NVRS & DVRs: The backroom boys

NVRS & DVRs: The backroom boys

Despite the growing market for VMS and VsaaS, Timothy Compston finds out that NVR technology is still very much the workhorse in the banking and transport sectors

When it comes to the world of video surveillance these days it is all too easy to overlook dedicated NVR (Network Video Recorder) and DVR (Digital Video Recorder) technology with such a strong focus on software-based VMS (Video Management System) solutions in conjunction with a site’s existing IT infrastructure; more in-camera recording, and – the new kid on the block – VSaaS (Video Surveillance as a Service) model that is so much associated with the cloud. However, despite all the other recording and storage platforms out there the message from vendors is that there is still plenty of life left in NVR and hybrid NVR/DVR solutions especially for specific applications like banking and transport.

Of course, the latest NVRs are starting to benefit from the AI and deep learning capabilities that are being introduced across the whole spectrum of video surveillance elements. A good example of a modern NVR is the DeepinMind platform from Hikvision. Looking at the capabilities of the DeepinMind series NVR in more detail, a key feature highlighted by Hikvision is the way that models in the series are embedded with a deep learning algorithm executed by a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) which is said to be faster and more accurate than conventional CPUs. The rationale for taking this approach with the DeepinMind architecture, says Hikvision, is to allow the NVR, when deployed in conjunction with IP cameras, to effectively reduce alarms triggered by animals and inanimate objects and more accurately detect humans, for example. Thanks to a new target identification algorithm the vendor claims a greater than 90 percent accuracy rate.

Interestingly, against the backdrop of the current COVID-19 crisis for countries or regions that require people to wear masks, Hikvision is now providing a temperature screening solution that includes a DeepinMind series NVR at its heart as well as thermographic cameras. Hikvision says that in this sort of scenario the DeepinMind NVR can deliver a special interface to visually display temperature and mask status. To date Hikvision reports that the vendor’s thermal temperature screening products have already been deployed successfully in airports, ports, office buildings, and other places where many people congregate.

Another manufacturer adding state-of-the-art intelligence into its NVR models is Dahua in shape of WizMind, with NVRs part of a wide portfolio of project-orientated products and platforms that can deliver precise, reliable and comprehensive AI solutions to key verticals including: government, retail, energy, finance and transportation. Dahua explains that WizMind is powered by an AI chip and specially developed deep learning algorithms to deliver what it describes as ‘comprehensive human oriented solutions’. These solutions include: face recognition, privacy protection – with the potential for real-time mosaic masking of a human face or body, human-video metadata, people counting and stereo analysis. WizMind is also designed, according to Dahua, to deliver a more precise and effective AI search capability to locate targets and to generate data for analysis.

Milestone which is perhaps most recognised as a trailblazer with the XProtect VMS also has an eye on the future of NVRs thanks to its Husky platform. The latest iterations of Husky are the X2 and X8. The X2 is aimed at what Milestone describes as the small to mid-market whereas the X8 is focused on larger applications. Drilling down into the features of the two variants, the X2 is a 2U rack mountable ‘plug-n-play’ network video recorder designed for Milestone’s XProtect VMS with a built-in PoE+ switch and input/output connector. Milestone says that the X2 has a verified continuous recording throughput of more than 550 Mbit/s and believes that it provides the power and scalability required in most small to mid-market surveillance installations. With XProtect VMS pre-installed it is possible, confirms Milestone, for users to start right away with the free XProtect Essential+ or any other XProtect VMS version.

Looking at the Milestone Husky X8 which has XProtect VMS pre-installed, this is positioned as very much a high performing server class network video recorder for the high-end market. Given the stringent requirements of potential users the Husky X8 has been designed by Milestone to offer extreme reliability with component, storage, and application redundancy, ensuring continuous uninterrupted operation. Leveraging the XProtect video management software, hardware accelerated video processing and Western Digital Purple HDD technology, the unit is said to offer a capacity of 780 cameras with continuous recording, and 300 cameras with server-side motion detection.

