Innovation in video surveillance tech at a crossroads: Part 2

Experts weigh in on resolution arms race, advances in edge capabilities and video storage

Editor’s note: This is part two in a two-part series on video surveillance trends from the perspective of several industry experts. Part one examines overall industry trends, the continued migration to IP and how companies are continuing to provide support to the large existing base of analog device users. Part two delves into the progression of high-resolution imaging technology, developments at the edge and the future of video recording.

Over the past several years, it seems as though there has been an arms race within the video surveillance industry when it comes to high-resolution cameras. Just a few years ago, only a handful of vendors offered cameras with high-megapixel imaging capabilities. Now HD resolution is the norm and some companies offer cameras that provide users with as much as 40 megapixels of resolution.

There have also been great advancements over the last several years at the edge. Functions such as storage and analytics that could once only be performed on the server side are now being done within the cameras themselves.

Has the market settled on a sweet spot for image resolution? What kind of impact will advancements in edge capabilities and onboard storage have on camera R&D over the next several years? Here’s what several experts had to say at the ASIS show this week in Chicago.

SIW: Has the industry settled on how much resolution is needed for given applications or are we going to continue to see higher and higher megapixels in the years to come?

Fredrik Nilsson, general manager, Axis Communications: I think one of the big drivers for IP video, in general, is the resolution and the question is how much resolution do you need and what do you need to pay for that resolution? I think, for the most part, for new installations today it’s either 720p or 1080p as a requirement and sometimes optionally 3 and 5-megapixel. That is becoming more and more the bulk of the market for video installations. Higher megapixels than that is really niche installations and one of the reasons is it’s still a little expensive to store that video, but more importantly, it’s very expensive to have the appropriate lens connected to that kind of camera and lenses don’t decrease in price like computer equipment with Moore’s Law, but that is fine mechanics and optical elements that, if anything, stays in price or goes up a little bit. And, for the most part, anything over five if you go over to 10 and 20, it becomes quite expensive on the lens side, quite niche and therefore is a relatively small part of the market. Resolution is important, but the sweet spot really is 720p up to 5-megpixels and that’s really where it is today. The other trend we see for high-resolution is 360/180-degree applications, which has been out there for a while and now with the later processors, you start to get good performance out of those cameras and you can get your full frame rate if needed.

Frank De Fina, senior vice president of sales, North America, Samsung Techwin America: We will undoubtedly see megapixel cameras with higher resolution down the road. Just look at the consumer smart phone market and you’ll see new devices like the Galaxy S4 that features a 13-megapixel autofocus camera that shoots video and stills. That’s a lot of resolution for a mobile device, which serves to raise people’s quality and performance expectations across the board. The same holds true with consumer flat screen TVs as almost everything we view every day is in HD. So it’s expected that these same viewing standards apply to security professionals. Low resolution video is simply not acceptable by any standard of measure these days and we can expect to see megapixel surveillance cameras with higher resolution and even better compression solutions moving forward.

Gadi Piran, president of OnSSI: It’s safe to assume that megapixel camera suppliers will continue to develop new and improved imaging technologies that deliver greater resolution. HD images are no longer a luxury but an expectation in today’s technology environment.

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