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Digital video recorders (DVRs) - Expert commentary

ONVIF Profile T and H.265: the evolution of video compression
ONVIF Profile T and H.265: the evolution of video compression

In today’s market, efficient use of bandwidth and storage is an essential part of maintaining an effective video surveillance system. A video management system’s ability to provide analysis, real time event notifications and crucial image detail is only as a good as the speed and bandwidth of a surveillance network. In the physical security industry, H.264 is the video compression format used by most companies. Some companies also employ H.264 enhancements to compress areas of an image that are irrelevant to the user at a higher ratio within a video stream in order to preserve image quality for more important details like faces, license plates or buildings. The H.265, H.264’s successor, will be increasingly used for compression in the future. Some companies are already using H.265 in their cameras and video management systems, while a host of other manufacturers are certainly preparing for its broader adoption in the years to come. Video compression technologies Reduced bandwidth and storage requirements are the primary benefits of video compression technologies Reduced bandwidth and storage requirements are the primary benefits of video compression technologies. In some cases, H.265 can double the data compression ratio of H.264, while retaining the same quality. Increased compression rate translates into decreased storage requirements on hard drives, less bandwidth usage and fewer switches – all of which reduce overall costs of system ownership. H.265 compression delivers a lower bitrate than H.264, which is relevant to end users and integrators because the lower bitrate reduces strain on hardware and can reduce playback issues. It’s very important that the compression format that is used is supported in all of the different components of a system: cameras, desktop computers on which the VMS is running and the VMS itself. It is also good for end users and integrators to understand the basics of video compression. Having a basic understanding of compression allows users to tweak settings to reduce bandwidth usage even more. Many cameras come with default settings that can be changed to ultimately reduce costs. ONVIF physical security In the physical security industry, ONVIF is working to incorporate into its specifications the use of new formats such as H.265 but is not directly involved in developing the compression standards themselves. With Profile T, the new ONVIF video profile released will employ a new media service that is compression agnostic. This means that it can support new video compression formats, including H.265, as well as new audio compression formats, with the ability to include new video and audio codecs as needed in the future without having to redesign its media service. In the physical security industry, ONVIF is working to incorporate into its specifications the use of new formats such as H.265 Standardisation organisations that are directly addressing new compression standards include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and a joint commission of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which is addressing the coding of audio, picture, multimedia and hypermedia information. Other compression formats on par with H.264 and H.265 are being developed by companies such as Google. H.265 compression formats Using products that employ H.265 compression will reduce costs through bandwidth reduction, as will changing default settings on cameras, which are often conservative. Having a basic understanding of compression formats and how to tweak camera factory default settings also gives integrators the ability to further reduce bandwidth for added costs savings and increased system performance. These enhancements will analyse which parts of an image are most important and adjust local levels of compressions accordingly It is also worth noting that H.265 enhancements will likely be developed by camera manufacturers to further reduce bandwidth, as was the case with H.264. These enhancements will analyze which parts of an image are most important and adjust local levels of compressions accordingly. While H.265 itself is ready for prime time, its value as a tool for IP-based surveillance systems is dependent on support for the codec in all parts of the system – the VMS, server hardware, graphics cards and camera. Though widespread H.265 adoption is predicted, providers of these components are jumping on the H.265 bandwagon at different rates of speed. ONVIF is including support for H.265 in its new video profile, Profile T, because it believes it will become the most widely used compression format and ONVIF recognises the need to anticipate that migration as a future need of the industry. The new media service, which will be implemented with Profile T, will be future-proof in that when new compression formats are released in the future, ONVIF can adopt them very quickly. That flexibility will definitely help integrators.

HD over Coax provides cost-effective video surveillance upgrade
HD over Coax provides cost-effective video surveillance upgrade

