Smart Small Public View Monitor

By Brian Rhodes, Published Aug 01, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Putting surveillance in the face of thieves. That's the aim of a new Public View Monitor (PVM). While other small surveillance PVMs are available in retail, USS's X400 Scout [link no longer available] features anti-tampering alarms that make a point of catching thieves in the act or sounding an alarm. In this note, we look at the unit, its technical details, what makes it different that other offerings.

In Your Face

Unlike larger PVMs (~28" - 36") mounted from ceilings or roof joists, USS's X400 [link no longer available] is small (<9.0") and light enough to be mounted in merchandise aisles or clipped directly to product shelves. Unlike surveillance cameras that can be tucked away in minidomes and hung twenty or more feet away from their target FoV, this small PVM displays and records video inches away from a surveillance target.

While a thief can doubt the exact range of a typical video surveillance system, the X-400 shows them exactly what a camera 'sees' and records. For high-value merchandise, the PVM is a decidedly non-covert method of surveillance, the idea being that thieves will not steal merchandise openly seen.

Local Alarms

Because the X400 is mounted in tamper vulnerable locations, the unit includes several different alarms, that when tripped turn on an integrated, high intensity siren built into the enclosure of the unit. The alarms include:

  • Video Loss: The alarm sounds if the camera lens is covered. (ie: tape, gum, paint)
  • Power Loss: If the power cable is cut or unplugged, the unit's backup batteries sound the siren.
  • Tamper Alarm: A built-in accelerometer detects if the PVM is moved or repositioned, and alarms based on movement in two axis. (Side to Side/ Up or Down)

The siren itself is protected inside the steel case and has an intense pulse. The value of a local alarm is that when it goes off, staff members or even other shoppers will have their attention drawn to the area.

Recording Function

The PVM stores video onboard, supporting 32 GB SDHC storage cards. Video records on motion, storing locally or via the BNC output loop to an existing DVR. The unit supports 'digital signage' function, and even if the screen is configured to display marketing messages, the camera will continue to record. Three methods of reviewing video are supported by the unit: local review of video at the PVM, pulling the SD card for review at another workstation, and via recording through the output port. 

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Unit Details

The major features of the X400 are its onboard analog camera and PVM screen:

  • Onboard (analog) Camera: A 1/3" imager with a ~37° / 7.4 mm Pin Hole lens is designed for close ranges in strictly indoor areas with bright, even lighting.
  • 9.7" TFT LCD Monitor: Supports digital signage messages up to 720p
  • Onboard DVR: Recordings are stored up to 30 FPS at 4CIF, while local live view is 620 TVL. Recordings to SD Card are encrypted and cannot be replayed on 3rd Party equipment without the accompanying software viewer.
  • Onboard Controls: Replay and unit configuration screens are locked out by password, and local review of all recordings can be done at the unit. 

Cost

The price of the X400 is ~$825 - $850, with discounts based on order volume. Distribution of the unit is limited, but orders can be placed direct with USS.

Cons

While the small footprint opens up mounting options, the unit has potential problems: 

  • No VMS Support: The onboard camera is analog, and features no IP outputs. If a potential customer desires using the X400 with an existing VMS, encoders must be added.
  • Mounting Position is Key: Because camera performance is limited (No WDR, wide angle, fixed lens) device mounting location must be spot on to be useful. Mounting the unit too high or too low could potentially cut the identification abilities of the video significantly.
  • Local Alarms Only: While the unit features several layers of tampering alarms, the unit only alerts through local siren and rely on nearby authorities to respond and react. The unit features no provision to send alerts remotely or to local alarm systems

Competitive Offerings

The X400 is not the only 'small PVM' available. For example, Clinton Electronics CE-M8 series [link no longer available] offers many of the same or similar abilities (eg: local recording, digital signage) in a merchandise shelf mountable PVM for about $750 USD.

However, the X400 provides a larger screen (9.7" vs. 8.0") and adds tampering alarms. While the USS PVM costs more, without these alarms the unit can be repositioned or have the power removed without customers being notified, and the additional $150 cost for USS's unit is a modest increase for a unit hardened against common sources of tampering.

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