My visit to the International Security Conference (ISC West 2009 in Las Vegas) was a good chance to get an idea of some of the trends in our business. I sensed some running themes in what I saw and heard. The trend is to treat security devices as part of a system rather than as isolated components. The sure sign was the large number of exhibits that were showing digital products and proclaiming their ability to be networked.

There is a logical need for security systems to be digital and networked, and many manufacturers are developing the technology that can make that happen. Take surveillance, for example: the more areas that can be monitored, the more useful the system. However, for the system to be really useful, it needs to be managed. The more pictures taken, the more difficult it is to make use of all the information. One solution is to use hardware and software that enables one to see video from many cameras at the same time—even better is the ability to zoom in on one particular camera when something peculiar is happening in that scene. Even more sophisticated is using video analytics, which lets one track a person, vehicle or package from one camera to another. To make this still more useful, one should be able to communicate with, for example, a security guard to be on the alert for a particular person or vehicles.

And then there’s the problem of storing data. The more there is, the more difficult and expensive it is to store. And once one has solved that problem, how is that data accessed in a useful way?

Wall-to-wall surveillance

The MegaView Wall from Mitsubishi, Marietta, Ga., was an impressive display of multiple images. The MegaView Wall is constructed from a pile of “projection cubes” that can be interlocked together. The projection system is designed so that the image reaches to all edges of the screen. The overall effect is of one large screen. This can be used with software from companies such as ICX Technologies, Victoria, British Columbia, to intelligently display and control a range of surveillance devices. ICX’s Cameleon allows an end-user to control the interface between cameras and displays to respond to the operator’s commands and/or can be programmed to be triggered by alarms. And the software can integrate analog as well as Internet protocol (IP) components, a practical and important feature. Each video module can be programmed to be part of a single image, providing a high-resolution picture from a particular camera that then can be partitioned to provide a matrix of images from a selected group of cameras.

OnSSI’s (Suffern, N.Y.) Ocularis software performs similar functions, all over a standard IP network. It too allows triggering by an alarm or in conjunction with an analytics module, and views can be programmed to be triggered by events, such as intrusion alarms or motion patterns of people, vehicles and objects.

Another player in IP security systems integration is TAC, North Andover, Mass., which, along with Pelco, Clovis, Calif., is part of Schneider Electric. The combined video management systems link multiple cameras per alarm or point for automatic display. An end-user can also view live or recorded video on-demand for any alarm or event.

The software from companies such as ICX, OnSSI and TAC also provides a means for accessing stored data based on parameters, such as date, time or camera location.

The more security and access--control systems can be software-driven and connected to standard IP networks, the more versatile they become. A software--driven system enables security personnel to manage complex systems of cameras and sensors by means of devices such as laptops and touchscreen monitors. In order to help users migrate to these IP systems, manufacturers are producing devices and software compatible with analog and digital data. For example, Axis Communications, Lund, Sweden, and Pelco produce video encoders that enable integration of analog cameras into an IP-based system by converting analog to digital data. Ioimage, Denton, Texas, offers video encoders that have built-in analytics software.

Bosch Security Systems, Lancaster, Pa., among others, is certain that the future of video monitoring is with IP systems but recognizes it will take years before IP overtakes the market for analog devices. One example of this recognition is the company’s new Divar XF hybrid recorder, which supports eight or 16 analog cameras and up to eight H.264 digital video streams. H.264 support was incorporated in many of the new products at the show. It uses the latest compression technique, going beyond JPEG and MPEG and allows greater bandwidth and minimizes storage requirements, thus enabling the storage of higher resolution images at lower cost.

I noticed most companies acknowledged the need to help users migrate from analog to digital at their own pace. I think this bodes well for sensible growth in the security market.

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. He serves as managing editor for SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at ebeditor@gmail.com.