Beautiful - the New Surveillance 'Standard'

By John Honovich, Published on Apr 04, 2012

Crappy video quality is expected with surveillance. Grainy, fuzzy, pixilated, blurred images are the norm. In the UK, the common refrain is even that "80% of CCTV is not fit for purpose."

Megapixel adoption, over the last few years, deliveres more details but still produces poor video in many conditions. Arecont cameras are a great example of this. Outstanding when lighting conditions are perfect but they fall apart in a hurry when subject to sun or darkness.

However the situation is improving for manufacturers across the board, Arecont included. With a new generation of sensors and software improvements, beautiful is now becoming the new surveillance standard.

Historically, surveillance video frequently looked like this:

Now, new surveillance cameras routinely deliver beautiful images. Indeed, as we walked the show floor at ISC West, with a new generation of HD cameras being released, 'beautiful' seems to be expected. Images like the one below will increasingly be taken for granted:

What's Driving This

We see two key factors:

  • Improved Sensors: On the consumer side, sensors are getting much better and less expensive simultaneously. Now, multimegapixel sensors that support streaming at 1080p/60fps are increasingly commonplace. They also often have improved WDR capabilities. A recent good example is Aptina's 1/3" sensor release [link no longer available].
  • Better Firmware Optimization: As vendors get more experience with HD and the market becomes more competitive, development is shifting to optimizing image quality processing. The biggest name example is Axis Lightfinder (1602, 1604, etc.) but we are hearing this from many vendors (e.g., Arecont's WDR offering).

The Impact

Over the new few years, beatiful video quality is going to become the norm. This is going to be a big shift for the industry:

  • Better WDR / Better Low Light: The two weak points of HD video are rapidly being resolved.
  • Competitive Expectations: Having beautiful video quality will be accepted as tablestakes for new cameras. Today, you can still blow people away with surveillance video that looks like a movie but that is going to fade away.
  • Pressure on SD: Improvements in overall HD quality will make the gap between SD and HD even more significant. Last year, we called 'SD the new VHS.' This year's improvements make the gap even bigger.
  • Better Industry Perception: As 'beautiful' HD cameras are deployed, the long standing negative reputation of the industry delivering low quality video will change. Of course, this likely take the rest of the decade as it takes time to roll out new deployments. However, this is inevitable as adoption spreads.
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