Use Your Eyes!

The future of video surveillance

Now that we’ve covered resolution and light sensitivity of the camera versus the eye, the next comparison is with field of view and mechanical speed. The eye has a field of view of approximately 75 to 95 degrees and a pan-tilt speed of roughly 900 degrees/second. If we compare this with current PTZ cameras, the human eye is faster than the majority and still beats the autofocus algorithms of most cameras. Thus, improving focus will be the manufacturer focus for the coming years.

However, since the human eye lacks optical zoom, IP security cameras have a major leg up. We continue to see improvements in the evolution of optics and motors in PTZ cameras that Darwin can’t keep up with.

But remember, in the same way the human eye can contract infections and obstructions, so do security cameras. Dirt, fog, dust and even spider webs affect the camera as much as they do our own eyes. Without the ability to brush debris away from their lenses, installation environment and housings are increasingly important and will see further development.

Unlike our eyes, however, the biggest leg up for the camera is that it never needs to sleep!


From detection to analysis

The no-need-for-rest feature of cameras means that video analytics is superior in the ability to perform around-the-clock, monotonous tasks like people counting, cross-line detection and license plate recognition (LPR). Think about the patience you would have to have to sit on the side of a highway and make a note of all the license plates that drive by. But when it comes to more advanced analytics, the human brain and intuition wins over a security camera in most aspects.

When in controlled environments, advanced analytics are working really well. Face detection by a video surveillance camera in a crowd is something we all can dream of, but face detection in a controlled environment can be deployed successfully. This intelligent feature will not only play a big future role in access control, but in more unique applications like retail customer reward programs.


Humans still effective

When it comes to detecting strange behavior and forensics, there is nothing like a guard or operator. While advanced behavioral analytics are improving, the human element will be important for many years to come—even if CSI and other TV shows would like you to believe otherwise.

The key to the future is mining all the high-quality video data that IP cameras capture and consider new and novel uses for this information. The retail market will be the biggest winner in the future. Analytics will continue to improve—especially as software developers from all walks of life are attracted to the surveillance industry with the goal to develop applications to run inside the camera itself—but a human will nearly always be required for this aspect of the industry to thrive.

However, when talking about analytics and software, there is the rising issue of potential patent lawsuits attempting to block the use of a specific algorithm. This is happening in our industry as well as many others, including the mobile phone market.

One solution could be to pool patent fees among the patent holders in order to share these innovations with the world while keeping overall costs down for the end-user. This will leave us free to innovate and drive business. Until then, we as people will have an advantage over surveillance systems for many years because it’s not possible to patent humans (fortunately!).

We all have personal memories that we can look back on in an instant. I’m not a neurology specialist, so it’s astonishing how our brains can analyze the pictures/videos from our past and have the ability to record for many years. Here, even the most advanced computers completely lag humans. That’s good news for police officers interviewing folks about a crime —even if eye witness testimony is sometimes proven shaky.

Humans are said to have short-term and long-term memories. So too do surveillance systems. Consider long-term memories as the server-based and NVR systems with the ability to download and store video for long periods of time. Local, edge-based recording is then short-term memory—which is improving in the camera not through memory exercises, but through Moore’s Law.