VMS Mapping Shootout

Author: Sarit Williams, Published on Oct 30, 2013

Maps are used for situational awareness, but what is that exactly? What features do they have and how do VMSes differ in what they offer?

In this report, we share our test results of reviewing the map features for Milestone, Genetec, Avigilon, Exacq, AxxonSoft, and Network Optix/Digital Watcdog.

Key Differentiators

Maps research revealed a number of important differentiators that separated the 'best' from the 'worst' in VMS map features, including:

  • Map Types: There are 3 Map types. Which is more powerful, easier to use and/or configure?
  • Map Interaction: Which actions can you actually perform with maps? open doors? playback video? view live video? It is so much more than just viewing cameras.
  • Layout Precision: How correct is that map representation?
  • Map Alerts: what type of notifications exists and how effective are they?
  • Suspect Tracking: Is it possible to use the cameras to track a suspect- visually - from view to view with use of maps? Response time would be greatly improved.
  • Cost/Installation: Are these features included or are there hidden charges? We uncover the details.

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Comments (7)

As far as I know, the Genetec Basic package can only be used for up to 30 cameras and 3 maps without zoomable vector graphics, for the Standard version you have to pay per camera.

If you can have it purchased by the customer this is far the most advanced map feature compared to other VMSs.

One thing we do with suspect tracking via map on Milestone (XPCO) is to have a 'hotspot' pane on one monitor, map on the other, and then just click around on the map which then automatically changes the hotspot. Simple, pretty quick, and easy. One thing we requested be added a while back, and is in there now, to make it little more interested was for suspect tracking outdoors with PTZ's. When placing a PTZ camera on a map we have regions on the map that coorelate to presets on the cameras. We place those regions as best we can to match reality and then you can just click those regions, it triggers the preset, and updates the hotspot. This ends up being pretty powerful and in my mind counted as suspect tracking but maybe I am mistaking in the terminology.

What happened to Video Insight?

Great review but I agree with Nidal, bummed VI didn't make the cut. Luckily they have a 60 day trial I can try it out myself :)

Nidal/Jason,

Here is a quick overview of Video Insight's mapping options:

Map Types: image files only
Map Interaction: interactions with the map include the ability to view live by selecting a camera which brings into the lower split screen layout. Additionally, if there is a card swipe on a door a pop-up will appear with a live view of the image. There is no ability to playback or enlarge the smaller image from the map view. Zooming is available in the thumbnail, but not on the map.
Layout Precison: representative FOV only. Also includes map artifacts such as cameras, layouts, doors and nested maps for multi floor buildings. Camera icons are the same for all types of cameras, though if its an Arecont 360 or 180 the FOV will be different.
Map Alerts: pop-up for integrated Blackboard access control.
Suspect Tracking: User would have to click each camera manually to follow the suspect's path
Cost/Installation: it is included in the cost of VMS and configuration was simple to setup with no extra installation steps.

Awesome! Thanks for the quick breakdown it is much appreciated!

There are a number of open source tools that geographically plot imagery, and I'd like to make an observation regarding only this narrow area. This is more "the dream," not yet reality.

An image or video stream of images is a two dimensional projection on the 3D world. Generally any user field of view is also a 2D projection of the 3D world. You can achieve a somewhat realistic immersive view by combining the two 2D projections without building a 3D model of those worlds. Occasionally though it provides a relatively poor outcome when the viewer's field of view provides a highly oblique aspect to the camera's 2D projection, so you see almost a line or a rhombus reflecting video's 2D projection mapped to the viewer's field of view.

Work that tries to infer 3D information from motion within the 2D video is called "Structure from Motion (SfM)." It's substantially more resource intensive, but in cases where most of the 3D structure is already known, can provide better matches between overlapping fields of view (particularly in the case of near-orthogonal 2D projections) because it infers some of the missing information, providing a more complete and immersive sense of the world.

Because processing is costly, I would expect this processor-intensive technology will migrate fairly slowly into fields in which cost is the governing dynamic. However, there is some hunger for an immersive simulation of the real world rather than a pastiche of 2D projections that gray matter has to pull together into a comprehensive picture (e.g. the video wall). For example, while I can't find any reference to it today, three or four years ago, one well-funded start-up's product was an integrated 3d transparent model of your surveillance space, with people and vehicles projected accurately into the 3D space. I'm guessing I'd find it if technology were supportive of such an approach, but we're getting there -- they may have been too far ahead of their time.

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