CCTV consultants: Between the devil and the deep blue sea

December 2, 2009

Mark Harraway, Country Manager at Controlware explains why CCTV consultants are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea….

Consultants are also placed in a difficult position of having to talk to manufacturers to understand what is being developed and what can be offered to their clients as “the best solution” or deliver solutions that are “fit for purpose”, but they also must remain neutral in their selections in order to meet due diligence requirements.  There is also the need for them to learn a different set of regulations, system specifications and terminology in order to specify either Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable, HD or megapixel, RAID5 or RAID6. And it also doesn’t help that the IT industry regards CCTV as a big margin opportunity because of high bandwidth, storage requirements and associated hardware – but yet they don’t understand the Information Commissioner’s Office guidelines, Home Office evidence submission guidelines, transmission without pixilation, reliability of storage and footage retention, camera / lens selection or positioning. This results in conflicting or plain misleading information being given and passed on by the IT industry.

The following statements have been taken from real tenders provided by consultants, where I have been asked to help design solutions:

All new IP static domes are to be IEEE Power over Internet powered. – Power over Internet – or should that be Power over Ethernet.

All new IP static domes are to be 802.3af PoE compliant and powered from a local fused spur – Why would you want to do this? – Either you want PoE or not?

Storage Profile:  48 Cameras / D1 resolution / 25fps / zero compression / MPEG4 / 31 days retention = 3 Tb storage – So zero compression? – How are you going to fit that on 3TB without sacrificing one of the other elements?

All new IP camera points are to be cabled to CAT-5 standards using STP cable and 75ohm termination. – Does the installation require Cat-5 or Coax?

These errors highlight the issues facing our industry. The future of CCTV requires a knowledge-base which spans both in-depth knowledge of operational security requirements and also in-depth IT and IP knowledge, so that the best and most efficient security systems can be deployed.

The article “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” can be read in full here

HD can improve the quality of CCTV

November 5, 2009

Mike Tennent of Tavcom Training sets out the next part of his response to Controlware’s Mark Harraway argument that IP is here and offers more than hybrid or analogue systems. 

In the face of this Beauty and Beast IP conundrum there is a very strong case for enterprising suppliers and integrators to provide hybrid security solutions for their clients. Cost effective systems can be deployed – and sensible Operational Requirements achieved – by using the best of the client’s existing equipment whilst bringing the control and management of the scheme ‘bang up to date’.

For example, I am aware of the new technology from JVC that enables the use of High Definition (HD) cameras across existing coaxial cable runs and produces quite stunning real time pictures of 25 to 30 images per second over 500 metres or so. This sort of innovative design thinking will save the user thousands of pounds, dollars or yen because, when using this system, there is only a need to upgrade to HD technology when the picture quality being produced by conventional cameras fails to meet a specific need.

HD is upon us and it will be commonly available in the 16:9 format in the blink of an eye. That, of course, means we will require even MORE bandwidth for IP solutions, even more storage space for the recorded images although – if we don’t compress or manipulate the CCTV images any more than we do nowadays with the resultant alarming reduction in picture quality – there will certainly be a marked improvement in imagery!

To read the original “Dont Go Hybrid” article click here.

To read from the beginning of the Tavcom posts click here.

Understanding CCTV: Latency vs Speed

September 17, 2009

The final part of the case for H.264 by Mark Harraway, UK Country Manager

Q. H.264 may prove unsatisfactory in situations where low latency is important. Is there any truth in this?

Again, I would have to say it depends on which manufacturer you are using.  Latency is a function of the network – available bandwidth vs amount of traffic generated.  As we have already said, using H.264 should improve network latency as you are reducing the bandwidth on the network by pushing the work to the edge device.   If the concern is image delay (perhaps moving one’s hand in front of a camera and then seeing this on the screen), the issue comes down again to the truism that you get what you pay for. Higher build standard encoders or cameras will give quicker response times as they have faster processors and the manufacturers are likely to have implemented the profile better.  Again this can all be adjusted in the individual codec settings.

Understanding CCTV: Is H.264 the real deal?

