Video surveillance is becoming an ever more important tool of choice for traffic management. This is partially due to the increased traffic density where traffic management failures inevitably cause congestion, but more importantly, because it gives an immediate idea of "what is going on". British based AMG Systems is specialized in large scale transmission solutions for traffic management and other transportation applications and they seem to have found a paradigm which caters for future proofing as well as cost savings on the transmission infrastructure.
The market for video surveillance in Traffic Management and other transport applications are rapidly growing. The UK has led the way with the National Roads Telecommunications Services (NRTS) project by the UK Highways Agency. The project will provide a national digital system linking more than 14,000 roadside devices, including message signs and emergency telephones, and up to 4,000 cameras and traffic monitoring systems to the Highway Agency's network of traffic control centers. Whilst primarily designed to provide a road safety monitoring system, NRTS will also give drivers real time travel information to plan their journeys, and create safer roads, thanks to the nationwide distribution of video footage to travel information and navigation companies.
Founder and MD of AMG Systems Alan Hayes explained, "Our Guardian-Lite transmission solution was selected for the NRTS project because it makes it possible to use uncompressed, digital video transmission even on a large wide area network with hundreds of cameras over hundreds of kilometers. The unique transmission technology simply replicates the capabilities of an Ethernet system and transmits the entire content of the video images back to the control room. It also allows for drop-and-insert of camera signals -- as and when required -- as well as dual redundancy. It even carries Ethernet which for example could be used for simultaneous retrieval of DVR images or -- in the case of the NRTS - is used for taking control signals to the roadside positions."
The background for AMGˇs success stems from a dedicated and focused research and development process which was started 10 years ago. The company saw a gap in the market for transport and traffic management surveillance and decided that the way to generate a true wide area network was to transmit the video signal in a digital format where it could be repeated effectively indefinitely. As a result, AMG developed a series of digital fiber optic transmission solutions. The success of this approach is documented with a number of high profile projects using AMGˇs transmission technology such as; the traffic management system in Athens for the 2004 Olympics, high speed rail links in South Korea, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between the UK and France, city centre and surrounding highways traffic management in Dublin, Ireland, a number of toll roads in India as well as the 17 km tunnel system under Stockholm in Sweden.
'Lots of images, but cannot do anything with them'
Hayes has the following view: "We have seen the market gravitate towards the adoption of compressed video based systems using IP technology for the transmission of the video signals to the control room or point of viewing and analysis. The reason for this choice has come about due the lack of awareness of options available in terms of uncompressed transmission. Uncompressed video transmission has often been seen as only available in point-to-point architectures which have serious limitation in terms of resilience, scalability and flexibility of the system. Interestingly when we meet end users, they have now started to highlight a number of challenges which some of the projects are currently facing. Amongst other things the application of intelligent video analytics software, as video analytics software requires an uncompressed video image to actually add significant value."
"Users have also highlighted that there is a risk of the entire transmission network crashing when running with IP technology," Hayes said. "This is actually a very important point and it should not be taken lightly. It can be very difficult indeed to establish where the error causing the crash has been introduced. Hence, fault location efforts can lead to long down times. This is clearly something which is unacceptable for observation critical surveillance systems, such as road side traffic management. On top of that, there is also the risk of mischievous or malevolent 'hacking' at an unprotected remote roadside location."
Compression limits the usability of Surveillance Systems
"It is important to note that with the lack of standards for compression of the video images, some systems also have difficulties with recompression due to different manufacturersˇ equipment installed in the same system. This again can lead to backward as well as forward compatibility issues, and we have found, that our unique approach to CCTV transmission is now seen as the answer to the conundrum."
"It is evident that for systems where pre-event analysis takes place, either using traditional security operators in a control room or the more recent pixel based analysis software, the reduction in video quality caused by compression can severely limit the usability of the CCTV system," Hayes said. "Video compression unfortunately compromises what you can do. In a highways system for example it affects traffic management capabilities and -- as I mentioned before -- security, which is where the market is heading right now. It is therefore gratifying to experience that our technology is seen to add significant value, and save costs on the transmission infrastructure."