Chinese video server products have developed for more than 10 years. The have now improved both in technology and design. Along with the network and digital environments developing, the applications for video servers are also broader. As the security device starts to convert analog to digital, video servers are helping users to upgrade existing systems.
Multichannel with Real-Time
Currently, Chinese video server manufacturers can only provide one, two and four-channel products, with only one channel video server capable of performing real-time surveillance at D1 resolution. Two and four channels can only process at CIF resolution. The video server must consider the processing ability of the core chips and holistic IP environments. "The development of video server products relates to the IP environments," said Rocky Ran, Technical Manager of TMvideo.
"It does not mean that Chinese manufacturers are not able to develop multiple-channel products," said Jie Zhang, General Manager of CSVision. "If we had the enough bandwidth in China, Chinese manufacturers could provide multiple-channel video servers very soon. For example, China Telecom could provide the ADSL 2+ solution, but it is just enough for two channels in real-time with D1 resolution."
Consider the differences in user habits and requirements. Sometimes overseas users only need five to seven frames per second (fps) signal transmission. Based on practical needs like this, TMvideo developed D1 high-resolution unreal-time DVS (digital video server) product with seven fps transmission, especially for overseas markets.
As s ignals are t ransmi t ted in digital format, video servers can also reduce the bandwidth required for transmission, depending on the compression. Chinese manufacturers mainly use two kinds of compression algorithms, MPEG-4 and H.264. H.264 is the combination of MPEG-4 and H.263 compression. It provides better performance under narrow bandwidth, but Chinese compression technology only scratches the surface of H.264 technology. Once the core stage of the H.264 algorithm was completed, the signal compression efficiency can enhance 40 to 50 percent. The current Chinese H.264 compression can only enhance the efficiency of signal streaming by 20 to 30 percent, but it carries far more complicated algorithms than MPEG-4, which requires the core chip to be four times faster.
The core of a video server is the chip. Some brands of chipsets usually chosen by Chinese manufacturers in digital surveillance products are Philips, E-quarter, Texas Instruments (TI) and Hisilicon. "I think we cannot objectively judge these two different algorithms," Ran said. "Even though H.264 is the latest technology, MPEG-4 has a longer development time and more experience, which makes it more stable. Users and installers have to choose it according to their realistic needs."
Most Chinese manufacturers offer more than one transmission format, allowing the user to select the most suitable format. "Our video servers have two transmission formats, which are MPEG-4 and H.264," said Xinjun Fu, Sales Director at HuangHe. "These make our video servers suited to different IP environments and provide flexible choices for our customers."
Nowadays, markets need more powerful solutions, such as video surveillance platforms. The video server is not only used for signal transmission, but also for the management functions of controlling and analyzing video signals. CSVision is a software-based company, developing powerful software for integration. "For many DVR manufacturers, to produce DVS product is not too difficult, because both the DVR and DVS have similar components," Zhang explained. "But the biggest challenge is the software part. Different functions and features tailored to different users with different habits make the software become more complicated."
Wider Applications with Telecommunications
In early days, video server only solved the long-distance video signal transmission problems, especially in video conferencing. As the networking functions of video servers became more powerful, it could be widely applied in the security surveillance industry. Many market sectors adopt video server devices, such as for city security, financial institutions and forest fireproofing. "With a focus on some applications in unmanned operation, the video server becomes the best equipment for users," Ran said. "Many surveillance environments are far away from the cities, making it difficult to send people to operate systems there, such as in forests, mines, electric power and water conservancy. As people know, video servers could satisfy the need for. long-distance, unmanned operation"
The telecommunication industry has become mature. In addition to providing the telephone and Internet services, some basic IP surveillance is being developed as a value-added service by telecommunication companies. The markets for video server have expanded into residential security and enterprise service. "We started cooperating with telecommunication companies recently," said Fuming Lu, General Manager of Avinfo. "Some Chinese known telecommunication companies, such as China Telecom and China Netcom, are growing as a large market for us. It needs a bigger system to cover more areas. It has great potential for the future."
Because video servers have powe r ful IP surve i l l anc e func t ions , many Chine s e manufacturers rely on better networking platforms, which are constructed by telecommunication companies, to build the IP video system for other industries, such as medical treatment, factories, airports and petrol industries. "Jiangxi Telecom is negotiating with us now," Ran said. "We are planning to build a hospital video system in whole province; it could provide not only the surveillance function, but also the training, diagnoses and total solution services."
Current Sales Status
Chinese major video server manufacturers are Launch, Avinfo, HuangHe, TMvideo, CSVision and AIP. Also, some well-known DVR manufacturers offer video servers as well, such as Hikvision, Dahua and Higheasy. However, most of the DVR makers do not develop their own software specifically for DVS, but mostly ask third-party companies to design software for their video servers. Now, the domestic market is just about to create a big demand for video servers.
According to manufacturers, the twoand four-channel video servers are popular overseas. As a device supplier, Chinese video server manufacturers started exporting over the past few years. New technology and high-end features may not be included, but the current strategy seems suited for the present situation. One issue restricting the export of Chinese video servers is the software. Due to the language and usage of the system, Chinese manufacturers may not be as professional. Some details, such as interface, operation and variety of functions, still need to improve. Chinese manufacturers are increasing their communications with overseas users to get a better understanding of what software is needed and also to learn from international video server makers.
Chinese Video Server in the Future
It is still hard to increase the power of DVR networking features, as video servers have the cost advantage. Also, IP cameras are too small to embed complicated functions for edge devices to be practical. Old surveillance systems still employ a large number of analog cameras, which will need time to complete the replacements to IP. Video servers offer better performance for long-distance IP signal transmission, and users can freely choose the cameras, whether they are analog or IP. As a result, some Chinese makers believe that video servers still have remarkable potential. With more powerful functions and features, video servers should have bigger and better markets.
Zhang thinks that getting intelligent will be an important mainstream trend for video server. Facial recognition and license plate recognition are succeeding as applications in their system, he said. "I think, in the future, we might focus on combining with DVS and DVR. According to our experience, many applications, such as banking, need to record surveillance videos or images to be used as evidence. They want the DVS to have recording functions like a DVR." There are some different voices from other manufacturers, who said that as the IP camera becomes all-pervasive and its cost is reduced, it must replace the video server markets. So many video server makers may have started to develop IP cameras as well.