Digital CCTV network solutions

In 2005, a host of new technologies will be employed by plant managers to oversee their facilities. Despite a spate of digital CCTV product introductions during 2004, analog-based video system components remain the dominant choice.

By Darren Nicholson, VP-Marketing, GE Infrastructure-Security, Commercial Solutions, Andrew Bulkley, Senior Director-Project Strategy, GE Infrastructure-Security, Enterprise Solutions February 10, 2005
Key Concepts
  • Current challenges of analog-based systems

  • IP-based video networks and analog equipment integration

  • CCTV platform: Software and product suites

    CCTV wish list
    Bridging from analog to digital IP
    Seamless solution
    Existing revolution
    More Info:

    In 2005, a host of new technologies will be employed by plant managers to oversee their facilities. Despite a spate of digital CCTV product introductions during 2004, analog-based video system components remain the dominant choice.

    Analog cameras and domes have no IP-connectivity. Video switching products continue to be limited to commercial and local site applications and only interface with similarly proprietary branded products. Although digital video recorders provide analog-to-digital conversion, they act as a local site device with limited remote access. Software solutions offer limited functionality and low integration opportunities among platforms.

    What are the resulting problems? Usually, these systems do not provide facility management with the types of solutions needed today.

    For instance, analog video does not provide data for intelligent video, an evolving requirement for improved security. Plant engineering may want to focus a camera on a specific machine and, if something out of the ordinary happens, program the system to provide an alert.

    Present systems are difficult and expensive to configure on a network, creating problems with the IT department, which is becoming more and more involved in the selection of security systems. In a global world of multi-campus users, present systems tend to be local and single-site focused.

    CCTV wish list

    Plant management wants to transition from analog components to true digital networks that create virtual security systems to meet their changing infrastructures and security needs. As such, they need seamless solutions that dramatically improve the effectiveness of their employees — systems that are as close to plug-and-play as possible.

    While plant management is being asked for dramatically increased security, budgets remain flat. Although it would be nice to cast out the old system and replace it with one that is completely new, digital, and intelligent, this reality doesn’t exist except for the lucky few.

    With the advent of software solutions becoming the backbones for network systems, there is an impending requirement for open systems that work with a myriad of standards. Proprietary is simply no longer acceptable and will not stand the scrutiny of the IT department. In such a world, hardware becomes co-dependent on software solutions. No longer is software simply the glue that brings disparate hardware components together. Software now takes the lead while hardware follows.

    In the near future, with IT departments making more security decisions, current and future security products will require network environments to operate. That means that managers will need to create network platforms that support intelligent video and other vertical productivity tools. As the CCTV system is being used to observe threats and fraud, it must also be available to manufacturing, human resources, quality control, and other departments who are facing the same infrastructure and virtual systems challenges.

    Bridging from analog to digital IP

    Users need to implement strategies that create an IP-based video network while still using their existing analog equipment.

    Users need to bridge the gaps between analog and digital systems by connecting IP platform cameras, digital video recorders, and PCs and servers directly to their networks. New encoders/decoders provide network access for currently used analog cameras and monitors. Such innovations provide high scalability and solve complicated security issues in small to large enterprise business environments.

    The brains of the system are the encoders and decoders, which provide network access for currently used analog cameras and monitors. As old analog equipment wears out, it is replaced by IP-platform equipment and, of course, any added components are also from the IP platform. As more and more IP-platform equipment is added, the system becomes more and more powerful and easy to use and install.

    For instance, an IP platform camera lets customers use an existing Ethernet network to send video signals. Wherever users can access an IP network, they will be able to access cameras and digital recorders to view high-quality digital images up to D1 resolution. They can gracefully move to an integrated, or hybrid, IP platform for all of their security applications.

    Besides Ethernet outputs, these new cameras will also feature standard coaxial cable connector outputs, providing a direct network connection while supporting existing analog equipment. A built-in MPEG-4 encoder compresses video output to preserve network performance without compromising image quality. Users will be able to add either live or recorded audio.

    New digital recorders introduce hybrid recording that works with both conventional analog cameras and the new family of IP digital cameras. It lets users record full-sized images at full speed on every channel. Using MPEG-4 compression, video streaming recorders will record at 60, 30, 20, 10 and 5 fields per second and have full Triplex functionality for simultaneous viewing, playback, and recording of video.

    Streaming video capabilities will offer up to four single channels of recording at D1 (broadcast-quality digital video format) quality or four channels of CIF (common intermediate format, a pixel standard) quality. A removable hard drive caddy provides portable storage. It, too, can be easily networked and viewed remotely via Ethernet.

    The IP platform encoders/decoders will allow connections of any existing analog cameras, domes, keyboards, and monitors to an IP network. This encoder converts video from analog cameras into an MPEG-4 data stream of 2Mb/s. Decoders convert the MPEG-4 data stream back to composite NTSC output for viewing on traditional analog monitors. Two built-in serial ports on each unit let users communicate with pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras on the network using RS-232 or RS-485 protocol from a PC or keypad connected to an encoder.

    Importantly, the network’s IP software lets users view their entire network through their PCs. Since the network’s inputs are not multiplexed, they can see real-time, full-motion video of broadcast quality images at 30 fps for each channel. They can call up four cameras at one time or view video in a single window. They can also find video storage quickly by searching for time/date, camera, alarm, event, or transaction text. The software also lets users control PTZ cameras.

    That’s a big change from today’s systems but should be common before 2005 is over.

    Seamless solution

    Security and facility management must be integrated into one system. All applications, presently disjointed, need to be viewed within a single easy-to-use interface. All hardware — even video, alarm and printing equipment — must work seamlessly within its framework.

    The ability to enter security and facilities data just once and have the framework synchronize with existing legacy systems automatically is a reality being utilized by innovative leading companies. With a standards-based command and control integration platform, these organizations integrate multiple aspects of their security and facility management within a single screen.

    Such a single, intuitive interface provides one console for all access control, video surveillance, and alarm management functions as well as integration with enterprise resource planning, human resources, and other enterprise application software tools.

    From the console, users can view live images from surveillance cameras, control pan/tilt/zoom cameras or search for video clips stored on digital video recorders (DVR) by time, date, event, event type, camera, or DVR. When an event or alarm is triggered, the system can tell the DVR to begin recording, display live video from a linked camera at the location, map the alarm location, and send an e-mail to the plant manager. Even if the present video system employs analog equipment, it will work, automating camera call-ups on specific monitors when events and alarms occur.

    Existing revolution

    The new digital software platforms will not only provide IP-based management, configuration, and control, but also will additionally enable quick and seamless intelligent video deployment and provide an operations platform for business productivity solutions. We’ll move from a world of physical switching to one of virtual matrix switching and from physical recording to virtual recording and archiving.

    The new CCTV platform will create full-package business solutions that include both software and product suites for specific security and business productivity needs as wanted by plant facility applications.

    More Info:

    The authors can be contacted for questions. Darren Nicholson can be reached at 714-427-2004. Andy Bulkley can reached at 561-998-6134. Article edited by Jim Silvestri, Managing Editor, 630-288-8777, .