Sony Hybrid HD Cameras ExaminedBy John Honovich, Published on Apr 16, 2011
In this note, we examine the significance, application and potential limitations of Sony's recent announcement of what they are calling the 'industry's first Hybrid HD security cameras." This technology is especially interesting as an alternative / competitor to traditional Ethernet over Coax (EoC) solutions offered by Veracity, Comnet and others.
Unlike traditional EoC offerings that use an add-on transceiver, the Sony approach is to embed the adaptor directly into the camera. Sony is using technology from Intersil, which they call SLOC (Security Link over Coax), this technology allows analog composite video and Ethernet to be sent over the same coaxial cable. SLOC is specified at up to 500 Meters with 36Mb/s bandwidth from camera to receiver and 11Mb/s bandwidth from receiver to camera.
Sony claims a number of benefits of this approach:
- Utilize existing infrastructure: Perhaps the largest expense of moving to IP surveillance is recabling. While a number of manufacturers provide products which convert Ethernet to coax, this is the first time this technology has been built into the camera (and potentially recorder). This reduces complexity and most likely, expense.
- No-disruption upgrades: When installing IP cameras, even when using Ethernet over coax transceivers, an interruption in the existing surveillance system is necessary. This disruption would be minimized by cameras using the SLOC technology, since the only interruption would be the brief period while the old camera is removed and the new camera installed. Existing analog recorders and matrix switchers could continue to utilize the analog video feed until the system is completely installed, at which point the Ethernet HD video could be used for monitoring and recording.
- Less latency for live monitoring: Undeniably, there is less latency present in an analog system than in IP surveillance systems. Monitoring and controlling cameras via the SLOC interface would reduce latency in the system, while allowing the HD stream to be recorded via the same cable.
The move has potential. We know that no other manufacturer in the industry is currently utilizing this technology. Depending on pricing, it could be a great advantage to end users and integrators upgrading existing systems to IP. The ability to install IP cameras directly onto existing infrastructure without external transceivers at the camera end will definitely decrease installation time and cost. What Sony is planning on doing at the other end of the cable is still a question. The two most likely options are releasing a standalone transceiver or directly integrating receivers into an NVR/DVR appliance.
Serious questions, though, remain on how Sony will actually deploy the solution. Sony reports that products will start shipping at the end of 2011 and that specific models are not yet set. As such, the ISC West 2011 announcement and display was a very early preview.
Our Speculation / Competitive Positioning
We believe the Sony offering could be very price competitive. Embedding the SLOC inside the camera offers significant cost savings compared to the traditional approach of manufacturing a separate appliance (often costing $150 - $200). We could see Sony offering the Hybrid coax output as a low cost or no additional cost on their premium cameras (similar to how analog out was often included in MP cameras in the past). Additionally, if Sony includes inputs/receivers in their Hybrid recorders, this could further reduce the cost relative to purchasing multiple individual receivers. That noted, this is clearly speculation. We will have to wait 6 months or more for 'real' information.
Comparison to HDcctv
This approach has some similarities to HDcctv but also important differences.
- Main similarity is the reuse of existing coax; however, Sony's approach cites significantly longer distance - up to 500 meters vs 100 meters for HDcctv (primarily because of the lower maximum bandwidth offered / needed by Sony / Intersil)
- Main difference is the location of encoding - with Sony Hybrid, the video is compressed in the camera (it is still an IP camera) while in HDcctv, the video needs to be compressed in a special HDcctv DVR (or encoder, when released)
- Ease of use: HDcctv is likely to be significantly easier to setup as the Sony solution still requires IP addressing / configuration and may need to connect receivers to an IP network
- Cost: Cabling cost should be similar with an advantage for Sony / Intersil for longer runs. Equipment costs are difficult to determine currently given the current pre-production stage of the Sony hybrid cameras and the early release of HDcctv DVRs (which are very expensive).
Potential Benefits and Limitations
We do question some of the other claimed benefits, however. Interruption of service is a definite concern in the security environment. While sending analog video to an existing system using existing cabling does remedy some of this, how much downtime it prevents will depend on multiple factors. First, it assumes that new cameras will be located in the same spot as old cameras. Our experience has shown us that this is not always true. Second, if new cables are pulled and a new IP-based system is up and running, awaiting only installation of the camera, downtime will be minimal as the old analog camera is removed and a new IP camera is put in its place, and viewed on the new system. This does present the drawback of viewing existing cameras on one system and new IP cameras on another, though.
We also would question how many new installations would use the analog output for monitoring. Monitoring multiple analog cameras requires multiple monitors or a quad/multiplexer at the low end, and matrix switchers at high camera counts. There is definitely a benefit to latency-free monitoring and control; we simply question how much. Less latency on PTZ control is more of a benefit, but one that requires a second cable to be run to the camera, anyway, and which can be accomplished using RS-422 to control IP cameras today.