HD Decoder / Thin Clients

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 31, 2014

Monitoring IP video frequently requires adding a dedicated PC to decode and display videos. This even more challenging with HD video streams, as most decoders are SD only.

Now, Aimetis is releasing the A10D thin client, and ACTi is releasing the ECD-1000, mini appliances designed to eliminate the need for a dedicated PC.

In this note, we examine its functionalities and pricing compared to traditional decoders, the NLSS HD decoder and mini PCs/ Raspberry Pi devices.

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Comments (63)

Being PoE powered is pretty neat, but I wonder how necessary it really would be. Since it would be connecting to a monitor/TV, I'd think there'd either be a local AC power source or if it's an extension cord, you just put a splitter socket on it. I think they would have done better going AC and making it a little more powerful for better than 3 X 3, like maybe 4 X 3 or 4 X 4. These products definitely need ONVIF for mass appeal.

Hi Luis,

You may have power near by, but PoE provides the following benefits:

  • High availability for power and guarantees uninterrupted services, a requirement for critical applications.
  • Lower OpEx by providing network resiliency at lower cost by consolidating backup power into the wiring closet.
  • Faster deployment by eliminating the need for a power outlet for every endpoint.

We will investigate the possibility of allowing a 4 x 4 view (but perhaps at a lower frame rate). ONVIF is on the roadmap.

Justin, the benefits you list for POE are generally true, however Luis' intuition about this specific application is justified, since your benefits are nullified thusly:

High availability for power and guarantees uninterrupted services, a requirement for critical applications.

Who cares about the decoder staying on if the TV turns off? They are kinda in it together, so they could share...

Lower OpEx by providing network resiliency at lower cost by consolidating backup power into the wiring closet.

TV would already have its own source of UPS if it really needed to have HA. Sharing with the decoder would add little load.

Faster deployment by eliminating the need for a power outlet for every endpoint.

There would already be a 'drop' for the TV.

Rukmini,

I agree with your points for the most part. However in a video wall scenario, your total power budget matters. Devices that are PoE powered (which are low voltage) can make a big difference when you have a high concentration of monitors in a control room.

In a small scenario, normally a public view monitor doesn't have a dedicated UPS. If you are sharing the same power outlet, the PC may not fair well if power is interrupted (e.g. Windows can get corrupted). The PC also has moving parts (e.g. fan, hard disk) so you are worried about the maintenance costs if you have hundreds of extra PCs in the field just to decode video to a monitor. A PoE powered embedded device is safer, more secure and more reliable.

If you are sharing the same power outlet, the PC may not fair well if power is interrupted...

I think its was only a casual remark by Luis so I won't defend it anymore except to say that he wasn't comparing to a PC, he was comparing your device as it stands to your device without POE..

Correct me if I am wrong (like I need to say that here!), but at these prices why not just have a PC? With a PC you would be able to put whatever VMS/Client on it that you needed AND be able to have all the other functionality of a PC.

Ross, we've used the NLSS decoder before and the benefits were 1.) super compact size, 2.) purpose built software interface for camera layouts and rotating tours, 3.) did not require a VMS client license- the decoder was connected to the camera network and took it's streams directly from the cameras. So no overheard on the VMS server for serving up another client and again no license required.

Now some VMS systems don't require client licenses, and I'm sure if we put in the time and effort we could have come up with a similar solution. We just haven't had the time to put the effort into it, so it's an easy way to achieve a goal when there is already a solution ready.

As to the cost, if you are farmiliar somewhat with building computers, and you may be, compact computers that still have high performance (like to decode h264 streams), cost a lot more money than when you have a full size PC chassis. The technology to minituarize it make's it expensive. If you have somewhere to put a fill size computer somewhere then that would be great and more cost effective. But having it small sized is necessary when you don't have many places to put it.

Thanks Luis, Thank Ross.

I'd add at ~$500, these appliances get a lot more attractive as even a modest PC is going to run around the same price.

That noted, I agree with you Ross if you want a full VMS client (with playback) and/or web browsing, a general purpose PC is advantageous.

