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The impact of the new HDcctv AT 2.0 standard

HDcctv standards’ goal is to serve the long-term needs of the industry and its customers rather than the commercial agenda of any one company

Editor's Note: HDcctv Alliance has announced that Dahua has opened its patented HDCVI technology to the global video surveillance industry as the basis for HDcctv's AT 2.0 standard. For additional elaboration on what the move means to the growing market for higher-resolution CCTV, we approached Todd Rockoff, chairman and executive director of HDcctv Alliance. How is HDcctv AT 2.0 superior to HD-SDI or other previous approaches?

Todd Rockoff:  When it comes to HD surveillance local-site transport, there is a choice of technical solutions depending on what best fits the application in question. Each technology responds to a distinct set of customer requirements.

Ethernet is a flexible, general-purpose digital communication technology, and will always deliver higher-resolution video and potentially richer bi-directional communications than any specialised surveillance transport technology. However, special-purpose solutions are often better than general-purpose solutions because of their specific purposes; for example, even though Ethernet is pervasive in everyday office environments, most IT equipment also provides USB, HDMI, analogue audio, and other ports, in addition to LAN ports for Ethernet.

HDcctv DT (Digital Transmission) equipment is based on HD-SDI. DT equipment is exactly as reliable and nearly as convenient as conventional CCTV equipment. HDcctv AT (Analogue Transmission) technology is based on the HDCVI technology developed by Dahua. AT equipment is exactly as reliable and exactly as convenient as conventional CCTV equipment.

Neither AT or DT technology is universally superior to the other. AT works better in some situations, while DT better suits others.

DT transmits the original (digital) HDTV signal bit-by-bit across the cable. As a result, DT affords perfect bit-for-bit transmission. No other HD surveillance local-site transport technology can claim such an extraordinary level of quality. But – as with any other digital transmission technology – each of HDcctv DT 2.0, HDcctv 1.0, and HD-SDI requires a sufficient quality of cabling infrastructure to be effective. The main reason that first-generation digital HD transmission was considered slightly less convenient than conventional CCTV was that, in order to upgrade a legacy system with DT equipment, installers sometimes have to re-terminate cables, pull new cables, or insert repeaters.

Stringent third-party test procedures
and evaluation criteria will enable
the HDcctv AT 2.0 compliance mark
to stand as a guarantee of electrical
performance and multi-vendor

AT is analogue, meaning that the original HDTV signal is encoded as a continuous series of voltages. Although not every bit is copied precisely across the transmission link, AT delivers high-fidelity HDTV signals instantaneously. The specific advantage of AT over DT is that AT tolerates a broader range of cable qualities. The difference boils down to this: too much noise kills digital transmission – if the repeater or the receiver cannot detect a 0 or a 1 accurately because of noise, you lose the image, whereas analogue transmission always displays however much, or however little, noise that is introduced through the signal channel. Given that Hikvision, the number one competitor in the video market, is unveiling a different technology (i.e., HDTVI), is there any plan to “converge” the two technologies or make them compatible? What might the HDcctv Alliance’s role be to accomplish that?

TR:  We are delighted that Hikvision shares our recognition of the growing importance of plug ‘n’ play (PnP) analogue HD surveillance equipment.

The HDcctv Alliance is an open industry body, whose standards reflect contributions from diverse member companies. All companies with an investment in PnP HD surveillance equipment are invited to join the HDcctv Alliance. I speak for all of the HDcctv Alliance Members in welcoming industry leader Hikvision to reinforce its commitment to the open, global standard and make its voice heard in the HDcctv Technical Committee’s weekly teleconferences. Might not a proprietary non-standard technology from the market’s largest player undermine the positive impact of the standard? (i.e., set up a Beta vs. VHS type competition?)

TR: Absolutely! It compares to having to stock inventory in multiple formats (Beta/VHS or DVD/Blu-Ray/3D Blu-Ray) which inevitably multiplies the costs of running a video shop. And format confusion decreases revenues. A good example is a customer who accidentally brings a 3D Blu-Ray disc home but can't watch it on his DVD player.

Format confusion inevitably has the same kind of impact on the video surveillance market. Therefore, it is in the commercial interest of every company who has invested in HD surveillance equipment to fully support the open, global PnP standards for local-site transport of HD surveillance signals. What were the considerations related to adopting the HDCVI technology as a standard beyond the fact that it was the first to market? How was it evaluated? What role did other companies and/or stakeholders (i.e., members of the HDcctv Alliance) play in adopting HDCVI as the standard?

The goal for the HDcctv standards,
reflected in the HDcctv Alliance
constitution, is to serve the
long-term needs of the industry
and its customers rather than
the commercial agenda of any
one company!

TR: While Dahua has led the writing of the HDcctv AT 2.0 standard, Dahua is by no means acting alone. The AT standard reflects contributions from many HDcctv Alliance Technical Committee participants located around the globe. The HDcctv Alliance Technical Committee has crafted stringent third-party test procedures and evaluation criteria that will enable the HDcctv AT 2.0 compliance mark to stand as a guarantee of electrical performance and multi-vendor interoperability. The AT compliance mark represents end-customer value, because it stands for out-of-the-box PnP.

The goal for the HDcctv standards, reflected in the HDcctv Alliance constitution, is to serve the long-term needs of the industry and its customers rather than the commercial agenda of any one company. The Alliance follows this process to manage successive generations of the standard (including HDcctv AT 2.0):

  1. Agree a statement of high-level market requirements
  2. Agree the technical framework to evaluate prospective proposals
  3. Solicit proposals from Members
  4. Understand the intellectual property rights and technical details associated with each proposal
  5. Harmonise the proposals
  6. Board of Directors approves the technical strategy
  7. Technical Committee hammers out all details
  8. Board ratifies What forces must come into play for various manufacturers to “agree” on a standard, either AT2.0 or something else?

TR: Proprietary, sole-source interface standards rarely dominate markets. The closest example I can think of is Apple's various interfaces, and I would observe there a) Apple is a unique phenomenon of branding nature, and b) despite its brand visibility, Apple does not hold the largest market share. Surveillance customers demand out-of-the-box PnP so they can mix and match with ease. Experienced manufacturers, some perhaps still struggling with the challenges of the prevalent non-interoperability of Ethernet-based equipment, recognize that non-interoperability among diverse manufacturers’ analogue HD equipment would negate some of analogue HD’s advantages. How is the HDcctv Alliance actively promoting compliance with HDcctv AT2.0 (HDCVI)?

TR: The Alliance has facilitated technology access for its Members and is supporting Members launching certified HDcctv AT 2.0 compliant equipment at Security China 2014 in October. Could you see additional alternatives emerging and how might they impact the market? How might “competing technologies” impact HDcctv’s efforts to gain traction as an alternative to IP?

TR: It is difficult to anticipate a technology which has yet to be invented! The HDcctv Alliance remains open to any technical solution that uniquely addresses the requirements of the high-value segment of the HD surveillance equipment market. What do integrators and end users need to know about HDcctv standards (and specifically HDcctv AT 2.0)?

TR: Look for the compliance mark to be sure. Marry certified AT 2.0-compliant equipment to other AT 2.0-compliant equipment, and enjoy PnP remote control upon power-up, straight out of the box.

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