Surveillance Scenario: IP Cameras Outsmart Analogue Cameras

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Security cameras have brought about a radical change in the way surveillance is done today. The concept of modern security systems has changed drastically with the advent of high technology security cameras. Keeping an uninterrupted vigil on intruders, terrorists, burglars and other law breakers has now become easy for government authorities as well as property owners.

By Richa Chakravarty

Wednesday, January 12, 2011: Modern surveillance cameras capture signals if there is any unusual activity, besides showing the digital images of people and their movements. The video surveillance market is burgeoning, giving rise to huge opportunities to all its stakeholders, including equipment manufacturers, distributors and operators. Today, buyers have a whole gamut of security cameras available in the Indian market to suit and match their preferences and requirements.

There has been a big leap forward from the legacy of closed circuit cameras (CCTV) used in the past. With technological advancements, today, network video can proactively monitor rather than being merely reactive, as was the case with analogue systems. Among other smart applications, intelligent cameras today can also perform movement and tampering detection.

Today, surveillance is not merely about getting information 24 x 7, but getting the relevant information at the right time. These cameras have inbuilt intelligence that enables them to alert security personnel or activate recording if an untoward takes place, unlike earlier models that used to record endless reels of useless information. This way, less storage space is used and only relevant information is stored.

Although analogue cameras are giving way to IP cameras, IP surveillance is still at an early stage in India. However, with demand for it growing rapidly, with estimates of a turnover of Rs 1.5 billion for the year 2010, experts predict its speedy evolution in India as well.

A typical security camera system comprises high performance surveillance cameras or CCTVs and a monitoring device, such as a normal TV or a personal computer. Security camera systems may use dedicated software to receive signals and record them on the hard disk. A message is flashed on the mobile phone or any handheld device if the software discovers anything unusual in the surveillance area.

New application areas

Going by the current trend, surveillance is slowly moving out of the realm of pure physical security. “With the latest network video and remote monitoring capabilities, we can now react to environmental threats, fire hazards, and chemical and nuclear contamination with the right blend of technology. Also, with the advent of embedded applications in security products, surveillance is now emerging as a tool for gathering business intelligence and other applications,” explains Prakash Prabhu, country manager, Axis Communications India, a Swedish company that installs network video solutions for commercial establishments. Axis products and solutions focus on security surveillance and remote monitoring, and are based on innovative and open technology platforms.

According to Mohamed Nasir, senior manager, marketing, consumer systems products, Canon India, a strong player in the surveillance camera business and a manufacturer of high end products, “These trends represent the direction the industry is heading towards. Real estate is one sector that is on the upswing, with builders and promoters using surveillance products as part of a total package offered to customers looking for houses. We are already in touch with some of the key builders and provide demonstrations of our surveillance products,” he says.

Remote surveillance systems and surveillance on mobiles are some of the other latest trends. According to Sanjeev Sehgal, managing director, Samriddhi Automations Pvt Ltd, “Surveillance on mobile gadgets will help users to remain informed about the security of their premises even when they are on the move. E-mail and buzzer alerts can be generated based on motion detection on the premises, and users can see this live on their mobiles.”

Surveillance solutions are also being used for traffic monitoring and providing traffic updates to commuters. Specialised video analytics, which enables automatic number plate recognition, congestion monitoring, etc, also have a huge impact in traffic management. IP based surveillance is also applicable in the surveillance of residences. For instance, while away on vacation, people can still survey their homes and surroundings for any suspicious activities with remote access to live footage. Apart from a regular surveillance infrastructure, sectors such as banking, retail and entertainment complexes, are using technology for ATM integration, footfall measurement, integration and crowd monitoring.

LATEST TECHNOLOGY AND NEW PRODUCTS

Surveillance cameras have evolved over the years, backed by the latest technological developments that meet current requirements. Today, they are available with various technologies and in different designs to suit different security requirements of homes, companies and government institutions.

“With technological upgradation, cameras are moving towards higher resolutions with crystal clear image clarity. Sony has recently released its EFFIO model charged couple devices (CCD), which offers resolutions in excess of 600 TV lines,” says Parmod Verma, managing director, Vantage Integrated Security Solutions (P) Ltd, a leading manufacturer, distributor and systems integrator for security and surveillance systems.

