New memory chips could change surveillance landscape

Among top concerns integrators and end users have about IP video surveillance is reliability according to a recent study from IMS Research. One of the reliability questions you'll hear is this: "If my local area network goes down, do I lose recording?"

In a lot of cases, the answer is "yes". With most recording units (NVRs, servers) connected to cameras over the network, if a camera loses connection to the network, you don't get video to record.

But here's the thing: A lot of camera manufacturers have memory card slots on the back of their cameras (an example is Panasonic's WV-NP244), and most of these are SD (Secure Digital) card slots. While SD cards are great, they have some limits: standard SD limits cards to 4GB. The next step up, SDHC (Secure Digital, High Capacity) are more powerful, and can extend up to 32GB. The newest SD card standard, SDXC (eXtended Capacity) is where things really take off. These cards can store up to 2TB (even though manufacturers aren't to that limit yet). Fortunately, the storage race is on, and we've already seen Toshiba announced a 64GB SDXC card this week. There are some neat things that happen with SDXC -- video files aren't limited to maximum captures of 4GB anymore.

Let me give you an idea of what this announced Toshiba 64GB card can do (even though it won't hit stores until next year):

Toshiba's new 64GB SDXC, 32GB SDHC and 16GB SDHC memory cardsIf this card somehow could be put into a standard network camera, you could potentially get almost a full week's worth of recording stored on the card at full frame rate.*  Of course, usable space on the card will be a little less than the full 64GB since some space is taken up by card formatting info, but the point is that your network could go down and your service tech might not know about it or be able to get it back up for a week, and if you had a 64GB SDXC card in a camera, you could still have all your video...not missing a beat. It also opens the door up for megapixel/HD cameras to have SD card back-ups, which wasn't really practical before since the high resolutions could quickly eat up the limited card sizes associated with standard SD (not SDHC or SDXC).

This is all wonderful, gleaming technology, but before you go buying SDHC cards (which is a good card format, since you can get sizes up to 32GB, which is a ton of storage if you're not using full frame rate and if you're doing a little compression on the video) or plan your 2010 budget for a number of SDXC cards, keep in mind that this this is a new standard, and I'm not aware of any surveillance camera manufacturers who are already supporting SDXC. There are some vendors already supporting SDHC (Vivotek comes to mind, as does the new Axis Q1755), but many cameras that support SD only support the basic SD standard, not these newer technology improvements. Keep in mind that SDHC came out in 2006, but is not fully supported yet and you get an idea of how long it might take for SDXC to penetrate the industry's landscape.

It will be interesting to see who comes out with the first SDXC compatible video surveillance camera. Will it be Toshiba, since they already have the plan for the cards and an understanding of this new standard?


*How did I get to that number that indicated you could get a week's worth of full frame rate on a single card in a camera? I used the Axis design calculator, and figured an Axis 210 camera at 24 hour recording, capturing 30fps, using a compression level of roughly 50% (which seemed to be a fair mid-point for comparison, although your mileage may vary).