Lead From The Front: Surveillance Cameras Solutions

By: Jon Polly | Mar 23, 2021

In the security industry, video surveillance is by far the most eye-catching deployment. Intrusion systems alert when tripped and access control prevents unauthorized access, but no one has ever said “come look at my wall of access control panels”. The Security Operations Center (SOC) and the multitude of cameras on a video wall are always part of the tour.  Video surveillance is only a tool, but it is an extremely useful tool. Video can now offer traditional security functions and with analytics, it can perform intrusion detection functions as well. This can include alerting on break-ins while giving a picture of the suspect and reducing false alarms. Cameras are being used for Identity and Access Management (IAM) functions in conjunction with access control to use facial recognition among other analytics to control access.

Two truths to cameras are as follows. 1) A camera by nature is reactive. It cannot stop anything. It is reliant upon a human to review the image captured and determine the next steps. 2) A camera can only record what it sees. Placement and continual maintenance is imperative for cameras to function usefully.  

Best Surveillance Cameras 

Every camera manufacturer will state they are the top brand; every provider will state they sell only the best cameras. Below is a comparison of camera solutions by market share.  

Analog / HD over Coax cameras (Leaders: HikVision, Dahua, Hanwha) 

It may come as a surprise, but most camera manufacturers that have a HD over Coax line state that the analog camera is still being bought more than any other camera on their line card. Why?  The HD over Coax solution can use the existing cabling and gives the user an HD image from 1080P up to a 4K. It is a camera running to a DVR. But for the end user there is no rip and replace, which means costs are limited.  

Digital Camera Solutions (Leaders: Axis Communications, Hanwha, Avigilon, Pelco, HikVision, Dahua, Bosch, Panasonic)  

The Internet Protocol (IP) camera was developed originally by Axis Communications in 1996. Unlike the analog camera using Television Lines (TVL), the IP camera is measured in Megapixels (MP). As the camera MP goes higher, so does the camera resolution. While traditional IP cameras ranged from 1.3MP (720P resolution), 2MP (1080P resolution), and up to 8MP (4K Resolution); the MP resolution has only the limitation frame rate and storage. The IP camera offers multiple compression variables, from MJPEG (large storage), H.264 Compression (has been the standard, offers best image on high value target while compressing video), and now H.265 (offers best image while cutting storage costs by half). The IP camera also introduced the ability to use Camera Analytics; from basic intrusion and heat mapping to deep learning, neural network, and artificial or augmented intelligence (AI) that can provide massive amounts of data for multiple use cases. The Camera Analytic is designed to make the camera more proactive; by processing information previously requiring human interaction directly on the camera and in a fraction of a second.  

Below are the top IP solution cameras by sales: 

Fixed Camera (Dome, Box, Bullet) 

Fixed cameras have been around for years. They are the solid work horses. With a multitude of configurations from indoor, outdoor, vandalresistant, and ranging from 1.3MP to 15+MP; these cameras are the solution when a specific static view is needed. Most of these cameras have an automated varifocal lens for remote focus. Today, manufacturers are helping integrators and end-users take these cameras to a new level by offering modular cameras that allow the “guts” to be upgraded / replaced without replacing the entire installation.  

Multi-Sensor 

Multi-sensor cameras include multiple sensors in one housing, with one IP address, and one device license. The multi-sensor camera is the pan tilt zoom (PTZ) killer. The problem with every PTZ camera has been that it is never pointed where the incident occurred. Today, almost every camera manufacturer offers some type of a multi-sensor camera. Where the PTZ camera had to be on a tour to capture the entire coverage, the multi-sensor is a series of fixed camera lenses focused on static views and transmitting all back at one time. Some manufacturers have now “tied” a collocated PTZ camera to a multi-sensor camera to zoom and track based on motion. The multi-sensor today is typically 2MP or 5MP per lens, with Avigilon offering a 32MP version. 

360° Fisheye 

The 360° fisheye is the eye in the sky overall. It provides a single 360° view of an entire location. Use cases include retail, construction, and wide area coverage with an abundance of light. The fisheye has one drawback it warps the image. However, most Video Management Systems (VMS) platforms have a specific setting to “de-warp” a fisheye camera, removing the inherent drawback.  The fisheye and the multi-sensor camera have offered significant cost savings and solvaesthetic challenges many companies have long had with traditional camera deployments.  

Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) 

Traditionally, the PTZ camera has required either human interaction to turn and view or a tour to record. The complaint with the PTZ camera is that it rarely records where the incident occurred. This has presented some end-users with legal issues. Today, most PTZ cameras offer a max of 2MP (1080P resolution). The exceptions are Axis Communications with a 5MP and 8MP (4K Resolution) and Hanwha 8MP (4K Resolution). While there are some PTZ cameras that come in a small form factor, many of the PTZ cameras are large, bulky solutions that require height or specialized brackets to mount. Today, the PTZ is being replaced in many applications with either the multi-sensor or the 360° fisheye.  

Specialty (Thermal, Array, Explosion Proof, Body Worn, etc.)  

Specialty is defined as a distinctive mark or function. Specialty cameras are unique cameras that are utilized to meet one specific need. Pre-COVID19, the thermal camera was used for perimeter defense or machine monitoring. Today, thermal cameras are still being used for a specific function to monitor entrances for possible COVID19. The Body Worn camera was originally only for public safety, however today body worn cameras are being used in retail applications, hospitality, and private security. Other specialty cameras include the array camera to provide the ability to view large areas with great detail or the explosion-proof camera that can provide video in the harshest of conditions.   

Conclusion 

There is no “best” camera and there is no “top” manufacturer when it comes to the right solution. The metric should be the “right” camera that meets the desired outcome and impact for the customer. Every customer need is going to be different. Preconceived notions that one specific camera type or manufacturer is the best are short sighted and will result at some point in missing the customer’s expectation, giving the perception of flawed integrity, either of the provider and / or the manufacturer. Harsh words yes, but the best camera is the one that provides the right solution to the customer’s desired needed outcome or impact.  

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