With the Internet of Things (IoT) continuing to be a hot topic throughout 2014 and across all industries -- whether it’s about smart cars or intelligent appliances such as connected refrigerators -- more consumers and businesses are now aware of the advantages of being connected to the internet, and so should the security professionals and business owners who are trying to ensure the safety of their organisations.
As many professionals in the security industry predict, the new HD standard ‘4K Ultra HD’ is a natural next step in the industry’s ongoing strive towards more image details and larger coverage from a security camera.
“4K for surveillance purposes is expected to take its full effect in 2015 and beyond,” says Roy Alves, regional business development manager for Axis Communications. “Image quality is a core consideration and while everyone is talking about 4K, the real challenge is to optimise image quality for the surveillance task at hand, no matter how bad the light or what the ambient conditions are.
“Innovation in this area —technology that enhances image quality for advanced video applications — will be a key industry driver. However, the advancements in image quality have created bigger pressure on managing the resources to support them. For example, they can have a significant impact on network bandwidth and storage requirements, increasing the need for more effective compression methods.”
Video surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) and cloud computing
This is when video surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) becomes useful for managing and archiving video footage captured by surveillance cameras onto cloud storage, says Alves.
Video surveillance systems can be a powerful tool in preventing or investigating crime when installed in locations such as shopping malls, parks, banks, airports, and other public transport. Some of the rapidly increasing demands for video surveillance systems has been driven by the growing safety and security concerns worldwide.
Cloud computing might have been a favorite buzzword in IT circles for several years, but the new era is very much upon us now. Whether in a public environment, where tenancy on servers is shared with other customers, or in a private environment, where your data and applications are the only ones on a system, cloud computing brings three advantages to your network -- redundancy, scalability and shifting costs from capital expenditure (CAPEX) to operating expenditure (OPEX). Depending on whether the cloud is hosted or run internally, there may be the added convenience of leaving upgrades, updates and patches -- routine maintenance -- in the hands of a third party.
Scalability doesn’t just factor in if more cameras are needed. It also enables access to more computing power and storage if, for example, higher resolution or faster frame rate is needed. If analytics on the video data collected is needed for customer traffic pattern analysis, for example, the processing capacity is there and is only paid for when needed.
Better functioning analytics running on the edge are also appropriate for critical infrastructure applications. The extra computing power could be used to store half a million license plates numbers and capture plates from cars driving past at 40 kilometers per hour, for instance.
Another interesting aspect of VSaaS is that it offers users the possibility to add additional services to their video surveillance – such as guard force or remote monitoring services.
Analytics, business intelligence (BI) and big data
Analytics technology is also considered to finally take off within the surveillance industry from 2015 and beyond for getting valuable insights from the enormous amount of both structured and unstructured information collected (also known as big data). With network cameras’ capability to provide higher resolution video and to be connected from everywhere and around the clock, security departments are getting more information from more sources. More analytics are needed to help organisations make sense of the tremendous amount of information including unstructured data such as images and videos. More intelligent applications are needed to help categorise and interpret the information, so it can be turned into actionable insight.
“The three Vs of big data -- volume, velocity, and variety -- can provide vital information during a crisis by providing the right data at the right time,” says Alves. “By starting with more factual data, such as surveillance data, physical access control data, and cyber activity information and then building useful associations, costs can be reduced by searching for the most relevant information.”
This is where the IP revolution changes the surveillance camera from a forensic tool aimed at solving problems after an incident has occurred to becoming a vital part of a proactive chain. Video images can be used in conjunction with analytic horsepower to discover customer traffic patterns in a retail outlet, dwell time at certain displays or isolate bottlenecks. Mash that up with other structured and unstructured data sources including transit schedules, lists of promotions, pricing data from your competitors, social media, and a skilled data scientist can tease out patterns and relationships that you never knew existed. And that is a significant competitive advantage.
Video compression and bandwidth usage
Video compression technologies are about reducing and removing redundant video data so that a digital video file can be effectively sent over a network and stored on computer disks. With efficient compression techniques, a significant reduction in file size can be achieved with little or no adverse effect on the visual quality. The video quality, however, can be affected if the file size is further lowered by raising the compression level for a given compression technique.
There are several video compression standards including Motion JPEG, MPEG-4 Part 2 (or simply referred to as MPEG-4) and H.264 -- being the latest and most efficient video compression standard and already the standard in video surveillance as well as many other industries, such as entertainment.
At the same time, the ongoing improvement in cameras regarding image resolution and light sensitivity for example, also increase the data output from the cameras – putting higher demands on the efficiency of the video compression. Video surveillance manufacturers need to balance the upsurge in resolution with improvements also to H.264 compression algorithms – to make sure costs for network bandwidth and storage do not spiral out of control. A combined effort of working on noise reduction methods and bit rate reduction should be in parallel with investigation new video coding to get the best results.
Beyond improvements in current H.264 compression, an interesting future technology is H.265, which is rapidly gaining interest in the broadcast industry. H.265 can reduce bandwidth and storage demands significantly (up to 50%) under the right circumstances and the technology can be expected to be introduced also in the security industry during the next few years. It is likely to be first deployed in high-end, high-resolution cameras, and it is expected that H.264 and H.265 will co-exist for quite a long time in the industry.
“At the end of the day, higher quality of images and videos such as 4K needs to be supported by the right technologies in the background for organisations to get the most out of the data, which can then be turned into useful insight not only for security purposes, but also for efficiency and gaining business advantages. This should be the key consideration for everyone who is looking for the next big thing in surveillance,” Alves concludes.