Distributed locations

In terms of vertical markets where NVRs still have significant traction, Trevor Sinden, director of sales, Middle East and Africa at March Networks believes that NVRs are often the perfect solution for banks with distributed locations: “They [NVRs] are highly reliable and offer ample storage capacity and video redundancy.” He goes on to expand on the case for NVRs saying as custom-made appliances they have many features that ease the burden of IT departments and he suggests that, consequently, they can be easier and more cost effective to maintain than a software-based VMS that is added to existing IT infrastructure because there is no licensing and fewer components. Sinden adds that with the NVR we are essentially talking about a ‘plug and play’ solution. “You simply connect it to your system compatible IP cameras and you’re ready to go. Video is streamed on a separate dedicated network, so it doesn’t overwhelm your corporate network.”

In terms of specific models, Sinden spotlights March Networks 9000 Series IP recorders as a prime example of a purpose-built NVR. He reckons that the 9000 Series are easy to use and adds that they offer ‘a ton of storage capacity’ – up to 128 TB; are built around an embedded Linux OS – so they are extremely secure not being susceptible to Windows-based viruses – and have dual redundant power supplies with RAID 5 and hot spares for additional redundancy.

Solutions from March Networks already have a strong presence in the Middle East region. It was back in January 2019, for instance, that the vendor announced that one of Qatar’s top banks was deploying the company’s business intelligence software and integrated analytics – Searchlight for Banks – to improve customer service and operations. The bank was already operating an end-to-end March Networks video recording and management solution in all of its Qatari retail banking branches, hundreds of ATMs, and multiple corporate facilities. In addition, the bank in question is one of six Qatari financial institutions who are relying on March Networks systems for advanced video surveillance and fraud prevention.

Fighting ATM fraud

Staying with banking, Hikvision’s DeepinMind series NVR is being positioned as an ideal option for such applications, including, specifically, ATMs. There is, of course, little doubt that ATMs, given their need to be accessible to the public 24/7 are constantly in the sights of criminals who are intent on targeting the machines and the people that use them. Typical criminal behaviours seen here range from distracting customers at ATMs to take their cards – or cash – to discovering their PIN number to use later. Criminal gangs may even try to install false card readers that can steal a customer’s card details for reuse. Banks also need to have the right infrastructure in place to deal with disputes where a customer questions whether the ATM transaction has been carried out as requested or even denies making a withdrawal at all.

The upshot of this criminality is that security precautions for ATMs are a vital part of a financial institution’s overall security solution. With Hikvision’s solution the vendor says that, typically, two covert cameras are installed inside the ATM, one trained on the user and the other on the ATM panel. Intelligence is added in this scenario through the implementation of Deep Learning technology – algorithms – embedded in the ATM security system (the DeepinMind NVR) which can detect any ‘abnormalities’ in the facial scene in front of it, referring to existing data patterns. In practice this means, explains Hikvision, that if there is another face in the picture – for example someone looking over a user’s shoulder – or if the person is wearing a mask an alarm can be triggered. In addition, applying the same technology, the security system can flag up if the number pad is covered with a strip to steal PIN codes or if a false card reader – skimming device – is present to steal card details.

Ultimately, Hikvision says that being able to implement all of these ‘smart’ alarms helps to streamline the security monitoring process meaning that security personnel can react to real-time scenarios and not waste time on false alarms. Beyond this, the recorded footage can provide vital evidence for any subsequent investigation.

Transport solutions

Transport is also an application where the advantages of specialised ruggedised recording units are well recognised. Up in the air over the years, for example, generations of FlightVu video servers from AD Aerospace – and aviation-specific cameras – have allowed airlines to keep a watchful eye on cockpit doors, the wider cabin area, and to help ensure that cargo and cabin baggage areas remain safe and secure.

Down on the ground, solutions like the RideSafe GT Series hybrid NVR from March Networks have been gaining traction for train and bus applications. Given the specialist nature of these deployments the RideSafe GT Series are purpose-built to with stand extreme shock and vibration, it is also possible, according to March Networks, to gather operator-initiated tagged events and vehicle metadata such as GPS location, vehicle number and speed, for comprehensive oversight of driver behaviour and more detailed post-incident investigations. Such capabilities are obviously beneficial from a fleet management perspective, and to assist with driver training, as well as helping operators to clamp down on fraudulent injury insurance claims by passengers – especially on buses – which, sadly, have soared in certain parts of the world.