Is the industry ready for CCTV cameras?

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With the demand for closed circuit cameras (CCTV) picking up fast, various technological developments are taking place. These include better image quality, higher resolution and better clarity. While analogue cameras still continue to improve within their constraints on visual quality due to de-interlaced artefacts, internet protocol (IP) cameras are also being upgraded with new technological advancements. These, too, have their share of limitations.

By Richa Chakravarty

Monday, September 12, 2011: Analogue cameras are subject to constraints like phase alternating line (PAL) TV format, with the major disadvantages being the lower frame rate, more flicker, loss of colour during editing, etc. IP cameras, on the other hand, are also subject to latency and network uncertainty. This not only leads to delay in getting the images out of the camera, but also the volume of activity requires additional network bandwidth.

All these limitations paved the way for a new technology to evolve—high definition close circuit cameras (HD CCTV). Since the Indian market is still dominated by the demand for analogue cameras, and with IP cameras yet to pick up, mass adoption of HD CCTV cameras may seem to be in the distant future. Yet, HD CCTV technology, though a little expensive, has immense benefits and may rule the market soon. Here’s an attempt to make buyers aware of the technology and its benefits.

HD CCTV cameras: The technology

HD CCTV cameras are the result of a marriage between digital security cameras and IP CCTVs. As high visual clarity is the scoring feature of this technology, it can offer its best if put to use in areas where the level of activity is high, like monitoring traffic inflow, security checks at airports, railway stations, metro stations, malls, cinema halls, etc. These cameras are well suited for warehouses to keep a check on the inflow and outflow of stock and on what is in storage. Hotels, banks, museums, retail stores and food chains can equally benefit from this technology, as it not only delivers real time capture but also highly detailed images over a wide field of view.

HD CCTV cameras are based on a technology designed for use in high quality broadcast television applications. It uses high definition CMOS sensors that are better than those found in CCTV sensors, which results in superior image quality and an enhanced field of view. The resolution of HD CCTV cameras exceeds the resolution of regular CCTV cameras, offering high video clarity. This technology does not suffer latency and delivers high speed serial digital data over a variety of cabling formats.

“HD CCTV technology delivers highly accurate object detection, recognition, recording, and the display allows forensic levels of image analysis, which is not found in any of the existing technologies,” informs Mohamed Nasir, senior manager, marketing, consumer systems and products division, Canon India.

Sharing the same view, Anurag Sehgal, managing director, AV Systems, says, “This technology provides significantly better resolution leading to more clarity in the picture. Applications such as face recognition can be used more effectively with this technology. HD cameras can deliver ‘identification’ grade images, which is something the industry badly needs. Standard CCTV cameras usually fail to produce high quality images that are sufficient for the security managers or the police to identify the culprits,” informs Anurag Sehgal.

HD CCTV technology is not yet widely available in India and there is a general lack of awareness about it, among consumers. However, brands like Sony, Sanyo, Everfocus, Canon, AV Systems, Sparsh, etc, provide a full range of HD CCTV solutions. “Demand for this technology is not too prevalent in the Indian market, but as consumer awareness is increasing, we expect an upward trend in demand for these products,” says Anurag Sehgal. The cameras available in the market provide two standard resolutions—720 p and 1080 p—the horizontal and vertical pixel counts. And in future, higher resolution versions of these devices are also expected.

Where it scores

Generally, upgradation or introduction of new technologies results in making the existing technology obsolete, leading to the consumer having to shell out more money in order to switch over to newer models. However, this is not the case here. The main scoring factor for this technology is that it can be seamlessly integrated into the existing analogue or IP video systems, enabling the expansion of existing video installations without cutting back on the overall functionality. A consumer who wants to switch over to HD CCTV cameras will not have to worry about redundancy.

The main reason why HD CCTV technology has an edge over the others is its visual clarity, since its resolution is far better than what standard CCTV cameras offer. “These cameras can help in city surveillance, where high resolution video streams from locations, is a need. It will help in clearly identifying people and objects, or in getting a larger overview, either while being viewed live or as recorded video footage. These cameras can solve many traffic problems, and can easily identify the root causes of many accidents and traffic jams. They can also zoom in on car number plates,” informs Mohamed Nasir.

HD CCTV technology can overcome another constraint of IP cameras regarding network uncertainty. Since these cameras are combined with the latest processor technology, all connected cameras can record at full resolution. Along with a high data rate, recordings for a period of over a week can be saved as permanent recordings. An IP camera system, with the same image rate (data) and resolution would be able to reach this recording performance only with significant additional hardware expenses.

An HD image of 1920 x 1080 is approximately four-and-a-half times better than a standard IP camera transmitting VGA sized images. This means that if you are looking to monitor a wide area, you would need to deploy several IP cameras transmitting VGA sized images to look at different sections of the same view. If a camera is programmed to record at HD resolution (1920 x 1080) at 25 frames per second and uses H.264 compression, then an on-board 250 GB hard drive is required to store recordings of four days. Recording at the highest resolution of four mega-pixels offers major advantages over standard CCTV cameras in respect to post-incident analysis. With high definition, you can enlarge an image and zoom in on the details with a clarity that is not achievable with a standard CCTV camera.

The technology to go for

Although experts recommend this technology, buyers should go in for a good brand and a manufacturer that can easily help them with the installation. However, since this is a new technology, it is costlier than what is currently ruling the market. “The Indian surveillance market has always adopted the latest technology in the past, and we feel that the country will prove to be a potent market for this technology as well. However, Indian buyers are very price conscious and may find this technology a little expensive initially. However, with demand catching on, it is bound to become competitively priced,” says Anurag Sehgal.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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