Video signal devices & accessories - Expert commentary

Are your surveillance monitors prepared for the latest video technology developments?
Are your surveillance monitors prepared for the latest video technology developments?

Everybody has been hooked on the discussions about Analogue HD or IP systems, but shouldn’t we really be thinking about WiFi and 5G connectivity, removing the need for expensive cabling? Are wireless networks secure enough? What is the potential range? Even the basic question about whether or not the network is capable of transferring the huge (and growing) amount of data required for High Res Video, which will soon be quadrupled with the advent of 4K and higher resolutions. The future of video surveillance monitors We have seen a massive uptake in 4K monitors in the security industry. While they have been relatively common in the consumer market, they are only now beginning to really take off in the CCTV market, and the advances in Analogue HD and IP technology mean that 4K is no longer the limited application technology it was just a few years ago. Relatively easy and inexpensive access to huge amounts of storage space, either on physical storage servers or in the cloud, both of which have their own positives and negatives, have really helped with the adoption of 4K. Having said that the consensus seems to be, at least where displays are concerned, there is very little need for any higher resolution. So, where next for monitors in CCTV? 8K monitors are present, but are currently prohibitively expensive, and content is in short supply (although the Japanese want to broadcast the Tokyo Olympics in 8K in 2020). Do we really need 8K and higher displays in the security industry? In my own opinion, not for anything smaller than 100-150+ inches, as the pictures displayed on a 4K resolution monitor are photo realistic without pixilation on anything I’ve seen in that range of sizes. The consensus seems to be, at least where displays are concerned, there is very little need for any higher resolution Yes, users many want ultra-high resolution video recording in order to capture every minute detail, but I feel there is absolutely no practical application for anything more than 4K displays below around 120”, just as I feel there is no practical application for 4K resolution below 24”. The higher resolution camera images can be zoomed in and viewed perfectly well on FHD and 4K monitors. That means there has to be development in other areas. Developments in WiFi and 5G What we have started to see entering the market are Analogue HD and IP RJ45 native input monitors. Whilst you would be forgiven for thinking they are very similar, there are in fact some huge differences. The IP monitors are essentially like All-In-One Android based computers, capable of running various versions of popular VMS software and some with the option to save to onboard memory or external drives and memory cards. These are becoming very popular with new smaller (8-16 camera) IP installs as they basically remove the need for an NVR or dedicated storage server. Developments in the area of WiFi and 5G connectivity are showing great promise of being capable of transferring the amount of data generated meaning the next step in this market would maybe be to incorporate wireless connectivity in the IP monitor and camera setup. This brings its own issues with data security and network reliability, but for small retail or commercial systems where the data isn’t sensitive it represents a very viable option, doing away with both expensive installation of cabling and the need for an NVR. Larger systems would in all likelihood be unable to cope with the sheer amount of data required to be transmitted over the network, and the limited range of current wireless technologies would be incompatible with the scale of such installs, so hard wiring will still be the best option for these for the foreseeable future. There will be a decline in the physical display market as more development goes into Augmented and Virtual Reality Analogue HD options Analogue HD options have come a long way in a quite short time, with the latest developments able to support over 4MP (2K resolution), and 4K almost here. This has meant that for older legacy installations the systems can be upgraded with newer AHD/TVI/CVI cameras and monitors while using existing cabling. The main benefit of the monitors with native AHD/TVI/CVI loopthrough connections is their ability to work as a spot monitor a long distance from the DVR/NVR. While co-axial systems seem to be gradually reducing in number there will still be older systems in place that want to take advantage of the benefits of co-axial technology, including network security and transmission range. Analogue technologies will eventually become obsolete, but there is still much to recommend them for the next few years. Analogue technologies will eventually become obsolete, but there is still much to recommend them for the next few years Another more niche development is the D2IP monitor, which instead of having IP input has HDMI input and IP output, sending all activity on the screen to the NVR. This is mainly a defence against corporate espionage, fraud and other sensitive actions. While this has limited application those who do need it find it a very useful technology, but it’s very unlikely to become mainstream in the near future. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Does the monitor industry as a whole have a future? In the longer term (decades rather than years) there will definitely be a decline in the physical display market as more and more development goes into AR (Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality depending on who’s definition you want to take) and VR (Virtual Reality). Currently AR is limited to devices such as smartphones (think Pokémon Go) and eyewear, such as the ill-fated Google Glass, but in the future, I think we’ll all have optical implants (who doesn’t want to be The Terminator or RoboCop?), allowing us to see whatever we decide we want to as an overlay on the world around us, like a high-tech HUD (Heads Up Display). VR on the other hand is fully immersive, and for playback or monitoring of camera feeds would provide a great solution, but lacks the ability to be truly useful in the outside world the way that AR could be. Something not directly related to the monitor industry, but which has a huge effect on the entire security industry is also the one thing I feel a lot of us have been oblivious to is the introduction of quantum computers, which we really need to get our heads around in the medium to long term. Most current encryption technology will be rendered useless overnight when quantum computers become more widespread. So, where does that leave us? Who will be the most vulnerable? What can we do now to mitigate the potential upheaval? All I can say for sure is that smarter people than me need to be working on that, alongside the development of the quantum computer itself. Newer methods of encryption are going to be needed to deal with the massive jump in processing power that comes with quantum. I’m not saying it will happen this year, but it is definitely on the way and something to be planned for.