Thanks Luis! I can vouch for smaller PC's not having the guts to handle video streams very well. This is our new corporate standard http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/desktops/thinkcentre/m-series-tiny/m73/ for PC. It can not even handle 1280 X1024 resolution once I add multiple monitors. However, it does look snazzy on my desk.

Check out the m90 tiny Lenovo. We have used the version with the i7, and it is great. The power brick is a beast, but the PC itself is nice and tiny. We even got some on amazon prime for an incredible price, no lead time, next day air ship, and it had the DVD drive module. Only thing it didn't have was the HDMi output, but the other video outputs were find with cable/adapters.

Update model number:

Lenovo ThinkCentre M93p Desktop Computer - Intel Core i7 i7-4765T 2 GHz - Tiny - Business Black 10AB0030US

[Note: Poster is from Aimetis]

In some cases you specifically do not want a PC or full VMS client, because the VMS client is overkill for the current scenario and maintaining the PC is expensive (spinning hard disk, fan, blue screen, etc). I see Windows get corrupted often for numerous reasons (e.g. power was interrupted) and an expensive Windows re-install is needed. IT is forced to keep all these PCs updated with the latest anti-virus, Windows updates, etc. All this goes away with an appliance that is locked down with no moving parts.

One is not better than the other. I think for certain applications, a Thin Client is easier to install & maintain and delivers all the functionality required, and in other applications a PC solution is more appropriate. At least now there is more choice.

"Thanks Luis! I can vouch for smaller PC's not having the guts to handle video streams very well. "

Ross, you may have gotten a Core i3 CPU or lesser powered version. Out of curiosity, since this is like a baseline for a mini-pc that I think is related to the conversation, can you tell me what CPU it shows in there? Just right click Computer or This PC -> Properties and it should tell you.

Justin, can you tell us what CPU is in the A10D. I looked at the specs and don't see it.

Should be noted that min-decoders like this can still perform well if they have lightweight processors, if they also have a light weight operating system and display software that does not take up so much system overhead. When you have a PC running a full (ie. bloated) operating system like Windows it leaves less system resources for decoding and displaying video. If it's a Windows computer, not couting Embedded versions, I'd speculate you'd probably want at least a Core i5 CPU or better for effective multi or single full size display. But again, that's speculation on my part as to exact requirements. In any case, it's one of the tradeoff's you get with a purpose built decoder versus a full thick client PC, unless you have the know how and resources to do something like install a pared down or very small distro of say Linux with video display software that suits your needs.

Luis,

It is running an ARM processor with Linux as the OS. It is not PC based hardware.

Thanks!

I just got mine this morning so I am still setting it up. I just know it cannot run our full client due to previous IT testing. Well I should say it can run the client but it cannot run it using multiple monitors as we normally do. It did OK on a single monitor not running any of our other programs. OK here is what I show on this new Lenovo:

That's what I figured. You got the low end side of the CPU configuration options.

ThinkCentre M73 Specs

You need to make better friends with the IT or procurement department. :)

That just goes to show the limitations of compact computers as surveillance display computers if it is not built or configured towards that end.

My friends in IT are why I even got a PC to replace my dead one! The company policy is one computer per person and since I had a laptop and PC I was already getting pressure to lose the PC. Right now IT is working on something to replace our machines in dispatch that are running XP. Wanting to replace four PC’s with two. The best they can come up with is using an additional $450 video card on each PC so each one can run four monitors a piece. Running our dispatch program, reporting program, regular Office programs, email/IM, Picture Perfect access control client, On Guard VMS client and Pelco DX Client tends to really bog down the computers!

So maybe one of these devices would work in place of that pricey video card.

The Raspberry PI is still a useful decoder. HDMI and composite out. Provided you have the right software running on it, you can decode high resolution at full frame rates ( H264 only I believe ). Can't beat it at $35 a decoder ( plus case / extras )

Mark, we have tested the Raspbery Pi and mention this in the main post above.

