March to megapixel

Despite the global economic downturn the market for IP video surveillance cameras and other associated equipments seem to have remained intact worldwide and as the technology continues to evolve, the emergence of high-definition (HD) video and megapixel resolution stand out as the more prominent trends affecting video surveillance technology.

The transition of many large enterprises to IP–based systems together with the increasing price competition and commodisation in the middle and low tiers of the analogue surveillance market are contributing to the decline of the analogue market, analysts say.

Meanwhile, the growth in network video surveillance continues to be bolstered by stimulus-funded projects and by the increasing penetration of higher-value network video surveillance products, such as HD cameras according to IMS. The company predicts that the growth of the IP market and the decline of the analogue market will eventually lead to a transition by 2014, with network video overtaking analogue in sales.

Anant Berde, VP, Gulf Buildings Business at Schneider Electric, agrees with this estimate saying that while IP surveillance solutions are fast gaining ground on their analogue contemporaries, the company’s own analogue business continues to hold its own. However, in time, Berde believes that as price gap between IP and analogue surveillance systems continues to narrow and vendors focus on developing user friendly networked solutions, customers will eventually make large scale transition to the IP based systems to avail the many benefits they have to offer.

Moving to IP
Although traditional providers of video surveillance equipment were slow to embrace and promote IP products in the past, these companies have now begun to quickly develop their portfolios of IP surveillance products and are gaining market share and analysts believe the move to IP will continue over the next three to five years.

Industry analysts and experts believe that the emergence of open standards for IP cameras created by two industry groups is definitely pushing buyers towards network surveillance. These open standards were created by two industry groups- Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA), in 2008.

ONVIF includes vendors such as Axis, Bosch, Canon, Sony, Cisco and Panasonic. Late last year, the group announced its ONVIF Core Specification 2.0, which covers video storage devices, video analytics engines, cameras and encoders. PSIA’s members include Honeywell, IBM, Stanley Security Solutions, Samsung and Texas Instruments. In March, PSIA unveiled the final pieces of its security suite of specifications, and several vendors’ demonstrated products that use PSIA specifications.

“Open standards create a level of interoperability making it easier for more manufacturers to access the video surveillance market. It also allows room for open collaboration whereby developers can create IP surveillance systems for industrial usage that can be integrated with other systems like building management systems, fire and safety systems etc,” says Baraa Al Akkad, regional sales manager, Middle East at Axis communications.

Not entirely convinced of the benefits of open standards, Schneider Electric’s Berde says that while these standards are generating a degree of interest they aren’t necessarily driving buyer adoption. “The lack of clarity as to what standards such as ONVIF and PSIA mean inhibits measurable shifts in buying behaviour. In our opinion, we are still in the hype era for open standards.  People are buying it because it makes sense and the technology is just much better. What we need to understand is that so long as vendors continue to develop and innovate existing products and services to differentiate them from competitors, standards will always trail behind the leading edge of technology breakthroughs and as such will always define the least common denominator that exists across the industry,” he adds.

In keeping with this, Berde says that the primary driver for the adoption for IP based systems is that the technology helps bolster security through improved image resolution. .“The primary driver here is the need for better detail in security video. Customers, who have experienced the transition from Standard Definition HD (720p) and Full HD (1080p) video in entertainment video and witnessed the many benefits, have come to expect the same from security video,” he says.

McEntyre says, “Not only is the quality of the images way better than what we saw with analogue but because the cameras operate on a network we can conduct detailed searches of archival video and manage the network remotely.”

Megapixel gains ground
Industry professionals point to the increasing adoption of HD and megapixel resolution technology as the major ongoing trend in the IP surveillance market. This is only natural given that manufacturers are beginning to transition their IP camera product lineups from standard definition to HD and megapixel resolution cameras.”

For organisations that deploy IP surveillance cameras, the higher definition and megapixel resolution will mean even better image quality. “It provides end users with a more compelling reason to switch from traditional analogue video to IP video,” Berde says.

Chitresh Markanda, principal technical consultant, Tech Mahindra says, “Increased penetration of high-bandwidth access technology including LTE and 3G rollouts and broadband technologies are also driving the adoption of HD and megapixel resolution cameras especially across governments and the SME Segment.”

“The move to megapixel not only provides greater detail for identification, it opens the door for security cameras to enter non-security markets requiring observation and even automatic control,” says Al Akkad.

Industry professionals also point to another technology development in the industry- video compression algorithms. H.264 is used for technologies such as Blu-ray discs, streaming Internet video and popular Web software such as the Adobe Flash Player in addition to cable and direct-broadcast satellite TV, and real-time videoconferencing.

Berde says, “The move towards H.264 is already in full sway. The vastly better compression rates, without sacrificing image quality delivers great benefit in containing infrastructure and system costs that go with bandwidth and storage. This also places higher resolution camera well within the reach of many security budgets. One of the other reasons H.264 has been widely adopted, is that the costs of this technology have benefited greatly from the scale of their use in entertainment video solutions like Blu-ray disk as well as the fact there are widely accepted standards in place for its use in security video.”

Markanda adds a different element saying, “Media encoding technologies such as H.26 and H.264 SVC are facing increased competition from codecs, VP8, Theora etc. This will only divide the market for any specific encoding standard further.”

As is the case with any technology, industry experts expect to see more innovation in the near future, in terms of new software features on IP video cameras that increase their functionality.

In addition to this, industry experts believe that cloud computing will also transform IP surveillance technology.  For one, analysts believe that it will in many ways obviate the need for old DVRs and NVRs [network video recorders.]

Companies have already begun rolling out cloud-based services. For example, Axis has a hosted video-surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) offering that is enabled by cloud computing. Organisations with an Axis camera and Internet access can use the service on an on-demand basis, according to Al Akkad.

According to Markand, cloud based storage solutions will especially enhance user adoption of IP surveillance systems.  “For instance, users would like to watch camera feed as a Mosaic on a PC or as single feed on their mobile devices. They may even need on-the-fly transcoding solutions to enable these services on recorded streams and this is where cloud based solutions would really come into play,” he predicts.

Experts say that faced with so much innovation, organisations must be careful when making decisions about their choice of surveillance technology. “In addition to weighing the costs and determining how the equipment will be used, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on what others are doing.  They could benefit from meeting with local companies that use other systems so they can compare notes. In the end, every user is looking for the most functional and reliable equipment,” says the analyst.


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