However, the technology advances are more in terms of software based solutions rather than in hardware.

Buyers, today, have a good choice of outdoor and indoor cameras, and models that have night vision, which is a must for places where a 24 hour vigil is required. For high security zones, such as airports, railway stations, cantonment areas, banks, etc, there are sophisticated cameras that can rotate and provide an all round view. There are also hidden cameras that are not visible to the people being watched. Some cameras even allow you to capture conversations between people. Some others are fitted with inbuilt recorders, which record sounds and images for later use. Apart from delivering visual clarity, all these security cameras have a few unique features, too.

“Market is warming up to better technology for security cameras as organisations are demanding high featured and technologically sound products,” says Anurag Sehgal, promoter and founder, AV Systems. The company has full range of IR, low lux and high resolution cameras with vandal proof housings available in various models to cater to customised solutions like process monitoring, endoscopic medical equipment cameras, etc.

IP BASED CAMERAS

In the past, the security and surveillance market was dominated by analogue technology, better known as CCTV. But now, a technology shift has taken place in the surveillance industry. The analogue based closed circuit systems of the past are giving way to Internet protocol (IP) based (digital), open source and fully integrated systems,” says Prakash Prabhu.

Technological advancements and an increasing number of applications has helped manufacturers develop real time quality video on any network, ranging from a high bit rate LAN environment to the low bit rate Internet and mobile networks. “Technology is moving towards high resolution IP cameras, but IP is still in its nascent stage, as there are some issues related to bandwidth and the current infrastructure bottlenecks in the country. However, high end security solutions are all set to redefine their performance and system capabilities by providing dual stream support, with cutting edge surveillance even on mobile phones, various alarms and event controls with powerful central monitoring system (CMS) support,” opines Sanjeev Sehgal. Under the brand name, Sparsh, which is backed by technology from Sony Corporation, the company has been designing and manufacturing technologically advanced electronic security devices.

The CMS software in IP camera helps to manage the security system by operating centrally on the same network. This solution is widely accepted in banks, traffic management units, armed forces, intelligence community, etc.

IP based cameras are well equipped with audio/video monitoring features that are directly connected to the web browser with high performance H.264/MPEG4/JPEG compression. It offers the best solutions for remote applications. “Transmission of images is quicker and sharper now because of wireless technologies such as WiMax and GPRS. Also, the latest breakthrough in video compression technology, H.264, enables excellent image quality at significantly reduced bandwidth, fulfilling the market’s need for storage and bandwidth efficiency. With storage costs coming down significantly and with bandwidth going up, digital security solutions have become more affordable,” adds Prakash Prabhu.

Also, cameras with digital video/audio monitoring and broadcasting systems are equipped with advanced features like multiple announcement modes, universal compatibility with speakers and the requisite amplifiers. These applications are well suited for educational institutions, hospitals, railway stations, shopping malls, etc.

THERMAL NETWORK CAMERAS

Thermal network cameras are IP based surveillance cameras that can monitor an area or a perimeter in complete darkness by generating images based on the heat that radiates from any object, vehicle or person. Thermal cameras are useful for maintaining security in areas where poor lighting could be an issue. “Thermal cameras are used for protecting armed forces, for border and coastal surveillance and for the security of large establishments. However, our range of thermal cameras are targeted at the commercial and industrial segments, and are excellent for monitoring hotel premises, freeways and railways. They can handle difficult weather and atmospheric conditions, allowing operators to see through smoke, haze and dust,” adds Prakash Prabhu.

INFRARED (IR) LED CAMERAS

Infrared (IR) LED cameras are yet another entrant into the market. The high performance IR camera range can detect and distinguish moving objects even in pitch dark environments with 0 lux illumination. These include inbuilt motion sensors that help in detecting objects in complete darkness. These cameras are equipped with various advanced features including high resolution video images, intelligent character recognition (ICR), vari-focal lens and outdoor camera housing.

