Today’s megapixel video surveillance cameras bring a host of benefits to the table
The first IP network-based megapixel (MP) cameras were a disruptive technology.
They were often more expensive on a unit basis than their familiar analogue counterparts. Early adopters dealt with higher cost, integration limits, reliability issues, and basic feature sets. Yet as these issues were worked out, megapixel cameras became the accepted norm, largely pushing aside new development in older analogue technology.
Testing versus specification sheets
Image quality varies from vendor to vendor, and sometimes from within a single vendor's own camera lines.
While different vendors may tout similar capabilities such as MP ratings, bandwidth consumption, low light and WDR technology, only an actual side-by-side comparison will demonstrate significant differences. Such a test in an actual or closely simulated environment will help ensure that the selected camera meets the project objectives. For example, which camera picks up a person's face or a vehicle's licence plate the best?
Which one delivers the colour that most closely matches that actual object or scene? Which one works best in varying lighting conditions during the day or night?
Single sensor, PTZ or multi-sensor
Megapixel cameras are offered in many configurations, including single-sensor fixed view, PTZs or multi-sensors. A single-sensor megapixel camera delivers superior image quality with more detail over a larger area than does a typical analogue or standard IP camera (see the contrast in quality below).
This means that fewer cameras can be used to cover a similar area for a new project. When replacing existing cameras, new coverage zones should be calculated to maximise the benefit of the higher resolution.
A PTZ can only focus on only a single point, leaving the rest of the area without coverage
PTZs have long been used to reduce the number of single-sensor cameras to cover a specific area. The design of a PTZ leads to only a single area being the focus of attention at any one point in time, leaving the rest of the area without coverage.
Multi-sensor megapixel cameras are now commonly used replacements for legacy PTZ technology, and available from many vendors. While switching PTZs from analogue to megapixel improved their image quality, the optics package, no matter how good, can still only cover one area at a time. Multi-sensor panoramic cameras have grown in popularity because they offer non-stop high-resolution area coverage indoors or out.
When zoomed into a particular area, the rest of the scene is still monitored, streamed, and recorded with no loss of situational awareness. Four megapixel sensors offering either 180-degree or 360-degree panoramic views are standard in the best models. Multi-sensors further reduce costs, not just in requiring fewer cameras (as in image below), but also because the best models integrate with leading VMS/ NVR systems for more choices, and require only a single IP address, single PoE cable, and a single VMS license camera.
Panoramic multi-sensor cameras views are typically preset at the factory, so that once installed, only the focus needs to be adjusted, making installation quite easy.
The biggest concern regarding megapixel cameras today is around cybersecurity. This issue was not even on most security professionals' radar until relatively recently. This has changed as a result of many high-profile media reports of security exploits that maliciously repurpose cameras, NVRs, and supporting infrastructure for use in cyber-attacks or in propagating viruses and malware.
Others may call home to a foreign country, providing unknown amounts of video and data.
Some megapixel cameras cannot, by their internal architecture, be repurposed for use in cyber-attacks
Some megapixel cameras are by their internal architecture unable to be repurposed for use in cyber-attacks. Other vendors are developing or already deploying technology to protect cameras from cyber-attack, either as victims or propagators. Following industry standards, implementing security recommendations, and educating users are all cornerstones to cybersecurity while the industry develops new technologies to better combat the threat to cameras and supporting infrastructure.
Security professionals can immediately address many of the issues in the short term by following IT best practices. Every environment and risk level is different for surveillance systems, and the devices that compose them. In closing, megapixel cameras were a disruptive technology when introduced for manufacturers, installers, users, and the industry overall.
Beneficial and exciting new technologies and features will continue to make their way into network camera technologies and video surveillance systems, and further increase their value and possible applications. Keeping the topics discussed in this blog in mind will help deliver successful surveillance projects.
The author, Jeff Whitney, will be on Arecont Vision's stand at IFSEC International, 19-21 June 2018, ExCeL London. Register here and visit him and the Arecont Vision team on stand D400.
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