The specifications of video surveillance products can seem similar on paper. When there is strong demand for specific functionality, a vendor's offerings must be able to fulfill needs quickly and effectively to stay competitive. However, the performance of their offerings can vary widely. A&S explores some deciding factors of key components that can radically affect real-world performance.
Being able to integrate numerous components and peripherals onto a single chip can significantly reduce manufacturing costs, if economy of scale can be achieved. It also allows for devices that are smaller in size and consume less power.
While this opens up new possibilities and applications, it does not make buying decisions easier. These components are packaged into a single, sealed chip, leaving nothing but pins for the outside world to see. Vendors provide specs and datasheets that document their solutions in detail, but it can be difficult to compare similar products without thorough evaluation. Well-educated camera manufacturers do side-by-side comparisons of cameras or on a development board, said Bengt Christensson, Senior Marketing Director for Ambarella. “This allows them to test real-world performance of image quality, video encoding and other feature sets.”
Furthermore, increased demand for mobile devices has resulted in component suppliers shifting more R&D investments into technologies for this space. The use of consumer sensors for surveillance is increasing, Christensson said “The sensors or technologies originally developed for the mobile space trickle down to security and are reused and specialized for the surveillance market.” As a result, there is a faster pace of innovation in the surveillance market, making it tougher to keep up with change.
Three key components in an IP-based surveillance system are the image sensor, image processor and codec. Although feature sets appear similar from different offerings, the method of implementation in one component can affect performance for the finished product.
Image sensors targeted for surveillance have considerably different operational conditions than those aimed at consumer products. In general, surveillance cameras require better low-light sensitivity and image quality compared to consumer applications, said Roy Karunakaran, Product Marketing Manager at OmniVision Technologies.
“Among others, the major considerations for purchasing sensors are availability, quantum efficiency values, dark noise, fixed pattern noise, the sensor's readout rate, operating temperature, pixel size and shutter technology,” said Gerrit Schreiber, Senior PM for IP Components, Basler.