A modern way to look at surveillance

A modern way to look at surveillance

Rudie Opperman, Manager, Engineering & Training, Middle East & Africa, Axis Communications, looks at how IP network-based video surveillance is transforming the industry.

The video surveillance industry is at a turning point. Growing concerns over private and public security are being answered by smarter solutions with more innovative technology. And the pace of innovation continues to accelerate. Today, organisations are moving away from outdated closed-circuit television(CCTV) and analogue systems and transitioning toward internet protocol(IP) network surveillance. Security management of IP networks is extending intelligent capabilities to network cameras, making security systems more productive, scalable, and cost-effective than before. But what is justifying this shift towards network-based video surveillance, and what do organisations stand to gain from it?

How network surveillance works

Traditionally, organisations used CCTV systems for security and surveillance. These systems convert video signals to a format that can be sent via cable to televisions, VCRs or DVRs, or storage devices. On the other hand, IP-based surveillance systems use digital video cameras that convert video signals into IP packets. These packets of information are transmitted via a private network or the internet. Unlike CCTV cameras, these cameras do not require local storage for video data – only a connection to a network. IP-based cameras also typically offer much higher resolution video and better picture quality than CCTV cameras. And more importantly, IP cameras have many more software-defined capabilities, such as advanced video analytics built on deep-learning algorithms.

Moving to IP surveillance

While many organisations have made significant investments in CCTV systems over the last few decades, the transition to IP-based systems does not mean existing CCTV infrastructure needs to be discarded. Some IP-based cameras can be integrated with legacy CCTV infrastructure and still enable more advanced functionalities such as cameras with remote pan, tilt, and zoom functions; power over ethernet; or video motion and audio detection. Standard IT equipment, such as switches or PC servers for videorecording and storage, can simply be extended to include video functionality. And as security demands grow, network camera systems can be expanded and changed by adding more cameras or moving them freely around the network. Ultimately, implementing or integrating IP-based surveillance results in significant improvements in image quality, recording capabilities, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. That is why many businesses today have high-speed, IP based networks connected to the internet. Network video also offers far greater security than CCTV systems. Passwords can be used to limit access, and video can be encrypted before being sent over the network to make sure it cannot be viewed or tampered with. A network video system can also be set up to authenticate connections using encrypted certificates that completely prevent any unauthorised devices from gaining access.

The new opportunities for network surveillance

The shift to network video creates many new opportunities where more advanced digital capabilities can be used to deliver greater value. One of the major benefits of network video is the ability to access real-time video using any authorised computer from any location over the internet. High-quality video can be stored at remote locations for convenience and security, and the information can be transported over the LAN or internet as needed. When they are designed for easy integration with other equipment and systems, network video cameras are less limited when it comes to where they can be used. A fully integrated network video system can be used for multiple applications simultaneously, such as access control, building management, point-of-sales systems, fire alarms, or intruder and visitor management. This allows organisations to scale with a continually developing system that is future-proof and does not require a complete overhaul of existing security infrastructure. New technologies, additional cameras, or extra storage capacity can simply be added when required. Because of compatibility challenges, however, for this to work, network video products may have to be built on open standards. Leading manufacturers of security and surveillance tech have started sharing open-source reference designs that improve compatibility, open the floor for innovation, and provide the industry with open and trustworthy methods for functions such as video authentication and verification. Network video products built on open standards are also more cost-effective. By using standard server hardware rather than proprietary equipment such as DVRs, organisations can drastically reduce their total cost of ownership as well as management and equipment costs. This is particularly true for larger systems where storage and servers can make up a significant portion of a surveillance solution’s cost. Furthermore, independent research has found that the installation, configuration, and training costs for analogue systems are almost 50% more than for IP systems, primarily because of the high costs of coaxial cabling as opposed to ethernet cabling.

An intelligent approach

Network video enables more intelligent monitoring than CCTV systems in many ways. When massive amounts of video are being recorded, security personnel rarely have the time to watch or review everything. Important activities and forensic information often go unnoticed. But with network cameras, the built-in motion detection and alarm management functions automatically ‘decide’ when to record video, at what frame rate and resolution, and when to alert a specific operator IP-based network cameras improve the reliability of such forensic footage by enabling better video quality with full frame rate, excellent colour representation, and the ability to digitally pan, tilt, and zoom, and to create multi-view video. Advanced analytics are also being applied to a growing number of use cases, such as including camera tampering detection, people counting, virtual fences, or vehicle license plate recognition.

Don’t be left behind

For the security manager, the shift to network video creates new opportunities where digital technologies can be used to save costs, scale seamlessly, and use more modern approaches to turn surveillance footage into business intelligence. As the world continues to move from analogue to digital video surveillance, organisations should look for products and solutions that are based on innovative, open technology platforms to find a sustainable way forward. IP-based network surveillance will continue to grow and define our future, so now is certainly the time for organisations to start looking at the bigger picture.