Higher-resolution cameras, AI-driven analytics and higher frame rates have come as a boon to the security industry
- By Brian Mallari
- Sep 20, 2022
Smart video has reached an inflection point.
Significant innovations in key technology areas have enabled the development of jaw-dropping new video applications and handed a multitude of opportunities to a wide swath of business segments. Some of those breakthroughs have come in the form of higher resolution, cloud computing, omnidirectional cameras, increased frame rates, AI-powered analytics, and larger-capacity data storage.
Many of the advancements will help drive significant growth in the security industry. Research group IDC predicts the value of the worldwide video surveillance camera market to reach $50 billion by 2025.
All this exciting growth has already begun to heap unprecedented demands on computing and storage resources. For that reason, it has become more critical than ever for security chiefs and integrators to ensure that their VMS — cameras, servers, recorders and drives — reliably meet their needs today and well into the future.
Rapidly Evolving Video Capabilities
Who can blame anyone for feeling overwhelmed by all the changes to video surveillance in the past three years?
Only two years ago, the standard recorder collected video at resolutions of 720p or 1080p. Nowadays, it is common for companies to record at 4k, quadrupling the amount of data collected.
Higher resolution provides security teams with the ability to discern in greater detail — a license plate number at longer distances, facial features and smaller objects. Higher resolution has also driven the need for increased storage.
Not only that, the types of video streams collected today have changed. Not long ago, a camera would send a single stream. Today, security cameras can deliver multiple streams. First, the primary data feed, or auxiliary stream, is captured at lower definition. The second feed is for monitoring or for redirecting to another location.
Then comes the streams dedicated to serving analytics, which may include picture files, alarm data and log file information. As a result, the quantities of information stored has mushroomed and security systems must support this new data deluge.
Organizations Store Video for Longer Periods
Additionally, these systems often must store data for longer and longer periods.
Whether it is to satisfy regulatory requirements, protect against liability or for training AI models, a growing number of companies store video for many months.
In the cannabis industry for example, California requires dispensaries to maintain security video on file for a minimum of 90 days. Some banks store security video for six months. Other business sectors, such as gaming, must satisfy special needs.
The Nevada Gaming Commission Regulation, the body that oversees gambling in Las Vegas, requires that a slot machine and gaming table be covered by a dedicated camera. Those cameras, according to the regulations, must provide “enough resolution to readily identify the reel strip symbols, card values, or any other machine indication used to determine game outcome.”3
The casinos collect enormous amounts of data, yet the gaming commission requires them to store video for no less than 90 days. Backend components enable that and so much more.
Power companies fly camera-equipped drone aircraft to identify and assess down power lines. Farmers fly them to identify unhealthy crops. Video cameras assisted by artificial intelligence enable hospitals to improve patient observation and better predict infections and other causes of patient deterioration.
Don’t Skimp, Choose Gear Suited to Your Needs
Still, realizing all the benefits that smart video offers has come at a cost.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that higher expenses have led some security managers to collect video at lower frame rates or to reduce resolution. We have seen a few companies try to manage data from multiple cameras with desktop drives.
Strategies like this are extremely risky.
Anytime a cost-benefit analysis is done on video and data management, one of the key factors is measuring the cost of failing to capture a critical event. Ensuring access to that vital clip or frame when it is most needed is paramount.
The difference between filming 10 frames per second versus 30 frames does not sound like much but a lot of fast action can occur in those unrecorded moments. Desktop drives were intended for PCs and were not built to labor non-stop for 24 hours, seven days a week — the typical requirement for security systems.
The best advice is to buy the cameras, drives, recorders and other gear that best serves the need. Storing video taken from 30 cameras, complete with analytics data, on a drive not designed to handle that kind of workload could result in lost pixels, missed frames or worse. It could burn out a drive.
Too much may one day hang in the balance. A dropped frame at just the wrong moment could diminish an evidence file or mean the difference between a lawsuit or not.
Plan for Scale and Growth
When choosing equipment, focus on reliability first. Make sure to choose hard drives that are surveillance-grade and built for 24/7 operation. Compare annualized failure rates. Ensure that annual workload, or the amount of data transferred to and from the hard drive is sufficient to support the video sent from the camera.
Remember that many of these advanced systems contain graphics processing units and other components that draw a lot of heat. Too much heat can damage a system, so search for energy-efficient drives, recorders and servers that reduce heat as well as help cut operating costs. Check that your supplier backs their product with a 3-year or 5-year limited warranty.
Modern video recorders must also handle concurrent incoming video and analytic data from multiple cameras at the same time. Look for purpose-built surveillance drives that can support up to 64HD streams or 32HD plus auxiliary, AI and video metadata streams.
In addition, a drive should have firmware that is optimized to reduce dropped video frames and improve overall video playback.
Lastly, when investing in a new security system, plan for the scaling of your company. IT teams have become bigger contributors to security departments in recent years and they have a good understanding of the importance of provisioning.
We advise working with them to create a growth plan; one that enables you to easily upgrade your camera technology and storage capacity when the time comes.
Consider that retention and analytics information is likely to continue to proliferate and you want a system that adapts to sometimes very complex changes.
This article originally appeared in the September / October 2022 issue of Security Today.
Brian Mallari is director of product marketing for surveillance products at Western Digital Corp.