The Next 15 Years of Video Surveillance

Looking back to predict the future


This is good news for our industry as we all benefit from continuous investments in research and development. From a technology point of view the shift has been from tube-based cameras (remember those?) to CCD sensors and CMOS. In 15 years, CMOS will likely dominate but we might see another emerging technology. New CMOS technology will create sensors with huge resolutions that will lead to the first Terapixel camera. When this happens, it will be the optics, not the sensor, which set limitations on image quality.

Additionally, for the past 70 years we have lived with the analog standards of NTSC and PAL. Today, nearly everyone has HDTVs in their homes. As a surveillance professional, I would expect better image quality at work than at home-not the opposite. HDTV is perfect for surveillance because the SMPTE standard guarantees frame rate, resolution, color fidelity and aspect ratio. While megapixel is a trendy topic, it simply refers to the number of pixels in the image-all those other factors of a moving image are variable. This is why the 'Best Buys' of the world talk about megapixels for still photography and HDTV for home entertainment.

I don't expect the HDTV standard to last for 70 years, but 15 years from now it's conceivable that the majority of cameras will be HDTV compliant. Having said this, we will of course see multi-megapixel (and Terapixel) cameras play important roles-either to store video in higher, more detailed resolution for forensic review or to crop out individual HD-streams. The beauty of network video is that it does not put boundaries on resolution.

Thermal imaging

Everyone wants to have the lowest possible Lux rating for their cameras, but how about having zero? Today thermal imaging is a specialty market, mostly found in military and government applications. As the prices of thermal network camera components decrease and demand increases, we can expect many new applications to arise. Today, there is one thermal camera per 400 regular surveillance cameras in circulation. We expect this ratio to reach 1:50 in a few years as surveillance professionals realize this technology is affordable, can be easily connected to their existing network system infrastructure and can be used for many varied critical applications.

On-board and cloud-based storage

Just like network camera technology has done since 1996, the storage market-including flash memory and hard disks-has also outpaced Moore's law. Soon we will have on-board storage in cameras capable of recording HDTV resolution for weeks at a time. This will be a game changer as the camera becomes the recording device, something that can't be done using analog. Those who will have to adapt to this change are VMS manufacturers and hybrid DVR companies. DVRs as we know them will likely go the way of tube-based cameras and will be extinct 15 years from now.

Hosted video gains strong footing

Today, consumers have all learned to rely on hosted services like Hotmail, Gmail and Facebook. For professionals, many rely on Salesforce.com and cloud-based HR systems. And we all rely on Internet banking. If we can trust the clouds with our money today, it's logical that we would do the same for security video tomorrow. The benefits are obvious: no need for a DVR, the option to have local NVR recording and no fixed cameras counts, coupled with the basic benefits of IP video. You can view the video from anywhere on Internet-enabled devices, including your mobile phone. Hosted video is a prediction I see having an immediate impact over the next couple years, especially in the target market of small businesses-and then growing to extremely high user levels by 2025.

Cameras for the installer and user

As the iPhone revolutionized how cell phones are designed, networked video is poised to do the same to the CCTV industry. While the shift is often slower when compared to the consumer electronics industry, further improvements to installation friendliness, flexible mount options and a higher degree of PTZ cameras can be expected. Guards will also need to be trained and equipped with mobile devices that connect to the cameras, allowing for more efficient use.

Analytics predictions are difficult

This is a dangerous area to predict and one where many have been proven wrong for the last five to 10 years. I'm confident in saying, however, that in 15 years analytics will be mainstream. The difficult part is pinpointing when it will happen.