Quality control in surveillance

In the December edition of InAVate magazine Tim Kridel explores the surveillance market and the technologies needed to identify and catch criminals. Here, in the first of a series of Q&A's, Tim talks to Hayashi Noriyuki, Senior Manager - Security / Broadcast, Panasonic Marketing Middle East & Africa.

TK: I often see TV and newspaper stories about crimes such as bank robberies that include surveillance footage so grainy that it’s nearly useless. Besides upgrading to HD cameras, what else can an organization do to improve quality? For example, what are some tips and best practices for choosing the ideal location for each camera and ensuring that ambient light isn’t a problem? What types of product features should they look for when comparing cameras to ensure that they get the best possible quality?

HN: Yes, no doubt, high definition surveillance is the future of video surveillance technology. This is the direction the industry is heading and this is evidenced by the introduction of HD-DSP technology and improvements in compression available for surveillance video. The logic suggests that the more pixels that we collect, the better the definition of the target. The best metric to approach this analysis is referred to as pixels per foot; it measures the number pixels being captured by the image sensor divided by the horizontal width of the scene being covered.

Once it is understood what level of detail that you desire with a commissioned video surveillance system, and the placement of the cameras from the target, you can set expectations of what exact detail that you will gather prior to the budgeting and procurement of the system.

You can count on Panasonic video surveillance technologies to deliver exceptional high resolution images for those challenging variable lighting environments and applications. Whether your challenge is low light or high contrast, vibration or motion, Panasonic offers advanced video surveillance products that provide 24-hour, true-picture quality.

Panasonic's exclusive Mega Super Dynamic imaging technology delivers performance that is unparalleled in the industry. Super Dynamic enables clear identification in both bright and dark areas in high contrast scenes. It is one of key technologies of Panasonic cameras because high contrast scenes are commonly found in video surveillance application. Super Dynamic captures multiple images with short and long exposures.

The short exposure captures the bright areas well and the long exposure captures the dark areas well. Super Dynamic combines them into one frame and results in clear images. Enhanced Super Dynamic is a latest Super Dynamic technology that delivers a wider dynamic range of 133dB. Variable exposure and shutter speed control is introduced to capture both bright and dark areas more clearly.

Similarly, Panasonic Visibility Enhancement Software improves the quality of images taken in lower visibility conditions such as snow, heavy rain, thicker fog and others. Panasonic Visibility Enhancement Software also works well for difficult lighting conditions. Applied to live or recorded video streams, it produces clear moving images in real time.

Compared to other technologies like infrared (IR) and/or thermal cameras that capture objects in black and white, Panasonic Visibility Enhancement Software keeps details such as color, contrast and background, which helps security personnel grasp the situation quickly.

Panasonic's pursuit for cutting edge technology continues with i-PRO SmartHD. The third generation i-PRO technology boasts Full HD image viewing quality, H.264 (High Profile) Compression and Face Detection and Face Matching capabilities. i-PRO regular features such as Adaptive Black Stretch (ABS), High Sensitivity and Auto Back Focus (ABF) are all present, taking the i-PRO portfolio to a whole new level. The cameras are available in fixed dome, fixed box or PTZ format.

TK: What do organizations need to consider in terms of bandwidth when they upgrade to HD? For example, should they do anything during the planning stage to ensure that the backhaul network can handle the additional traffic? Or is bandwidth typically not an issue?

HN: Together, bandwidth and access to digital network video are key factors in how well—or even whether—digital surveillance networks perform to expectations. However, organizations tend to approach bandwidth as purely a capacity issue and often underestimate access issues. Although capacity is critical, access requirements, that is, how an organization will optimize the connections between sources and destinations on the network, must be part of the design equation.

When it comes to video surveillance networks, bandwidth and access should not be considered independently. The variables of one have profound effects on the other. When designing a surveillance network, the bandwidth demands of the cameras that have been or will be deployed is only one variable in the equation. The degree to which the feeds from these cameras will need to be accessed, viewed and manipulated from various destinations on—and even beyond—the enterprise network, are just as essential to planning. Ultimately, surveillance network performance will be judged on how all responders can access the video feeds they need, even if a feed is being streamed from one camera out of hundreds or thousands on the network.

