What’s Driving High-Performance Video?

As video surveillance and security systems evolve to more intelligent, high- performance solutions, they are being moved from the siloed “security department” to an organization’s network platform.

High-performance video systems provide significant cost savings, improved image quality and situational awareness and enable easy centralization of video surveillance operations and integration with other systems. Product advancements at the edge and intelligent physical security information management (PSIM) type software are the two primary drivers of these new benefits. Features such as push technology, analytics, day/night capability, cloud storage, mobile/remote viewing, power solutions and more are all possible because of product advancements at the edge and central control through intelligent physical security information management type software.

But is either one of these drivers more important than the other? Is one a natural result of the other? Or, are they equally important and, in tandem, necessary for a high-performance video surveillance and security system.


Product technology advances at the edge

A video surveillance camera just being a standalone device that captures video is a somewhat vintage concept. Rather, an IP camera is a combination of a camera and a computer processor that together provide increased functionality with overall better performance across a wide range of applications and environments. Design enhancements in the camera include both on-board intelligence and advances in imaging technology. Some of these technical improvements that enable performance enhancement include:

Wide Dynamic Range—Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) technology allows the camera to capture more details in a scene, whether those details are partially obscured by low light or distorted by strong backlighting such as headlights. WDR does so by exposing the entire scene, both the darkest and brightest parts to ensure identifiable images under such conditions. With WDR, you get clear images when there are both very bright and very dark areas simultaneously in the camera’s field of view similar to how your eyes function.

Compression/Streaming/Storage—These three technologies are grouped together because of the relationship of each to the other. Compression technologies such as MPEG and H.264 have had a major impact on image quality, bandwidth usage and on-board and remote storage. The continuing enhancement of compression technologies helps to minimize the camera’s computational load as well as the amount of data that travels across the network.

Day/Night Imaging—Cameras designed for day/night surveillance applications feature an IR-cut filter which acts as a mechanical shutter. During daytime performance, the IR filter is in place to block all the IR light and conventional color images are created. At night or in situations of extremely low light the IR filter is removed and all available visible and IR light is allowed to reach the sensor, turning the images into black and white mode.

Image Sensors—Two kinds of image sensors are predominant in today’s video surveillance cameras: CCD and CMOS. Both function to conduct light through the lens and convert them into digital signals. With their significantly upgraded processing power, today’s image sensors can analyze images pixel by pixel and produce detailed views of scenes across a broad range of lighting conditions. The enhanced image sensors are also more capable of processing the camera’s on-board analytics such as motion detection, face matching/detection, image stabilizers, auto tracking, tampering and so on.

Intelligent cameras with on-board analytics can make real-time decisions about transmission and can stream video as required to meet quality or bandwidth demands or for viewing on different formats (i.e. control room monitors, smartphones, etc.). The information from the cameras is analyzed and filtered for importance and action needed, such as 4CIF for monitoring and full frame video for event-activated images.

Power over Ethernet (PoE)—One of the most powerful and transforming edge technologies is power over Ethernet (PoE). Edge devices that are PoE compliant do not require additional power cables for power supply. Rather, edge devices are connected to a network PoE switch that provides the appropriate power for the edge device (PoE+ for devices that require higher power). Alternately, a PoE midspan device injects power into an Ethernet cable after it leaves the switch and before it reaches the network device. By employing IP-over-coax Ethernet adapters, it also now is possible to upgrade systems from analog to IP without having to rewire a facility with Category 5 structured cabling, resulting in significant savings when upgrading legacy systems to networked functionality.


Physical security information management

A benefit from all of the features listed above is that software solutions such as physical security information management (PSIM) can take advantage of the high-performance qualities and complex functionalities of the edge devices to further improve overall security initiatives. Control software also has the capability to tie everything together under a single platform with unified management and control.

Other advantages provided by central management software for physical security include:

Intelligent Integration—Central management software not only enables integration of various security and business system subsets, it adds capabilities to the overall system. Access to the system can be from anywhere on the network or even from mobile devices; systems can be scaled easily and new technology integrated; and, system maintenance can be optimized.

Monitoring—Software integrates and centrally manages all of the components in a video surveillance and security system but equally as important, it distributes actionable alerts to appropriate individuals. For example, push video sends real-time activity-generated full frame video to the monitoring screen for action. Whether it’s data, analyzed video content or transactional like point-of-sale information; monitoring functions provided by central management software turn the system from passive reactive to proactive preventative.

Recording and Management—Network systems are not limited by the number of edge devices that can be put on the network or by geographical locations of the devices. Further adding to the potential volume of recorded data are the huge files created by megapixel and HD cameras. There are several options for recording and managing this data including network attached devices such as distributed NVRs, central storage area network servers and cloud recording/storage. Regardless of the option selected, it is all just bits and bytes unless software management architecture is in place to control and effectively manage video data and the bandwidth required to capture high-resolution full frame recorded images.

One thing is clear: there is no definitive choice between placing intelligence on the edge or through a centralized software solution. The decision needs to be based on each specific customer’s needs, budget parameters and system infrastructure. These observations only reflect the positive attributes of edge technology and centralized control software and to make a totally informed decision, integrators should also understand the opposing schools of thought. But that’s a subject for another time.


Frank DeFina is the senior vice president of Sales, North America, for Samsung Techwin America.