Mega: Bigger is Better, Most Times
The result was that the schools now are receiving better security than they originally requested.
“It’s an unbelievable system in the Union School District for an unbelievable price,” maintained Ken Richards of ADS. “It’s all Internet protocol cameras, all megapixel and multi-megapixel cameras, all the newest technology.”
But the school district’s original request for proposals did not specify this system. “When Union put out a request for proposals, they went with equipment that was familiar to them, and it was an analog system, the same system that has been out for many, many years,” Richards explained.
The Union, Mo., police chief alerted the school district last July to a matching federal grant for school safety and even volunteered two of his police officers, Kevin Anderson, who works as the school resource officer, and Rick Neace to prepare the grant application on short notice. The bid enabled the school district to practically double its money on the upgraded security system.
“As far as picture quality, it is over 300 percent better than even a high-end analog camera; it’s three times the picture quality alone,” Richards pointed out. A dome from Arecont in the gymnasium of the Union, Mo., high school provides security video coverage of Wildcats games and other activities. All the schools except one elementary school are linked by fiber-optic cable. Cameras can be viewed remotely over the Internet by authorized personnel or police from outside the building. The high school has approximately 50 cameras inside and 20 outside.
Because of the high-definition, megapixel cameras used, both the front entrance and the office can be included in the same single-camera view.
Fueled by the rapid acceptance of digital technology, the megapixel video camera is becoming a standard offering by high-end physical security integrators. These surveillance cameras sample millions of pixels in a single image, providing extremely high resolution and quality pictures for viewing and analysis.
Although everyone involved with surveillance video would like to have the highest quality images from all cameras, there is a price to be paid for placing megapixel surveillance cameras onto a network. Because of their large size, megapixel images can consume a large portion of available network bandwidth, while also requiring large-capacity storage drives.
There are a couple of ways to optimize the use of megapixel cameras. The first is to only use a few “spot” megapixel cameras in locations where excellent image quality is needed, while lower-resolution cameras are used in other areas. For example, a megapixel camera might be installed at the entrance to a building so that the faces of individuals entering or leaving the building are clearly recorded, while lower-resolution cameras are used in other areas.
Because of video analytics and the reductions in cost of megapixel technology, the industry will see some variation of megapixel imaging become commonly used within the a short period of time.
There also is the need for networking megapixel cameras.
One key benefit of networking security video is the capability of transmitting video in a one-to-many method, where multiple authorized users can view the same video signal at the same time. A security officer viewing a video can have his or her supervisor, who may be in a different building or geographic region, also view the same video to verify a person’s identity. A network problem can arise if multiple one-to-one (unicast) video streams are simultaneously viewed, as the camera or encoder will establish separate video streams to each viewer, greatly increasing the bandwidth used.
Along with the potential impact on the information security of a network, the bandwidth “bugaboo” is the most frequently cited objection raised by IT personnel when considering the connection of IP video encoders and megapixel cameras. To properly understand how to address this concern, it’s important to know exactly what amounts of network bandwidth are required by devices using the typical video compression programs available from mainstream surveillance camera/encoder manufacturers.
All video that is transported through a network must be “compressed” using one of several available compression formats. If NTSC video were to be transported through a network without compression it would require more than 150 Mbps of bandwidth, which is more than standard 100 Mbps Ethernet devices and switches can handle. The compression process is highly complex; however, the net result is that individual images are processed, redundant information is eliminated (or reduced), the number of individual pixels sampled can be changed in the compression settings, and the amount of compression applied to each pixel sample can be increased or reduced. Along with manipulation of the compression settings, lessening the frames per second being transmitted will result in lower bandwidth usage.
One savior for the video bandwidth concern is the implementation of video analytics into IP cameras and video encoders. Encoders can be programmed with analytics so that if there is no actionable activity being viewed by the camera, it transmits nothing over the network. As technology progresses, analytics will become cheaper/faster/better and will likely greatly reduce or eliminate network video bandwidth concerns.
SIDEBAR: How Big Can It Get?BetterLight has gone pixel crazy. Its high-resolution, top-end 416-megapixel model isn’t a digital camera itself, but a so-called “scanning back” device that attaches to high-end, large-format cameras. Images are a 10,200x13,600 pixel count in at a file size of about 794MB per image. Don’t tell your IT folks about this.
SIDEBAR: More Megapixel Resources
ISC West, held earlier this year, had a number of educational sessions and new product introductions. Go to the Web site www.iscwest.com. New this year was the IP Institute that provided in-depth IP convergence training across a diversity of technologies.
ASIS International late last year held its annual educational seminar and exhibitions. For papers and presentations on IP and megapixels, go to www.asisonline.org.
The trade group -- Security Industry Association -- is deeply involved in standards in the area of IP video. More information is at www.siaonline.org.