IQsummit provides megapixel, IP video update

With 10 years in business, IQinVision, also known as IQeye, has been one of the core advocates of megapixel video surveillance. If you ask the company why they entered into this business in 1998, it usually boils down to being shocked by the low quality of video stills that were used for attempts to identify suspected criminals. Now, some 10 years later, the company prides itself on capturing strong details in a surveillance scene with its security cameras that extend up to 5 megapixels.

With 10 years behind them, the company held its first ever partner conference – the IQsummit – this past Wednesday in Philadelphia, Penn., not far from the company’s Lancaster operations. The event was held at the Independence Seaport Museum beside the Delaware River, and just across the water from some of Philly’s top port locations.

Bringing in a number of integrators, manufacturing partners and even some end-users, the event was an intimate venue for IQinVision to give updates on their company, recognize their partners and sales channel and discuss the future of megapixel surveillance and networked security video.

The event saw presentations from such firms as Veracity, Milestone Systems, Viseox (a French VMS firm), OnSSI and Pivot3, as well as security consultant Jim Gompers. Other partners were on hand for a table-top style “mini tradeshow” where attendees could meet with such additional companies as JVC, JDS, Lenel, GarrettCom, TimeSight Systems, Aimetis, Genetec, VideoProtein , Agent Vi, Exacq and Theia.

I had the chance to listen to and sit down with the IQeye team and some partners throughout the day, and here are some leading thoughts from this event which I captured:

1. Paul Bodell, the CMO at IQinVision, has been well known for promoting a concept of “pixels on target” or pixels per foot. It’s his way of explaining how to measure whether you’re getting enough forensic detail to use the video for prosecuting criminals. Bodell has commonly promoted the 40 pixels per foot concept to comfortably identify a person in a scene. He’s been pushing this concept now for a couple years at tradeshows and in guest articles in the trade magazines, and he says it’s really starting to catch on. “We’re now even seeing A&Es use that [concept] in their specifications,” said Bodell.

2. Meet with consultant Jim Gompers (Gompers Inc.) and IQinVision’s CEO Peter DeAngelis and you will hear them speak to the concept of frames per second. Simply put, both agree that end-users and specifiers shouldn’t get caught up in the rush to get 30 frames per second on every camera; it’s often overkill. As a specifier, Gompers said he often recommends well less than 30 fps, sometimes in the realm of 4 to 7 fps, and he finds that overly sufficient for most applications. “I would often rather have only one frame per second than lose resolution,” said Gompers in his presentation to the IQsummit attendees. Of course, it can be much easier to watch video (for monitoring by security officers) at full frame rate to gain situational awareness, and IQinVision is apparently taking that to heart. The company is coming out soon with a version of its Alliance dome cameras that can do both the MJPEG stream and a concurrent H.264 stream. The idea behind this, it seems, is that the H.264 stream might be used at a fast frame rate to provide the monitoring video, and the MJPEG feed would be the ones used for archival/evidentiary purposes (each frame in an MJPEG is a single “photo” with the full image).

3. Don’t get caught up with H.264 yet if you don’t need it. H.264 has been highly promoted by some vendors, and we at SecurityInfoWatch have certainly been part of the hype machine for this video compression algorithm. Despite that promotion, the general sense I was getting from many integrators and video management system companies present at the IQsummit is that it’s not fully ready. Part of the challenge, of course, is the extra processing power required to implement H.264. While H.264 may be a very efficient, well-compressed video stream, it takes a lot more processing power at the encoders and decoders to handle this video. That said, it’s being rapidly adopted by many of the leading companies; OnSSI’s Eastern Regional Sales Manager Brad Anderson said that H.264 is close to being offered by the OnSSI platform. “We are so close that we’re on H.263-and-a-half right now,” he joked.