Yep, thanks for the link. Still a very cool platform ;)

What software do you run on the PI to use it as a decoder?

I need something reliable that can handle slit view, onvif and autostart after a power failure.

You can make one of these yourself, compatible with the VMS of your choice, by buying a NUC series computer, running the client software on it, and connecting to an HDMI television. In fact, that's probably what these units are.

Impressive units. Just a little pricey though. I googled them at $370

I believe that price is bare bones, sans OS and peripherals. Still though big upside is that you can then load a full VMS client.

Also consider Fit-PC New Surveillance Offerings

Right, and the OS and peripherals will bring it up to the ~$500 ACTi and aimetis is charging.

Great conversation thread and I found it useful and informative. In my particular case, having a dedicated application for HD streaming is the way to go for my application.

thanks all...

Has anyone used the Utilite Pro? It has quad core A9 processor, dual HDMI, dual Gig-E NIC, wifi, bluetooth, 2GB Ram & 32GB SSD for $219 on Amazon.com.

I wonder what Aimetis and ACTi mean with future ONVIF support.

Are we talking Profile S here or are we talking about implementatin of Onvif NVD (Network Video Display) type that potentially would allow 3rd party VMS clients to control these devices

Anyone have a decoder unit that will support Avigilon cameras up to 1080P with full framerate? We have tested ACTI's unit but will only decode the I Frames. A Windows or Android computer is not an option.

Michael, you think something like this might work...

Viewz IP Monitor

I know you said no Windows or Android computer, but this is like an Android smart TV. Most everything is going to have Android or Linux built in.

No that will not work as from what I understand that would use the Andriod app to display the video. I am looking for a solution that will decode the stream directly from the camera via RTSP or ONVIF.

Is it that you want to make sure the display comes back up if the monitor reboot? Because the manual indicates this is an option.

Or are you trying to avoid a specific branded app? Because it also seems to indicate it has it's own built in application for streaming cameras.

Manual

Is it you think an app in an Anroid OS environment would not be powerful enough?

This is a reliability issue as these monitors need to be up 24/7 and can't rely on a server which when updated or rebooted the monitor would lose the view.

The Viewz monitor has a app that will display a few manufacturers of cameras, as well as RTSP streams directly. The app is setup to auto run when the monitor boots, in case of power failure, etc. They also have this in a PVM.

Works great. I can decode fullHD h.264 stream on it.

Thanks for chiming in on the actual experience, Aaron, as it looks pretty interesting. They actually list on the website integration with various VMS companies including Avigilon, Geutebruck (our flagship) and Aimetis, among others.

VMS Partners

Going to see if I can get a demo from a local rep.

Luis I think that monitor you linked to has the builtin camera that is supported in different VMS platforms not the monitor that will decode camera streams.

Viewz has a PVM with a built in camera. That also has the android device so it can display the IP camera.

They seperately have a monitor with IP display via android.

The latest app now has generic RTSP input.

Thanks for the info and I will have a look but I am more intrested in a decoder box that we can connect to the current monitor or to any size monitor that we would need for the application.

Yes, but it linked to the VMS partner page from the monitor I linked, so I would guess there would be some association..... maybe.

I also agree, it would be nicer is they made it an add on box like Aimetis or NLSS decoder boxes.

Can't say I've used it personally, but if you are looking for options, Antrica (UK) has a couple of ONVIF decoders that claim 1080p/60. Their market is more broadcast video than CCTV, as evidenced by the dual HDMI/SDI outputs.

Still worth a look.

Which Avigilon camera? If it supports ONVIF, the Aimetis Thin Client will be able to decode 1080p30.

It would be the H3, H3a or the new H3C cameras all are H.264

I am looking for a decoder that will pull the stream directly from the camera not though the server.

Justin if you work for Aimetis please reach out to me.

Yes I work for Aimetis. You can reach me at 519-746-8888 and just ask for me.

I have used decoders in corrections, where they need to view the cameras to open the gates/doors. If the PC goes down due to a reboot, windows update, crash, etc., then the doors are staying shut. They want something that will boot up when powered on and be ready with no input (logging on, pop ups, notifications, etc) in seconds, not minutes...