September 15, 2009

The seventh part of the case for H.264 by Mark Harraway, UK Country Manager

Q. H.264 has been described very patronisingly as ‘promising’, presumably by those in the analogue camp or supporters of other standards who don’t want this new offering  to prosper.  Are there parties in the industry who want to impede the progress of H.264 by ‘damning it with faint praise’?

Again, this is the “We can’t offer or work with it so let’s rubbish it or at the very least pour cold water over it” tactic. IP and H.264 are the future of CCTV and just as magazines are no longer produced with typewriters and the old ‘hot metal’ printing technology, end-users shouldn’t listen to entrenched analogue adherents when making decisions on the future of their systems.  I would be more than willing to place an H.264 offering up against a like-for-like analogue system in an independent test to prove its worth.

Part 8 continues tomorrow…

Understanding CCTV: Does H.264 mean more processing power?

September 14, 2009

The sixth part of the case for H.264 by Mark Harraway, UK Country Manager

Q. Sceptics allege that H.264 necessitates higher-powered processing and there are higher lag times. But elsewhere industry pundits argue that the exact opposite is the case. What is your position on this?

It is true that as you do more work at the encoding end to compress the stream. More processing power is required and this is why you are seeing manufacturers release new hardware platforms for H.264. But as with all hardware, the processing power of the chipsets is increasing exponentially so I don’t see why this should cause more lag on the network since you are reducing the transmitted bandwidth.  What may be happening is that certain manufacturers are using poor quality chipsets or are trying to cut costs generally. Similarly, such scare-mongering could be analogue adherents trying to discourage end-users from deploying H.264 yet again.

Part 7 continues tomorrow…

Understanding CCTV: M-JPEG vs MPEG-4 vs H.264?

September 11, 2009

The fith part of the case for H.264 by Mark Harraway, UK Country Manager

Q. Has the popularity of M-JPEG caused the CCTV sector to accept low frame rates as the norm? Is there any truth in the adage: “You don’t miss what you’ve never had.”?

I wouldn’t say that M-JPEG is more popular than MPEG4 or H.264. Rather, it’s just that it is an older and easier format and therefore more convenient to adopt.  But then I think the key to this is that when MPEG-4 was introduced, the classic scenario occurred in that those who didn’t offer it tried to frighten the industry by saying that as the B or P frames in MPEG weren’t “complete” frames, this would render the footage inadmissible in court on the grounds that it had been “tampered” with. It’s a similar scenario to so many vendors at this year’s IFSEC saying “Go hybrid!” My contention is that they are only taking this position as they don’t have a comprehensive IP solution and are fudging the issue.

What this has meant is that since M-JPEG makes big demands in both storage and bandwidth, frame rates have been sacrificed meaning that you could miss the crucial shot of a human face. By contrast, with H.264 you can now offer both high frame rate and high resolution very easily over the same bandwidth.  The issue of judicial admissibility of MPEG4 or H.264 has long been solved so I do see H.264 as the future of CCTV in general just as few would argue now that HD is the future of commercial television and movies.

Part 6 continues on Monday…

See the benefits of IP CCTV now and in the future

July 3, 2009

CCTV solutions come in many different shapes and sizes but they all include the same components namely cameras, management viewing software and recording hardware. The challenge for the 21st century is that analogue systems have reached the very limits of their technology boundaries, making systems even more expensive by providing low quality video and frame rates. However when you look at the latest Internet Protocol (IP) CCTV solutions these overcome many of these problems.

IP CCTV solutions support far greater image quality through H.264, Megapixel and High Density (HD) technologies that deliver higher frame rates. Lower cost installation is achieved through reduced storage costs, Power over Ethernet (PoE) and also trouble-free integration with the existing IIT network infrastructure without impacting on network services. IP based systems also support video analytics and advanced Image Content Management (ICN) tracking technology that help CCTV operators manage large quantities of video based data, improving the reaction time to events.

Acting as the heartbeat of the building IP technology will become the basis for controlling not just CCTV but building management, access control, and even cashless catering systems. Therefore when specifying security systems all relevant stakeholders in the process must look at IP based surveillance for a future proofed, cost-effective and integrated security solution.

For the latest IP based CCTV and case studies click here.