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IP video surveillance and the importance of open platform software
IP video surveillance systems are the new standard for video surveillance and rapidly replacing closed circuit television (CCTV) systems that use analog video recording. Based on the TCP/IP network protocol, IP video surveillance enables your municipality to build your own video surveillance system using standard video and computer hardware. One of the first steps in implementing an IP video surveillance system is selecting the brains to run it — a video surveillance management application. This is essential for providing efficient video monitoring and analysis, as well as opportunities for integration with other applications, such as video analytics. The best IP video surveillance management software is "open platform." Open platform software uses published external programming interfaces, such as the Application Program Interface (API), to enable third-party applications that can expand the functionality of your system.
Lets You Add Video Analytics
Video cameras feed into a computer system running video analytics software that analyzes the imagery and works with the video surveillance management software to automatically alert staff of suspicious events, such as abandoning a bag or backpack. The video analytics software can even distinguish between ferryboats which are allowed to approach the island and private vessels which are not. It can also count people to detect if somebody is trying to stay on the island after closing or if people are grouped too tightly together—an action that might indicate a fight or gang activity.
Even more advanced programs providing behavior analysis are becoming available. These actually learn the normal human patterns in a location such as a street corner or public landmark. They can highlight and log behaviors of individuals who act or move in unusual ways.
Many IP video management solutions include the ability to direct alerts to specific people or devices. Such alert capabilities enable faster response to incidents. The ability to access cameras through the software is also important for enabling more intelligent response. Employees, with appropriate authorization, should be able to log on via the Web any time and view what any particular camera is recording. In Baltimore's central command center, for example, staff can use the system's software to take control of the camera, zoom in, and if necessary, send an alert through the police communications network.
Search and Export Video
Video surveillance management software also makes it easier to search stored video and export evidence to Internet-connected devices. The system's video surveillance management software can be used to call up multiple incidents of recent violent crimes in minutes. Doing the same kind of search with video tape can take hours.
1 More flexible installation
Another advantage of IP video surveillance is that a municipality's IT department already has the necessary expertise for installing and maintaining the system. Cameras have IP addresses just like any other network device. IP networking enables you to leverage existing infrastructure such as servers, switches and cabling. There's no need for complicated proprietary hardware and dedicated monitors.
Place Cameras Almost Anywhere
IP network cameras can be placed almost anywhere using cost-efficient standard Ethernet cable and wireless technologies such as IEEE 802.11b. They can then be accessed via desktop computer, laptop, PDA and even cellular phone.
Many of the city's surveillance cameras are wireless. Incase the city "doesn't have optic fiber running under the streets," which made a "combination of wired and wireless technology" very appealing.
Small wireless IP surveillance cameras are also available for covert operations. One great advantage is they can be used in one area, and then easily moved to another.
A particular advantage for wired IP network cameras is that they can be connected and powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE), a technology that enables power to be provided to a network camera using the same cable as that used for network connection. PoE eliminates the need for power outlets at the camera locations and enables easier application of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to ensure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operation.
With wired installations, multiple cameras can use the same cable, attaching to the network just like you would any other network device. Changing camera placement is simple – just remove and plug into another network jack somewhere else. This makes it easy to put temporary cameras in any suddenly troublesome spot, such as a street corner being used for drug activity.
IP video surveillance systems scale easily from one to thousands of cameras in increments of a single camera. This makes them ideal for metropolitan systems that grow in spurts. Installation can be done in stages and can even integrate existing analog equipment to create a hybrid system.
Choosing an open platform like IP networking gets you out of "proprietary jail" — being locked into using one vendor. Unlike a DVR-based solution which locks you into "black boxes" that require proprietary upgrade components, IP video surveillance is based upon open standards that give you a wide choice of products from a large number of manufacturers — not just one. This includes IP network cameras, switches routers, servers, storage systems and software.
With DVR-based system, there is also the very real risk that these products may not be supported in the very near future. With the speed of development in and popularity of IP video surveillance, DVR-based systems could be left in the dust.
The freedom of choice you get with an open platform reduces initial investment, ensures better pricing and greater value, and makes additions and replacements easier and less expensive down the line. You can always select equipment from suppliers based on your needs, not because you're locked into a particular system or platform.
Consider storage for example. With IP video surveillance systems, you can take advantage of the most cost-effective network storage solutions now. Then, when something better comes along, you can switch to that, no matter who you bought your earlier storage system from.
