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IP Surveillance Takes Command - GovernmentVideo.com

IP Surveillance Takes Command

Analog CCTV slides toward sunset, as digital asserts itself
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Makers of IP surveillance components want you to know that their products are ready for prime time. Analog CCTV might still dominate in smaller legacy installations, is but just barely―IP systems are coming on fast.

“The price of IP has fallen dramatically, while its image quality and overall capabilities have improved,” said Tri Nguyen, Toshiba America Information Systems marketing support engineer. “Analog’s cost advantages even in smaller scale deployments are not as pronounced as they were just a couple of years ago. A single IP megapixel camera can take the place of several analog cameras in a large open space.”

Industry leaders see the future of IP surveillance systems as the overwhelming choice for a broad array of agencies and locations. One big reason is that IP systems are easy to access from mobile devices, which is just one of several features that are driving the change from analog to digital surveillance.

“As we move into the future, we will see more networked infrastructures linking government agencies together with surveillance networks,” said Joe Cook, Moxa America manager of business development and industrial networking. “IP video and network infrastructure are creating the ‘connected city’.”

“The transition from analog to IP is well underway,” said Stephen Neish, president of Sighthound. “We passed the tipping point in the last couple of years.”

There are several ways that an IP surveillance network can be made future proof.

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Toshiba IK-WP41A camera

“Analog CCTV is inferior to IP video in system flexibility, scalability and maintenance costs,” said Nguyen. “IP cameras can incorporate ‘smart’ technologies, such as video analytics, and analog cannot.”

Toshiba’s IK-WR14A and IK-WD14A are two examples of cutting-edge IP camera technology that is also user-friendly.

“It offers easy installation with remote zoom and focus, as well as high image quality because of SR LED illuminators and 1080p resolution,” said Nguyen.

The wide dynamic range of the IK-WD14A meets demanding lighting applications, while being ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum) compliant allows for plug-and-play compatibility with network video recorders.

The IK-WR14A offers a new cable management system based on PoE (Power over Ethernet). Its vandal-resistant IP66 metal housing is made rugged for outdoor installation.

ON THE EDGE

One useful and important innovation for cameras is edge storage. It enables video recording directly to an on-board SD card or a network-attached storage (NAS) device contained in the camera itself.

This eliminates the need and cost of an onsite server, DVR, NVR or PC for recorded video, and recording takes place even if the camera loses connection with the central server. This also overcomes bandwidth limitations by allowing the viewing of live video in low resolution, while locally recording HDTV quality images for purposes such as evidence and event analysis at a later time.

Sony’s SNC-CH140, which features edge storage, is the latest addition to the company’s lineup of network security cameras. The dual-stream network HD camera supports H.262, MPEG-4 and JPEG compression formats, and it delivers HD picture quality at 30 fps.

The SNC-CH140 can be combined with a Milestone Xprotect Corporate server to provide edge storage. In this configuration, the camera continuously monitors its connection with the Milestone server. When the system detects missing recordings, either because the server is offline or the camera is disconnected, the camera automatically begins recording with its on-board memory and maintains the same image size and frame rates as live streaming video. When system connection is restored, the recording server retrieves all recorded audio and video from the moment the connection went down.

Axis promotes its 0509-004 as the smallest network camera with edge storage. It has 128 MB of built-in flash memory and features motion detection and an active tampering alarm. The camera includes digital pan/tilt/zoom, and its security features include password protection and IP address filtering.

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Moxa VPort361MP camera

Moxa describes its VPort 56-2MP as the “world’s first rugged full-HD zoom camera designed for mission critical applications,” and its specs support that claim. It is designed to operate in -40 to 75-degree centigrade conditions without a heater or fan.

“The sensor is separated from the main board electronics with a heat-sync design,” said Cook. “The design philosophy is based on manufacturing an industrial-application-grade product for use in outdoor-wide temperature environments.”

A fiber Ethernet port on the VPort 56-2MP can extend network distances up to 87 miles. It also features edge storage with an SD card for disconnection and event recording. Advanced optical technology includes full HD resolution, 10x optical and 16x digital zoom to improve efficiency and provide extra clear image quality.

Making the transition to an IP network is made easier by utilizing Ethernet cables already installed in many buildings, as the cables are re-purposed for video surveillance. If additional jacks are needed to plug in network cameras, an installer can run a CAT-5 cable from the camera to the nearest switch, and a relatively inexpensive switch can be installed at the nearest wall jack.

Cable for analog cameras must be run all the way back to the digital video recorder (DVR), while IP cameras just need to run to the nearest IP switch. Since a common switch configuration has 16 ports, one CAT-5 cable from the switch can carry the information from 16 IP cameras.

“IP is heading in the direction of plug-and-play with tools that make configuration easy, like setup wizards and auto-discovery,” said Nguyen.

MAINTENANCE CONCERNS

There are important installation and maintenance issues associated with IP cameras and IP systems that must be considered, according to Dan Payerle, Ideal Industries business unit manager for network test products.

