Video Surveillance technology can be defined as devices or systems which can monitor, record, track and assess the movements of individuals, their property and other assets.
The video surveillance market is not a dynamic one with regards to innovation, which can happen slowly at a distance of years. The reason for this could be the necessity of operators to ensure that each ¡®New technology¡¯ is first of all technically reliable then useful.
From Digital Video Recorders to Intelligent DVR
2005 was a witness to a series of innovative yet not necessarily new tendencies, which also characterized technological initiatives in the sector for the first half of 2006.
A representative slogan of the innovations observed in 2005 could be: ¡®From Digital Video Recorders to Intelligent DVR.¡¯ Even though ¡°intelligent¡± is an adjective often abused by this sector, none the less, it is used here to describe the effort of some operators to transform classical systems of digital recording of imagery into apparatuses which are able to automatically recognize certain events, when they occur.
One such trend is the development and deployment of a multi-channel Digital Video Recorder, embedded with a Number Plate Recognition Software.
For some Operators, the use of such a system is out of the question, nevertheless the main reason why such a dual technology has not yet visibly been accepted in the market, could be due to the difficulty for the companies involved in the DVR market, to quickly develop a reliable and performant multi-country Number Plate Recognition Software.
The companies which today are able to offer a functional and reliable Number Plate recognition software, which works for multiple channels and without an external trigger, are less than a dozen. The second reason is the limitations of hardware, since having both technologies necessitates significant computer resources for the elaboration of data.
Products which aim to include events happening in sequence in the visual field of the telecamera, are going in the same direction.
Be Ready for High Resolution Network Cameras
Another innovation observed in last few years, which should continue to be present and to evolve in the future, is the use of High Resolution Cameras or MegaPixel Cameras for modern DVR. Usually a MegaPixel camera provides better camera coverage and improved picture detail. Of course, a Megapixel IP video camera is digital data that takes up bandwidth so bandwidth management is essential and more space is also needed for image storage.
In addition, one of the factors which today limits the massive comercialisation of such telecameras is their high cost, superior to traditional cameras. These (the storage and cost issues) will be the technical problems on which the producers of MegaPixel cameras will focus in 2006 and in the future.
Why Authenticate on the Camera?
Legal use of digital images is limited because they are easily manipulated. Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and Network Video Recorders (NVRs) can detect tampered images after they have been processed but cannot verify the source of the video so they may ¡°authenticate¡± a video that has already been tampered with. Nowadays some camera manufacturers have started adding a unique encrypted digital signature that identifies the camera that produced the image. In this way if the image has been altered in one or more pixels this can be detected. This technique is not new on the market but it has never been applied so far to the IP cameras, a market sector which is constantly growing.
Most of the network camera manufacturers in the years to come will probably try to add this feature to their top quality products.
Which Compression for Your Video Surveillance?
Without effective compression, most Local Area Networks (LANs) transporting video data would grind to a halt within minutes. Digital video is always compressed in order to speed up transmission and to save space on the hard disks. This is why the selection of the right compression format is a crucial consideration.
One of the most applied video compression techniques in modern Video Surveillance systems is Motion JPEG which offers video as a sequence of JPEG images. Motion JPEG is also the most commonly used standard in network cameras.
Lately, however, Digital Video Recorder manufacturers must deal with another type of network camera which captures individual images and compresses them into an MPEG-4 format.
Mpeg is one of the best-known audio and video streaming techniques (developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group in the late 1980s). MPEG¡¯s basic principle is to compare two compressed images to be transmitted over the network. The first compressed image is used as a reference frame, and only parts of the following images that differ from the reference image are sent. The network viewing station then reconstructs all images based on the reference image and the ¡°difference data.¡±
Despite the higher complexity, applying MPEG video compression leads to lower data volumes being transmitted across the network than is the case with Motion JPEG.
While previously, reliable video surveillance device manufacturers had to deal with both video standards, at the moment the future is represented by the Advanced Video. Two groups, the H.263 (another compression technique originally designed for video conferencing applications) and MPEG, have recently joined together to form the next generation video compression standard. H.264, MPEG-4 part 10 and AVC all refer to this new standard. It is expected that within the next few years Advanced Video Coding will replace the currently used H.263 and MPEG-4.
