Look smart: IP adds intelligence to video monitoring

Sony Europe

The plunging cost of broadband connectivity has enabled new possibilities for capturing, distributing, storing and monitoring digital video images using IP technology.

Video monitoring

As well as offering reduced capital costs, simpler installation and reduced maintenance requirements, the latest generation of Sony IP video monitoring solutions offers enhanced control possibilities and has opened up a new range of uses that goes far beyond CCTV’s original role for security and surveillance. These are virtually unlimited – spanning protection of commercial, public and industrial sites to remote monitoring in factories, schools, hospitals and visitor attractions as well as a growing spectrum of leisure and entertainment applications.

Crucially, Sony IP video monitoring solutions can be integrated smoothly and cost-efficiently into existing IT infrastructures, making use of existing networking, PC and web browsing components to deliver video images whenever and wherever they are required.

Understanding the limitations of analogue

Since their development in the 1970s, CCTV systems for security and surveillance have relied on analogue signal transmission using dedicated cameras, cables, multiplexers, video recorders and monitors. Typically, monochrome images from an analogue video camera mounted in a fixed location are transmitted via a copper co-axial cable for viewing on a dedicated video monitor – also in a single, fixed location – and recording on a video cassette recorder.

Analogue video monitoring solutions offer little flexibility during or after installation, and the addition of extra cameras requires additional cabling to supply connections for power, video and control. This can cause disruption and may add significantly to the original cost of installation.

Furthermore, analogue video cameras typically provide limited remote control capabilities. Support for functions such as pan, tilt and zoom requires additional cabling to send control signals, while the camera itself is an essentially ‘passive’ device that can do little other than transmit video images.

An analogue-based approach to video monitoring also creates other operational limitations that become more significant with larger installations. With a legal requirement in several countries to store tapes for a specified time after a recording has been made, locating a particular videocassette entails finding the right tape and searching through several hours’ worth of material to locate a particular scene.

There is an accompanying risk that tapes may be lost, misfiled, incorrectly labelled or inadvertently wiped. A tape library holding weeks or months worth of recordings from dozens of cameras at even a modest-sized business premises can rapidly become very large, leading to additional cost and resource overheads to secure sufficient storage space and librarian resources.

Video monitoringVideo monitoring embraces the language of the Internet

While analogue video cassette recorders have been supplanted in the last few years by digital hard disk based hybrid devices, it’s not until recently that manufacturers have taken the next logical step and digitised every aspect of the video monitoring process – from image acquisition and distribution to storage and control. In particular, by replacing cameras, storage and analogue network cabling with their digital counterparts, traditional CCTV systems are transformed into ‘smart’, highly scalable and cost effective video monitoring solutions.

This evolution to all-digital networks with advanced control possibilities has been enabled by a new generation of products and solutions built on open standards and protocols from the IT world. Latest networked video monitoring solutions from Sony replace costly and inflexible analogue video transmission with networks based on IP (Internet Protocol) – the packet-based digital transport mechanism that’s at the heart of the Internet and IT networks everywhere.

With the dedicated video monitor screen replaced by a standard PC and web browser running network control software, Sony IP monitoring solutions allow an operator to view video images from virtually any location as well as controlling camera functions via a simple onscreen interface. As a complement to using standard Ethernet cabling and connections, Sony IP cameras such as the SNC-RZ30P can be linked with the network using an optional Wireless LAN (WiFi) card without the need for a physical Ethernet cable connection.

This freedom allows installers to deploy cameras far more cost efficiently and flexibly than with ‘hard-wired’ solutions based on co-axial cabling. Crucially, this shift towards web-based operation and management means that multiple users can – with suitable authorisation – view pictures and control cameras from a number of different locations. This contrasts fundamentally from the ‘old’ CCTV model that is centred on a single, dedicated control room.

Simpler, more flexible, more cost effective: the benefits at a glance

An all-IP based infrastructure affords manufacturers, system installers and end-users alike a number of benefits – most notably reducing the capital and operational cost of video monitoring networks.

Look smarter

With the migration to IP-based video monitoring networks has come the opportunity to embed the acquisition device itself – namely the video camera – with additional intelligence, allowing it to perform a far more active role in monitoring applications when compared with its analogue predecessors.

In contrast with analogue video cameras that are essentially ‘one way’ devices transmitting only video signals, the latest generation of IP-enabled digital cameras from Sony can interact with the operator, responding to control signals such as ‘zoom’ or ‘switch to low-light mode’ while sending back information about what it can see within its field of view and other operational conditions.

The processing power and memory found in a modern IP camera means it could do far more than simply sending video images. A prime example of this is activity detection, where Sony cameras such as the compact SNC-P1 can respond to the movement of a subject in its visual field by sending an alarm signal to indicate that movement has been detected. This is of obvious benefit in security and surveillance applications, where a camera can keep watch over a particular area such as a doorway or remote warehouse and alert security staff by sending an alert via the network whenever a human subject is present. This approach allows staff to monitor a greater number of site locations without needing keep constant watch over pictures from a large number of cameras.

Networked video monitoring

There is a growing trend for networked cameras to include ‘on board’ data storage in the form of Memory Stick, Microdrive or other removable storage media that allows the camera to serve as an increasingly autonomous device. With the ability to record images immediately before and after an alarm trigger event, these cameras can effectively function as ‘standalone’ event recorders – capturing images when required but without consuming network bandwidth while in a dormant state.

Latest IP camera designs like the Sony SNC-P1 also feature an in-built microphone to pick up audio signals that are embedded in the same datastream as video pictures. This enhancement can be particularly useful for providing further positive identification of an individual by their voice. In addition, embedded IP functionality allows the camera to send diagnostic information or indication of a likely problem – reducing maintenance requirements and cutting the number of required site visits to perform routine inspection or adjustment.

Helping your business

Video over IP is changing the face of security, surveillance and remote monitoring applications. Over the next few months we will be examining some of the critical issues that organisations should address as they prepare to migrate to an all-IP future. How much will an IP solution cost compared with CCTV? How stable and secure is it… and how reliable? What’s the impact going to be on my IT existing networks? And what technological developments are around the corner that will make video monitoring smarter, more flexible and cost effective still?

We’ll be helping you to navigate your way through the opportunities and challenges that IP monitoring creates – and we’ll be demonstrating how Sony can help your business benefit from the exciting possibilities that IP monitoring opens up.

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