“CCTV integrators or end-users that perform in-house installation have a conundrum when migrating to IP camera systems,” said Peyerle. “IP camera systems are basically self-contained networks requiring some level of IT experience to set up and administer.”

IP maintenance personnel must understand LAN topology, equipment and installation standards. Most installations use CAT-5e or CAT-6 cabling but installations with large exterior perimeters, fiber optic cabling should be considered.

The maintenance person must be familiar with IP addressing and subnet configurations to configure the cameras, the CCTV server and network switchers. Virtual local area network (VLAN) may be used when an IP camera is added to an existing network, and network security can be an issue.

Troubleshooting issues include dealing with power supplies and understanding the distance limitations of Ethernet. Many cameras utilize Power over Ethernet to power the camera, and problems with cameras not powering up or rebooting are somewhat common.

Sometimes the camera requires more power than the switch can provide or the port on the switch may be incorrectly configured to a low-power mode. Ethernet cable runs are limited to 295 feet plus 35 feet of patch cords, and cameras are sometimes installed on runs that exceed distance limitations, which means that cameras may not connect or may produce poor image quality.

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Ideal NaviTEK II Pro

Ideal Industries offers several portable testing devices that a technician can use in the field to determine IP problems. Among them is the handheld NaviTek II that, among other attributes, allows the technician to make sure that the camera is getting power if it is powered by Ethernet.

The unit can also be programmed with “target” IP addresses for ping and trace-route tests, and it can verify communications with the IP CCTV server.

The Ideal Industries LanXPLORER provides advanced troubleshooting and diagnostics with two Ethernet ports. It can be placed between a camera and the network to measure bandwidth, frame errors, PoE draw and other metrics. In a live network, the SignalTEK II can be set up to simulate IP CCTV traffic to stress test a network to identify potential problems for equipment upgrades.

UNIFICATION

Unifying networks and bringing multiple physical security systems together seamlessly into one easy to use interface was Genetec’s goal in creating its Security Center.

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George Maroussis, technology alliance manager for Genetec

“A government client should consider a unified approach to physical security because it provides comprehensive operational advantage by leveraging synergies between related security data such as video surveillance and access control,” said George Maroussis, Genetec’s technology alliance manager.

Omnicast is the IP video management system of the Security Center platform. It is supported by a wide range of cameras, encoders and CCTV equipment.

“It is scalable to adapt to the changing demands and dynamics of any government security department,” said Maroussis. “It is an open-platform IP-based physical security system that provides a seamless solution for video surveillance, access control and license plate recognition.”

Marooussis said that Omnicast can be configured to keep cameras from recording unless there is motion detection.

“It will then apply intelligent load-balancing features to regulate data flow and storage, or to work with on-board storage at the cameras that will push video data over that network at periods when traffic is low,” he said.

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Genetec SecurityCenter screen shot

Bandwidth is not of as great a concern to Sighthound Inc.’s President Steohen Niesh, whose company developed the smaller-scale but innovative Sighthound Video for an equally important purpose. Sighthound’s software mirrors the human brain in determining whether to sound an alarm when it detects motion in front of one of the surveillance cameras connected to it, and is the first video security software to work on Macs, PCs, iPads, iPhones and Android devices without the need for browser plug-ins or mobile downloads.

After installation, Sighthound finds most cameras automatically and is running in 60 seconds. Users control remote access to their videos by creating secure links to the software.

“We’re basically trying to solve the problem of false alerts,” said Neish. “A simple motion detector is a dumb piece of technology.”

A typical motion detector tied to a surveillance camera looks for changes in pixels. It can’t tell if a cloud is going over the sun, a tree branch is swaying or a dog is walking in front of the camera.

“Sighthound looks for things like feet, legs, heads and hands, and builds a map of connected items,” said Neish. “If it sees that the feet are connected to legs and a torso or head, it decides that it is a human being.”

The image is flagged, outlined by a digital box, and an alert is triggered.

“We developed the software using thousands of hours of videos of people walking dogs, carrying suitcases or walking in the snow,” said Neish. “It’s all mathematical algorithms.”

Another way to describe it is as as hierarchical temporal network that looks over time and sees what happens to things that move, building up a hierarchy of what it has seen.

Currently Sighthound is only offered to homeowners and small businesses, and operates with one CPU. A trial version, which does not expire, is offered free on Sighthound’s website. Basic and premium versions of the software are not free.

There seems little doubt that IP surveillance equipment has come out on top.

“We find that once a customer is educated on the advantages of IP, the cost objections fall away,” said Nguyen.

“In video surveillance, if a government entity has already migrated to IP video surveillance, they have already taken a solid step towards future proofing their security environment,” said Maroussis.

That sounds politically correct, but there’s a more succinct way to put it:

“Anyone who buys an analog camera now is an idiot,” said Neish.

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