Source: A&S International Magazine
The remote video monitoring and surveillance market, while still in its infancy, was estimated to be worth US$292.9 million in 2007 and is forecast to exceed $1 billion by 2013, according to the “Worldwide Market for Remote Video Monitoring and Surveillance” report by IMS Research.
As natural resources such as copper and fossil fuel increase in value, critical infrastructure becomes even more of a target for theft, said Peter Wilenius, VP of Global Marketing for March Networks. “Remote surveillance gives you visual perspective without putting people in dangerous and hostile environments,” added David Smith, VP of International Sales for ICx Technologies.
With IP-based solutions still forecast to grow despite the recession, outdoor remote surveillance requires not only easy-to-use hardware that can withstand temperature, weather, terrain and light variations, but also reliable networks with sufficient bandwidth to transmit video footage hundreds of kilometers in real time, said Geoff Smith, VP of Product Management for Proxim Wireless.
This report now looks at the developments, selection criteria and challenges behind the steady but gradual growth of outdoor remote surveillance applications.
“Sensors must be designed and qualified to meet the various environments; dry, hot and sandy conditions of oil refineries in the Middle East, for example, would require different protective enclosures to those used to protect the ports of Alaska,” Smith of ICx said. Cameras positioned in distant locations heighten the need for durability and reliability. For remote applications, cameras should at least be of IP65 and/or NEMA-4 rating, and depending on the environment, tested to with stand ingress, corrosion, impact and extreme temperatures (-40 to + 60 degrees Celsius), said Nafis Jasmani, Regional Sales Manager for ASEAN, Axis Communications.Alex Doorduyn, Product Marketing Manager of Pelco (a Schneider Electric Company), agreed and stressed that outdoor cameras should have lightning and surge protection. “Cameras installed on poles or near water are particularly prone to lightning strikes, so it is important that cameras have this feature,” Doorduyn elaborated. Major ruggedized camera providers include FLIR Systems , Axis Communications, ICx Technologies, Mobotix, Verint Systems and Pelco.
To ensure that even the most demanding conditions are satisfied, companies such as FLIR develop their sensors to meet commercially-developed-military-qualified standards, meaning that although products are used in broad-scale commercial applications, they are of military grade, said Christiaan Maras, Marketing Manager Eurasia, FLIR Systems.
Other vendors such as Mobotix build their camera housings with fiberglass-reinforced plastic that protects the camera from moisture, vandalism, corrosion and discoloration in sunlight. Using plastic material does not detract from wireless signals or sound passing through the housing, explained Devin Chawda, MD of Y-Cam. Additionally, cameras for outdoor use benefit from no moving parts by using a CMOS sensor with than an auto iris — the need for equipment maintenance is thus eliminated, said Peter McKee, Global Marketing Director, Mobotix. Chawda seconded and added that no moving parts allow users to set up cameras more easily.
Ease of Use
The idea of one camera being a system in itself is rapidly gaining popularity. “Onboard analytics, warning messages, response management, two-way audio, voice over IP and storage are all feasible and being done locally by intelligent cameras,” said McKee. “Basically users can have a virtual network onsite.” The great thing about having intelligent edge devices is that remote cameras can make decisions based on a preconfigured set of parameters. For example, if someone approaches the site and triggers the alarm, the camera can play a prerecorded warning to deter the intruder, or it can send the alarm back to the control center, said McKee.
“Portable self-contained cameras should be plug-and-play, allow simple log on to a camera management interface, and be equipped with an ‘always-on’ network connection capability that is ready for deployment on leading broadband cellular networks,” said David Ly, President and CEO of Iveda Solutions, “making it suitable for temporary remote applications such as construction sites.”
With wireless networks increasingly demanded, systems must be able to cope with network failures, so that a drop in connectivity does not affect or lose footage. Intelligent cameras with onboard processing and storage only send relevant and required images, saving bandwidth and cost, and can store up to 16 gigabytes of footage during network failures, said McKee. Each camera, thus, helps cut down on bandwidth and storage requirements, making it a very reliable system.
Health monitoring, yet another facet of user-friendly systems, keeps the precise system status of all networked video system components in check at all times, especially cameras, video recorders and the network connectivity. For example, if a hard drive fails or a camera experiences synchronization loss, the device will flag it to the control center and simultaneously send an e-mail to operators, Wilenius explained. All errors can be logged and searched remotely.
With reduced manpower at many remote locations, users turn to multi-sensor detection systems: combinations of day cameras, night/thermal cameras and ground-based radars. Sensors are becoming smaller, lighter and can achieve higher performance; combinations of these give remote observation and surveillance enhanced abilities, Smith of ICx said. Multiple sensors can be equipped with GPS and digital magnetic compasses so operators know, for example, where the thermal camera is and what direction it is pointing at, Maras added. This is important for border security applications where cameras are installed on vehicles.
Cameras can be connected to radar systems as well, in a so-called “slew-to-cue” configuration. If the radar detects an object, the thermal camera will turn automatically in the detected direction to give operators a real image of the blip on the radar screen, Maras continued.
Using a combination of daytime and thermal cameras with radars requires real-time analytical and control software to provide ease of use and lower false-alarm rates. For example, users can choose thermal cameras that essentially overlay thermal images to daytime camera images within one picture, Smith of ICx suggested. “This gives operators the ability to add detail and resolution for clearer identification, if needed, in many different light conditions. With no light at all, thermal cameras take over, and with high-performance, long-distance lenses, thermal images can be magnified to have the clarity of a black-and-white photograph.”
The key to adopting wireless technology is to allow users to view images in real time across great distances. “Wireless solutions need to capture images virtually anywhere, analyze images quickly, accurately and cost-effectively, and transmit images wherever they are needed, ” said Roni Klein , VP of Sales for Verint Video Solutions APAC, Verint Systems. Like cameras, network equipment must also be built to withstand inclement weather conditions (IP67 rating), lightning strikes (EN61000-4-5, Class 3), and operate in varying degrees of humidity and temperature, said Avi Shabtay, GM of Private and Alternate Networks Line of Business, Alvarion.
The ability of wireless in networking remote sites is rendered cost effective when compared to fiber optic connections, and users can save up to 70 percent while still employing constant and reliable surveillance that can survive harsh outdoor environments, said Smith of Proxim. For projects that are retrofit or do not have existing networks in place, wireless makes sense because users avoid disruptions and complexities associated with trenching or digging, said Ksenia Coffman, Marketing Communications Manager for Firetide.
Integrating edge devices like radios, encoders and antennae into one compact NEMA-rated enclosure speeds deployment and reduces power and space requirements, all of which are evaluation criteria for outdoor remote surveillance, Klein continued.
Outdoor remote sites can mix and match the available wireless technologies to best suit their needs. Point-to-multipoint systems are most relevant to security and surveillance applications, but when faced with long distances and high bandwidth requirements, point-to-point systems are a safer and more reliable choice, Klein said.