What’s the next big thing in video image quality?
8 Apr 2020
Superior image quality has been the “holy grail” of the video surveillance business for several years. A transition to 4K images and a race to ever-higher pixel counts have dominated product development conversations for a while now. However, it’s now possible that the tide has turned. These days, data is sometimes more important than image quality, and increasing use of smaller-format mobile devices has helped to make image quality variations moot. As the industry changes, we asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What’s the next big thing in video image quality (beyond 4K and megapixel)?
The development beyond 4k and megapixels isn’t about higher resolution, but rather the capabilities of deploying analytics. If you look at 4K, the image quality is superb, but beyond that, image quality is also increasing in normal cameras. You will hit a certain point, in terms of resolution, where you’ve gathered sufficient information to process the data in the image and where an additional megapixel will not add value. Instead, image processing will become more important. You don’t necessarily get a better image for every megapixel you add. The industry shouldn’t lose sight of image processing and analytical value, in the race to see who can hit the highest number of megapixels.
It’s my opinion that the need for image quality will reduce over the next year. More and more content is being consumed via the mobile phone, and the need for perfect image quality is not there. I think there will be a shift in focus for manufacturers. Content is king, and I think it will really start to play a larger role in how image quality is defined. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not going back to 480p, but anything more than 4k will not matter as much on the smaller devices. These are ever-changing times we live in, and you never know what’s around the corner, but one thing is for sure if everyone is forced to stay home with their family there will be plenty of time to consume content.
Beyond images, today’s video systems provide a wealth of intelligence by way of analytics data. Data that can be leveraged to alert on specific anomalies in real-time, as well as data that can be collected and used for forensics and predictive analysis. With the increasing need and desire for more intelligence coupled with visualization, video systems have for some time embraced the evolution of incorporating data analytics as a standard feature set. This provides more meaningful information to enable more accurate and timely decisions to be made as it relates to safety and security concerns being addressed and with regard to mitigation and forensics.
There comes a point when additional levels of even better image quality are not discernable to the human eye. At that point, the concern is not so much about how an image “looks” as how much data it contains. The technology is there to make images even better, but the practical operational aspects and expense may offset the practical benefits of doing so. The shift to AI and data analytics, and use of handheld devices, may spell the end of the megapixel race and usher in a new era of video surveillance.
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