If you blink, you may miss something. That's how fast the closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance market is moving these days. But capturing surveillance activities is something CCTV cameras won't miss. Some of what we are seeing on the market is intended to address a specific need, and some is based on convenience, but in all, the technological innovation out there is targeted at versatility and integration.

New CCTV applications continue to emerge, many based on refinements of existing products or merging technologies. Consider the university using CCTV to enroll, verify and identify staff members and students; the camera with infrared or thermal imaging situated on a warehouse or port or pier; even the covert Internet protocol wireless “nanny cam” in the home-they are all examples of CCTV at work.

Even in their simplest form, these cameras are packed with power. They are compact, lightweight and feature day/night capability and can operate in low “lux” lighting conditions. Resolution is higher than ever and a crisp image can be delivered under some of the harshest environments. Day/night functions automatically capture color images in during daylight hours and switch to black and white in low-light conditions.

“Day/night functions ensure that regardless of the lighting conditions, the camera will deliver clear, detailed images,” said Steve Martin, assistant vice president, Video Imaging Systems Division of JVC Professional Products Co., Wayne, N.J.

Intelligent and intuitive

Surveillance has evolved to do more than watch bad behavior and initiate a response. It can analyze a scene and react to potential problems before they occur, by watching for changes in a set environment or scene or other microprocessor-based intelligence parameters. CCTV records can be integrated with facility functions-to keep track of the number of people in a certain area or those who gained entrance to the computer-operations room and at what time. Cameras can be used to verify access and, in the case of an unauthorized person trying to enter a secured area, alert staff or security personnel.

CCTV continues to provide everyday security, but the unusual or tricky application is where the product really excels and where its “smarts” shine. Did you know that CCTV capabilities can include behavior analysis, vandalism and graffiti detection, object counting, and a host of other intelligent applications? It's true.

Even video motion detection has a new twist. Video motion detection compares images taken in sequence with each other and if there is a difference between them, shows a change in the scene. Cameras can track objects and set off alarms if the object moves into a prohibited zone. More advanced systems allow the setting of directional alarms where an object is free to move in one direction, but if it goes in the opposite one, an alarm initiates. It can also count people or objects such as vehicles.

“Nonmotion detection represents the next generation of intelligent surveillance,” said Rustom Kanga, chief executive officer, iOmniscient. iOmniscient makes a patented IQ system that can see things invisible to the eye.

“Nonmotion detection artificial intelligence ignores motion, which is precisely what all other intelligent video systems are based on, and focuses on static or stationary objects. The system learns the background of a scene in a few minutes and any object placed in that scene or removed from it can activate an alarm. The system is continuously learning and updating the background even while it ignores motion,” Kanga said, adding that Web-based intelligent systems are also taking hold in surveillance applications.

“The key to any Web-based surveillance system is the intelligence in the system, the ability to recognize the 'event.' It could even be a slip-and-fall or other situation the user is concerned about,” he said.

CCTV does it all, from the simplest surveillance to work in the harshest, most unusual conditions. It's usually used in conjunction with other technologies, for an integrated level of security that can't be matched. EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.