Entering into the high-definition and intelligent dominated era is the predominant trend for the security industry. Despite the growing demand for high-definition, this has not spelt the end for the analogue system. In fact the new hot talk of the security industry is the high-definition analogue system better known as 960H/700 TVL camera. a&s International China Best Buys, talks to China's manufacturers to reveal which direction this new trend will be heading.
Following the inevitable high resolution trend, the 960H or also known as the 700 TVL camera has debuted in the market. The main feature of this camera is its high definition and its ability to capture intricate details. The 960H solution was jointly developed by Techwell and SONY, the majority of these analogue cameras utilize SONY's newest 960H CCD sensor in conjunction with the SONY Effio DSP. The pairing of Effio DSP and this CCD has created a 960H camera which is featured by color resolution of over 650 TVL, black and white resolution of 700 TVL. In comparison with the ordinary 540 and 600 TVL analogue camera, the image quality has been enhanced.
Apart from SONY, other companies have released their own solutions and chips, Samsung have their SV5 and Panasonic have SD6. In addition to this companies such as Nextchip, Richnex and MIKTAM have developed their own 960H DSP.
Catering to Market Demands
Over the past few years the security market has been dominated by high-definition solutions and more than often news has tended to be orientated between IP and HD-SDI. In the process of providing the high-definition solution analogue has been neglected. However, according to IMS research reports between 2011 and 2015 the analogue market will continue to have a steady growth of 18.4%, suggesting that there is still demand for analogue. "Through our company statistics, industry calculations and the consideration of the current transition situation of high resolution and network integration, 960H remains one of our main solutions," said Million Wan, Director of the International Business Division at CSST.
The ever increasing demand for image quality has paved the way for 960H. "The appearance of 960H technology and front-end devices in the market are gradually becoming a trend," said Lynn Cheng, Technical Supervisor and Analogue Product Manager at Dahua Technology. "High-definition and the increasing use of the internet is the future trend, but the analogue market share still remains, therefore a transitional period has been created due to the different Internet level of different countries, this transitional period will not be short lived and this is where 960H assumes the role."
From a technological point of view, the main advantage of 960H is high resolution, wide dynamic range and its steady performance in low light environments. The stability of the 960H system is the same as the traditional analogue system. Over the years the traditional analogue system has gone through refinement, therefore its mature technology has created a considerably stable system. When put into use, real-time and zero latency are not a problem, an issue which has yet to be overcome with network cameras. On the other hand although HD-SDI can deliver the high-definition and real-time playback, expensive transmission and storage costs are still a concern. "High definition products require all the related components to be high definition for it to be actually deemed as a high definition solution, also currently the IP and HD-SDI solutions are CMOS and does not perform well at night compared to CCD, this is an advantage of 960H," said Wang Zhenhua, R&D Manager at Wanjiaan.
Another main advantage of 960H is the interoperability. Front-end 960H cameras can be used with ordinary DVRs and back-end 960H DVRs can be operated with ordinary analogue cameras. The transmission remains the same as the traditional analogue system. There is no need to re-wire if end-users already have wiring for an existing analogue system, unlike the network camera where installation and interoperability remains problematic.
No one solution has all the answers to all the problems, the same applies to the 960H as it is not susceptible to flaws. Currently in order to reach the best results the 960H must complement 960H DVR. "Using any new solution, new problems are always encountered, in comparison to D1 analogue 960H resolution has increased by 30%. From a manufacturers' point of view, one concern is finding suitable components which complement each other, such as lens, DVR coding storage, and decoding display," said Wan.
Another fundamental setback of the 960H is its lack of technological growth, it is unable to reach 720/1080P resolution and in terms of system extension it cannot compete with the IP solution, hence why it is not suitable for large scale projects. "Its main disadvantage is its inability to provide network storage like the network camera," said Zhong Wei, Domestic Market Manager at Dowse Electronics. Moreover, according to Ying Zhongyang, Camera Engineer at Hikvision, due to the design of the 960H camera system it processes more pixels, which requires a higher frequency, therefore this complicates the design of the hardware.
Being able to have individualistic products and providing a unique solution is what end-users expect. However, with the 960H as mentioned before the majority of these cameras are implemented with SONY's Effio and CCD, therefore being able to distinguish different manufacturers' products is where the difficulty remains. "Currently, most camera manufacturers have all released their own versions of the 960H camera, in most cases all manufacturers' have used the SONY Effio-E solution therefore, there is no substantial difference in terms of image quality, the main differences remain with outer design and functions," said Huang Liang, Product Manager at Tiandy. "This problem applies not only to analogue cameras, but also network cameras, it is chip manufacturers who have the core technology," said Stephen Wong, Executive Director of Coop Security.
"The majority of 960H camera solutions all utilize SONY Effio, our aim apart from utilizing the chips solution to the fullest is also to pay close attention to the stability and quality of our products," said Cheng. Other manufacturers have added different technology to their product line in order to give their product a unique edge. "Using SONY references, we do a ground up design based on our own technology, we consider heat issues and installation into multiple housing shapes and formats," said Ann Wu, Vice President of Sunell Technology. "In comparison with other 960H cameras in the market, our products have been implemented with mechanical filter switching technology, which allows the product to operate at its best whether in terms of color restoration or infrared illumination," said Zhong.
The Future for High Definition Analogue
The future for the 960H camera remains bright, according to Chinese manufacturers. "In the future, 960H camera will become the main market trend, it will replace other analogue cameras in the market due to its inexpensive price, there is still room for lowering of prices," said Huang. Further developments which can be anticipated for the product are largely the same and are dictated by market requirements and demands. "However, a main concern is that 960H CCD and ISP solution will be dominated by a monopoly, which will cause front-end manufacturers into homogenization and pricing wars," said Wong.
"What to look out for in the future is manufacturers' releasing top quality and innovative products, this should not be based primarily on image quality but other criteria such as functions," said Ying. "What needs to be emphasized is that image quality is not based on high resolution alone, other factors such as wide dynamic range and low lux are also part of the criteria, and any technological breakthrough in this area should be greatly anticipated by the market."
Now that market has become familiar with 960H the question of the release of an analogue camera with an even higher resolution is something which comes to mind. "Currently in the market there is not an analogue solution which exceeds 960H/700 TVL in resolution, even if a new solution is to become readily available it will require approximately two years before it can fully expand in the market," said Cheng. Wan agrees with this, he further states that there is currently no new developments for the product in terms of higher resolution, the costs of a higher resolution CCD solution would prove to be rather costly.
1280H solution should not be ruled out. "In terms of technology it is possible to reach 1280H, but this will depend on the market," said Ying. "But should the resolution exceed 960H, then it will be a CMOS solution which is required," said Wang. Wu further develops this point stating that there is uncertain future for CCD sensors unless the CMOS solution cannot perform with the higher resolutions, but it is expected that CMOS will be the dominant force for analogue.
The future outlook of 960H from China's manufacturers is that over the next few years this product will replace the traditional analogue system, however it is agreed between the manufacturers it will become the main stream analogue trend, but it will also only be a transitional product until IP and HD-SDI technology becomes mature.