Is Remote Viewing Possible?
Starting in last few years, this is the question that all Video Surveillance producers are asked quite frequently by new customers.
Since the video is digitized and compressed in the DVR, it can be transported over a computer network to be monitored on a PC in a remote location.
While up to some years ago, ¡°computer network¡± was understood to mean a Local or Wide Area Network (Lan or WAN), today it assumes a different meaning for customers: the Internet. Therefore, the question is, once I have installed my multi-channel video surveillance device, can I then access the video cameras remotely via the Internet? Furthermore, can I monitor remotely both live and recorded video?
In fact, since remote monitoring nowadays seems to be a MUST, some systems can monitor both live and recorded video, while others can only monitor recorded. In addition, some systems require a special Windows client to monitor the video, while others use a standard Web browser. Of course the latter are making the remote monitoring more flexible.
Remote Viewing Required for People on the Go
Customers are interested to get a solution which delivers a live video directly from their Video Monitoring systems to mobile hand-held devices including cell phones and mobile PDAs.
Streaming audio and video to cell phone is something that is becoming more widespread among cell phone providers in Europe ad well as in the United States.
A group of ambitious companies is looking to bring cell phone owners to be able to view their video monitoring systems from a remote location, introducing them to a whole new world of portable CCTV entertainment.
Some skeptics believe, that in a market where simple text-based wireless Internet access is limited, companies¡¯s plans to play audio and video over wireless networks are unrealistically futuristic. Even supporters who speak of the technology¡¯s potential in glowing terms concede that U.S. and EU-based companies have yet to figure out exactly how to make their dreams a reality.
Analysts say that these companies are simply too much ahead of the technology curve. Technology adoption could be the largest hurdle. Companies involved in video surveillance must rely on giant network operators to carry the new multimedia material. The problem is, that many wireless networks are not yet up to the technological challenge.
Our opinion is that devices are only as good as the networks on which they operate. The reality today is that, the networks are not yet in place. Nevertheless, 2005 could be seen as a milestone in the ambitious yet nascent industry. Some companies have unveiled the newest wireless versions of their DVR products and visions at the classic annual trade shows.
This movement will take time. The question is whether many video monitoring operators are willing to work with a new set of technologies that, while feasible over today¡¯s networks, could initially frustrate end customers with poor delivery until high-speed wireless Net access is ready.
Wireless networks make average data connections at about a quarter of the speed of a fast dial-up modem. Compression technology can speed that up somewhat, but even with the extremely rudimentary text-based services available through mobile carriers, connections still visibly churn while the connection downloads small amounts of video data.
Until 3G arrives on the market, giving customers access to multimedia services will be a tricky marketing maneuver, analysts say.
Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
MMS is a standard in mobile messaging. Like SMS (Short Messaging Service), MMS is a way to send a message from one mobile to another. The difference is that MMS can include not just text, but also sound, images and video. It is also possible to send MMS messages from a mobile phone to an email address.
Formats that can be embedded within MMS include:
-Text (formatted with fonts, colors, etc.)
-Images (JPEG, GIF format)
-Audio (MP3, MIDI)
MMS is an extension of the SMS protocol, making its usage familiar to existing SMS users. An MMS message is a single entity, not a collection of attachments. One of the main practical differences between MMS and SMS is that whilst SMS messages are limited to 160 bytes, an MMS message has no size limit and could be many Kbytes in size, or even larger. MMS requires a third generation (3G) network to enable such large messages to be delivered, although smaller messages can be sent even with second generation networks using GPRS.
Whilst mobile phone users can create and send their own MMS messages, perhaps the biggest use of MMS is likely to be video monitoring systems sending MMS messages to their Security Manager.
For example, a company which has installed a video surveillance system, receives an alarm. The alarm under the form of small video clips or pictures could then be sent to security manager or an external security company via MMS. Images or video clips could be downloaded from WAP sites, selected from a menu within the mobile phone.
The first DVR supporting MMS began to appear in 2004, and the standard appears set to become very widely used in the years ahead. Do you want to bet?
Toni Marzo is Managing Director of Intertraff srl (www. intertraff.com).
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