Altera develops advanced analytics processor

Altera, a manufacturer of programmable logic devices (PLDs), has partnered with video analytics developer Eutecus to offer a new analytics processor for surveillance cameras.

The Cyclone IV FPGA (field-programmable gate array) is a single-chip solution that is capable of performing analytic functions at full, high-definition 1080p/30fps image processing rates. According to Bob Siller, senior strategic and technical marketing manager for Altera, this analytics technology on a FPGA will provide users with greater flexibility and performance in their video analytic capabilities compared to analytics solutions based on DSP (digital signal processing) technology.

"The flexibility comes from the fact that you can reconfigure the device to do other functions and add additional functionality," Siller said. "The real-time analytics capabilities are the performance of the device. When you implement an IP camera analytics function, typically those processes or functions are run on a CPU and everything is written in a software code and then it is executed on the CPU. What Altera has done is taken that program and basically partitioning that to run into the CPU, as well as some functions that are hardened, meaning that they run very quickly in a specialized processor or a configured processor in the FPGA. The concept of partitioning the algorithm into something that runs best on software versus something that runs quickly in hardware is really the value proposition that allows us to have great performance at full 1080p."

In addition, Siller said that the solution comes with a software GUI (graphical user interface) that allows the user to setup the events and rules they want detected. For example, in traffic surveillance applications, which the company is targeting along with security for the technology, a user can set up a camera to count the number of cars traveling in a particular direction and then further break that down into vehicle types if they so choose.

With the transition from analog to network surveillance and from standard definition to high-definition, Siller said that the ability to implement more enhanced analytic capabilities increases.

"You have more image detail to work with, larger images that you can work with, but the challenge is if you have more data, you have to process more data in real-time to be able to be effective," he explained. "You can't really have a solution that today works on standard definition images. It doesn't scale very well to work on a high-definition image without some really difficult engineering problems that you have to solve."

Siller said that the majority of video analytics today are performed using standard definition or if they're done with HD, it's at a reduced frame rate. Also, as more governments and municipalities install surveillance systems, he said that advanced analytics will be needed because "people can't do it all."

"You want to have a real-time, decision-making engine there because if there is an alert or a violation, (the user) doesn't want to know five minutes after it has happened, they want to know right away so they can act upon it."

Another benefit to this this new analytics engine is that users will not have to make trade-offs between events and the rules.

"With the FPGA, the solution has been designed to be very scalable so you can monitor all of the analytics rules that you setup in the system simultaneously," Siller said.

Camera manufacturers that want to use the Cyclone IV FPGA will only be charged a small license fee and will not have to pay any upfront engineering costs, according to Siller. "As long as you buy the devices from Altera, we will enable it to work with the (intellectual property) so that the customer can buy everything from one vendor and not from two different vendors," he said.

While the initial application for this technology will be traffic surveillance, Siller that they are open to working with other customers to fit the solution to their requirements as well.