are covert. The compact and unobtrusive 180/360 degree dome camera is the perfect solution. Customers often comment that they look like smoke detectors. Dome cameras are widely used for indoor usage and also come in weatherproof versions for outdoor surveillance.

The digital PTZ system lets users use the camera like a conventional dome camera without any moving parts, improving reliability and cutting down on maintenance costs. Users can manipulate their own PTZ remotely within different views.

The popular 180/360-degree camera platform is well-suited for 4K cameras. The 4K camera offers ultra-high resolution, sensitivity, intelligence and toughness. The high-resolution images produced by 4K cameras deliver substantially more picture detail across the broad field of view than any other camera out there.

Matching the Camera to the Customer

There are many ways to take advantage of the growing 180/360 degree video surveillance camera market with the latest technology available. Always use cameras that are open-architecture. Important considerations with 180/360 degree cameras are: camera placement to determine what the customer wants to see, the environment where the cameras will be installed and the purpose the security cameras will ultimately serve.

Potential growth markets where AISG is successful with early adopters of the 180/360 degree camera technology include: retail, transportation, cities and government, hotels and resorts, casinos, stadiums and financial institutions.

These clients have individual needs that often require a mix of both 180/360 degree cameras and single IP video camera models. In addition to broad coverage, for instance, casinos are interested in the ultra-high resolution cameras on gaming floors. Stadiums and government applications are often looking for analytics, coupled with facial recognition technology. Airports and open warehouses often require video motion detection capabilities. In retail environments, heat mapping and people counting capabilities provide insights into employee and customer behavior patterns and can assist in business optimization and marketing functions.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Security Today.

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