By Jon Marsh, VP Product, Oncam
Since the mass adoption of IP video technology, the security industry experienced an exponential growth of new surveillance camera features, image processing technologies and intelligence gathering capabilities. These innovations are constantly re-defining how businesses and a variety of end users identify and choose to adopt a new surveillance system at their facilities.
Today, the reality is that solution providers must offer a wide portfolio of surveillance camera options, whether it’s perimeter security, dome, PTZ, fisheye, thermal, multi-sensor, etc. With a market that’s constantly evolving, the opportunities to find an appropriate solution can become overwhelming.
Therefore, in selecting the best solution, it is crucial to see and understand the importance of the latest innovations in the camera technologies as well as the strategic integration partnerships that benefit the whole video solution. These advancements have been most notable in the 360-degree camera market.
Referred to as panoramic, fisheye, or omnidirectional, the adoption of 360-degree cameras is growing faster than any other segment of the industry. These cameras have rapidly become an integral part of surveillance ecosystems, providing security operators with the ability to dynamically view either the entire scene or zoom in and pan to the view they need, both live and retrospectively, without compromising on image quality. However, as with all technology, not all 360-degree cameras are the same.
Here are four of the latest innovations in 360-degree video technology that are contributing to that rapid growth and paving a way forward in the surveillance market by improving the overall security solution for end users:
- High Frame Rates with Superior Image Quality
Frame rate essentially determines how many frames per second are recorded in a video feed, and consequently, how clear and smooth the image will be. Until recently, the best frame rate for security cameras was 30 fps, which is decent enough to capture different quantities and speeds of movement but is still limited for certain use cases. Specifically, due to the size of 360-degree images, even 30 fps was rare at full resolution, and it often required reducing the image resolution and detail. With enhanced processing power, new 360-degree cameras on the market are able to stream over 55 fps at full resolution, significantly improving the level of detail in every scene. In these cases, manufacturers have also been able to develop the capability to maintain 30 fps even when multi-streaming, allowing users to continuously experience the benefits of full-frame, clear video.
- Compression Technology for Unprecedented Storage Savings
The high level of detail, and thus a large data-rate, of 360-degree cameras makes compression and efficient storage very important. Traditional methods of minimizing the amount of video data encoded and transmitted (often called standard compression) can have a noticeable adverse effect on the final image quality. Integration of advanced compression technologies allow the latest 360-degree surveillance cameras to actually maintain the integrity of image quality. Real-time adaptive video encoding technology that is applied to both H.264 and even H.265 allows for significant savings.
This cutting-edge compression technology automatically adapts with smart dynamic algorithms to continuously analyze video streams. It has the ability to examine the captured content of a scene and determine which aspects of a frame are essential or less vital to its integrity, reducing overall bandwidth and increasing storage savings. There is constant innovation in the compression space; new Color Spectrum-based compressions have been launched in 2020, and there is no reason to expect a regression in the advancements being made.
- Guaranteed Visibility with Advanced Light Management
Manufacturers know that providing consistent, reliable video in all light conditions is crucial. But, how are innovators in the industry enhancing control of exposure and expanding the scope of usable light? There are two image processing technologies that are making waves. First, continued advancements in high dynamic range (HDR) technology enable the camera to concurrently capture both long and short exposures, minimizing the time lag between them. This new technology carefully selects the most fitting exposure for each area of the image. Then, it overlays them and generates a video feed whilst exposing the darkest and brightest areas in the same image. The key to this technology is in maintaining detail and avoiding blurring between the two layers. Throughout the past year, there have been huge strides forward in this technology, and this type of HDR is now primarily seen as the default choice.
Additionally, and just as important as HDR that delivers crisp images, advanced light management technology with adaptive low light enhancements has been a central focus of the last year. This technology advancement starts with the design and construction of the lens and applies all the way through to the final images and how they are streamed. No matter the difficulty or complexity of the lighting environment, this technology automatically optimizes image quality to produce brighter, noise-reduced surveillance videos.
- Intuitive Design and Configuration
Innovation is often focused on software and capabilities, but the physical form can’t be ignored. What use are the best features of a camera if installers can’t install it correctly and don’t want to see the project through, or worse still, the end customers won’t accept the visuals of the unit? Easy in concept, difficult in practice; designing surveillance cameras that are simple to install, versatile in application and overall customer-centric is a profound challenge. 360-degree cameras find themselves in very prominent spots, with forward-thinking manufacturers delivering devices that are not only compact and unobtrusive, but also include features like the simple punch down cable connections, installation alignment markers and retaining clips for one-hand install and maintenance. They also offer a variety of installation options — from mounting selections and accessories to flexible connectivity methods.
However, good design isn’t limited to the physical. Another differentiator for advanced 360-degree video technology is the software design and user interface. When integration occurs across a new system, simplifying configuration for end users is often overlooked. Many of these new devices can now be quickly installed, discovered on the network, configured and fully operational utilizing a centralized and intuitive user interface.
Technology Designed for Tomorrow
In sum, the next generation of high-tech video surveillance is upon us. Advanced functionalities now available with 360-degree fisheye cameras are delivering higher frame rates, bandwidth reduction and data storage savings, sharp and detailed images in a variety of light conditions and simplified installation with the right tools for end users to successfully operate their front-line video surveillance systems.