When it comes to video surveillance, all the buzz is about IP
However, there are still millions of analog installations throughout the world, as many companies and organizations turn to IP for new projects but are reluctant to migrate existing solutions. In some cases, where requirements and complexity are low, legacy solutions may just be the right choice, but most often there are good reasons to make the change to IP. And for those who shy back from the switch because they pay particular attention to cost: There are so many benefits in IP video systems that the cost of ownership will often be lower than with analog, easily paying back the initial investment.
The most obvious advantage and usually the basic reason for any migration is image quality or hence image usability. If you need HD resolution to have more detail in your images, then there is no way around IP. And if you don’t today, chances are that SD resolution may no longer fulfill your needs in two years time. Particularly if forensic search shall be part of the solution now or in the future, image quality is key.
But it is not only about HD and megapixels. Smart IP systems enable entirely new applications, greatly simplify forensics and can dramatically reduce system costs and the amount of human labor associated with video surveillance. And last but not least, IP cameras are not just about higher resolution, but offer a variety of technologies developed by Bosch such as Intelligent Video Analysis (IVA) or intelligent Dynamic Noise Reduction (iDNR) to improve image quality even further and simultaneously reduce needed bandwidth and hence storage costs substantially. IP cameras have made tremendous technological leaps in recent years. Particular progress has been made in the area of light sensitivity, which is crucial for the usability of the video surveillance image in low light conditions such as at night or in sparsely lit rooms and hallways.
Today, starlight cameras are available with sensitivities as low as 0.017 Lux (color) and 0.0057 lux (black and white), allowing for clear color images in situations where previously black and white was all you could do. And they still deliver reasonable black and white where traditional cameras, both analog and IP, can offer no pictures at all.
Such cameras can even enable 24×7 surveillance in poorly lit environments without the need to install additional lighting.
Image quality and therefore usability can also be increased by adding intelligence to the cameras allowing for dynamic image optimization. Depending on the scene, such cameras analyze the images and automatically change direction and settings based on their findings. This results in a very reliable detection of objects or faces which can hardly be achieved with analog cameras.
Intelligent Video Analysis
But intelligence within the camera can do much more than that and greatly improve video analysis and forensics. Today’s network-based monitoring and intelligent analysis enable a significantly more accurate detection of incidents, as lack of concentration and other human errors are excluded from the outset. Second, they make the security staff more efficient, since operators only have to respond to alerts rather than continuously monitor a huge number of live images. This allows operators to spend more time on other tasks. Accuracy, speed and efficiency can be increased even further through the use of metadata. This literally brings structure to your recorded video. It enables you to find the needed scene within seconds in hours of recorded video surveillance material. Such metadata are small text strings describing objects or movements which are much smaller than the images themselves and can be searched fast and automatically.
Advanced video analysis software also allows the configuration of reference objects. In this case, all relevant object data such as size, speed, and color in a selected live scene are detected with a single click on the object in question. This information can then be used as criteria for tracking similar objects.
Crowd detection is another useful application for intelligent video analysis. In heavily used areas such as stadiums, railway stations and others, intelligent cameras can alert the operator in time and before critical conditions develop. Going beyond just surveillance, video analysis can also efficiently be used in applications like POS analysis or people counting.
Image quality is only one factor
So if the basic rule is “the higher the resolution, the better the quality” ~ why don`t we just use 12 or 15 megapixel cameras which can be very affordable as the consumer market clearly shows? The reason is quite simple: Operators need images they can work with. Image quality is an important factor, but there are others. For example, images must be transmitted and stored requiring sufficient bandwidth and storage capacity. Storage systems alone often account for half the cost of the entire surveillance solution and sending large numbers of multi megapixel images through already stressed networks can dramatically decrease the entire network performance and even derogate other applications. This is why every customer will have to find a compromise based on his application and its requirements when shopping for a video solution. It makes a huge difference whether you want to monitor a factory perimeter or do face recognition at its main gate.
The good news is that there are technologies which can substantially reduce both storage and bandwidth requirements while maintaining a high image quality. Such cost-saving technologies include intelligent Dynamic Noise Reduction, region prioritization and selective compression.
