Upcoming Panoramic Megapixel Camera from ScallopBy: John Honovich, Published on Jan 08, 2009
A startup is developing a low cost 180 degree panoramic camera that could have a significant impact in real world video surveillance deployments in 2010.
The company, Scallop Imaging [link no longer available], has extensive optics expertise. Their initial product called Digital Window [link no longer available] is a 7MP camera that provides a wide horizontal image of 5120 x 1280 resolution. The camera uses (5) fixed focal 1.3 MP imagers to generate a 180 degree image.
The company is in advanced stages of development but is not planning to ship product commercially until the end of 2009. They are currently evaluating OEMing products to major manufacturers or establishing dealer distribution.
[October 2009: An update on Scallop Imaging is now available.]
The camera's very wide resolution matches extremely well with many typical surveillance applications. Most applications only require 7 to 12 foot high coverage, because the target is primarily people. However, people can walk move across wide areas of tens of meters. As such, the image dimensions of this camera (5120 x 1280) match very efficiently with the areas needed for surveillance.
For general activity monitoring in banks, retailers, offices (e.g. lobbies), wall mounting 1 or a few of these cameras could significantly reduce costs and improve aesthetics.
Megapixel cameras are the fastest growing market of the video surveillance industry (annual growth estimates are in the 40 - 60% range). They are also one of the highest gross margin segments of the business with GM routinely above 60%. Megapixel manufacturers such as Mobotix are very profitable.
Within megapixel cameras, panoramic cameras have generated great interest for their ability to replace many cameras in a given area while providing a level of situational awareness impossible with traditional lens in the 30 to 90 degree range. On the other hand, while panoramic cameras are growing, it is still a small segment of megapixel.
Scallop Imaging approach is fundemtally different from the current product offerings. While it is not as immersive as the 360 offerings of Mobotix Q22, Grandeye Halocam and Immervision lenses, it will provide much higher resolution at likely significantly lower cost.
Mobotix Q22: A strong offering for those using an end to end Mobotix solution, the Q22 has very limited support by other IP video surveillance vendors.
Grandeye Halocam: Given the recent shakeup at Grandeye, it is unclear how competitive Grandeye will be.
- Immervision: Since Immervision provides lenses, this offers greater flexibility than Scallop for enabling panoramic imaging on existing cameras. The downside of Immervision is the much higher cost of combining an Immervsion lens (MSRP - $795) and megapixel cameras (MSRP $500 - $1000).
The most direct competitors to the Digital Window will be the:
- Axis 212 designed for very similar purpose to the Digital Windows. The 212 has a 3MP imager that allows user to digitally PTZ and cover a large area. However, the camera only streams up to 4CIF video. Given its street price of under $700 USD, the 212 should be the primary competitor for the Digital Window.
- The Arecont 8185 (and earlier generation MJPEG 8180) provides very similar resolution (6400 x 1200) to the Digital Window. The 8180 and 8185 uses (4) 2MP cameras mounted side by side. The form factor of the Arecont cameras is much larger. Additionally, the pricing is much higher (online pricing $1500). As such, the Digital Window looks to be a very strong, very direct competitor to these Arecont cameras.
- Theia lenses provide very clear images up to 135 degrees. The Theia varifocal lens, MSRP $495, is added to megapixel cameras. Digital Window may be the better choice for indoors and smaller areas. By contrast, Theia will be a better fit for larger outdoor areas where adjusting the focus to narrow the field of view may be important.
- Finalizing their go-to-market strategy. This could be a good opportunity for some of you to partner or OEM.
- Getting support from IP video surveillance software players. Not only will their camera require support but the non-standard resolution will require special support by VMS providers. Scallop may look to emerging specifications like PSIA or ONVIF but they are not likely to be widely supported anytime soon.