According to IHS Market, it is estimated that there are over 60 million security cameras in the United States, and other reports say these cameras capture more than four billion hours of footage per week. Over the last decade, IP camera technology has dominated the conversation as it has provided users with a broad offering of enhanced image quality and features. With a large percentage of existing security systems relying on analogue, many end users looking for high definition (HD) video quality have been forced to take on a complete system overhaul. Infrastructure overhaul for HD video To make the switch, customers would need to change everything, from cameras to hardware to wiring– not to mention the lengthy installation process that would ensue. IP cameras also require higher Internet speeds and more cloud space. Whether constrained by budget, bandwidth or storage, many end users have been unable to adopt this new video surveillance method.Thanks to technological advancements within the security industry, HD over Coax offers a viable solution for integrators and end users alike Thanks to technological advancements within the security industry, HD over Coax offers a viable solution for integrators and end users alike. By utilising the current Coaxial cables, this offering yields high definition video, while requiring minimal infrastructure changes and is an optimal surveillance choice for security customers. Plus, with new advancements and updates being made frequently to this technology, there is a solution for every security need. The enhanced alternative of HD over Coax has been warmly welcomed in the security industry, thanks to its simple solutions and ever-evolving features. Many new analogue HD cameras are “plug and play,” able to connect directly to existing Coaxial cables. This eliminates the need for a complete system change, creating cost-savings for the end user and an enhanced video quality offering. Easy solutions for HD video As a result, integrators can cost-effectively upgrade their customer’s surveillance solution while using their legacy infrastructure, making it an attractive option for end users and an easy sell for dealers. Latency in video is another common issue with network-based camera systems, where even the slightest delay in video surveillance can hinder security response HD over Coax cameras themselves are always expanding and evolving to meet a wide array of security needs. With the introduction of fisheye and multi-sensor cameras, users now have a multitude of coverage options, not to mention the introduction of 4K bringing resolution options to the same level as IP. Some newer technologies are even touting 4K cameras paired with 4K digital video recorders (DVRs) made specifically for analogue systems. Longer cables grant transmission for up to 1600 feet, double the distance of standard analogue solutions, and triple that of IP systems. This single cable is able to transmit both HD video and audio. Recently, broadcast quality audio over Coax has become available in limited models, a substantial improvement over older analogue technology, which was unable to transmit audio. Stopping video delay Latency in video is another common issue with network-based camera systems. Even the slightest delay in video surveillance can hinder security response. IP cameras are forced to compress and packetise their video for transmission. The outcome of this is a reduced number of images per video, which in turn causes delay. HD over Coax on the other hand, delivers an unlimited amount of HD images in real time, with smooth motion and impressive clarity. Additionally, the point-to-point transmission delivers uncompressed video free of lag. Another touted benefit is that, unlike IP networked cameras, analogue systems provide a more secure video transmission. With so much sensitive information housed on a businesses’ network, adding another point of network access through an IP camera can create concerns for cyber security risks. HD over Coax delivers an unlimited amount of HD images in real time, with smooth motion and impressive clarity Preventing network hacking With HD over Coax, the physical connections between the camera and DVR prevent network hacking. By keeping the video surveillance system offline, security professionals are able to direct their attention to the physical threats at hand, rather than having to focus on deterring cyber security risks. One of the primary difficulties of deploying HD video solutions is the fact that many older systems utilise a wide variety of HD standards and platforms. To make matters more complicated, after HD over Coax was brought to market, manufacturers raced to create their own version of this technology. Today, the most popular proprietary standards are HD-CVI, HD-TVI and AHD. However, integrators and customers found that attempting to manage multiple HD technologies proved to be near impossible.Integrators and customers found that attempting to manage multiple HD technologies proved to be near impossible Diversifying surveillance through one DVR To combat these issues, manufacturers have introduced products with more flexibility to their portfolios. One example of this is the penta-brid DVR which grants the ability to seamlessly integrate multiple technologies deployed across one application. This means that systems with diverse camera brands and technologies, such as a mix of HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD, analogue or IP, can be connected through one DVR. For many end users with legacy analogue systems, penta-brid DVRs give them greater freedom to choose between a variety of solutions, rather than being limited to one option. With video resolution increasing, the space needed to store the footage is similarly rising. Penta-brid technology has been able to adapt to these evolving needs, giving users ample storage space to house the HD and 4K surveillance video with some of the newest models including H.265 compression.  HD casino surveillance made simple For casinos, HD images are critical for identifying unauthorised personnel and unlawful behaviours to create a safe environment for guests and staff While HD over Coax is beneficial to many end users and integrators, those in the casino and hospitality markets find it crucial. With a combination of high profile guests, large amounts of cash on hand, constant crowds and strict industry regulations, reliable video surveillance is a must. Deploying new IP systems comes at a stiff price. When looking to upgrade their video surveillance, casinos must also be mindful of the installation process. When moving to an IP-based system, ripping out old wires and replacing them with new is the standard practice. This practice can be both disruptive and costly, not to mention gaming regulations require casino activities be monitored at all times so a complete system shutdown would result in revenue loss. This cost can be hard to justify, especially when the current legacy analogue system remains in working condition with only the lower image resolution to date it. For these scenarios, the most cost-effective option is to leverage the legacy infrastructure, replace the existing cameras with new devices, and reap the benefits that HD video has to offer without any lapse in security. For casinos, HD images are critical for identifying unauthorised personnel and unlawful behaviours to create a safe environment for guests and staff. HD over Coax cameras now offer the same resolution as IP cameras with a plug and play approach, that cuts down on expense without sacrificing quality. For businesses and applications that are unable to adopt IP technology, whether it be cost or time prohibitive, HD over Coax now features most of the same benefits IP has to offer without breaking the bank. By providing clear images in real time, maximising existing infrastructure, and affording cyber security benefits, HD over Coax provides an attractive solution for many end users and integrators.