More future proofing comes with the potential to add new applications that become available in the future. You can have a vision to create a "Wireless City" using the video surveillance system that will help reduce crime; provide real time information to city officials to manage street services such as parking, premises licensing, and environment waste; assist with special events; and deliver community-based services such as e-learning. Some of the necessary applications are available now. Others are on the way.
Better video quality and camera features
IP network cameras are digital and provide up to 16 times the resolution of traditional analog cameras. Analog images are made of lines and each image is formed from two interfaced fields. When an image contains a lot of movement, it becomes blurry. With digital pixel image sampling, an entire image is captured at one time, providing crystal clear images even with a high degree of motion. This enables IP network cameras to provide rich detail (such as facial features or the numbers on a license plate), rather than blurry, hard-to-read images.
Multi-megapixel models that deliver full-motion digital video are available at analog camera prices. High-performance multi-sensor cameras (e.g., 8 megapixel quad-sensor 180° and 360° panoramic cameras) can drastically reduce user cost per unit area under surveillance by covering more ground per camera.
The more powerful IP video surveillance management can handle unlimited numbers of multi-megapixel cameras and time-synchronize them. This is important because to analyze an incident you will typically need to view multiple cameras using simultaneous, time-synchronized playback (all cameras playing back on the same time line).
To reduce video storage requirements, IP network cameras can be equipped with image buffers to save and send only the images collected before an alarm occurred and after an alarm.
For superior digital zoom capabilities, you can select IP network cameras with pan/tilt/zoom controls (PTZ network cameras). These cameras enable staff to remotely take control of individual cameras and zoom in on an activity. Some cameras' zoom capabilities enable reading a cigarette pack from as far as 1,000 feet away.
In general, you'll find much more innovation in IP network cameras. Just as consumers are losing interest in film cameras, so is interest waning in analog surveillance cameras. They're a sunset technology and most of the industry's energy is turning to the much more promising possibilities of IP network cameras.
2 Improving crime prevention and prosecution
There is nothing like visible cameras throughout a city to send a clear message to people that they are being watched and their actions recorded. What's more, the growing numbers of cases where criminal convictions are aided by video evidence are making criminals think twice. This is especially true as more video from IP network cameras appears in court. The clearer, sharper images made positive identification of perpetrators easier and more conclusive, increasing the rate of conviction.
The video analytics made possible through IP video management software and add-on applications improve surveillance effectiveness. Where human observers have trouble dealing with an increasing number of video channels, video analytics free staff to perform other duties until notified of an incident that needs viewing. Automatic alerting features can even be used to send alerts when suspicious activities are detected. Other add-on applications can provide ancillary detection of such things as smoke, fire, or leaking containers. Incident flagging, coupled with high quality image analysis, makes for fast search, retrieval and identification of suspects.
Protect public transportation and drivers
Many municipalities are also looking into using IP video surveillance on public transportation. Wireless cameras on trains and buses enable remote monitoring of incidents.
By using IP video surveillance on public transportation, cities can:
» Protect drivers
» Enforce rider regulations (riders who know they're being watched are more likely to follow rules, pay fares and obey drivers).
» Prevent theft and deter violence (cameras are a preventative measure and enable security to respond quickly and with better information to incidents).
» Enhance passenger safety by enabling faster response to incidents and deterring crime in the first place.
» Crime investigation (footage of incidents aid apprehension and prosecution)
» Reduce vandalism (graffiti, broken windows, etc.)
» Reduce employee theft of items like fuel, cash, lost property, tools, etc.
3 Reduce surveillance costs
The combination of IP video surveillance management software, video analytics and IP network cameras with PTZ capabilities enable watching over larger areas with less staff, making them the perfect solution for metropolitan surveillance. IP video surveillance enables centralizing video surveillance operations even for operations with thousands of cameras. This can save serious money for cash-strapped municipalities.
As previously mentioned, IP video surveillance also reduces the number of hours required to perform searches. Archived digital video data can be searched in minutes for specific events, rather than hours with video tape. What's more, you have none of the archiving headaches of video tape. IP video network surveillance is stored on servers.
Of course, the biggest cost savings of all come from IP networking. Instead of an expensive proprietary video surveillance solution, you can purchase commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components that are easy to install and maintain.