Networking basics for security professionals:  Transmission limitations
Networking basics for security professionals: Transmission limitations

Transmission of video and PoE power for IP security cameras over infrastructures can be confusing. Network infrastructures are designed using twisted pair cabling that we refer to as CAT (short for Category) cable, also referred to as UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair). Security systems, coming from an analogue environment, have historically transmitted over coax cable, and with the use adaptors can transmit over CAT cabling, which can be further broken down into single pair twist and untwisted applications. Cabling shares one, often misunderstood commonality. Any physical medium has a form of resistance to any element carried on that cable. With regard to network transmission over CAT 5 and greater (5e, 6, 7), there is a distance limitation of 328 feet or 100 meters. The applicable standards state that the bandwidth applied at one end of the cable at 10/100/1000 (1G)Mbps will be realized at the other end. This is also where we find the first limitation. At this same 328-foot distance there is a loss of PoE power. 802.3af or 15.4 watts is a value realized only at the PoE source. Under the standard, after traveling through 328 feet, the power at the camera is 12.95 watts. The same is true for 802.3at which has a source power of 30 watts and 328-foot distance power of 25 watts. The advent of IP security cameras has resulted in the need to maintain existing coax cable for networking applications. The first thing to realise is there are no standards for network transmission over coax. In reality the characteristics governing coax can be considered the opposite of CAT twisted pair cable. CAT cabling for network transmission consists of 4 wire pair, 2 of which are used for signal and PoE transmission. This ability to separate PoE and bandwidth transmitting over two pairs maximises power transmission. Coax cable, when used in the same application, is limited to a single pair – centre conductor and shield. Its characteristics promote bandwidth but limit PoE transmission compared to UTP cable. I emphasize again, there are no standards for coax cable transmission. This process becomes more confusing when you realise there are various type of cables that are called either UTP or Coax. All of these cable have different characteristics that have a direct impact on their ability to transmit bandwidth and PoE. The standards for UTP transmission were set for CAT 5 (5e). Categories 6, 7 and above will tend to have lower cable resistance and longer transmission distance; CAT 3, higher resistance and shorter distance. Common types of coax cable have varying distance limitations The same applies to coax cable. Again there is no standard, the typical cable found in analogue security applications is RG-59. In general, application distance limitations ran between 750 to 1000 feet, greater than the 328 network limitation. This is why extenders are required to convert from coax to UTP and to extend the signal and power range. As with UTP cable, there are two similarities. First, there are different grades of coax; second, there are different types. All these differences generally apply to cable resistance and therefore distance performance.  The most common types of coax cable are: RG 59, RG 6 and RG 11 Why is this important? In general there are two reasons. The first is in specifying equipment for a video security system, you are generally dealing with existing wiring and a fixed performance requirement. It is important to know the type and condition of the wiring in order to know what system performance requirements can be met. Second is a function of understanding specifications for the transmission equipment that will be used in the infrastructure. As noted, when maintaining coax, the use of coax-to-Ethernet convertors/extenders is required. In many cases even when UTP is used, distances over the 328-foot limit are required. A manufacturer’s product specification sheet can truthfully state their products can perform at 100 Mbps, they can handle 802.3at 30 watts and they can transmit distances up to 6,000 feet. However these must be viewed as separate performance claims. The key word is separate. Notice in these statements there is nothing that ties 100Mbps and/or 30 watts (these are examples only) and claimed distance of 6,000 feet together. Neither is the type of cable used indicated. By themselves, each individual claim is truthful; however, applications require they work together, and this is usually not the case. Many times it is difficult to read between the lines of manufacturer’s specifications. Failure to do so can cost additional time, money and even lead to removing the infrastructure itself. There is a simple answer. Call the manufacturer and have them confirm that their solution will perform as required for your specific application. If necessary, ask for proof that they have conducted testing to support their performance claims. Infrastructure is confusing, and you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to ask the right person(s) the right questions.