4. With the push for Power over Ethernet (PoE) in the world of IP video surveillance, you get the benefit of simplified cabling and connections at the edge device (the camera). However, Scott Sereboff, the CEO of IP-over-coax firm Veracity, warned those in the room that they need to be very clear about what class of PoE power each device requires. Sereboff applauded IQinVision for being very clear on what PoE class is required at the device (sometimes this differs from the average watt usage once a device is up and running), and encouraged the rest of the industry to be very clear on their spec sheets about the PoE requirements. Sereboff also told integrators they “shouldn’t hold your breath on the new PoE standard”. The new standard he is referring to is commonly known as “PoE plus” or 802.3at and initially was set to have around 35 watts of power delivered to the edge device. There are changes and discussions going on, he said, and that could reduce the power down to 24 watts. At the previously suggested higher power level, this standard could have really reshaped the industry with the ability to power camera heaters and other supplemental technology for video surveillance. But if the power is lowered, this standard wouldn’t be the panacea for installs that many in the manufacturing and integration/installation communities thought it would be. However, Sereboff also said that PoE product vendors are likely to work outside the standard if it doesn’t meet the anticipated power needs.

5. Storage isn’t as easy as you think, said Pivot3 founder and CMO Lee Caswell. Unlike the business data world, where databases are usually fairly small (less than 100 Gb) and where more data is read than written, surveillance presents problems. Some 99 percent of the drive’s work, said Caswell, is writing to the drive. When you’re recommending or specifying storage, said Caswell, don’t take it lightly. He said you have to remember that you need to be able to scale up the storage without creating surveillance system recording downtime. And on top of that, storage for video surveillance is even more cost-sensitive than standard business data storage.

6. Watch the lenses. IQinVision’s Peter DeAngelis said that lens manufacturers have been having a difficult time keeping up with increases in megapixel cameras. After all, he said, your megapixel camera can only be as good as the lens that is attached to it. DeAngelis qualified that by adding that there certainly are lenses available which are appropriate for megapixel surveillance, and not all of them are tagged by the manufacturer for megapixel surveillance. His firm looks at as many lenses as it can, and can provide info on which lenses are worth their weight in glass and ready for megapixel surveillance applications.

7. Camera companies will have to differentiate themselves and retain a value proposition to avoid becoming commodities. While image quality has always been a top differentiation focus for his firm, DeAngelis said that they’re also having to stay on top of installation designs. He spoke to the development of the Sentinel camera series (this is their all-weather camera with integrated enclosure and mounting system), and noted that their Alliance domes were designed for simple installation such that it takes one-fourth the amount of time install comparable dome cameras. To that end, the company also does most of the engineering in house for its cameras, rather than buy ready-made color profile configurations and hope for the best.

8. There’s still a lot to come for video surveillance technology. DeAngelis said that they’ve been watching what Micron (now known as Aptina Imaging) has been doing with its Ľ” CMOS sensors that are being adopted by the camera phone market. He notes that the image quality that Aptina has been getting out of those sensors is just amazing considering the sensors’ small size and low-cost. Some of the technology improvements that are being pushed by the massive consumer market are bound to find applications in the surveillance market. There can be a lag, he notes. For example, most surveillance cameras use a ˝” sensor as opposed to the tiny Ľ” sensors. Image sensor companies, he says, are typically going to focus on the larger consumer markets first, and since that market isn’t slowing down, he says the technology improvements for video surveillance won’t be slowing down as well.

9. Finally, Milestone Systems’ Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Eric Fullerton and Americas Marketing Director Marc Wilson reminded the audience that there has been entirely too much blame in the industry. Wilson said that when things don’t work perfectly, there’ “too much blame on who’s problem it is.” They’re asking: “Is it the video management system, the camera, the NVR, other hardware, other software?,” said Wilson. Both Fullerton and Wilson implored the industry to be more knowledgeable about systems and solutions and to work together even more. Because in the end, said Wilson, “The end user doesn’t care who is to blame; they just need it to work.” On that end, Fullerton added that they’ve focused on making sure even more and more cameras are interoperable for their system. Currently, the Milestone platform supports 500-plus cameras from over 40 manufacturers, and he said they’re still rapidly growing that number. The overall sense was that if our integrators and manufacturers are going to push for open platform systems that allow competitors products to work with their systems, then everyone has to get behind the spirit of interoperability; you can’t just pay lip service to interoperability.

In the end, the IQsummit gave many integrators and partners a chance to network and to learn some new technologies without having to wade through a massive tradeshow. I saw lots of technology discussions going on during the breaks of this day-long event as integrators met head-to-head to discuss what works and what doesn’t in this rapidly evolving security technology segment. Clearly, judging by the support at the company’s inaugural IQsummit event, megapixel surveillance adoption and awareness is very strong and is getting stronger.