Schools also like decoder for a SRO, so they don't need to provide a PC, which can get used/abused, lost, stolen, needs to be managed, and may need a client license. The decoder can be mounted behind a monitor, and be done with it...

There are also systems (IP matrix) where you can do a "video push" to the decoder to provide some control functions.

I can confirm that the Aimetis Decoder works well with Avigilon cameras up to 1080P 30FPS. You can display one camera at 1080P or up to 16 cameras at lower resolution. Very nice unit and a great addition to our tool box. Thank you for all your help Justin!!

To add it takes 30sec for the video to display after network cable is connected.

How many seconds latency?

latency depends on a number of factors, but should be around 200 ms.

Aimetis has a new 2.0 thin client appliance. Main new addition is playback and exporting for Aimetis' Symphony VMS. Existing units can be ugpraded for free. Price is the same.

Marketing video embedded below:

Great product.

Ooh, the most exciting thing announced for ASIS! So far.

DW has announced a 4 channel HD spot monitor, MSRP ~$300.

I just picked up one of the DW Spot today. So far, I have not been able to get it working. It does not allow you to specify an IP address for cameras, only "search" for cameras. In my case it will see 7 IP cameras, but 5 of the 7 are showing up as "169.*.*.*" addresses. The other 2 show up as the correct address, but you have to select them and then enter the "device ID" and password. Not sure about the device ID as 6 of the 7 are cameras and one is an Axis encoder. I have tried nothing, 0, 1-10, etc as the id and every time it tells me the id and password don't match(cameras and encoder). I guess I will have to call DW tech support.

Crud. We bought one too, but have not had a chance to try it yet. Anyone else have one that has had better luck than Joe?

Disclaimer : I work for DW

Joe please send me your contact information and I will have a tech reach out to you and help you get going.

My email is patrick@digital-watchdog.com.

My cell is 813-545-9549 if you need anything else.

Thanks

Patrick Kelly

Hello all. I actually had a need for a public view monitor decoder, so based on this very thread, I contacted Justin at Aimetis.

The setup is very easy and very fast. You basically plug it in, go to the web page, scan for open cameras, select the cameras you want and add them. You may have to put in the camera's password if it's not the default. You can define the camera layout on the web page and it pushes it to the screen.

On the actual device itself, you can plug in a USB mouse and it becomes a thin client workstation. The mouse gives you the ability to blow up specific cameras or work PTZ controls. Being able to multi purpose one device for 2 roles is really nice and I can see lots of uses for it. The response and refresh rate looks decent. I have 12 cameras on it now and it doesn't seem to be stressing at all. To be fair, it's an office with few people in it so it's not overly taxed. But, so far, so good. The A10D is worth a look

How much was it (if you don't mind telling us) and what brand cameras are you running on it?

MSRP is $550.

It's mostly Sony, Panasonic and IQEye.

Apparently it grabs the secondary H264 stream so you need to make sure whatever cameras you use will dual stream

I think we may give it a try.

Right now we are using Lenel Video Viewer to do it, but that requires a PC and an install of the client. Which is a pain to do on a remote machine.

Found it for $430 at a place we have bought from before.

LINK

That's a great update, Scott! Thanks.

We have one customer with about 20 of the Aimetis decoders with a mix of Avigilon encoders and IP cameras. So far so good as everything has been working for about 6 months even with multiple decoders connected to the same cameras and encoders.

You have to make sure your cameras support 1080P resolution if you want full 1080P resolution for full screen mode. If you want a matrix view the decoder will not decode multiple 1080P so you will need to make sure your cameras support a lower resolution for matrix view. Also you want to make sure your monitor supports 1080P or 720P resolution. If you have a 1080P camera and 720P monitor if will not work as the decoder will not transcode the video down to 720P for the monitor.

Also just as an FYI.. the VESA mount is not included.. It does come with screws for a wall mount and screws for a back of a monitor mount for desktop use. But the VESA is another part number

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