Growing Demands of Fisheye and Panoramic Cameras
Editor / Provider: a&s International | Updated: 3/19/2012 | Article type: Tech Corner
Since the dawn of photography, people have been scratching their heads over how to fit more of the world into that little viewfinder. The latest solution to this problem for video surveillance lies in panoramic and 360-degree cameras, achieved mainly through packing multiple lenses and image sensors into a single unit and using specialized lenses, respectively.
In new projects where users are aware of these technologies, they seem to be well-accepted; around 10 percent of the cameras deployed in these installations are 360-degree or panoramic cameras, said Joel Schaffer, PM of Video Surveillance Applications at Immervision. “An increasing number of camera manufacturers have introduced these types of cameras in the past year. This trend should continue in the coming years, if not accelerate.”
The past few years have seen tremendous strides made in compression and megapixel technology. These technologies bring panoramic and hemispheric cameras up to a new level, where they can be used in more circumstances than before, said William Ku, Director of Brand Business for Vivotek. “While there were only a few players in this market when it was considered a niche market, many big manufacturers have entered this space to date.”
“The need for 360-degree technology is growing; there is a huge demand now for high-tech solutions and fisheye or panoramic plays an important part of that development,” said Ahmed Jawad, Chairman of Oncam Global. Major VMS vendors already support these types of cameras, and it is now fairly simple to integrate supported cameras into an existing surveillance system.
Enhancing Total Situational Awareness
The maturity of megapixel technology breathes new life into this space, as higher resolutions allow much better use of these measures to achieve total situational awareness. However, these cameras are fairly new to the video surveillance party and are still going through some growing pains.
The goal of a proper video surveillance system should provide users with the information they need, while also providing sufficient context in which the information was captured. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be difficult since any camera has blind spots, due to the way the camera was designed, how it was installed and the environment in which it resides.
Previous solutions have involved installing cameras in strategic locations, supplemented by additional cameras with PTZ functionality. Now there are other options that allow the user to effectively reduce the number of blind spots in their field of interest and to achieve total situation awareness.
Expanding horizontally allows the video to fit its world better than a 4:3 aspect ratio ever could, while hemispheric cameras meets the ever present need of covering an entire scene in a logical way without gaps or missing areas of coverage, said Dave Nieweg, VP of 3xLogic.
There are now three main types of video surveillance cameras: fixed, PTZ dome and 360-degree, said David Myers, CTO at AMG Systems.
A PTZ dome camera is intended for manned systems where an operator is always present to control and direct the camera, Myers continued. “When the operator of a PTZ dome camera has zoomed in maybe 30 times to see a faraway object, the rest of the 359 degrees are not being observed and not being recorded, and are therefore lost forever.” With panoramic and 360-degree cameras, everything is recorded at all times.
In addition, the use of multiple fixed cameras to cover different areas of the same scene makes it difficult for the user to gain an overview of the entire scene. End users are particularly impressed with the ease of training operators to be able to understand and work with panoramic and 360-degree imagery, compared to systems where a single scene is broken up into multiple, small chunks, said Ellen Cargill, Director of Product Development for Scallop Imaging (a division of Tenebraex).
Overall, panoramic and 360-degree solutions are about situational awareness — about knowing everything that is going on in the scene in a way that is more efficient and effective than using multiple cameras. “Having a panoramic solution can make a tangible difference to a facility's security by the retrospective tracking of an incident,” said Ahmed Jawad, Chairman of Oncam Global. “The cameras and the technology enable the acquisition and tracking of suspicious behavior and the interrogation and verification of a potential threat or incident. It is this evidence that provides the necessary intelligence needed to make a measured response to any situation or potential threat.”
Applications in veritical markets
Panoramic or 360-degree cameras are best suitable when there is a big area where full-area monitoring is needed, such as at an airport or train station. “It can simply watch the whole area, and also keep the details,” said William Ku, Director of Brand Business for Vivotek. “If the site only requires monitoring of certain areas, then normal cameras would fit well.”
Video surveillance cameras provide true value when they meet operational needs. Panoramic cameras are perfect solutions for gas stations, Nieweg said. “Nearly every gas station we deal with puts at least one panoramic camera to provide an overview of the entire gas pump area, entry and exit points, pump lanes and parking spots.” This is also the case for car washes, express delivery facilities and warehouses.
For convenience stores, one 360-degree camera can give complete coverage while regular megapixel cameras cover the cashiers and the door, Nieweg said. “We had a 1,100-location haircut chain where just a few analog cameras supplemented by one 360-degree cameras gave them the coverage they needed.” On average, 25 percent of cameras in new retail installations are now panoramic or 360-degree cameras.
Fewer cameras are required to cover a space, and operators are better able to follow the action and respond to situations without having to track a subject across a number of cameras, Cargill said. “This results in improved operational efficiency and faster response to events. In addition, one panoramic camera can cover a row of cash registers, a whole aisle in a retail store, a cash counting room with no blind spots, an entire fence line, or all of the parking spaces on one side of a building.”