VMS or PSIM? Weighing the options
VMS or PSIM? Weighing the options

New security technologies have dramatically changed the security landscape over the last decade The security landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade with the introduction of numerous new security technologies to detect crime and deter criminal activity. With a long list of new tools, professionals now need to process vast amounts of information within seconds from many different security systems and then make important decisions about how to respond to an incident. The integration of security systems has perhaps been one of the biggest industry changes. Thanks to this, security professionals now have the ability to bring together multiple systems under a single tool to simplify the management of these systems and incident response. Steve Carney, Director, Product Management, Video for Tyco Security Products states that end users looking to integrate their security systems can pursue two very good, but different options: VMS or PSIM. While the application and installation of either a VMS or PSIM solution can be quite complex, determining which to choose comes down to size, scope and usage of data. A VMS or video management system is traditionally designed to manage security systems from a video perspective. A VMS can oversee a number of security functions, including access control and intrusion, but the end user sees all the integrated security under the VMS with a video-centric point of view. A classic example of this would be heavy surveillance users such as casinos, whose security personnel actively access video around the clock. A PSIM’s job is to consolidate all elements of an enterprise, physical security included, in a very sophisticated software layer that resides on top of other management systems. The key element of a PSIM is its ability to integrate complex, disparate subsystems, as well as its interoperability with third-party applications beyond the normal operations of a typical video management system. PSIMs are also ideal choices for organisations that have many disparate systems beyond just security across many locations. The Ins and Outs of a VMS Weighing the options between a VMS or PSIM should involve careful analysis of the specific needs of the system For installers, there are several scenarios where video management systems make the most sense. As mentioned previously, the VMS user wants to manage his systems, which can include video, access, intrusion and other security functions such as specific analytics packages, from a video perspective. If the end user has two or three different manufacturers’ solutions, or will be installing the system in a new facility and will be buying all new equipment, a VMS will most likely meet the end user’s needs. End users that have a heavy physical security or surveillance focus, such as retail locations or casinos, or users that need a clean, intuitive solution to routinely view video after an event are model candidates for a VMS solution. With the evolution of unified VMS solutions, video management systems are seeing advancement in capabilities and an increase in applicability. One of those advancements is in the element of data visualisation. For instance, a retail company can find value using its security equipment to track customers in its store for operational or marketing purposes. A step beyond this is that the unified solution can depict any number of events across the systems visually. The system pairs separate events such as tailgating (two people walking through an area together or swiping an access card once for two people) at particular times of the day with other events (such as a propped open door or a door held open for more than a few seconds) and it will juxtapose them graphically over a longer period of time. PSIMs: An Answer to a Complex Problem PSIMs are very proficient at handling complex scenarios and provide a level of situational awareness to the end user that traditional video management systems cannot The job of a PSIM often transcends beyond physical security functions and can include workflow attributes, time and attendance, and building management. The priority of a PSIM is to integrate a large number of disparate systems together. One example would be a multi-national company with different video and access systems from different providers in Latin America, Europe and the U.S. Another area where a PSIM would be an attractive option is when the end user acquires a number of integrations already in place and they want to manage everything together. In addition, PSIMs are very proficient at handling complex scenarios and provide a level of situational awareness to the end user that traditional video management systems cannot. In this case, local governments, cities, schools districts or other large enterprises can use the PSIM to handle the flow of an emergency event, such as a tornado or hurricane. Lastly, PSIM applications take mapping and visualisation to the next level.  Many VMS systems will have a simple mapping user interface, but PSIM solutions can typically support multiple and more sophisticated geographic information systems (GIS) map interfaces such as GoogleMaps, Bing Maps, and ESRI maps.  Within these maps, not only can objects be tracked (GPS locations, RFID, etc.), but additional map layers can be brought in to provide a fuller situational picture of the incident at hand. This may include underground gas/power/water lines, wind direction/speed, weather, crime statistics, etc. Because of the broad range of applications and subsystems that PSIMs can handle, in general, PSIM is beneficial to a number of different people in an organisation, far beyond just the security staff. Departments and management across an entire enterprise find value in the data and integration that a PSIM provides. Making the Most Sense Aside from the capabilities of the solutions, end users want to know the maintenance and training involved with both VMS and PSIM solutions. These answers also vary greatly and can’t easily be contrasted because of the differences between the two solutions. Generally, if a reduction in maintenance from a cost and time standpoint is the customer’s focus, then a unified VMS, if designed appropriately, should reduce the amount of hardware with multiple functions on separate servers. This VMS solution will require separate updates, maintenance and licences, compared with a unified system under one manufacturer. Because a PSIM’s main focus is to integrate disparate systems, the end user also must continue to keep track of upgrades, maintenance, and licenses of its individual subsystems. On the training side, the solutions are not easily compared either. As a general rule, however, both VMS and PSIM solutions could reduce training and overhead as operators are using less to do their job, and in the case of the PSIM, operators don’t need to access the subsystems individually to get the information they need. In most instances when it comes to VMS and PSIMs, it’s not about comparing the two since they are very different. At their cores, VMS and PSIMs are designed for different purposes and don’t really compete. But it’s imperative to be able to understand exactly what each solution does so that an organisation’s expectations can be met.