Building advanced CCTV security systems: Control room components

October 1, 2009

Recording and Management Servers
Within the primary control room, there will be servers with sufficient storage to capture video at full frame rate DVD resolution from the cameras located around the site.

In addition to the recording servers, the primary management server will also reside within this location.  The management server stores all user and system configurations and enables the management of devices and alarms. Each of these servers will be protected from power loss by the inclusion of UPS battery backup devices.

Viewing and Replay
Each Operator workstations has dual 19” LCD displays and a Joystick for PTZ camera control.  These workstations will be powered by the Cware Control Centre application that enables the operators to view live or recorded video, manage alarms and control cameras.

The Control Centre user interface is designed to be as simple as possible while still providing advanced capabilities.  The main screen can be utilised as the operator’s spot monitor and facilitates viewing of multiple cameras in live or replay mode, export of footage, viewing of alarms, management of the video wall and so on.  To enable simple navigation through the cameras and provide vital information on camera positions, the second monitor can be used as the map interface.  The map interface can provide users with a zoom overview of the site and highlight elements such as alarm triggers and camera positions.

As well as the maps, the system can be licensed with the patented ICN feature.  ICN stands for Image Content Navigation and enables a revolutionary method of navigating through the system.  With ICN enabled, it is possible to setup predefined invisible links within the video image from a camera that link to another camera.  This offers the operator the opportunity to click on an area of the image and the system will automatically switch to the best view of that area.  For example, if you have a camera overlooking a doorway and you see a suspicious individual enter through the door of a building, ICN makes it possible to click on the door and automatically switch to the camera inside quickly and easily without having to search through a list of cameras to identify the correct one.

The Cware server within the central location will constantly monitor each remote IP camera and encoder (for existing analogue cameras) device for alarm triggers, such as motion detection.  In the event of an alarm trigger from a remote location, the alarm management and response configuration can allow for a variety of notification methods, including simply presenting the user automatically with the video on their spot monitor or presenting the alarm to the video wall displays.

cware server

In addition to the monitoring motion alarms, the system can also enable system health monitoring.  In the event of events such as loss of connectivity to a server or the failure of a video feed to an encoder, an e-mail can be sent out to system administrators who are responsible for maintenance and upkeep.  This ensures that the system can proactively prevent and notify of potential performance issues.
cware log

The system also provides comprehensive logging, including operator activity, alarms and so on.  The log viewer tool then enables system managers to search and extract valuable information as a CSV file. This can then be imported into 3rd party systems, such as excel, to assess performance such as response times, number of alarms and so on.

Within the control room, there will be high performance rack mount workstations connected to a large screen LCD displays.  These workstations will be powered by the Cware Videowall application.  Each workstation can display up to 16 or more video streams from remote cameras on wither a predefined or custom layout.  The Control Centre clients can manage the display of the cameras onto the video wall by simply clicking a tab at the bottom of the screen and choosing which cameras they would like to display.  It is proposed to utilise one or more of the screens as a dedicated alarm display whereby all incoming alarms from cameras can be shown to highlight this to the user.

control room

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…

Understanding CCTV: Is H.264 as versatile as the hype suggests?

September 8, 2009

The case for H.264 by Mark Harraway as published in International Security Buyers Guide Sept 09.

Q. Is there a ‘horses for courses’ argument in terms of the different algorithms given that they have been tested with varying aims and tailored to distinct applications? Is H.264 really so versatile as you believe?

In a word “Yes”. The official (snappy) titles for H.264 are  “ISO 14496-10:2009” or “MPEG4 AVC (Motion Picture Experts Group Phase 4  Advanced Video Coding)” or even – since it is now developed and maintained by the Joint Video Team of the ITU-T and MPEG –  “ITU-T H.264”.  Within the standard there are a number of different profile requirements on how the codec function should work depending on the nature of usage. This can be from very low-end applications where reduction of bandwidth demand is key (such as video to mobile phones) right through to high-definition ultra high-quality broadcasting.  Now, here’s the rub: each of these profiles will affect required processing power and therefore component and build costs. As a result, most manufacturers have only adopted certain profiles in their products with obviously divergent costs and functionality / quality and bandwidth ramifications. It is therefore difficult to be sure that you are comparing apples with apples as everything can still be said to be H.264-compliant but to which profile?

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.