Noise is something everybody who uses video technologies will have to live with to a certain extent. It does not only reduce the image quality, but also adds to bandwidth and storage requirements. High resolution cameras are more susceptible for noise than others as the pixels on the sensor are smaller and need more amplification.
Noise reduction technologies have been around ever since digital video exists. Classic noise reduction can take two forms. Spatial noise reduction averages the pixels within a frame to reduce noise. Temporal noise reduction involves averaging pixels over several frames to cancel out noise artifacts. In static images temporal noise reduction is very effective but can cause problems when there is motion in the image. If temporal noise reduction is applied to moving objects, ghosting may be visible in the image where objects are blurred or repeated.
Using Content Based Imaging Technology, all Bosch network cameras can today identify those frames in which there is movement and pass this information back to the image processing which then adapts the temporal noise reduction for these frames. This way they can dynamically tune the degree of noise reduction based upon an analysis of important objects moving through the camera’s field of view. When the scene is quiet or no motion is present, bandwidth is minimized. When an important object is detected, bandwidth increases to capture maximum details. What you basically get from these Bosch technologies is an improved version of VBR (Variable Bit Rate). Advanced algorithms can reduce bit rates and storage requirements by up to 50 percent in certain scenes without reducing video quality.
An additional way to further reduce noise is region prioritization. Some cameras allow the user to define several regions of the image and assign different compression rates to those regions. This allows very high compression rates in background regions, where poor image quality is not an issue while using reduced compression rates and maintaining high quality in those parts of the scene that are of interest.
It is becoming increasingly important to be able to view and control security recordings from anywhere, for example remotely when not on site, because of higher safety requirements. At the same time, the demands on viewing quality are also rising, with high definition (HD) now being standard for most applications. However, reviewing high definition scenes can be very time-consuming and when this is also carried out remotely, the user is dependent on the speed of the internet connection. In the case of a low bandwidth connection, HD-quality material is invariably buffered, which equally takes a large amount of time.
The solution to this problem is the Dynamic Transcoding technology from Bosch. This behind-the-scenes process changes a video file without compromising on the original image quality which is totally shown when the image is paused. The technology enables viewing in HD quality from any location at any time, as long as there is an internet connection available
Migrating step by step
So there are good reasons to migrate existing video solutions to IP. But which is the best way to do so?
Often the migration to IP does not have to take place in one step. One possibility to start with would be to install hybrid cameras. These cameras provide simultaneously high resolution HD video streaming and an analog video output via a SMB connector. The hybrid functionality offers an easy migration path from legacy CCTV to a modern IP-based system.
Another possibility would be to start with the replacement of central equipment only. In such a scenario, the matrix and the video distributor will be replaced by IT components with video management software, and appropriate technology will be installed in the control room. The rest of the system remains largely untouched, which protects the existing investment. This way an organization can benefit quickly and with minimal effort from key advantages of digital solutions, such as a comprehensive video and rights management, convenient mouse operation and the simple and fast access to records, without having to replace existing cameras or cabling.
In the second phase, analog cameras can then be replaced with IP cameras as need and occasion arise. This could be end of life of a camera or the need for better image quality. Or in case you already installed hybrid cameras you can start using the HD video stream of this camera. At the same time the existing coax cable will be replaced with a CAT5/6 cable or optical fibre. If the cameras support Power over Ethernet, no additional power cabling is require. Should new cabling still be too expensive, media converters can transport the IP signals over the existing infrastructure. In such a migration scenario, any necessary extensions of the CCTV system would be implemented with IP technology right away, avoiding expensive peer-to-peer wiring. The integration of new cameras into the management system is then usually done with a few mouse clicks.
IP-based video solutions are inexpensive to operate and provide entirely new ways to manage, use, and analyze videos. In addition, IP-based systems can be easily integrated with other security systems into a unified and centrally managed environment. And while some vendors like Bosch do offer the entire solution with its obvious advantages, open technologies like the Integration Partner Program from Bosch and standards such as ONVIF make sure that multiple vendor’s cameras, recording solutions and management systems will also work with each other.
For more information about Bosch security solutions visit www.boschsecurity.com