The business case for megapixel

Technological advances and declining costs will help you 'sell' the technology to your executives

As networked security and video surveillance systems gain traction, so has the use of megapixel cameras for general-purpose applications. The latest generation of megapixel cameras is proving to yield both greater cost-efficiency and video performance.

Megapixel video was once assumed to be more suitable for specialized applications because of early technology limitations related to bandwidth and storage requirements. But now there is a convincing business case for use of megapixel video in any application given the favorable ratio of greater system effectiveness compared to lower overall system costs. As a result, today's megapixel cameras are changing the process by which video surveillance systems are specified, implemented and justified.

Let's look at ways megapixel and IP technologies can be combined to achieve affordable systems:

- Megapixel cameras can improve functionality and lower costs. Networked systems enable the implementation of megapixel cameras, which deliver superior imaging technology and related functionality than analog cameras. A single megapixel camera can typically be used in lieu of several conventional analog or standard definition cameras. Fewer cameras mean fewer cables, less software licensing fees and less installation costs as well. Use of megapixel cameras can take the place of mechanical pan/tilt/zoom devices - users can digitally pan, tilt or zoom in real-time while simultaneously recording the full field of view. Archived video can provide 4 to 30 times the detail over standard definition cameras, depending on the megapixel resolution. Overall, megapixel cameras yield greater return on investment (ROI) than conventional cameras in the long run and in many cases immediately.

- Standardized IT-based components. Megapixel IP video systems are configured using the same "building blocks" as IT systems including servers, network switches, digital storage, etc. This enables megapixel cameras to easily integrate with other video surveillance and security devices with extreme cost-efficiency. The use of H.264 compression has reduced the costs relative to network bandwidth, server CPU capacity and storage - lowering the overall cost of ownership of a megapixel system. Competition among suppliers also has led to lower pricing and has accelerated the development of new technologies to further enhance product functionality. These trends have continued to raise the performance of systems while lowering overall costs.

- Software is taking on a leading role. Because the "brain" of IP video systems is in the software, it is much easier to update or upgrade a system once it has been up and running. Software updates are available via easy online downloads - and they are far more cost efficient than switching out equipment.

- Scalability provides greater flexibility. One of the greatest intrinsic advantages of networking is scalability. With an analog system, adding a camera or moving camera locations requires a great deal of effort, manpower and expense - from physically moving the camera to running new wiring from the head-end to the camera location, installing a local power source and adding additional processing hardware like multiplexers and card cages. With a megapixel IP system, you can add or move a camera by simply mounting it and plugging in a single structured cable to deliver all video, bi-directional data and power. Configuring additional cameras and corresponding servers and storage is all managed by a video management system (VMS) front-end. In most cases, an IP address is automatically assigned upon detection of the new network edge device.

- Ability to use existing infrastructure. Networked systems employing megapixel IP video surveillance cameras can often use existing infrastructure - whether over the Internet, using WiFi or over a corporate network. In any case, existing network infrastructure helps eliminate the need to create a parallel network just for the video surveillance system.

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