One of the recently typical compression method is Panasonic’s H.264. This method has the definition of the level representing the processing load and the amount of memory to be used (influencing the screen resolution and frame rate) together with the profile representing the integrated functions defined for each aim and use. According to the profile and level, you can often know the performance (or the requirements for the bit stream encoding) of an H.264-compliant device (or the bit rate itself). Panasonic H.264 profile has more dedicated coding technology against others which can lead to additional compression efficiency without losing picture quality.

Another feature called the VIQS (Variable Image Quality on Specified area) can divide the image quality settings depending on the importance of each capturing area to lower the transmission bit rate to a further extent. Applying VIQS can achieve more effective operation while saving the available space of recording storage. For our products, we have introduced UniPhier, which is the System LSI Chip originally developed and invested by the Panasonic group. When the VIQS function is activated, it will be possible to save the bit rate by 50% on average than the standard IP cameras of our competitors while transmitting high-quality images in a smaller data size compared to the conventional cameras.

TK: Regarding your answer to questions 1 and 2, let’s say that an organization does all those things. Then what should it consider on the control room side? For example, what kinds of product features and specs should it look for when choosing projectors, displays and other C&C infrastructure to ensure that the C&C now isn’t the weak link? Besides technological aspects, feel free to discuss the human element, such as ergonomics to minimize C&C staff fatigue, or strategies for minimizing a sense of overload as the number of feeds increases.

HN: The most important consideration for a control room must be usability. To design the type of security control room needed to address today's security needs and budgets, technology must be used to maximize the utility of the control room. Considerations such as cabinetry, ergonomic chairs, lighting, white boards, shredders and other accessories are also important.

Communication and command centers are at the heart of any security operation. Considering non-integrated solutions and poor system layout, and the added stress on security personnel could severely reduce overall security program effectiveness. Even with effective strategic planning and proper installation, the best solutions will fail if an effective, well-planned control room is not part of the mix.

For instance, Panasonic’s i-VMDhas six Intelligent Video features: Intruder Detection, Loitering Detection, Direction Detection, Scene Change Detection, Object Detection and Cross Line Detection. The i-VMD extracts information such as position, size, moving direction and staying time from the moving object detected and analyzes its behavior. As an example, the i-VMD determines if the moving object is loitering or walking normally and sends an alarm to the operators.

The most effective control rooms are not defined by placing every possible piece of equipment into the space. Instead, installers should start by placing all equipment that does not require hands-on attention for day-to-day operation in an equipment room connected to the command and communication center. This plan provides a cleaner, less-cluttered environment and will take some confusion out of the command center.

The current trend is to use a combination of both to effectively cover critical areas with active monitoring but to realize the effectiveness of intelligent video solutions to monitor for predetermined incidents; thus reducing operator fatigue and increasing response time. Without a comprehensive training program for security officers, the command center cannot operate effectively.

TK: A lot of law enforcement agencies are adding microphone-equipped surveillance cameras. In fact, some say they’re more interested in being able to hear what people are saying than being able to see what they’re doing. Are you finding the same interest in audio among the verticals you serve? If so, why?

HN: Audio surveillance equipment such as surveillance microphones are useful tools to add to your CCTV camera systems, however federal, state, and local laws must be considered before implementing such systems.

At Panasonic, we understand importance of audio transmission features well in some applications such as Bank and Police. Panasonic camera has audio capability and Network Video recorder also has audio recording capability. In addition we launched unique product of 360 degree camera and microphone for such market.

Panasonic’s Network Microphone with 360-degree Network Camera WV-SMR10N3 picks up clear sound of specified area in noisy or acoustically live environments. With multiple microphones, 360-degree audio monitoring from a specified direction is possible. While viewing a Panasonic 360-degree Network Camera image, audio from the desired location can be freely specified by clicking on that location. After recording audio to a Panasonic Network Disk Recorder*, the sound collecting direction can be specified while playing back the recorded image of the 360-degree Network Camera.

Microphones allow operators of surveillance systems to not only see what is going on at their home or business, but also allow you to hear what is going on. Having audio surveillance is a big step into making your business safe, productive, and secure. You will be able to hear what is being said and you can ensure that employees are safe.

However, using audio surveillance microphones should be planned carefully and it is very important that you ensure you understand the laws of your state, city and county before installing audio devices.

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