Innovative Retail Technologies

MAR 2013

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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Loss Prevention/Security Executive Insight Meeting The Megapixel Camera Challenge For Retail Use Retailers implementing IP cameras face challenges related to varying retail lighting conditions and bandwidth consumption. by Scott Paul N ow more than ever, video is playing an important role in maximizing the effectiveness of retail security systems. Whether you have a single location to monitor or a large shopping center to secure, megapixel video security imaging offers the promise of amazingly detailed video information, with better image quality than ever before. However, megapixel video security imaging presents technical challenges, which must be addressed by vendors, integrators, and IT administrators. What's The Challenge? End user demand is increasing for higher-quality video footage, driving a need to deliver cost-effective recording solutions for today's IP and megapixel cameras. However, megapixel technology presents technical challenges in two key areas — low-light performance and bandwidth consumption. Let's consider low-light performance first. Any video security system begins with a camera capturing an image. At the heart of the camera is an image sensor, which converts light into electronic signals. Many security cameras market themselves as "low-light/wide dynamic range" (LL/WDR) cameras. These cameras are marketed as top-of-the-line cameras, offering benefits in the two most difficult security scenes. But are these cameras meeting customer needs? Many scenes pose significant challenges to security cameras. Large dynamic ranges are frequently seen during daytime scenes. A classic example is a brightly lit area with dark shadows, perhaps from buildings or trees. Many of the current LL/WDR cameras handle this scene adequately but only with wide dynamic range turned on manually. Low-light scenes are typical for outdoor cameras. These underlighted scenes are often where security needs are the highest. Again, many currently available LL/WDR cameras do reasonably well in these scenes, providing usable images, but only when wide dynamic range is turned off manually. The drawback of current LL/WDR cameras becomes apparent when you need wide dynamic range and low-light performance automatically in the same package. Bright, sunlit, large dynamic range scenes transition to low light every night. Frequently, bright objects are present even in darker surveillance scenes, like the view of a license plate between the headlights of a car at night. Current LL/ WDR cameras are either low-light or wide dynamic range cameras. They force the customer or installer to pick which scene between wide dynamic range and low light they consider the most important and lose potentially critical information when that selection does not match the scene at the current time of day. These lighting transitions occur unpredictably throughout the day, and you cannot rely on manually changing modes to match the scene. Bandwidth Consumption Now let's talk about bandwidth consumption, storage, and image file sizes. More pixels means more data, which means larger files for each image captured by an MPx camera. When you consider that a typical 1.3 MPx camera consumes 2 to 5 MB/s of bandwidth or higher, it's easy to see how you can quickly use up all the bandwidth in the network while filling up all available storage. H.264 and high-profile H.264 encoding offer the ability to optimize image quality while minimizing file size, particularly compared to previous compression schemes. Integrators should also be aware that the effectiveness of H.264 compression varies, depending upon the complexity of the surveillance scene — scenes with more motion and varied lighting will create larger image sizes. The type of storage system also has a big impact on overall system cost and design. Traditional off-the-shelf data servers, while being relatively inexpensive, are designed for the "write once, read many" duty cycle of traditional data applications. With video surveillance, the burden placed on storage is the opposite, because video is being recorded all the time, so storage devices need to be able to write data to hard disks all the time. If the storage subsystem is not tuned for massive amounts of write operations, the cost of deploying a storage solution increases dramatically. Matching cameras and recording/storage using high-profile H.264 gives users the greatest outcome, allowing them to maximize the benefits of HD/megapixel imaging while mitigating or minimizing bandwidth issues on ■ their network. Scott Paul is the senior product marketing manager for fixed IP cameras for Pelco by Schneider Electric. Paul joined Schneider Electric in 2011 to manage the Pelco Sarix line of IP cameras. Paul has more than 27 years experience developing, managing, and marketing technology. March 2013 ● 33

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