IT trends impacting IP video: SDXC memory cards

Memory card technology from consumer world could rewrite how video surveillance systems work

With so many new technologies on the horizon, it's hard to know which ones will become proverbial game changers for the security industry. This article is the first in a series of discussions about innovations in computer networking that might reshape the way we practice our discipline.

Packing more bytes per inch

Most security applications today have two things in common: they reside on an IP backbone and they require some way to store data. This is true whether the application involves perimeter detection, access control, video surveillance or fire detection. To advance network storage, in April 2009 the Secure Digital Association released a new standard for SD memory cards called Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC). The standard increases the existing capacity of SD cards from 32GB to a possible 2TB of storage in a card that can be as small as your thumbnail in the mini-SD version.

What can 2TB of storage give you? For the consumer market, the Secure Digital Association estimates that 100 high-definition movies could be stored on a single card. In the realm of video surveillance, using highly-efficient H.264 video compression a customer could record 30 images per second of high-quality, 1080p HDTV video for close to 55 days on a single card.

The 2009 standard also defined the data transfer rate starting at 104MB per second which enables the recording of 30 images per second in 1080p. That rate is expected to increase to 300MB per second in future iterations of the technology. With greater data transfer rates, network cameras can conceivably surpass recording 60 images per second in 1080p. Using SDXC implementations, manufacturers of network cameras will be able to offer a level of fault tolerance for network outages by recording locally - even with applications that require high resolution and real-time recording rates.

Moving storage from center to edge

So how could SDXC technology become a game changer in the security industry? We may see more surveillance solutions moving storage from a central server out to edge devices. Here's why:

Video systems consist of an image capturing device, a wired or wireless transmission medium, and a recording platform. Traditionally, a recording platform manages the process of recording and video retrieval, hence the commonly used term video management system or VMS. Typically centralized, these devices require hardware specifications that increase in scope and cost as a system scales. The environmental burden of scaling servers into storage farms is magnified by the increased power consumption required to cool an ever-growing number of PC platforms.

When greater-capacity SDXC memory cards become a reality, they'll offer users the option of offloading centralized storage requirement with edge-based recording. The video management system will still manage the recordings; but it will simply be a matter of developing solutions that enable the recording platform to index video clips that are stored remotely. Storing video on edge devices will give security professionals greater surveillance flexibility. For instance, law enforcement could deploy more standalone cameras throughout a city without increasing their existing centralized storage capacity.

Some may argue that this scenario is more of a redistribution of the current model than an actual game changer. But by increasing the storage capacity at the edge, manufacturers and software developers could affect the very model of how companies deploy video solutions today. Individual cameras could become complete security systems providing a cost-effective solution for situations that have limited infrastructure options. For instance, the transportation industry could deploy remote cameras powered by solar energy, decreasing the need to put a PC platform on site. Some manufacturers have deployed solutions that embed actual hard disks into network cameras. But solid-state SDXC cards will offer a greater mean-time-between-failure than hard disk, and therefore increase the camera's longevity.

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