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Export Regulations Digital Camera Security Systems Poised To Overtake Analogue Cameras

By Todd Williams
Possessing the ability to interface with the most advanced computer technology, today’s newest digital camera systems are starting to capture a larger share of the lucrative security and surveillance business, at the expense of the older analogue camera systems.

According to several security experts, IP (Internet Protocol) digital camera systems are being deployed at a record pace, especially in large systems such as those installed in gaming casinos and shopping malls.

However, traditional analogue camera systems still dominate the market for smaller setups such as homes and small businesses.

“You might not to want to install an expensive IP system in your home or mom and pop business when you can go to a home improvement store and pick up an eight-camera analogue system with all the cameras, cables and a DVR for under $500,” notes Robert Sprague, a project manager for the New Jersey-based R. Grossman & Associates, an industry security consultant.

According to Sprague, analogue security systems such as these still dominate over 85 percent of all new systems installed.

“It’s really simple to go out and buy an analogue system, set the cameras, run your cables and hook everything to a DVR. With IP systems, however, it becomes more complicated,” says Sprague.

He notes that as IP camera system become more popular and prices drop, more and more new installations will be IP.

“I’ve found that the older analogue systems are normally set up and run by security personnel while the new IP systems are ordered and operated by the corporate IT people,” Sprague explains.

IP camera systems are essentially a computer and thus have many of the same set-up problems that plague computer installations, he says.

Once properly installed, however, IP camera systems have a tremendous number of advantages over the analogue cameras, not the least being superior image quality.

IP camera resolution ranges from 1280 x 720 pixels (high definition) to 720 x 576 (DVD quality) or 352 x 288 (video CD quality) for lower range models. The standard analogue system is 704 x 568 pixels.

Another way to look at it is that an analogue camera of 540TVL equates to about 0.4 MP, whereas a standard IP camera of 2MP, can give over five times the resolution as the analogue. With some IP cameras going up to about 10MP, it’s easy to see how the technology can reduce the number of cameras required. For example, you might replace analogue Pan, Tilt and Zoom (PTL) cameras with one IP/Megapixel camera.

But why is the higher resolution from IP cameras an advantage to the user?

“Higher image quality from IP cameras allows the user to view and zoom in on the image without the image degradation found in analogue cameras,” explains Ron Vantassel, Market Development Manager of Syracuse, New York-based Seneca Data.

For example, adds Sprague, in retail applications one 5MP camera in front of a store will provide complete coverage of the store entrance allowing the user to see the entire subject and blow it up to view closer images of people entering and leaving the store.

He notes in a fixed shredding operation, one IP camera can cover an entire room, eliminating the need for multiple analogue cameras for the same coverage. In a shredder truck, one IP camera would also be sufficient.

However, Sprague cautions that high-resolution IP cameras such as a 15MP sound great but may be overkill in many uses and may not be worth the money.

As a general rule, adds Vantassel, 32-camera plus IP systems are less expensive than a similar analogue set-up. Systems requiring between 16 and 32 cameras are about the same in price. And under 16 cameras, generally analogue is less expensive.

There are many other factors involved in deploying a camera system besides resolution, say experts, and all these are reflected in the cost.

Remote access to the images may be important to some users and with IP systems, becomes an easy task. Using a web-based interface, real-time footage can be viewed either on a PC or a Mac, as well as mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and Android.

Of course, existing analogue cameras can be integrated in the IP network by using capture card hardware or high end Network Video Recorders (NVRs) such as the Minotaur Server, if need be. These hybrid systems allow the customer to transition to an all-IP system and still use some existing analogue cameras. This saves on purchasing some new hardware and running new cables in a system upgrade, easing the transition cost, experts say.

“You can take an analogue camera system and access it by computer by adding video encoders that will convert the signal to an IP one that can be accessed remotely,” explains Sprague.

Another major IP innovation are analytics where the dramatic improvements in hardware have been matched by powerful analytics software, Video Management Systems (VMS) can be combined with other software allowing for applications such as people counting, motion detection and license plate recognition, just to name a few.

Power and signal cables are another advantage of IP over analogue, experts cite. Analogue systems require two, two-conductor cables to each camera - a video cable and a power cable. In IP systems, a single Power over Ethernet (PoE) cable is utilized. And where re-wiring is too costly, it’s possible to install a device, such as “Veracity’s Highwire”, that will enable data and PoE to be transmitted over existing analogue coax cable.

Furthermore, IP systems allow wireless communication so long as the cameras are installed via line-of-site. This can reduce cost by transmitting the data wirelessly, using a product such as the “Ubiquti NanoStation”. However, it should be noted that even for wireless models there is a need to install electrical cables to power the cameras.

Also, although most experts agree hacking into IP camera systems can occur due to misconfigured Wi-Fi configurations or security vulnerabilities in some wireless cameras, hacking is not a major concern.

Sprague also notes, while there is some slight signal latency in wireless IP systems, users soon learn how to deal with these slight delays in camera movement.

One major advantage of IP systems, wireless or not, is the ability to store massive amounts of data. While some cameras store video footage within their chassis on an SD card, for security and data management reasons experts agree its better to archive video at a central location within the premises on NVRs. That being said however, the SD cards do provide a data storage redundancy not found in analogue systems.

For on-site storage, the amount of information to be stored is important to assess the amount of space needed. For cloud-based storage the average bitrate consumed by each IP camera will need to be known, and whether there is enough Internet bandwidth to support that amount.

Remember, say experts, storage and bandwidth requirements also depend on factors such as frame rate, resolution, compression used, video quality, as well as the sheer number of cameras deployed.

The reality of the storage issue, say experts, is that the high resolution of IP cameras creates the need to have a location to store the data, as well as the need to be judicious about the usage of these cameras.

For instance, Sprague points out that 28 to 30, 3MB cameras recording 30 images per second, will require 14 terabytes of storage space for 30 days storage time.

“IP cameras require a tremendous amount of hard drive space. So for instance, putting some of the cameras on motion detection mode can cut down on storage space,” explains Sprague.

Other strategies for trimming storage requirements include lowering the frame rate in locations where exposure is large, such as long hallway. Reducing the quality of the video can work as well. However, too much reduction and the benefit of high res cameras may be compromised.

“When you design your IP system, you pick the best components you’ll need and configure them as required. Because the system itself is not proprietary like analogue, components can be specified from different manufacturers,” explains Vantassel.

The future of IP camera systems, according to experts, is limited by the designer’s imaginations. Unlike with analogue camera systems, expansion of IP systems is possible because of the changing technology of cameras, software and storage capabilities.

For example, notes Vantassel, the new high res cameras will deploy advanced 4K technologies, which have a higher resolution than Blue ray.

And Sprague points out that new low light and infrared cameras will provide even more tools in the security/surveillance business and enhanced peace of mind for the customer.

“IP camera systems allow the customer to integrate different surveillance needs into one system. And because its network-based, expansion is virtually unlimited,” adds Vantassel.

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