Speed Domes Provide a Careful Lookout

Speed Domes Provide a Careful Lookout

Speed domes fulfill challenging security requirements, making them products in demand. Improvements among newer products include not only price/performance, but also more intelligent features.

Packed with powerful optical zoom and continuous 360-degree rotation, speed domes are suited for versatile applica?tions. "Speed dome annual sales, for China alone, reached 900,000 units in 2009," said Ping Hu, Project Manager at Hikvision Digital Technology.

Bolstered by demand from China and India, Asian growth is estimated to reach 20 to 30 percent this year. "In terms of revenue, the Chinese speed dome market was estimated to be worth US$586 to $735 million in 2009," said James Wang, Overseas Product Manager at Dahua Technology. "Speed domes are heavily used in city surveillance projects, where 10,000 units or even 100,000 units are procured for a single project."

Global uptake is projected to grow at a slower rate of 15 to 18 percent in 2010 due to the economic slowdown, said Alec Weingart, President of Actiontop Electronics. "Distributors maintain minimum inventory levels. In the meantime, budget constraints provide no room to increase stock levels."

Priced at a higher range, speed domes account for 15 to 20 percent of overall camera consumption, said Johnny Chen, PTZ Manager at Merit LILIN.
In general, two to three speed domes are used for every 16-channel DVR surveillance system, said Max Chen, Field Application Engineer at Hi Sharp Electronics.

Speed domes suit a wide range of projects, from retail, hospitality to city surveillance. Assisting learning at large educational institutions is a growing application, said Chen of Merit LILIN. "Speed domes can be programmed to follow teachers, providing a clearer view for student at the back of the classroom while recording educational video clips at the same time."

Flexibility and customized solutions have given Asian vendors an edge. While improving quality and reliability, cost is controlled with care. "Price-performance is a primary concern. It is achieved with attention to component selection, product design and quality control," said Lora Tsai, Sales Manager at Eyeview Electronics.

Providing a spectrum of models to meet various demands and budgets is a long-term strategy. Vertical- and function-specific products allow clear market segmentation and facilitate penetration. Provisions on functions, such as WDR capability, motion detection or action on alarm, are optional additions to standard features.

No-frills packages are standard offerings. Outfitted with popular protocols to be used with a range of controllers and programmable presets, the cost-effective models cater to basic security needs, said Francis Jing, Manager of the International Department at Tianjin Tiandy Digital Technology.

Tailored function for different verticals provides sizable savings. Speed domes are available in different pan/tilt preset speeds to ensure all viewing demands are met. "Nimble pan/tilt action is specified in city surveillance projects for target tracking and immediate action, while stable pan/tilt action monitors factories, industrial facilities and medium-sized sites," Hu said. Price varies about 10 to 20 percent.

Current Development
Speed domes are geared toward higher-end applications due to advances in video technologies, Weingart said. "Demand for subject identification and analysis further drives the development for stronger optical zoom and high-definition image."

Clearer Image
"Although high-resolution images are a prerequisite for content analysis, current solutions fail to provide such services," said Michael Shin, Manager of Overseas Sales and Marketing at Truen. "More often, speed domes are procured through projects where quality is the first priority. As they are often positioned in the mid- to high-price range, megapixel resolution helps generate cost savings."

However, megapixel images add complexity to the speed dome system, from overall design to data transmission. Other than protection against environmental factors, the dome cover plays a crucial role in light penetration. The smaller pixels get, the more light they require, said Chen at Merit LILIN. "As images are affected by ambient light, covers should be made to allow true color. One of the critical problems today is minimizing the effect covers have on image color."

Another challenge is preventing loss of data. While digital signals travel quickly, high bandwidth consumption of megapixel video makes transmission a demanding task, said Chen of Merit LILIN.

Improvements in video compression formats and transmission help minimize data loss. "H.264 video servers and decoders designed to transmit megapixel images are available solutions," Shin said.

Technically, megapixel has achieved a certain maturity, but the commercial value of megapixel speed domes requires further evaluation. "Multimegapixel hemispheric and panorama cameras — with 360-degree video surveillance — coupled with digital pan-tilt-zoom have been in use and driven down the market share of megapixel speed domes," said Chen of Merit LILIN. "However, digital zoom has limita?tions and optical zoom provides flexibility for distant tracking."

Distributed Intelligence
The powerful zoom and revolving capabilities of speed domes suit edge analytics applications, bringing distributed intelligence a step forward.

"In the speed dome system, image process technology is often outsourced," said Jacy Xia, Marketing Manager at Minrray Industry. "Difficulties arise from system compatibility and real-life obstacles, as integration and customization often involve complicated algorithm adjustments." Asian vendors like Minrray have developed in-house video content analysis for customized solutions.

Intelligence at the edge is effective only when supported by an integrated surveillance system, said Wang. To this end, intelligent models generally target the international market, where interoperable systems and high-capacity transmission lines are available. "It takes time for technology to mature and for it to adapt to real-world applications," he said.

Speed domes have been widely adopted across verticals expecting sizable growth this year. Intelligent applications have room to grow, once software engineering is ready, said Chen at Merit LILIN. Auto-tracking with facial recognition and action on alarms will gain traction.

Seeing in the Dark
Monitoring in low-light environ?ments is becoming a must-have feature for speed domes. IR speed domes fulfill market demand from small venues to large-area surveil?lance.

Overcoming refraction and overheating problems, Tiandy's IR speed domes allow 100 to 120 meters IR illumination. As 100-meter IR ranges become standard, vendors are developing models with laser beams. "Equipped with an industrial lens, laser speed domes featuring illumi?nation ranges in the hundreds of meters will be introduced in the first half of 2010," Jing said.

As speed domes mature, more similarity and unification will be found in product functions, said Wang. Price competition at the lower end of the market is becoming fierce.

User education remains a major obstacle. "Security requirements are best addressed when the right technology is applied," Shin said. "Considering speed domes vary in price and function, any procurement should start with understanding and analyzing customer needs."

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