Recently, ultra-high-definition surveillance cameras introduced 4K resolution to the security industry. However, 4K resolution has yet to achieve wide application, mainly because of the tremendous bandwidth and data storage requirements. Limiting the bitrate of an ultra-HD video feed while retaining a high-quality, 4K-image remains the biggest problem—a problem whose solution will decide the fate of ultra-HD surveillance video. Video transmission balances image quality, transmission capabilities, and data requirements—i.e., how much information and how it is handled. Therefore, image transmission optimisation lies in advancements in video compression technology.

H.265: Compression technology on a new level

Until now, H.264 compression has been the industry-standard codec. When the H.264 codec found wide use, Hikvision developed its own compatible algorithm to go the next step, calling it “H.264+”. The next iteration in this codec lineage—H.265—presently stands at the cusp of widespread adoption. Once again, Hikvision has already pushed this compression technology to a new level. H.265+ employs an intelligent algorithm whose encoding technology stems from the H.265/High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard.

H.265+ optimises the existing codec most strikingly where specific criteria are met in a surveillance video feed. This criteria consists of: 1.) a stable background where information rarely changes; 2.) a primary focus on the objects moving across that stagnant scene; 3.) a substantial period of time where a scene’s moving objects appear only occasionally; and 4.) 24-hour non-stop surveillance where visual noise has a relatively large impact on image quality. In this type of environment, field-tests show H.265+ radically decreases the required bitrate of the ultra-high-definition surveillance video by up to 67% over H.265, thereby reducing required bandwidth and storage. Bitrate reduction means cost reduction for consumers, as well as increased efficiency, stability, and reliability of all the hardware in a given surveillance system. Here’s how it works.

With ultra-HD resolutions and higher efficiency transmission as the two primary objectives, H.265+ improves the compression ratio based on three key technologies: 1.) predictive encoding technology based on a background or reference frame, 2.) digital noise suppression technology, and 3.) long-term bitrate control technology.

H.265+ optimises the existing codec most strikingly where specific criteria are met in a surveillance video feed

Predictive encoding

Predictive encoding can be divided into “Inter-frame prediction,” creating a prediction model from one or more previously encoded video frames, and “Intra-frame prediction,” where the samples of a macroblock (processing unit) are predicted by using only information of previously transmitted macroblocks of the same frame. With inter-frame prediction, bitrate can be reduced by compressing only the difference in rates between a reference frame and any other frame. This reference frame—usually the background of a scene—will contain few if any moving objects. Fortunately, in most security surveillance, the background remains stagnant.

Example scenario

In a traffic intersection field-test, three unique frames are analysed from a video feed. The first frame is the empty intersection (T0), the second two (T1 and T2) include a moving object—in this case, an automobile. The first image gets encoded as the reference frame; thereafter, reference frame data no longer needs to be sent or stored with every frame. This liberates the VMS to follow moving vehicles only, since new data (bits) will not be required for each frame capturing the background. The requirement for bits, bandwidth, and storage immediately drop. In the case where a strictly empty background or reference frame cannot be captured, the alternative is to encode two or more frames that might include a moving object. Intelligent software can fill in spaces that are vacated by those moving objects with similar information found in the immediately surrounding space. Thus, bitrate usage can be lowered while guaranteeing normal playback for the user.

In the case where a strictly empty background or reference frame cannot be captured, the alternative is to encode two or more frames that might include a moving object
In a traffic intersection field-test, three unique frames are analysed from a video feed

Noise suppression

In order to guarantee a high image quality of moving objects, the encoding module also encodes the visual noise in the scene. However, using the predictive encoding methods mentioned above, the H.265+ intelligent analysis algorithm distinguishes between the background image and moving objects so that each can be encoded with different encoding strategies.

A background image is encoded with high compression in order to suppress noise and applies data to new or moving objects. Since data transmission is limited, the overall bitrate dips substantially when compared against conventional video compression.

Long-Term Bitrate Control

Hikvision has introduced a concept it calls “Long-Term Average Bitrate” to make full use of a data from a video feed. Long-Term Average Bitrate calculates the rates over a specified time period (usually 24 hours). With the average bitrate control, the camera can assign higher bitrates to busier hours while reducing it during idle hours—e.g., midnight to 6 AM outdoors, or 8 PM to 7 AM in an office. In the case of a constant bitrate mode for H.265 encoding, the bitrate varies slightly but stays near the predefined maximum bitrate value. Using H.265+, average bitrate can be as low as half of the maximum bitrate. Image quality can still be optimised since the H.265+ technology makes full use of every bit.