Video surveillance must modernise in storage, recording and on-demand access
Video surveillance must modernise in storage, recording and on-demand access

Dollars spent by video surveillance customers must go towards ensuring high-availability capture, storage and on-demand access to live and archived video. Reaching this goal mandates high-availability of independent components – camera, network, storage (edge, external), internet connectivity, display, all Video Management Software (VMS) components and an architecture that can take advantage of this. In this note, we focus on seeing our way through to a video surveillance architecture, that provides high availability storage, access to live and stored video content. Of all options available to store recorded video, edge recording is the only one that is unaffected by network failure Edge recording Of all options available to store recorded video, edge recording is the only one that is unaffected by network failure. This makes edge storage a must-have. But, this has some limitations at present: Edge storage capacity is limited. Edge media has a short lifetime, rated only for thousands of hours of continuous recording. Most cameras are not secure and physical damage to the camera could lead to catastrophic loss of edge stored content. As storage and compression technology evolve, the constraints imposed by (1) and (2) could go away. However, securing cameras will continue to be a barrier for most installations. Secure external storage It is thus imperative to also store video in secure external storage. Such an architecture uses edge storage to fill in content gaps created by network, external storage outages. As edge storage technology improves, larger gaps can be filled in, but one will always need external storage. By our definition, ‘external storage’ is a solution stack that includes storage media and all software (including VMS) that provide access to this storage. Access to live and archived video Access to live video can either be met by external storage or directly by the camera Every surveillance solution needs to provide access to live and archived video. Access to live video can either be met by external storage or (and) directly by the camera. All things being equal, having the camera directly provide live video access, is a higher-availability solution. There is dependence on fewer components in the chain. Solutions in the market use one of the above two approaches for access to live video. Due to limited capacity and low physical security of edge storage, it makes sense at present, to have external storage meet all requests for archive video. Thus, we are led to an architecture that has heavy dependence on external storage. Dual-recording For high-availability, external storage must be architected with redundancy. Ideally, independent components that make up external storage – storage media, associated hardware and software (including VMS components), should be individually redundant and have smart interconnectivity. However, solutions in the market rigidly tie these components together. Failure of a single component causes failure of external storage. For e.g. hardware failure of a server causes VMS component failure AND storage failure. DR provides a smart way to provide high-availability for external storage For these solutions in the market, high-availability is achieved by having additional external storage units that step-in during outages of primary units. If these additional units continuously duplicate primary units, access gaps are minimised, and archive access is un-affected during primary unit outages. This is the idea behind Dual-Recording (DR).  To meet cost budgets, these additional units can be configured to store subsampled (framerate, resolution) video content. A small number of additional units can support concurrent outages of all primary units. A few-to-many redundancy. Rising need for dual-recording Most cameras cannot be physically secured, and video content produced by a camera must be stored externally. Many VMS solutions use external storage to service live video access requests. Edge storage limitations impose restrictions on edge archive access at present. So, external storage is used to service requests for archive access too. Thus, a surveillance system ends up being over-dependent on external storage. DR provides a smart way to provide high-availability for external storage. As edge storage improves, it will be able to service archive access requests. VMS software will need to evolve, to use this capability smartly.