Visual and digital clarity is one benefit that these high end cameras offer, along with various other features like privacy masking, allowing areas in the picture to be masked so that they cannot be viewed or recorded. The size and position of these masks are programmable. According to Anurag Sehgal, “LED is fitted in these cameras which is a good alternative for producing images when there is no light. These cameras are gaining popularity because of low cost and dual advantage of being used in day and night light. However, it has a limitation as it cannot be used for long range coverage. Beyond the maximum limit (around 100-200m), the images becomes bulky and blur.”

WIRELESS VIDEO SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS

Wireless video surveillance cameras are the most common surveillance tools used in homes and offices. There have been several serious problems with traditional coaxial or even high tech fibre optic cables when transmitting video images from surveillance cameras to the stations at which the images are monitored and/or recorded. Cables are easily damaged or severed by bad weather, birds, insects, accidents or saboteurs, and thus require near constant monitoring, maintenance and repair. Hence, video surveillance has gone wireless. There are several means by which live video images can be transmitted without the use of cables or wires, like lasers, radar signals and radio frequency. These wireless video surveillance cameras are cropping up everywhere—at shopping malls, city streets, parking lots and city parks, just to name a few.

“Recording and viewing images from a security camera is nothing new, but being able to do that conveniently from any location within a wireless network, is. Now, with the help of the latest technology, one is able to do so,” says Mohamed Nasir

PAN TILT ZOOM CAMERAS

Pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras are also catching up with the latest trends. These provide a complete overview and instant, one click pan/tilt/zoom movement options while maintaining sharp image resolutions. All this is done without moving any parts, so there is no wear and tear. This type of surveillance camera is often used in police cars and armoured military grade vehicles, and is also found at retail stores. These cameras allow the operator to follow people as they move about or to zoom in to someone’s face, a licence plate, a cash register, etc.

PTZ cameras provide the H.264 video compression format, which optimises bandwidth and storage use without compromising on the image quality. Motion JPEG is also supported to increase flexibility in how these images are used.

AUTOMATIC NUMBER PLATE RECOGNITION CAMERAS

Automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR) are also gaining popularity. They have an inbuilt infrared camera and are equipped with highlight suppress backlight compensation (HSBLC), which reverses bright spots, such as headlights of a car, to black. This unique feature enables the camera to display greyscale information such as number plates.

ANPR cameras have an IR illuminator integrated, which provides optimal conditions for taking a picture. This illuminator works as a flash, therefore, the power consumption is very low. This IR illuminator works at a range that is undetectable to human eye, so there is no disturbance for drivers. This camera is best for monitoring the movement of vehicles through a gate or even at barriers at night, even with the vehicle’s headlights on.

Advance features in latest cameras

Security cameras are not only undergoing technological shifts, they are also being introduced with new and advanced features to meet customer requirements.

According to Nikhil Pathak, vice president, building business, Schneider Electric India, “Complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology used in megapixel cameras is taking over CCD, used in analogue cameras. Megapixel cameras are becoming the need of the hour. They use H.264 compression technology for reduced bandwidth during transmission and optimised storage requirements.” Schneider Electric India manufactures, distributes and is a solutions integrator for security devices.

A CMOS image sensor is a device that converts an optical image into electrical signals in switching mode, presenting an image through the formation of a photodiode and a metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) transistor. The primary advantages of CMOS images are their relatively low cost—which is the result of the use of standard, high volume CMOS processes—and their ability to be integrated with native CMOS electronics for control and image processing.

Automatic white balance (AWB) is another feature that today security cameras have, to ensure colour compensation, which might be required when the temperature of the light source is very high. Indoor and outdoor colour temperatures vary and accordingly, the AWB function makes adjustments to produce superior colour over a wide range of colour temperature conditions.

Selective backlight compensation (BLC) is yet another unique feature that enhances specific zones in the picture, which usually contains the subject of interest. “The selective BLC area setting allows the camera to find the best picture conditions automatically or manually, and give the necessary light level compensation, so that viewers can identify the subject in the foreground even if there had been a very bright light source in the background,” explains Sanjeev Sehgal.

3Dimensional digital noise reduction (3D DNR) is an image processing technology that removes noise from an image signal. Electronic image stabilisation (EIS) is another unique feature that functions well where there is plenty of shaking and wobbling. This function compensates for the movement and helps avoid producing blurred images.