In variable bitrate mode, the instant bitrate varies according to a scene’s activity, while the image quality remains steady. Employing H.265+, the bitrate change can take two courses: 1.) if the configured average bitrate value is limited, H.265+ encoding can provide a better image quality within the limited bitrate; and 2.) if the configured average bitrate value is high for the scene being monitored, the actual average bitrate—the actual amount of data used—can be lower than the predefined value, lowering the total data storage requirement.

Instant bitrate comparison between two scenes

A bitrate-reduction test was conducted, based on cameras featuring 1080p resolution at 25 fps. The scene was a small café under video surveillance feed for a 24-hour period.

Testing the same scene—a busy café—at different times of day, showed that the rate difference between codecs appears less significant as the number of moving objects in the scene increases. Nevertheless, the numbers are still remarkable. The average bitrate between H.264 and Hikvision’s H.265+ decreased by a substantial 83%. The rate between the standard H.265 and Hikvision’s H.265+ codec decreased by 67%—a smaller difference, but nonetheless significant when applied to real-world surveillance systems.

In discreet, 24-hour file size comparison of two different scenes, drastic reductions were plain to see

24-hour file size in different scenes

In discreet, 24-hour file size comparison of two different scenes, drastic reductions were plain to see. Scene one was a café, where the H.264 codec yielded an average of 22.7 GB, and H.265 yielded 11.8 GB, on average. Remarkably, Hikvision’s H.265+ averaged only 3.9 GB. Scene two was a traffic Intersection. Here, the 24-hour file size comparison yielded similar results. H.264 averaged 36.4 GB, H.265 averaged 21.1 GB, and H.265+ averaged the lowest bitrate again at only 7.5 GB.

Here are in those numbers in percentages. In the café monitoring scenario, the rate of the 24-hour file size between H.265 and Hikvision H.265+ decreased by 66.4%, while the rate between H.264 and Hikvision H.265+ decreased by a substantial 82.5%. For the traffic intersection monitoring, the rate of the 24-hour file size between H.265 and Hikvision H.265+ decreased by 64.5%, while the rate between H.264 and Hikvision H.265+ decreased by 79.4%.

Improved bandwidth, storage, imaging, & VCAs

First, H.265+ makes the best use of every bit, so HD and ultra-HD resolutions looks as clear, sharp, and focused as possible. Also, as H.265+ improves image transmission, target objects will have more pixels so the use of VCAs will arguably become more precise, more accurate. Next, a network utilising H.265+ has more bandwidth available at any given time. More bandwidth means better system functioning all around. In real terms, on a 20 Mb broadband network, the H.264 codec can accommodate five cameras. H.265 doubles that, carrying the load of 10 cameras. But H.265+ doubles even that, accommodating 20 or more cameras on the single network. Therefore, H.265+ will be the best choice for users expanding an installation and moving to 4K at the same time.

A background image is encoded with high compression in order to suppress noise and applies data to new or moving objects
The overall bitrate dips substantially when compared against conventional video compression

What’s more, users reduce costs and other resources involved in storing video-feed data. Here's another scenario: when eight 2-Megapixel cameras are connected to a network, and a storage device holds five 5-Terrabyte hard drives, recording capacities vary significantly. A system running on H.264 will hit its storage ceiling in about two weeks. H.265 will do a bit better, filling up after about one month. Hikvision’s H.265+, however, will continue recording—up to about two full months. When considering these results on a monthly or annual basis for budgeting expenses and hardware allocations, H.265+ reduces expenditures all around. While the jump to H.265+ might be slow initially, the benefits will prove advantageous far into the future.

Applications are everywhere

The applications here extend at least as wide as those of any previous codec. However, under conditions such as an unstable network or limited bandwidth, or where customers are required to store data for extended periods of time, H.265+ will be most profoundly effective. Furthermore, this codec can be integrated into comprehensive security solutions for specific functions—4K, panoramic, and explosion-proof cameras, ultra-low light products, and anti-corrosion products are a few examples.

As with any new technological improvement, industry-wide upgrading from current or legacy standards requires investing time and resources. For H.265, migration is accelerating, primarily in newly designed systems since upgrading existing H.264 systems only increases expenditure. H.265 will become more desirable to system integrators and end-users since its decreased bitrates yield high-definition resolutions and images come through more clearly. Added to that, target objects can be isolated and enlarged with more clarity, and more accurate VCAs can be employed.