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21st Century Distributing's Integration Innovation Roadshow
21st Century Distributing's Integration Innovation Roadshow

Wrapping the tour, 21st Century Distributing will head to Baltimore, MD to exhibit at Electronic Security Expo 21st Century Distributing, the premier consumer electronics distributor serving the Southeast, announced recently the schedule for their first-ever mobile demo, Integration Innovation Roadshow, which will hit six major regional cities before concluding with an exhibition at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX). "Each year we look forward to reconnecting with customers, while providing value-added resources that truly help our dealers and specialty professionals improve and organically grow their businesses," said Don Vincini, Owner of 21st Century Distributing. "The Integration Innovation Roadshow is taking this mission to a whole new level. Alongside the ability to share exciting new products and inventive installation techniques, this tour will provide the perfect atmosphere for a genuine discussion surrounding the benefits presented by the smart home and IoT - a major growth opportunity for the channel." Key vendors at the roadshows Beginning in May, the 21st Century Distributing team will take to the streets, alongside a specially-constructed demo station, that will serve up a comprehensive look at some of the hottest products and tech solutions shaping the CE marketplace. Consisting of ten, 4'x8' interactive side panels, the mobile demo unit will showcase a number of devices from key vendors including: Diamond Sponsors Vanco and CoreBrands as well as secondary sponsors 2GIG, Alarm.com, Elk, JVC, Kwikset, LiftMaster, Milestone, New Leaf Warranties, ProMounts, Resolution Products, RTI and Sonance. Together, the brands form a valuable ecosystem, while providing attendees with some valuable face time with major manufacturers. Most importantly, attendees will have the opportunity to test and handle the products first-hand, exploring their interoperability and uncovering new opportunities to supplement and bolster businesses. In an effort to enhance the dealer experience, 21st Century Distributing adjusted show hours and added a cocktail networking session to conclude each event. Demos will run from 2PM to 7PM EST each day, followed by the cocktail hour from 7PM to 9PM EST, allowing local dealers the flexibility to attend when it is most convenient to their schedules. The 21st Century Distributing 2015 Integration Innovation Roadshow will take place at the following locations: Orlando, FL -  May 28, 2015 Jacksonville, FL - May 29, 2015 Atlanta, GA - June 2, 2015 Nashville, TN - June 4, 2015 Charlotte, NC - June 9, 2015 Raleigh, NC - June 12, 2015 ESX, Baltimore, MD - June 25-26, 2015 Wrapping the tour, 21st Century Distributing will head to Baltimore, MD to exhibit at Electronic Security Expo (ESX). ESX presents multiple opportunities for the group to reach new dealers as well as a highly-trafficked platform to expose their vendors to a larger audience, encompassing the realm of security.  "We put a lot of thought into the creation of this roadshow," said Vanessa Zitzmann, Marketing and Sales Coordinator for 21st Century Distributing. "From adjusting the event times to be cognizant of career schedules, to partnering with some of the most popular brands, we've taken dealer feedback to heart and used customer insight to form this modular program. Dealers are the bread and butter of our business, we are dedicated to being a trusted partner and valuable resource."

Pro-Vision to supply Redvision’s 40x RVX-Series CCTV Domes
Pro-Vision to supply Redvision’s 40x RVX-Series CCTV Domes

The product is supplied ready to install as a dome but easily converts into a ball PTZ camera by removing the top cover Pro-Vision Distribution, the UK distributor of branded CCTV and access control equipment, is pleased to announce that it can now offer customers Redvision’s new 40x optical zoom domes. Simon Davies, Internal Sales Manager for Pro-Vision told us, “The new RVX40 has enhanced low-light performance and improved resolution whilst retaining the popular X-SERIES™ rugged, outdoor design. It is supplied ready to install as a dome but easily converts into a ball PTZ camera by removing the top cover. The RVX40-SERIES™ uses a 1/4" CCD sensor with exceptional low-light sensitivity and 670TVL resolution for clear, precise images. It has wiper, IR light and Dual Light (combined IR and white light) options. Night time surveillance is enabled with IR or white light, ultra-efficient, LED illumination. The IR illumination allows covert operation and the white light enables operators to identify, spotlight and track intruders.” Simon continued, “Each camera has 100 pre-sets, 8 tours and up to 24 privacy masks to meet application and legal requirements. The RVX40 camera’s impressive 40x optical and 12x digital zoom delivers effective long-range scene surveillance. The IR version can provide illumination up to 100m and facial recognition over 30m. The Dual Light IRWL version also has a 100m illumination range in both light modes and will toggle between IR and white light on alarm activation, pre-sets or manually.” Pro-Vision is a CCTV, access control and public address equipment distributor. Supplying the trade with branded equipment and associated security products. They are authorised distributors for AMG, Bosch, Dallmeier, Dedicated Micros, D-Link, Exacq, Fujinon, IDIS, JVC, LG, LiLin, Mirasys, Panasonic, Pelco, Pentax, Redvision, Samsung, Veracity, Xtralis, BPT, Nortech, PAC, Siemens and many other major manufacturers.

