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Superior images and efficiency are driving megapixel video into the mainstream, argues Paul Taggar, pictured, Country Manager, UK and Ireland, for the US manufacturer Arecont Vision.
Numerous factors are accelerating the CCTV industry’s transition to IP-based systems, including ease of integration, flexibility to interface with other systems and the ability to make video accessible on the enterprise level. One of the greatest influencers driving the transition to IP systems is the superior image resolution of megapixel IP-based cameras, which can also boost overall system functionality while lowering costs. To get a better grasp on why this trend is occurring, let’s take a closer look at the advantages megapixel technology has to offer.
Image quality improvement is stunning … and needed
For an industry used to “making due” with the quality of analogue video images, the bigger, clearer, more detailed images provided by IP megapixel video cameras can be a real eye-opener. The fact is that megapixel video represents a new frontier in video surveillance technology providing new and exciting applications. Old assumptions about how video performs in various situations can be thrown out the window. Now there are megapixel solutions with the resolution – whether 1.3 or 5 or 10 megapixels or more – that can handle virtually any application. This is critical as today’s systems can now be designed based on the needs of the application rather than the limitations of the old NTSC standard.
Fewer cameras are necessary
Megapixel imaging makes it possible for a single camera to take the place of three, 10 or more analogue or standard-resolution network cameras. Megapixel cameras see more and can view much larger areas without missing any details. One megapixel camera can view an entire parking lot, for example, taking the place of several pan-tilt-zoom cameras, while continuously capturing all activities in the viewing area. This is possible even while electronically zooming in on a specific area of interest. The ability to view specific details in a scene while simultaneously recording an entire image area is simply not possible with conventional cameras. As a result, you can deploy fewer cameras while actually improving coverage capabilities using megapixel cameras. Fewer cameras mean less cost relative to the initial purchase of cameras and related equipment, as well as less infrastructure overall. Zoom-after-event facilitates manless installations, saving labour cost. The cost savings can be substantial, are measurable, and provide a strong return-on-investment (ROI) for megapixel-based systems.
Customers expect more and better image quality
Viewer expectations for HD resolution images are higher than ever. The proliferation of HD content in people’s homes, on their mobile devices and desktops is now commonplace and people in general simply know what looks good. With megapixel cameras, security professionals can cost-effectively deploy video surveillance systems that deliver extreme detail – not because they simply look great, but because they best serve their application from a true business perspective. Remembering that the primary objective of most video surveillance systems is to provide better security, nothing matches the detail and forensic capabilities that megapixel cameras provide.
Storage and bandwidth issues are a thing of the past
Obviously, storage and network bandwidth are important considerations when designing any IP-based video system, but the issues that plagued early systems have been resolved. New cameras and network video recorders have embraced the H.264 video compression standard, which minimises the storage and bandwidth needs of high-resolution images. Megapixel cameras can be programmed to switch resolution levels based on various user criteria. This ability to change resolution also greatly reduces bandwidth usage across the system.
Megapixel cameras provide a system-wide solution
Megapixel video cameras have become a mainstream imaging solution due to numerous advancements, and are no longer relegated to specific niche applications within a system. They work best anywhere you need camera coverage. Today, megapixel cameras are being deployed by major commercial firms and government agencies on a system-wide basis. Many of these installations deploy hundreds, sometimes thousands, of megapixel cameras. Megapixel cameras have definitely achieved mainstream status for good reasons.
Megapixel cameras are available for any application
Megapixel cameras are available in a very wide range of sizes and configurations. There are all-in-one megapixel dome cameras, outdoor bullet cameras, compact cameras, dual-sensor day-night cameras and multi-megapixel panoramic view cameras. Megapixel cameras can be vandal-resistant, employ infrared illuminators, come in a variety of environmental housings and are available in a wide range of resolutions to meet application needs. Image quality is paramount, and frame rates and compression efficiency (using H.264) are also key considerations.
Simplified installation and maintenance
Megapixel IP video systems are configured using the same “building blocks” as IT systems, including servers, network switches, digital storage and workstations. This allows megapixel cameras to integrate with other video surveillance and security devices with extreme cost-efficiency. Using IP network infrastructure minimises the need to run separate cables from every camera to every recorder, and the need for fewer cameras provides further efficiencies. Structured cable – specifically CAT5/6 – is less expensive than coax cable. It weighs less, is far less bulky and has a faster transmission speed. Cabling is also simplified with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) – where power is supplied to cameras over the same cable as video and data signals, thus eliminating the need for a separate power source to the camera. The overall system and economic benefits of megapixel cameras are significantly stronger versus conventional IP and analogue cameras.
Education is vital
Education on the overall performance and ROI advantages of megapixel imaging solutions is key to the continued growth and acceptance of megapixel technology for mainstream applications. In challenging economic times, end users face an unprecedented need to cost-justify every expenditure. In this climate, it’s critical to show that new systems are cost-efficient and perform at a superior level to the systems they are replacing. Decision makers can clearly see the benefits of a clearer megapixel image and appreciate the cost advantages of using fewer cameras, less infrastructure and simpler installation. And, the security organisation will benefit with a new, more effective tool to fulfil its mission.