Modern IP security cameras are getting rid of the false beliefs that have long argued against using network video systems - and are shaking things up at the same time.
What do computers, mobile phones and broadband internet have in common? The answer is simple: all these devices and developments were initially considered to be too expensive and technically too complicated to sustain themselves on the market. The situation is very much the same for IP security cameras. Modern IP cameras seemed unprofitable simply because of their price. However, the technology continues to develop. What has already been proven false for mobile phones, computers, etc. can now also be forgotten for IP security cameras. The latest developments demonstrate that prejudices are unjustified. IP security cameras can actually save money in many different ways in comparison to analog systems.
The way things were
Behind a purely analog camera system hides an analog camera with analog image transfer via a coaxial cable, while the system usually relies on a digital video recorder (DVR) for storage. Even at first glance, it becomes obvious that in the area of video surveillance, a development has long since become necessary in many areas. Although analog video systems are still being used, it has been a long while since they conformed technically to the standards that apply in the consumer sector today. Analog camera systems offer a maximum resolution of 0.4 megapixels in 4CIF format. When recording with a DVR, the systems often only provide 0.1 megapixels. If a visitor at an airport uses his mobile phone camera to take a picture, he will definitely get a picture that is at least seven times better than what an analog surveillance camera can take. People would never even think of recording their niece's baptism or their children's weddings at such a poor level of quality any more. In terms of professional video surveillance, however, people have long since been content with standards that do not meet the increasing security requirements in the population. But times are a changing. France, for example, is the first country to have reacted to this discrepancy. Since October 2006, they have had minimum requirements for security cameras that mandate a full PAL recording of 576 lines at a minimum of 12 images per second. If this minimum requirement of 0.4 megapixels were just slightly higher, it would mean that about 95% of all cameras that still record in CIF format (0.1 megapixels) could not be used anymore. With analog systems, it is not possible to obtain higher than 0.4 megapixels and still be profitable.
High resolution, maintenance-free technology, low overall costs
Using digital systems will significantly reduce the total number of cameras required. Because of its up to 31 times higher resolution, one single modern 3 megapixel IP camera can easily replace multiple analog cameras. One M22 from Mobotix would, for example, be enough to simultaneously record in a surveillance video all rows of gas pumps at a medium-sized gas station or six customer parking spaces on a company's premises. Here, the image recorded is of such high resolution that you can use digital pan, tilt and zoom to recognize and evaluate all relevant details in the events saved, such as car license plate or the face of a suspicious person. No analog camera can offer such a feature. The secret behind this is in the digital technology. Unlike the mechanical optical zoom of the analog camera, the digital zoom of the IP camera does not utilize a moving lens to focus on the desired image section; instead, software is used to show the enlarged image. In terms of cost, this also means advantages for the IP system. If there are no mechanical parts operating outside of the building, then there are no parts to be maintained or heated in winter. This reduces the maintenance costs and, not forgetting environmental protection, also keeps energy consumption to a minimum. For power supply, an IP camera generally only needs a network cable (¨power over ethernet〃, PoE), which at the same time makes it considerably easy to install.
A key factor: decentralized processing
Technological pioneers such as Mobotix have long since disputed critics saying that high-resolution IP cameras would use too much network bandwidth. The secret to a modern camera system lies in its decentralized data processing. Majority of the data processing now takes place directly in the camera. Every Mobotix camera possesses its own processor that prepares the images collected from the video chip directly in the camera. This is another advantage over analog and hybrid systems that is not to be underestimated. Analog systems must draw the majority of their computing power from a central server, which drives up not only the required computing power but also the amount of data to be transferred. Saving video data on external hard drives itself poses serious technical problems. In addition to being shock sensitive, storing on external hard drives means that for video applications the drives must be continuously overwritten and deleted. This results in significantly higher material wear and tear and in a higher load on the CPU than when using an office computer. The market has, however, reacted to this situation, too. IP cameras such as those from Mobotix have built-in, long-term ring buffer and internal digital video storage with multiple gigabytes and can record every event directly in the camera. Network traffic will only be created if the user communicates with his camera via the control center computer, or if the recorded events are sent from the camera to be stored in an external archive. Considering the current broadband standards, the network transfer rates required no longer pose a problem.
Internal processor opens up unimaginable possibilities
Intelligent IP cameras offer another advantage. Thanks to the built-in chip, they are basically a separate, internet-capable computer that fulfills its tasks mostly on its own. If the network that operates the camera is connected to the worldwide web, the device can post the collected images online as an internet page. The website can then be called up, using a password, from any internet access point in the world using a standard browser. None of the old-fashioned analog camera systems could ever offer what the modern IP cameras do, for example, allowing the user to view images/video by internet when traveling or at home. There are no limits to the other application possibilities for camera intelligence. The video management systems at the control center are relieved of the massive workload. They can thus focus on the important things, such as the optimum play- back of the images. This frees up resources for the control center computers, which in turn increases their capacity. Even if the images or videos are still being stored on a control center computer, the available computing power of a single computer will be enough for recording and live displaying of the video streams from up to 40 cameras simultaneously.
Obviously, such performance cannot be achieved with the usual video formats (such as MPEG4) that have been developed for the consumer sector. MPEG4 does not compress the data at a sufficient scale. These formats are also not at all recommended because MPEG4 only shows at the best resolution those image areas in which no movement takes place. For security cameras, however, it is the area of the image where something moves that is of interest. This is why there are new data formats such as MxPEG from Mobotix, which are tailored for the security industry and are also compatible with the relevant software applications.
Changing of the guard
Thanks to their excellent product features, modern IP video cameras are incurring less and less time, money, and effort for installation, saving money in many different ways. The market for IP security technology will continue to grow at a very fast rate. In the upcoming years, this trend away from the old analog systems towards high-performance, digital IP network cameras will continue unimpaired. Because security is more than just 0.4 megapixels.