We’re not at Hollywood levels yet, but the new technology is amazing

Anyone see the remake of Ocean’s 11? The cocky, clever thieves tap into the surveillance system of a Vegas casino, replacing the real-time images with prerecorded segments in efforts to pull off a heist. As they enter and grab the dough, security guards see only life as usual on the screen.

Possible? Hollywood makes lots of things seem possible—such as zooming in on a cell phone from 30 yards away and noting the phone number. “End-users actually think we can do this stuff. No camera out there will do that. Sure, cameras can zoom in and enhance an image, but read a cell phone number from 30 yards away? No,” said Jay Stone from The Systems Depot Inc., Hickory, N.C.

Yet, like science fiction authors of decades ago who predicted future technology, Hollywood storywriters’ vision of future technology may not be so far in the future. As surveillance goes digital, joining the Internet age, it is hard to keep track of the latest, hottest features offered without a digital scorecard.

“Everyone’s moving to digital—there’s a big race going on. There are many DVRs out there aiming to get the best compression ratios and frames per second. It’s extremely crucial in the race to have the best product,” said Stone.

Todd Redding is president of Kyros Digital, Gainesville, Ga., a company that makes and installs a line of surveillance equipment. “Compression ratios—file sizes and recording rates—and frames per second matter because those are the two elements that drive the price of the units,” he said. The race involves coming up with the best products in a marketplace in which not all products are compatible. The starting line for many entrants in the race is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where they are gaining protection for innovations that allow them to grab a corner of the marketplace and distinguish their products from the competition. And the race includes more than DVRs. It also includes cameras, systems and services. It is a changing market and companies are offering products to fill every niche.

The International Security Conference (ISC) EXPO West 2004 was held in late April in Las Vegas. The event sponsor, Security Industry Association (SIA), hosted an internationally recognized promotion and awards program, the New Products Showcase. It is held twice each year at the ISC and at the National Summit on Security (NSS), previously ISC East. In the CCTV category, the award went to CoVi’s HDTV solution, the EVQ-1000. CoVi’s standard image with three zoom under picture (ZUP) views and full-screen zoom views can be recorded by any DVR that accepts NTSC video. A simple integration allows DVRs to capture and record 1280x720p video for post-event analysis. It requires no special monitors or cabling, allowing for simple deployment in any environment. “This award is an important market validation for our first HDTV quality surveillance solution and we are very pleased,” said Barry Walker, president and CEO of CoVi Technologies.

Another product honored in the New Product Showcase was Extreme CCTV Inc.’s model EX27NXP-MECC2 Wireless Solar IDN Camera Kit. This kit was the grand prize winner in the 2004 Showcase of New Products, chosen by an independent judging panel selected by Canadian Security Magazine. The system, featuring Extreme’s Integrated Day Night (IDN) technology, enables solar-powered operation, wireless functionality, night vision and total power autonomy. An integrated solar kit allows the system to operate on a perpetually independent basis. The EX27NXP-MECC2 is for applications such as remote surveillance, power-restricted areas, “impossible-to-wire” locations and scientific research. EX27NXP requires 11W to achieve 75 feet of night vision effectiveness. The original MECC technology was developed by Extreme for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and later adopted for use in important security applications, including undisclosed operations by the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command.

Another product was prompted by military needs as well. In late March, Guardian Solutions introduced ThreatSTALKER—the first wireless, GPS-enabled, portable, automated video surveillance system. It automatically detects and tracks intruders—humans, vehicles and vessels—at ranges exceeding 700m in all types of environments. Upon detection, the real-time video and GPS location of the intruder is securely transmitted to responders within a 2km range. ThreatSTALKER applications include securing cargo, pipelines, vessels, aircraft, military bases/camps and buildings. It has been implemented in Europe, Asia and Australia. It entered the U.S. market this spring with the first shipments (worth approximately $500,000) delivered to the U.S. Army and Marines.

iOmniscient, an Australian company, introduced its IQ Product Series at ISC West. The software products enhance the intelligence within a CCTV system. Working off existing analog and IP-based CCTV infrastructure, the system can interface with most DVR systems. It operates off software on a PC that can be run in conjunction with a DVR or without it. The products use artificial intelligence (heuristic algorithms) with patented surveillance systems. Traditional tracking is done by IQ-80, IQ-100 and IQ-110. IQ-140 can find objects that may not be visible to the naked eye—black objects on a black background where the object may be only 1 to 2 pixels in size. The intelligence system surveys and memorizes a scene, then monitors the differences—with the AI sending a signal to indicate changes, e.g., a bag left in a room. Immediate action can be taken to view events either in-house or on a wireless PDA within a three-mile area. The IQ product series won the Australian Government’s Innovation Award for 2003.