Judging quality and performance of video security systems by the (other) numbers
Judging quality and performance of video security systems by the (other) numbers

When comparing specifications among a range of similarly featured video surveillance cameras, NVRs or monitors, it can be difficult to ascertain which of the devices truly has the best performance and/or quality. John Grabowski, National Sales and Marketing Manager of JVC Security Division, poses some questions for consideration: Can the human eye actually see a difference in image quality between one camera that offers 700 lines of resolution and another that offers 600 lines? Or can it see the difference in image quality between a 3 megapixel camera and a 5 megapixel camera? What about performance characteristics such as latency or colour accuracy? In determining these specifications, one must also ask what has influenced or interfered with the measurement. Performance measurement through MTBF Today’s video surveillance components use highly advanced technology, making the evaluation process even more difficult. While impartial testing of the equipment on oscilloscopes and wave form monitors, shoot-outs or other side-by-side comparisons can help bring clarity to the evaluations, one solid metric for quality and performance is MTBF (mean time before failure) figures with failure rate (FR) data. These figures can help provide a clear guide for product lifetime expectations. For example, a surveillance camera with a published MTBF figure of 90,000 hours has more than 10 years of 24/7 usage. Engineered to a higher standard MTBF can be viewed as a quality standard as well as a planning metric. Although many companies build security products to meet specific price points, the best companies engineer their video surveillance products with robust designs that will endure and address the specific needs and conditions of the surveillance market. To a great extent, the longevity of key components such as integrated circuits and capacitors determines the MTBF of the products in which they are used. However, better parts only provide part of the key to better reliability. The internal temperature of products significantly affects MTBF as well. As electronic components have become more compact, the temperature of smaller, more constricted circuits and other components has become almost impossible to measure. Preventing thermal issues through thermal analysis and design requires careful electronic and mechanical engineering. This is accomplished early in development which makes it easier to visualise heat in every part of every component, thereby enabling engineers to prevent thermal issues and create products with significantly greater reliability. The best video surveillance products are designed to endure the specific needs of the surveillance market Companies that publish MTBF specifications generally arrive at those figures through extensive product testing, valuing the MTBF of individual components and by past experience with similar products. Some manufacturers elect to calculate MTBF based on strict military standards. Life-Cycle costs The initial cost of a video surveillance system is only a portion of the total cost of ownership (TCO). While a low price and warranty may make a camera with a lower MTBF seem attractive, this can be a mistake. Should the product fail within the warranty period, rather than repair the device, many manufacturers will simply replace a relatively low-priced item like a video surveillance camera. However, the process of replacing that camera can be very expensive for the end user or the system integrator. The cost of sending a technician up a ladder to replace a failed video surveillance camera often costs more than the camera itself. Plus, it is important to consider the potential damage or theft during downtime while the camera is not providing surveillance. High rated MTBFs can help reduce these replacement and maintenance costs over the life of a video surveillance system. The robust equipment can better withstand shock and vibration, extreme temperatures, moisture and dust, power fluctuations and offer significantly lower life-cycle costs through reduced down time. High rated MTBF products also create an improved overall value and a better return on the investment. For example, cameras can account for anywhere from 30 to 50% of the initial cost of a system and therefore should be selected with care. A camera’s proven reliability can help defer costly replacements during the system life cycle and improve utilisation. In short, product reliability can optimise capital, operations and maintenance expenditures while improving the safety and security of the environment. Today, there is an abundance of information available to help users make the best selections for their needs. By providing MTBF data, video surveillance manufacturers can make it easier for the user to make decisions.

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