Vumii's Night Vision Surveillance Examined

By John Honovich, Published Sep 28, 2009, 08:00pm EDT

While thermal cameras and IR illuminators are the most common choice for night vision surveillance, Vumii offers an interesting 3rd option. Vummi's cameras produce and control their own IR illumination, allowing long range capabilities (1000 meters +)

A new product release from Vumii, called Claritii [link no longer available], helps to address one of the major drawbacks of Vumii for broader use - the high cost of Vumii's original, long distance, Sensorii product line [link no longer available]. By contrast, Claritti offers a shorter range (up to 800 meters) but at a substantially reduced price point to Sensorii.

Below is a sample video from Vumii that demonstrates Claritii:

Vumii positions its technologies to address specific technical weaknesses in IR illuminators and thermal cameras.

IR illuminators - Using IR illuminators with PTZ cameras has some constraints. Very few PTZ cameras are designed to work optimally with IR illuminators. Spot illuminators may be added to a scene with a PTZ but they only cover limited areas. Only a few controllable cameras are designed with IR illuminators integrated (see Bosch's ExtremeCCTV MIR400 [link no longer available], specified to 55 meters, and Raytec's IR pan-tilt unit [link no longer available] specified to 300 Meters). Additionally, IR illuminators often broad distances can result in some areas of the image being overexposed.

Thermal cameras - Most pan/tilt thermal cameras on the market offer an optical zoom color camera but fixed zoom thermal imagers. Some of the higher end thermal camera models offer 2 thermal imagers (at different lens lengths) enabling a wide and telephoto option. However, this eliminates the use of continuous zooming using thermal. Also, in general, while thermal benefits from not needing a light source, the images tend to be less sharp and detailed than images generated from projected IR light.

For an detailed examination of Vumii's competitive technology claims (compared to thermal), read Vumii's introductory whitepaper [link no longer available].

Product Overview

Vumii offers 3 main product lines: 2 cameras (Discoverii and Claritii) and a video monitoring system (Sensorii). Vumii's cameras also provide an analog video output and serial interface for camera control (Pelco D protocol, etc.) that can be managed by 3rd party VMS systems (the most commonly used option according to Vumii).

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Discoverii [link no longer available] is the original night vision camera system from Vumii. A variety of models are offered for Discoverii with the main difference between them being the distance objects can be detected at night/zero light.  For instance, the Discoverii 1000 is rated for human detection at up to 1.6 Km while the Discoverii 3000 is rated for human detection at up to 4.5 Km (see Discoverii's technical specifications [link no longer available]). Discoverii uses continuous wave illumination (this is noteworthy because the new product offering uses a different illumination process).

Claritii [link no longer available] is the new camera system from Vumii. Two models are currently available for Claritii - the 400 and 600, specified for night time human detection up to 600 and 800 meters respectively. Vumii is currently shipping models using 850 nm illuminators. Future models will support 940 nm illuminators (preferable for deployments where complete covertness of the IR source is critical).

Unlike Discoverii, Claritii uses focused-beam array LEDs. According to Vumii, "Most conventional LED emitters have wide-uncontrolled divergence of energy 20, 30, 45 degrees. While this is useful if you want to illuminate a wide field it does not enable illuminating much beyond 100 meters. Their LED array is highly aligned and focused to direct this energy in primarily a 5 degree beam ...[They] use a very specialized imager (not a normal mass market CCD) to be more sensitive to this emitted LED energy."

Pricing

Discoverii models have list pricing from about $55,000 USD to $200,000 USD. Claritii models have list pricing from about $20,000 USD to $40,000 USD. The range varies based on the models mentioned above.

Best Applications

The most important 3 characteristics for determining application fit for Vumii are likely (1) high security threat, (2) wide coverage areas, (3) importance of seeing details. Given the price of either camera system, it will be hard to justify the expense at sites that are not guarding critical infrastructure (military, airport, industrial, etc.). Since a large part of the cost is for the ability to optically zoom, small areas that can be satisfactorily covered with a fixed camera or commercially available IR PTZs.

Discoverii (the long range camera system) is probably most applicable in military or seaport/airport scenarios. There's very few commercial/industrial applications that require night monitoring of multiple kilometers away from the facility. However, this is common for military bases and ports.

By contrast, Claritii has the potential to open the market for Vumii's technology for the broader commercial/industrial market where a few hundred meters night-time coverage may be useful. Additionally, because of the lower price (MSRP pricing starting at $20,000 USD), these cameras should be price competitive with thermal PTZ cameras on the market (see a sample of thermal PTZ pricing).

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