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Beware! The ‘invisible’ eye is watching you

Huma Siddiqui
Financial express
Monday November 26, 2007

For years, enterprises have installed closed circuit TV (CCTV) almost exclusively for security monitoring despite its many shortcomings. For one, it is expensive and disruptive to install and its capabilities are limited. CCTV records images on videocassettes, so police and other emergency personnel can’t view the event live. However, in the wake of terrorist threats escalating worldwide, the need for a successor system—one that delivers secure, real-time images of an emergency as well as the flexibility to show both full-motion and still images—is increasingly being felt by enterprises and security establishment alike.

Enter internet-based video surveillance, a far superior alternative to CCTV. For, this technology offers real-time delivery of video and still images from a crime or emergency scene via a LAN or the internet. Do not be surprised but riding on this technology, countries are fast logging into the age of networked, highly computerised surveillance. Whether it is your private home, office, a retail store, or public areas and institutions, various types of surveillance technology—panning and tilting cameras, digital video recorders, hidden spy cameras, full-fledged motion-activated networked surveillance systems and IP technology-based surveillance systems—that keep an eye on all suspicious movements, are catching up globally.

Consider this. Almost two-thirds of New York residential and business premises are said to use surveillance products. In Britain, there are over four million digital video cameras scanning streets, parks, and government buildings. The older CCTV networks are fast giving way to smarter digital cameras and DVR-based surveillance gadgets, which provide clearer images and wider visual fields with automatic panning, tilting, and zooming. These smart digital cameras can be easily installed and networked with televisions, desktops and the internet. For those keeping a watchful eye, this gives greater ease and control. Typically, it is possible for a homeowner or shopkeeper to remote control the cameras and keep a check on suspicious moving objects with clear visual images, zooming and recording facilities. The trend is catching up in India as well. It is already on the radar of leading manufacturers of security and surveillance systems. Be it the Select Citywalk mall or Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi, or various corporate offices, it is IP-based CCTV doing the job of keeping a watchful eye on suspicious activities.

On the growing acceptance for internet-based IP surveillance, security analysts inform that the system uses a company’s existing network to transmit images from analogue cameras and/or IP cameras over public networks. These systems allow live streaming video and still image transfer (both one-way and two-way) at an average of 30 frames per second into a standard, easy-to-use web browser, so video can be viewed in real-time from police cars and other emergency vehicles.

IP-based systems deliver a great deal of additional functionality. For instance, they provide motion detection, auto time and date stamps, easy transfer of visuals, and pre- and post-alarm messaging. Business owners are notified immediately if any event occurs; they can then log on to the system remotely to see what’s happening in their offices and businesses.

Frost & Sullivan analysts inform that the traditional CCTV systems have witnessed an increase in demand due to technological improvements and advanced features in terms of integration with other access control technologies like biometrics and digital video software. Additionally, smart cameras that provide intelligent analysis of captured video images are also driving the market. While traditional CCTV solutions still account for majority of the market, analysts point to IP technology as the next step forward for surveillance systems. Moving from analogue to digital is heating up the security surveillance and monitoring market.

Analysts say that the trend from analogue CCTV to fully digital, network video surveillance is in its infancy and will ensure that the video surveillance market grows at a healthy pace for many years to come. Currently, Swedish manufacturer Axis dominates the market for network cameras. Other players in analogue cameras—Panasonic and Sony—are fast catching up. They are paying more attention to IP surveillance and are expected to launch a large number of IP-based surveillance products in the next year or two.

UK-based Dedicated Micros, a provider of digital video multiplex recorders and IP CCTV products for security applications, is launching its operations in India soon. The company’s security and surveillance products are already deployed in select locations like shopping malls, hotels and corporate offices. Globally, it boasts of deployment for public safety monitoring at London’s fashion district and Heathrow airport, Sydney Opera House, Qatar TV. In the Middle East, Sharjah Police uses the system for traffic monitoring and the Dubai Police for monitoring Gold Souk visitors.

Dedicated Micros’ country manager for India, Anwar J Hashmi, says, “Through our unique NetVu connected core architecture, we offer a diverse, innovative, seamlessly interoperable proposition for the Indian market to enhance public safety and security.” Recently, the company introduced its HighVu Excel Enterprise range. This is a modular, expandable, high performance CCTV recording and IP transmission solution with embedded analytics and scalable video wall capability. Company officials say that it represents a generational shift in the capability of systems in the enterprise field.

Even otherwise, technology has moved on dramatically in recent times with the flexibility of the latest, scalable, networked video over IP solutions coming under the spotlight in the ongoing battle against vandalism, criminal activity and global terrorism. Video over IP for surveillance really comes into its own on sites where video servers can be readily integrated into the existing computer infrastructure. This could be done by distributing video images on demand across a LAN or WAN to as many viewing terminals as required.

Security experts inform that when it comes to video over IP, there is a great deal of hype in the market. Much of this is created by those who only have IP products to sell, and IP infrastructure providers who want to stimulate traffic growth so that they can sell more routers and other networking products and services.

Germany-based Mobotix too is sounding the death knell for CCTV. Its country manager for India operations, Graham Wheeler, says a hunt was on for partners to help tackle the exploding IP video market. The company develops and manufactures professional network cameras for security systems, production monitoring and internet applications. In India, it is looking for systems integrators from the IT sector, communications integrators and dealers with a focus on security or process automation.

Insisting that IP video offers advantages over traditional analogue video technology as well as conventional webcams, Wheeler predicts a huge opportunity for the company’s products in the education and mining areas. In a nutshell, IP technology is the next step forward for surveillance systems.

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