The Security Week That Was: May 18, 2007

How many megapixels do you need?

I got a note from the UK version of the IP UserGroup this morning promoting one of their clients that will be at IFSEC next week. The company, SentryScope, apparently has a 21 megapixel camera.

If you want a sense of how high a resolution that is, then consider this — if you record at their highest level, you could eat up 100 Gigabytes of storage a day doing continuous recording.

The camera’s image is a black-and-white panorama with an aspect ratio of 4:3. This is basically what you'd see (you can zoom in of course, because, although it's not shown here due to space constraints, there's plenty of data detail in the original file):

SentryScope 21 megapixel surveillance example

So I’m sitting here thinking about when you really need that much detail. Obviously, as one of our columnists wrote earlier this year, these kind of cameras are great if you want to catch license plate data.

But parking lots are only one aspect of security. I’m thinking back to a recent visit with the security staff at a hockey arena in South Florida and thinking how it could have been set up with a camera at each end of the venue that could give you great situational awareness, as if you were standing in a nosebleed balcony with a nice set of binoculars in your hands — instead of where you really are — in the basement, in a cinderblock room watching cameras.

The fact that you can get 21 megapixels (it’s higher than most color cameras because you can get higher resolution if you ditch the color pixel capture on the image sensor) makes me wonder where the megapixel push will end up. Scary as it is to those who have to consider compression and bandwidth, I’ve heard rumors of Gigapixel technology for surveillance cameras. (You can kiss your 250Gb hard drives away if that happens!)

If you remember back to the advent of consumer (still) cameras, they started at .5 megapixels and then progressed such that most consumer cameras seem to be delivering between 4 and 6 megapixels. They certainly can go higher, but this seems to be the place where the need stops. At that size, you can shoot a full-resolution 8Ă—10 image, but it’s still small enough to not fill your hard drive up too fast.

I think we’re still trying to find that point in the super-high-resolution/megapixel surveillance camera business. Sure with correct lenses, these new cameras can read your license plate from 150 feet away, but there’s a point at which image stabilization issues come into play. And if we built a big enough sensor, we could probably capture 200 megapixels (if we could handle the data processing — which would probably need its own dedicated PC running with the sensor). But we’re having to define what it is we need.

Those of you who have integrated these super-high-res systems, and those who are manufacturing/selling them, feel free to write in and let me know if you think there will be a virtual ceiling on how high of resolution we will need to go.

Businesses in the News
Kidde honored, Linear courting IEI, Bioscrypt leadership change

Linear's parent company Nortek has offered to buy IEI, best known for its keypads. A strong offer price got resounding support from IEI's board. ... Bioscrypt is seeing a change of leadership as Robert Williams steps down and Robert Douglas steps up into the President/CEO position. ... GVI saw a strong quarter, beating earnings guidance. ... Tri-Ed continues to expand its training programs for dealers and integrators. ... And UTC Fire & Security's president was honored by the FDNY Foundation for subsidiary Kidde's long-time support of the Foundation and life-safety initiatives.

In the Forums - LP/Retail Security
Defining the "elements" of a shoplifting stop

I was speaking with a retail security/anti-shoplifting security consultant yesterday afternoon and he was noting that there’s been a strong focus of moving loss prevention departments toward more of a corporate risk perspective. Nonetheless, he said, you still have to be able to send a strong symbol to the thieves of the world that you’re not letting the guard down on shoplifters. Hear from a number of LP professionals as they discuss the "elements" needed to make a shoplifting stop in our "Elements" forum thread. Join our discussions and share your own thoughts.

Webinar Programs
Join us for regular sessions examining security policies and technology trends

Last week we held our program on Smart Card Access Control (you can now watch the archived presentation), and next week we hold our session on FIPS 201/HPSD-12. On June 6, we line up with the good people of Vicon to talk about virtual matrix displays. On June 21 we pull together top education security experts to discuss threats to schools and school users. All programs are free to attend thanks to support from the vendor community.

Finally, a look at our most popular stories of the last week: