Fresh off the tradeshow floor at ASIS International’s 2016 Seminar & Exhibits, Security editors and industry leaders saw a fresh wave of 4K technology and ultra-HD surveillance solutions. What do these options mean for enterprise security leaders, however? We posed the question to Mark Farus, Product Portfolio Manager for Third-Party Security Products at security integration firm Siemens’ Building Technologies Division.


What makes 4K different from other HD camera options, and what does this mean for end users?

The advantage of a 4K camera over a standard HD 1080p camera is that you get four times higher resolution from the 4K camera. This means you could either install one 4K camera in place of a few 1080p cameras or replace an existing 1080p camera with a 4K camera to get much more detail in a covered area. The density of the image allows for image zooming (real time or recorded video) that gives four times the detail as a 1080p HD camera, making a response to an incident much more effective.

True HD cameras adhere to standards set by the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) including specific requirements such as resolution, color fidelity and frame rates. 4K cameras not only cover larger areas but also meet a certain picture quality standard. Previously your only option was a high megapixel camera that didn’t always show colors accurately nor did it perform at the frame rates needed because it didn’t meet the standards.

As video analytics continue to grow in capability and features, 4K cameras will allow for new analytics and more accurate analytics because of the detail they can provide. With so much more detail, the analytics would be able to pull out unique details that may be difficult to decipher today with lower resolution cameras or high resolution cameras that don’t meet the standards mentioned above.


What sort of situations or installations would benefit most from 4K technology?

Installations that would benefit from the 4K camera technology are situations that require a camera to cover a large area yet provide sharp details and accurate colors when zooming into a scene. Take a sports arena, for instance. You’d want to cover several sections of seating but still see a clear picture of an unruly fan and identify the color and type of clothing he’s wearing so you could quickly and accurately respond to the situation. A similar situation might involve a large, busy lobby in a building such as an airport. Even though some of these installations require that cameras be mounted higher and/or further away from the coverage area than would be optimal, the 4K resolution still allows details and colors to be seen, without reducing the coverage area or adding additional cameras.


What infrastructure is needed to best utilize 4K?

This is a challenge that the industry faces with each major progression in video technology. Often, existing infrastructure and systems cannot natively support the new technology, creating a lag in its adoption. Some end users try to plan ahead with systems like networking infrastructure, but this is only one piece that may be needed to support the new products. It may not make sense to install 4K cameras when you’re viewing the video on old analog-compatible monitors. That said, end users would need a 4K-capable system from the camera to the monitor to take full advantage of what 4K has to offer. End users would need to work with their security integrator to assess their entire system and work out a phased plan to upgrade their components to support 4K technology. For example, an end user might possibly need 4K cameras only in a large lobby area. This would require an upgrade to only part of his network, one recording server and storage device, and the one workstation used to monitor that lobby. The remainder of the system would stay in place until further upgrades are needed.


What common misconceptions have you heard about 4K installations and integrations from end users?

One misconception is that an end user has to upgrade his entire system to take advantage of 4K technology. As in the previous example, this often isn’t the case, as many modern video platforms and networks are modular and flexible enough to accommodate a phased upgrade. Most end users wouldn’t need 4K cameras in every location in their facility and would not require a wholesale upgrade of the entire system. The possibility of adding just a few 4K cameras is not as onerous as one might believe with effective planning by an experienced security system integrator.

Another misconception is that 4K cameras take four times the bandwidth of 1080p HD cameras, making them difficult to run on existing networks. This can sometimes be the case but, with modern compression means, bandwidth consumption can be brought down to acceptable levels.  The performance of the existing network would not be adversely impacted and the security organization can still enjoy the advantages of the higher resolution images.

Check out a gallery of five 4K surveillance cameras and solutions in our gallery here, including information on:

  • True 4K Camera from Panasonic

  • MegaDome 4K/1080p Camera Series from Arecont Vision

  • DINION IP Ultra 8000 MP Camera from Bosch

  • SNC-VB770 4K Network Camera from Sony

  • PNV-9080R Outdoor IR Vandal Dome from Hanwha Techwin America