For outdoor and higher security applications such as automated teller machines (ATMs), large warehouses, educational institutions, penitentiaries and detention centers, JVC Professional Products Co. launched its newest vandal-resistant, fixed-dome color security camera, the TK-C205VPU at ISC West. It features an IP 66-rated dome housing as well as mounting screws that make the camera difficult to remove and can be adjusted to any angle, helping to deter would-be vandals who are unaware of where the camera is focused. It also features 535 TVL manual/automatic white tracking and backlight compensation, a high signal-to-noise ratio of 50dB, 535 TV lines of horizontal resolution from a 380,000 effective pixel CCD for high-resolution images and sensitivity with 0.8 lux (25 percent video) with a clear dome and automatic gain control.

Bosch Security Systems UNPDN Series Unity Prepackaged cameras have a plug-and-play design that comes with the camera and lens factory-preinstalled, back-focus adjusted and prewired through the LTC 9480 series housing base for easy field installation. Another Bosch entry was the Dinion Series, smart surveillance cameras, which use 15-bit digital processing technology for better image quality.

Another entry in the camera market addresses a specific type of surveillance. REG cameras (branded as Derwent in Europe), focuses on markets interested in license plate reading. Applications include access control, stolen vehicle recognition and congestion charging. “We are pioneering the deployment of clear accurate video pictures of license plates that could be traveling faster than 100 km/h under the most difficult of light or even no-light conditions,” said Jack Gin, president and CEO of Extreme CCTV. While the United States market for license plate reading (LPR) is in its infancy, Extreme has delivered more than 300 REG units to U.S. institutions.

Price is the factor many companies are banking on to propel their products. Tokina is reintroducing its TM16Z7518 compact 16X motorized zoom lens at a significantly lower price. All the original specifications and components are the same. Tokina had previously discontinued the lens due to market price concerns. It has a focal range of 7.5 to 120mm, a 1/2” format that is easily adapted to 1/3”, has a motorization speed of 3 seconds and operates on no more than 50mA at DC6V-12V. “This reintroduction is our answer to the significantly increased demand for a moderately priced, high quality compact zoom lens,” said Carl Cangialosi, president of Tokina Industrial Inc. of Medford, N.Y.

Arecont Vision, a one-year-old California company, used its know-how of image processing previously applied in other areas and applied it to cameras. Their entry is AV2000, a system based on proprietary 2Mpixel network cameras and system software. Their MegaVideo technology is based on several pending patents and is designed to process and manage vast amounts of data associated with HDTV resolution (1600x1200) while also combining the advantages of the traditional NTSC-based network-based approaches. The system can be used in a stand-alone mode or as an integrated part of a larger video surveillance installation. “Our mission is to offer the users of CCTV comparably priced fully digital high-resolution systems with superior performance,” said Vladimir Berezin, president of Arecont Vision. At the heart of MegaVideo technology are massively parallel on-camera image processing hardware and state-of-the- art image sensors. It allows for simultaneous delivery of full field of view and high-quality zoomed images at video frame rates, post-event zoom-in capability from archived footage and instantaneous no-moving-parts pan and tilt for tracking fast moving targets.

As competitions search for niches in the growing security market, Arrowsight is aligning with GE Security to enhance its remote viewing service that cuts out the need for on-site monitoring. Arrowsight, whose products are used by Foot Locker, McDonald’s and Pfizer, announced that its Web-based video auditing system is now compatible with GE Security DVMRe digital video recorders, making it compatible with 60 to 70 percent of the DVRs in the market. The technology combines the alarm system and video surveillance. It offer the service of remotely monitoring video footage and then sending plant managers weekly reports featuring video links to suspicious or unusual activity, e.g., temperature changes. “Our relationship with GE Security will enhance the effectiveness of our remote video auditing technology,” said Arrowsight CEO Adam Aronson. “Now our customers can manage and access video from the most popular DVRs using Arrowsight software as a single access portal.”

Lots of products to consider. A growing market. What should electrical contractors who don’t already work in this area know? “There’s a lot of risk in this area because you are dealing with system suppliers, especially if it’s not an off-the-shelf type system,” said Chris Pesavente, CEO, Dynalectric. California-based Dynalectric installs surveillance systems for a variety of clients, including the Department of Defense.

“If there’s any custom work where you have to do programming modifications, it becomes awfully risky. You’re used to doing your own job and then you’re relying on another company specified by the government or private industry whose system they want to use,” Pesavente continued.

It is a changing market, but the race is toward compatibility—an advance that will ultimately benefit the electrical contractor. EC

CASEY, author of "Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors" and "Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries that have Changed Our World," can be reached at scbooks@aol.com or www.susancaseybooks.com.