Hikvision’s H.265+ codec optimises the H.265/HEVC encoding technology, meeting its compression standards and operating with the vast majority of hardware and software designed to employ H.265. With H.265+, video quality remains virtually the same as that of H.265/HEVC while radically reducing transmission bandwidth and data storage capacity requirements. The H.265+ codec will serve to widen the application of ultra-HD resolutions in video surveillance, such as 8 MP and 12 MP devices. Wherever applied, this new codec will cut storage costs, make the fullest use of surveillance video investments, and broaden the use of 4K and ultra-HD security video.

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ASSA ABLOY's Yale celebrates 175 years, smart locks and new partnerships
ASSA ABLOY's Yale celebrates 175 years, smart locks and new partnerships

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Smart home access control growth and the future of door security
Smart home access control growth and the future of door security

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A surprising 42% of those surveyed, for example, were unaware they could control a smart door lock from their phone. In fact, many leading smart door lock models offer this feature, delivered by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and an app. Despite a wealth of features offered by the latest smart door locks — remote and location-based locking/unlocking; voice activation; timed access; emailed entry alerts; and integration with smart camera and lighting systems — most people still have limited knowledge of their capabilities.  Smart technology is increasingly becoming the new norm in terms of home security  Only 14% of survey respondents described themselves as “very familiar” with what a smart lock can do. Even though most of them probably use smart access control solutions at their workplace. Secure homes through smart technology Monitoring and security are not the only drivers for smart home adoption. We humans also love convenience, and modern living presents us with problems that smart home technology can solve. Ironically, given the report’s findings, it takes a smartphone to really unlock the convenient possibilities of smarter living. The device that’s “always to hand” is central to the newest generation of smart door locks.A smart door lock is a convenient way for a landlord or agency to offer round-the-clock check-in and check-out If homeowners wish to remotely manage property access for friends and family, many smart door locks oblige. You let in guests remotely, send them a virtual digital key, or provide a temporary or single-use PIN to unlock the door. It is just as easy to revoke a digital key, if you don’t want its owner to come around anymore. This is a significant improvement over sharing physical keys — or hiding one under the doormat. We cannot be totally sure where a metal key ends up and have no way to track or cancel it once it’s “out in the wild”. 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Bosch startup SAST addresses need for evolved solutions in security industry
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The time is right to bring market needs and technological innovations together on one platform"Mangold-Takao: From a technical perspective we see two main drivers: increasing computing power at the edge and increasing internet connectivity, which will enable devices to directly communicate with each other and bring new technologies such as artificial intelligence also to the security and safety industry. At the same time, we see that this industry and its users are hungry for more innovative solutions – addressing new security needs while at the same leveraging the possibility to improve business operations for specific verticals, e.g. retail and transportation. The time is right to bring market needs and technological innovations together on one platform for this industry. Q: Why does SAST need to be a separate entity from Bosch? Mangold-Takao: SAST is setup as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bosch Group. We wanted to make sure that SAST is able to underline its role as an industry standard platform across multiple players. SAST is open to get additional investors and is being setup as a startup in its own offices in Munich to foster the environment where speed and innovation can more easily take place. Having said that, several entities of the Bosch Group are very interesting partners for SAST. The SAST App Store will allow developers to build and market new applications, similar to today’s app stores for smartphone applications Q: Please explain your "value proposition" to the industry. Mangold-Takao: We will bring new innovations and possibilities to the security and safety industry by providing an open, secure and standardised Operating System for video security cameras, to also address pressing issues such as cyber security and data privacy concerns. Devices that run then with the SAST operating system will work with an application marketplace provided and operated by SAST. Integrators and users can then use these apps from this marketplace to deploy additional functionality on these devices. With our platform we will be able to build up a community of app developers, including the ones not yet developing for this industry who have expertise in computer vision and artificial intelligence. Q: It seems what you are doing has parallels with the Apple and Android "app" stores. How is your approach the same (and how is it different) than those approaches? We are setting up SAST as a user-centric company and involve selected users very early on in the process"Mangold-Takao: The approach is similar in the way that we plan to generate revenue by operating the application marketplace and thus participate in the app revenue. 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We will also run selected pilots with end-users throughout 2019 to ensure we have all partners involved early on. SAST sees the industry is hungry for more innovative solutions – with the retail vertical market a target for these solutions Q: What timeline do you foresee in terms of implementing these initiatives? Mangold-Takao: While we start with first app development programs and plan our first pilots already for this year, we are planning our commercial launch for end of 2019. Q: How does your new company relate to the new Open Security & Safety Alliance (OSSA)? Mangold-Takao: The Open Security and Safety Alliance has been working very closely with SAST over the past year, defining some important concepts and elements required. One of the most important elements is an open and standardised Operating System, specific to this industry, which will then bring forward new innovative technologies and solutions. 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