Security Magazine

Live from ISC West 2014: How 4K Resolution Impacts End Users

April 3, 2014

The phrase of the day at ISC West 2014 is “4K.” No, that’s not our casino winnings, but the latest innovation in video surveillance resolution. But what does it mean for enterprise security end users?

First off, the basics: 4K resolution is a generic term for display devices or content with horizontal resolution at the 4,000-pixel level. You’re most likely to have experienced 4K resolution on new ultra high-definition TVs, but content at this resolution is currently limited.

How does it compare to 1080p? Well, Full Ultra HD is 33.2 megapixels, and Ultra HD is 8.3 megapixels – twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p HDTV format, with four times as many overall pixels.

Now, that’s all well and good for 3D-like media content, but what about security?

So far, the use of 4K for security applications has been hampered by the availability of lenses that can handle that level of resolution. But now that the glass has caught up to the camera capabilities, we’ve seen 4K news, releases, announcements and demonstrations from Axis Communications, Bosch, Arecont Vision, IQinVision, Sony and more. And while picture quality produced by these cameras is indeed astoundingly clear, it’s currently very much a niche product on an end user side.

One of the hang-ups of adopting 4K is that end users would require new 4K monitors to handle that resolution level. While these monitors are dropping in price (a quick consumer search produces results varying in price from less than $1,000 to $30,000), it would be a necessary cost of ultra HD.

Another is the application space: for most installations, 33 megapixels is overkill – that much detail just isn’t needed or usable in the average bank, retail location or office building, per se. However, for larger applications (I’m thinking stadiums, smart cities, airports or busy train stations, etc), this could be incredibly useful as both a technology reducer (it covers a lot of ground, and could potentially replace multiple cameras) and a force multiplier for investigations or virtual patrols.

Similar to existing megapixel technology, IQinVision used an example of a high school with an on-premise football field that might be located across a parking lot or far from the building. A 4K camera could be connected to the building, using existing cabling and reducing the need for trenching or other infrastructure investments, while still having a clear view of events on the field.

Bosch gave a different example, perhaps more tailored to ISC West – casinos could use this resolution on gaming floors to see the cards as they are laid on the table to help with investigations and to catch cheaters faster.

What do you think of 4K technologies? Is it just a buzzword or a new wave of HD solutions for your enterprise? What other applications could you think of for this resolution of surveillance camera?