This provides the type of video compression, frame speed and image quality the application needs at any given moment, and switches back and forth in accordance with application needs. For example, a camera could use MPEG-4 compression to minimize bandwidth and switch to higher-resolution JPEG mode in case of an alarm triggered by an incident.
Some cameras offer “intelligent resolution” to prevent deterioration of an image during digital zooming; and variable image/resolution technology enables a less-important part of an image (such as the sky) to be coded at a lower resolution to save data file size.
In effect, smarter cameras do more at the edge of the network, which frees up intelligence and data capacity at the server level for other uses and applications.
Intelligent Functions Boost Functionality
Smart functions at the camera level include Video Motion Detection functionality with increasingly sophisticated options. The use of a “privacy zone” function can mask areas, such as house windows and entrances/exits.
Smart cameras are also increasing their use of video analytics, which continue to gain traction for conventional video surveillance applications. Smarter cameras on the edge of the network can identify objects left behind — a homeland security application — or help track customer traffic patterns, crowd counting, etc. These applications have relevance for security as well as other business operations across a variety of vertical markets.
One exciting new technology is face detection and matching. Some newer network cameras can detect faces automatically, even in high-contrast lighting situations and with multiple people in a frame. The use of “face wide dynamic range” functionality ensures a clear image of a face, and a face detection function detects the position of the human face. Higher resolution works with in-camera intelligence to ensure more detailed metadata is available for face matching capabilities.
With face matching — a capability that can be embedded in an NVR or added on as software — camera data is analyzed and compared to an existing database. Upon a positive face match, alarm notification can be sent via text or e-mail, and the image can be displayed.
Face matching can be used for a wide variety of security and other functions — for example, to detect a habitual shoplifter returning to a retail environment among several customers entering a store at once, or to identify a top customer so that they can be greeted by staff.
Working with IP Applications
Smarter cameras and the connectivity of IP systems make it easier to integrate security systems with other IP-based systems in the enterprise. Smart video can be integrated with other applications such as retail systems, human resources, process management and access control systems.
The common use of Internet protocol enables telephone systems, point-of-sale systems and others to interoperate with video surveillance systems in an IT environment. For example, POS (point-of-sale) terminals and video recording technology can work together to enable retail store managers and loss prevention professionals to search and retrieve key loss prevention metrics and to easily access video recordings of transactions of interest.
Also, IP-based phone systems have LCD displays, which can be interfaced with video cameras for remote monitoring of a back office area, door access or cash handling area.
For the video surveillance industry, embedded intelligence opens a host of possibilities centering on system functionalities and interoperability. When you factor in advancements in HD imaging and megapixel technology, there are many more advantages for the user. The technologies work together in ways that are greater than the sum of the parts, and surveillance system integrators and users reap the benefits of the resulting improvements in system functionality and performance.
Bill Taylor is President of Panasonic System Networks Company of America.