PTZ Usage Declining, Multiple Fixed MP Replacing 2014

By John Honovich, Published Jul 06, 2014, 08:00pm EDT

New IPVM statistics show the rate of PTZ declines, where they are still being heavily used and what the most common replacement for PTZs is.

Overall, just 1 in every 10 cameras being deployed by integrators today are PTZs.

Integrators are fairly consistent in rarely using PTZs now, with only a few outliers with significant PTZ percentages: 

Multiple Fixed Megapixel Instead

The most common alternative integrators used was multiple fixed cameras instead of PTZs. Here's some sample comments:

  • "We typically install 2-3 megapixel cameras in place of the PTZ"
  • "Most of our new design utilize more fixed high MP cameras instead of PTZ."
  • "Most customers will typically install multiple fixed cameras over using PTZ"
  • "If no one is running the PTZs, then we feel there is no point in installing them. Especially when you can install 2-3 fixed cameras for the price of the one PTZ."
  • "We find that you can usually install many fixed cams in place if one PTZ and have many POVs vs just one. The cost premium with a PTZ just isn't logical."
  • "Megapixel offers high resolution and 1 ptz costs the same as 2-3 fixed."

Especially with the decline in fixed MP pricing, one can easily buy 3 or even 5 fixed cameras for the price of a single PTZ. Plus, with megapixel now being common, the coverage area of 3 individual fixed cameras is far greater than the traditional SD / analog alternatives. 

Of course, the other major benefit is that these fixed cameras record their entire FoV continuously while a moving PTZ only captures where it is aimed at any given time.

At the same time, integrators typically avoided replacing a single PTZ with a single MP fixed camera, as a fixed wide FoV camera can rarely capture key details more than 10 meters away (e.g., a 1080p camera with an 80 FoV delivers 40ppf only up to 29 feet away from the camera).

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Moreover, integrators did point out 2 key areas where PTZs are still valuable:

Large Areas

Many integrators emphasized the need for PTZ, and the corresponding limitations of even MP fixed cameras, when covering large areas: 

  • "We've had a few administrators in schools want to be able to pan and look around to see very large areas up to a 270deg fov."
  • "Outdoor carparks and storage areas where user wants to be able to view entire area."
  • "Typically, we use them outdoor and to cover large areas or far away distances, such as parking lots."
  • "Large areas where I need more detail or the area is too large, too expensive to accomplish coverage with fixed cameras. Controlled by Monitoring Station Operators."

For instance, even if you put (3) 5MP cameras side by side covering narrow 30 degree FoVs each, you would only cover ~40 meter distance with 40ppf. By contrast, PTZ users routinely cover area 100+ meters away from a camera.

Live Operators

At the same time, integrator after integrator emphasized how, even with large areas, users still need to have dedicated operators to make use out of PTZs:

  • "We don't recommend them to typical end-users if they don't have an operator to actively move the camera around."
  • "PTZ are overrated and do not work unless used to supplement fixed cameras and have someone operating them 24/7."
  • "Only where there is a guard station that is viewing 24/7."
  • "Mainly they are used if the site has a control room with manned personnel"
  • "The PTZ cameras are very effective only if someone is able to manipulate them."
  • "We are adding PTZs mainly for manned systems as a tool to access alarms and events."
  • "Most of our clients do not have dedicated personnel to operate a PTZ effectively."

Construction / Housing

Though many mentioned typical PTZ use cases like shopping centers, parking lots, airports, military, etc., one less common use case was mentioned frequently: 

  • "These are typically installed outdoors at construction sites where the GC wants to see how the project is progressing and to keep an eye on subs and equipment."
  • "Use them on boom cranes at construction sites by project managers and safety officer."
  • "we use for construction sites and time lapse projects."
  • "We also find that our estate owners here in Florida like to have what we call a Pleasure PTZ. They use them to look at the beach or their dock/boat or great ocean views."

Declined

Compared to 2012 PTZ statistics, IPVM estimates that PTZ usage is down from ~15% of all cameras to ~10. This is a combination of more fixed cameras being used and less PTZs.

In addition to the emergence of fixed megapixel, a few integrators noted that guard spending on surveillance monitoring has also hurt PTZ use:

  • "This has shrunken over the years as Megapixel use has grown and the budgets for full time security guards has gone down."
  • "Live guards are less and less. Not a need unless live."

Outlook

While we expect continued further PTZ use decline, ultimately we do not see PTZs being eliminated this decade. Megapixel resolution growth is slowing and it would take 100+ MP resolution cameras to seriously challenge PTZ use monitoring large areas with live operators.

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