History of Video Surveillance

Author: John Honovich, Published on Sep 22, 2016

This is a concise history of video surveillance covering the past decade.

The goal is to help professionals newer to the industry understand the important business and technology shifts that impact the market today. It is not intended to cover every point or the origins of video surveillance.

2006

In 2006, the industry was dominated by DVRs and SD analog cameras.

VMS software and IP cameras were still niche. Some megapixel cameras were offered but they were far more expensive than analog ones and only supported MJPEG encoding, making the storage and transmission of these cameras even more expensive.

Analytics was fairly 'hot' in 2006, driven by its potential and VC funding, though with very limited deployments.

The major players were generally Western and Japanese large manufacturers, with Chinese branded sales nearly non-existent in the West (Dahua and Hikvision were mostly unknown) and notable companies today like Axis, Milestone and Genetec still relative 'startups' (while Avigilon only started selling commercially in 2007).

2008 - 2012 MP Cameras Go H.264

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The single biggest driver for IP was the adoption of H.264 for MP cameras. This drove mainstream IP camera deployment and, by extension, VMS software. With MP H.264, IP was able to deliver clear benefits in resolution with reasonable increases in total costs (compared to the earlier MJPEG only MP era).

2009 - 2013 Cloud Hype / Bursts

Along with the rise of MP / IP cameras came significant interest in connecting those cameras to the cloud. The hope was that it would eliminate on-site recording, on-site maintenance, etc. Bandwidth limitations and poor cloud VMS capabilities doomed this. It never really gained much market share and with EMC dumping Axis, it marked the end of that era / error.

2011 - Today Fall of Video Analytics

Video analytics never went mainstream, marred by performance problems and unhappy customers. 2011, with ObjectVideo suing Bosch, Samsung and Sony confirmed and deepened the problems of video analytics, with OV, one of the most well funded analytics companies effectively ending commercial sales and suing the industry. OV essentially won, with Avigilon paying nearly $80 million for ObjectVideo patents in 2014. The industry lost, though, as analytics remains a niche offering with minimal industry investment.

2012 - 2014 Rise and Fall of Edge Storage

For a few years, many saw edge storage as being a potential next big thing but it has ultimately become a niche. The promise of edge storage was to eliminate NVRs / recorder appliances as the storage and software could be deployed inside the IP camera. Reliability problems hurt early adopters. And the rise of low cost Chinese NVRs (a few hundred dollars is now commonplace) as well as HD analog for even less (see below) has pushed edge storage as more of a niche providing redundancy for higher-end applications.

WDR and Low Light Improvements

Cameras have much become better handling challenging imaging conditions, especially harsh lighting and darkness. A decade ago, WDR cameras were fairly limited and expensive (this was when Pixim was considered leading edge). Low light performance was generally poor. And these problems were even worse for MP cameras where real WDR was essentially non-existent and low light performance was often terrible. The state of the art in our WDR Shootout 2011 is nothing compared to even 'average' true WDR cameras today.

Smart CODECs 2015 - Current

In the past 2 years, one of the biggest changes has been the rise of 'Smart CODECs' that dynamically adapt compression and I frame interval to scene conditions. This is delivering 50% bandwidth reductions regularly vs H.264. It is also delaying / offsetting the need to move to H.265. As Smart CODECs are more broadly supported, this will drive down storage costs and remote networking challenges.

Rise of HD Analog 2014 - Current

SD analog is finally dead and it was killed off by HD analog. For more than a decade, IP was the only practical way to deliver MP / HD. But just in the past few years, HD analog, which transmits over coaxial cable just like NTSC / PAL, has exploded. It has nearly wiped our SD analog, dominating home / SMB kit sales and is expanding in the low to mid market. Now, the question / debate is how far it will move upmarket, with some arguing that HD analog is only a temporary solution and others contending HD analog will expand features and options for high end buyers.

Rise Cybersecurity 2015 - Current

Only recently has cybersecurity become a major topic in video surveillance, though it still remains a secondary concern for most. This has been partially driven by mainstream events (the Sony hacking, various US government hacks, etc.) and also by Hikvision hacks and, most recently, Axis' major exploit. However, except for the high-end of the market, most video surveillance users perceive the real risk as low as shown in our Cyber Security For Video Surveillance Study.

2013 - Today Rise of The Chinese

Even in 2012, Chinese manufacturers had negligible market share in branded Western sales. For example, see our 2010 Hikvision IP camera test to see how bad they were back then. Indeed, Hikvision saw Western direct branded sales as a 'dream' in 2009.

While the Chinese had, for many years, been OEM suppliers to Western brands, it has only been the last 3 - 4 years where Chinese branded sales have exploded in the West.

Before the Chinese expanded in the Western market, $300 was considered low cost for IP cameras, now $100 (or less) MP cameras are commonplace. In particular, Hikvision has also been very aggressive about offering across the board price cuts monthly, something previously very rare in the industry. These moves combined have resulted in a significant ongoing shift to Chinese brands.

Race To The Bottom

Today, the biggest factor is the 'race to the bottom', as manufacturers keep cutting prices, some to gain share (Hikvision) and others simply to stay alive.

How this ends will determine the next era of history in the video surveillance market.

Comments (16)

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I still say we should go back to VCRs. Impervious to hacking!

Not to mention true plug 'n play!

Well done JH...simple and concise history lesson.

Ive started offering to bring in a crew of full time court artists to draw what they see in real-time. The RMR is INCREDIBLE!

Someone asked me for a VCR recorder the other day...

"Someone asked me for a VCR recorder the other day..."

Get him one, it may be important...

Nice article! Congrats!

I remember the good 'ol days of using switchers, quad splitters and multiplexers when used with VCRs. This was 1995 to 2002 when PC based DVRs came onto the scene being led by the Koreans - IDIS, Kodicom etc.

Who remembers 'Hyperscan' by Robot (then became sensormatic)? Video transmission over POTS lines.... 1 frame per 10 seconds. Then 8x8 came around and offered a better POTS based video xmission system.

Sanyo by far offered the best VCRs (they actually built VCRs for Sony). I recall selling them by the skid for casino projects along with T160 VHS tapes.

Good times...lol

Remember when BNCs came in three pieces, and had to be soldered on?

BNC's ha ha. anybody remember PL-259's and triax cable. Motorola Mocam, Silicon Intensified Target, RCA before Burle and Vicon before Pelco buried them in the dust... adjusting target and beam, manually back focusing lenses. Oops, showing my age.

My dad used to tell me scary stories of burnt-in video tubes when I was a little kid.

And there used to be TV repairmen that made house calls.

They had one or two large boxes containing various replacement tubes. The troubleshooting consisted of swapping-in new tubes until the problem went away, and then swapping back out everything but the last tube replaced.

My next-door neighbor was kind enough to let this pestering 10 year old tag along occasionally, and I was convinced I would soon follow in his trade.

Til we got a Trinitron.

One of my Chinese partners calls our Industry the "Setting Sun" industry, because it's certainly not a rising sun industry...

After the Sun sets in the West, it rises in the East...

Anyone remember plugging a quad or switcher into the 16th port on the DVR because the customer couldn't afford a second DVR but they needed 18, 19 or 20 cams?

Get off my lawn you damn kids!

I hate admitting this, but Im also glad I wasnt the only one. In my case it was because they didnt want to pay for more than one wireless transmitter.

Oh, I did that all the time. This worked best if the DVR had a programmable spot monitor or even just a video output. Dedicate a monitor to the quad channel and you're good to go.

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