Much has been said and written about analog video cameras and the move to internet protocol (IP) networked digital surveillance. Some predicted the demise of analog and takeover by IP devices would progress quickly, but clearly that hasn’t happened. The higher price of IP cameras, additional information technology and networking expertise required, as well as the vast landscape of installed coaxial cabling, all stand in the way. While today’s IP camera installations average more than 50 percent of the total installations in the United States, high-definition (HD) CCTV, referred to as HD over coaxial or HD analog, is a significant player in physical security video specifications.

According to Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., the inventor of the first network camera some 18 years ago, 2014 marked the first time IP video garnered more than half of the installed sales revenue in video surveillance. The move to IP is motivated by good reasons, including crisp images for identification and features such as embedded analytics that cull data intelligence from surveillance feeds.

Of course, as with any installation, choices are guided by the end-use, the available budget and current infrastructure. While new construction projects will include the Cat 5/6 cabling for IP networking, many users can’t face the high price tag of a total rip and replace. Now, HD over coaxial represents an exciting value proposition for contractors who want high-resolution images for their customers without monumental costs.

Dan Clinton, vice president of Clinton Electronics, Loves Park, Ill., said standard analog cameras are less expensive, use RG-59 coaxial cabling and are easy to install. However, they are slowly being phased out and replaced by this new type of CCTV.

“HD over coaxial now represents a cost-effective solution to transmitting high-definition video without the complexity of IP,” Clinton said. “HD over coaxial installs just like an analog, coaxial-based system. In most cases, the installer can reuse existing coaxial cable and typically only needs a new camera and digital video recorder (DVR). Not only are the cameras and DVRs less expensive, the overall system is not as complicated as IP. There is no need for extra routers, switches, [power over ethernet] injectors, servers and the majority of external devices commonly used in IP-based systems.”

Clinton expanded on some of the challenges.

“There are several different types of HD over coaxial [HD-SDI, EX-SDI, HD-TVI, HD-CVI and AHD],” he said. “Unfortunately, they are not interchangeable. For example, you cannot take an HD-TVI camera and plug it into an HD-CVI DVR.”

Clinton’s company has been educating contractors about the technologies so they can better put it to use. The company produced a “shoot-out” video on the various form factors. However, he agreed that standard analog will disappear, and HD-over-coaxial cameras will coexist with IP cameras.

“HD over coaxial will continue to evolve and improve,” he said. “Right now, there are a lot of companies driving innovation and pushing the limits of what this technology can do. I expect to see it become a very disruptive technology—one that will challenge the IP status quo.”

Evolution in action

Digital Watchdog, Cerritos, Calif., could be considered one of those disruptors. The company recently introduced the first analog high-definition (AHD), multisensor, 6-megapixel, panoramic camera that uses existing coaxial cabling to transmit clear, detailed 1,080p images at up to 30 frames per second, said Mark Espenschied, director of marketing.

“HD-over-coaxial technology is a smart return on investment for contractors, especially when you consider the current installed base of coaxial cabling and the expense of removing and replacing it,” he said.

The three HD-over-coaxial standards—AHD, TVI and CVI—came from the broadcasting industry and all have incredible signal reach.

“With AHD or TVI, you could run a cable from the ground to the tip of the Empire State Building and still have cable left over with a viewable/recordable signal using RG-59,” he said. “That’s up to 450 meters. The recorders for HD analog are also technological marvels, supporting all previous analog cameras plus one or more of the HD analog standards. So the issue of ‘this only works with that’ is starting to go away.”

Although the equipment is referred to as “analog,” recorders use hard drives and are capable of connecting to the internet, so systems can be viewed and managed with a PC or mobile device.

Contractors have choices when it comes to video surveillance, and HD over coaxial is one that can be installed today and move with the technology into the future.