A User's Guide to Digital Video Surveillance

Why is Everyone So Slow to Adapt

Why haven't the old well-known names in security moved over to the newer technology?

First, it's important to understand that only a few years ago the CCTV business was strictly analog. It was simply connect a camera to a monitor, VCR or switch. These companies were ill equipped to deal in the information technology age. A transformation had to occur. These old time companies were accustomed to bringing to market a product in two-plus years, and running with it forever. Between the old methods and the lack of understanding of the newest technologies they have been slow to adapt but are now rapidly coming up to speed.

Part of the problem was 9/11 created an impetus to have an immediate solution even though the technology of the time was just not ready. Therefore, the foundation and building blocks for a solution were flawed from the start. The troubles were compounded by further development on the deficient platform instead of waiting for proficient technology. Why didn’t they change? How do you tell a customer that all the equipment you’ve been selling him for the past 5 years won’t work, and it’s not compatible with anything new that actually might work? As previously discussed, many manufacturers rely on third parties, so they are at the mercy of their suppliers.

So when manufacturers eventually move to the new platform will they be on even par with everyone else?

Not necessarily. H.264 is not a magic pill. It is a core standard and platform on which applications have to be developed. As in all technologies there are processes and learning curves. In many cases, there are some MPEG4 solutions we are sure look just as good as H.264 solutions. Either because the underlying components are better or the solution is more stable than someone new working with H.264 for a relatively short period of time.

Understand that H.264 is just the “general” codec platform. Underneath this general platform many different “profiles” are being developed for different applications. HDTV will not have the same requirements as a video conferencing system. A Sony Playstation will not have the same requirements as a cell phone. So application specific profiles have been developed and advancements continue all the time.

The H.264 standard includes many sets of capabilities, the following sets are an example of some popular profiles and how they differ. They are referred to as profiles, as they are targeting specific classes of applications:

• Baseline Profile (BP): Primarily for lower-cost applications demanding less computing resources, this profile is used widely in videoconferencing and mobile applications.

• Main Profile (MP): Originally intended as the mainstream consumer profile for broadcast and storage applications, the importance of this profile faded when the High profile was developed for those applications.

• Extended Profile (XP): Intended as the streaming video profile, this profile has relatively high compression capability and some extra tricks for robustness to data losses and server stream switching.

Similarly, other codecs also have a variety of profiles.

Some DVR manufacturers are onto third, fourth and fifth generations of the latest H.264 profiles, while others are first experimenting. With each generation come further enhancements, efficiencies and quality. Juxtaposed with the compression technology advances are digital processor advancements. Always remember it’s a moving target and its never perfect, as new matches of components to hardware and software introduce new challenges.

Think about Microsoft, with billions of dollars – their operating systems are never perfect and are a constant evolution. 

One thing to note, all the money in the world cannot buy the time necessary for product development, as DVR solution development is “linear.” Linear meaning, the next person in line must wait for the prior one to finish their programming or development, before they can continue. Therefore, many aspects of development cannot occur simultaneously.

More and more the newest entrants into the DVR business have been the IT companies such as IBM, Cisco and Motorola, who are well equipped from a technical perspective. They too though shall go through the same painful process as their predecessors but are more qualified to solve the problems in a more expeditious and efficient manner. These entities are also participants in the consortiums that develop the compression standards such as the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
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