Adding to the latest feature is videoscan facial recognition system (FRCS) introduced by Vantage Integrated Security Solution (P) Ltd. It enables identification of a suspect/criminal or verification of records using facial recognition technology. The system scans an incoming video feed and compares any incoming human face with the records stored in the system in a real time mode. It can be deployed in a existing high definition video surveillance system. Speed, accuracy and convenience are the major strengths of this product. “This system is first of it is kind in India and this can be deployed for effective implementation of security at key entry/exit points like airports, metros, railway stations, ports, prison, etc. It also has a mobile extension for instant verification of a suspect on the street,” says Parmod Verma, managing director, Vantage Integrated Security Solution (P) Ltd.

As the technology is moving towards high resolution image quality, Schneider Electric has come up with its Sarix ID series mega performance cameras, featuring high definition (HD) and megapixel resolutions, exceptional low light performance, auto back focus, consistent colour science, H.264 compression and built-in analytics. “Endura 2.0 breaks the performance barrier for high definition video encoding, recording and display. Designed as an end to end system optimised for HD, it guarantees reliability, fault tolerance and interoperability that security professionals demand. This technology extracts optimum benefit from today’s megapixel cameras while keeping system costs under control,” adds Nikhil Pathak.

LG Electronics India Pvt Ltd has created a new range of security cameras incorporating the extreme dynamic image (XDI) technology. Bolstering the XDI function, adaptive contrast enhancement (ACE) overcomes the shortcomings of the existing WDR BLC systems to transmit clear pictures of even the darkest area. This newly launched XDI is engineered to complement the IP in image quality through megapixel technology. Sparsh has also extended its line of high resolution security by launching its Bravura 540 TVL OSD camera series that enables video surveillance in varying light conditions. “This new camera series is based on Sony Super HAD-II CCD technology and it further improves the video quality of security surveillance,” adds Sanjeev Sehgal.

Manufacturer

Distributor

Product

Features & USP

Manufactured locally or imported

Axis Communi–
cations India

 

Ingram Micro India Pvt Ltd/Anixter India Pvt Ltd

Axis Q1910 / Q1910 E Thermal network camera

Reliable detection in the dark or in challenging outdoor conditions; intelligent video capabilities

Imported from Sweden

 

Canon India

Fortune Marketing Pvt Ltd

VB-C60

40x optical zoom with 56º horizontal field of view,

image stabiliser, full duplex audio POE 802.3af compliant;improved low light performance to capture images with brightness as low as 0.2lux (1/30sec)

Imported from Japan

Samriddhi Automations Pvt Ltd

Partners across India

Bravura 540 TVL OSD camera series

With HSBLC the camera darkens selected highlights and brightens dark portions; selective BLC area setting allows the camera to find the best picture conditions and gives necessary light level compensation

Manufactured in India by Sparsh

Schneider Electric (Pelco-the premium CCTV solution brand from Schneider)

Authorised partners across India

Sarix megapixel range

Open IP standards, high definition and megapixel resolutions; exceptional low light performance—colour and day/night models; H.264 & MJPEG compression capability; PoE (IEEE 802.3af) or 24 VAC

Imported from USA

Vantage Integrated Security Solutions (P) Ltd

Vantage Integrated Security Solutions (P) Ltd

Videoscan-FRCS

Videoscan-FRCS automatically scans incoming video streams, detects and tracks multiple faces. If a match is found, operators are notified in real time. Also, video search engine allows indexing and searching of suspects from archived video/images

Manufactured in India by Vantage Integrated Security Solutions

Note: Names of manufacturers are in alphabetical order

Buying tips

  • Buyers should always go for the latest cameras equipped with specialised features
  • Quality is one thing a buyer should never compromise on. Since this segment is unorganised, it is recommended that customers buy products from genuine/authentic vendors. The safest bet here is to go for branded products or the ones that are certified
  • In case of poor domain knowledge, one should first evaluate the reasons for considering security cameras/solutions and, accordingly, explain one’s requirements to the vendors, making it easy for them to give guidance on the latest technology available
  • Make sure that the products you purchase carry a guarantee/warranty
  • Always choose vendors who provide you with after sales support services
  • Go for surveillance solutions/products that can be easily installed
  • Finally, select products that give you real value for money
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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