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Can old analog PTZ and matrix infrastructure co-exist with high resolution IP cameras?

Although IP-based network cameras are the prevailing standard for new installations, it wasn’t that long ago that analog cameras, and the complex infrastructures required to support large numbers of them, were the only way to accomplish the job. For example, casinos have relied on thousands of analog cameras for more than 20 years and due to the sizeable investments in infrastructure required to control and operate them, many of them are still in use. In some states, the gaming commission has allowed casinos to utilize network-based cameras as the image quality and frame rate have met or surpassed that of analog cameras.

Casinos usually have large investments in coax and control cable infrastructure, using complex matrix systems to route all the signals. A good operator can follow suspects around with a joystick and matrix controls using muscle memory as they know where every camera is instinctively.

Skilled operators controlling hundreds of PTZ cameras might be reluctant to switch to an IP-based system, citing that even today, nothing can compete with the pure instantaneous control and zero latency of analog infrastructure when operating at an enterprise scale. Analog cameras have guaranteed 30 FPS and real-time serial data going to cameras. IP cameras have rapidly evolved beyond analog to provide much higher resolution and detail with 1080p HD and 4K images.

Analog PTZ Performance and Matrix Compatibility with IP High Resolution

Recognizing this type of hybrid need, Hanwha Techwin makes many of its network pan and tilt cameras capable of serial control with RS-422/485 and popular control protocols for maximum compatibility with these legacy systems. For the same reason, many Wisenet cameras have traditional RS-170 NTSC analog outputs so as to be compatible with existing analog matrix environments.

The advantage for large-scale enterprise owners is that they can upgrade their recording infrastructure to HD or greater resolutions while using existing analog signal paths for live monitoring and precise control with no latencies. A hidden and somewhat exclusive feature to Wisenet cameras, it can be the only way for organizations to take advantage of IP and high-resolution full color recording technology while continuing to reap the advantages of an existing analog infrastructure.

Using High-quality Optics and Legacy PTZ Control in an IP World

Another scenario where the analog and IT camera world might like to co-exist is where a traditional box camera and separate lens have been deployed. In these cases, a high-quality glass lens is coupled to an analog box camera with a C or CS-mount. There is nothing wrong with the lens and it can represent a significant investment in quality glass optics. What if the organization wants to update to a state-ofthe- art VMS system and upgrade to high resolution IP cameras?

For such an installation, it might be highly desirable to repurpose the lens and any existing PTZ control system. Hanwha makes highresolution IP-based box cameras, such as the XNB-6005, which have excellent low-light performance and onboard analytics, and can connect to the existing C or CS-mount lens. These cameras can take IPoriginated PTZ signals from popular VMS systems and emulate the RS-485 protocol to drive legacy PTZ receivers from Pelco, American Dynamics, Bosch and others.

This enables a significant update to image monitoring, recording quality and control while retaining the value of quality optics and existing PTZ hardware. For organizations that want to retain their existing analog matrix for real-time monitoring, the cameras also support analog output as well.

Working with Bandwidth Limitations of IP Cameras

Whereas analog systems can be routed to multiple locations with matrix switchers and splitters, IP cameras understandably have a different approach when it comes to routing multiple video streams to different destinations. With a typical VMS, an IP camera might be asked to provide multiple streams—one for recording, one for live view, and maybe a stream for alarm recording at high-resolution.

While the cameras themselves might be happy to accommodate these multiple stream connections (Wisenet cameras provide up to 10 simultaneous streams), there is always a finite amount of bandwidth and onboard resources available that must be shared. A single camera might have a total bandwidth capacity of 30MBps. If you have a VMS and mobile devices that have five streams open on a camera during an event, each asking for 10Mbps connections, this is beyond the camera’s capabilities, so something has to give.

In this case the camera will automatically reduce the quality and/ or framerate in an attempt to supply images to all devices with the resources available. When it comes to a gaming commission mandate for 30 fps for a casino, this could mean a camera is suddenly not compliant on its recorded stream.

To solve such a potential issue, Hanwha Techwin has developed a new feature, which was implemented in a recent firmware update for Wisenet X-series cameras. Called Frame-Lock, this feature allows the user to select a camera profile and guarantee that it will always deliver a preset frame per second output, regardless of additional demands it may receive. It then reduces other streams as appropriate to maintain that. This was designed for the casino market where 30 fps was mandated for recording, but it can have value in multiple use cases where recorded fps needs to be consistent.

These unique features can sometimes be forgotten as we continue to talk about all the latest and greatest analytics and multi-sensor technologies, however, sometimes, it’s exactly these little-known features that can make the difference when bridging old and new technologies and giving the client exactly the right solution for their unique situation.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Security Today.

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