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To go IP or not go IP? That is the question…

This article addresses a question which port and terminal managers are likely to ask themselves at the beginning of the process of specifying a surveillance system: Should the system architecture be based on a pure video over an IP network-based system, or is conventional analogue technology still able to deliver all that a port or terminal is likely to need from its surveillance system? Understandably, you are likely to have an inclination to want to buy a solution that is based on the very latest technology. A major investment in a surveillance system is not something you would wish to repeat on a regular basis. You would therefore want to purchase a solution that is not just fit for today’s purposes, but also is future-proof in terms of its expandability and its ability to integrate with new technology that may become available in the future.

More questions than answers

The most common question that I and my colleagues are regularly asked is, “What is the break-even point where the number of cameras to be installed makes it cost effective to consider an IP network solution, instead of a system connected by a conventional analogue infrastructure?” Some people quote this as 20 cameras, some at 30, but there is in fact no simple answer to this question as there are so many factors that have to be taken into consideration, many of which will be affected by your operational requirements.

This article is therefore intended to suggest a wide ranging number of questions that your system designer needs to address before a decision can be made as to whether or not to go for an IP network-based system. These are:

• Do you intend to have one or more operators watching the live video around the clock, and if so, will all the operators be located in a single control room?
• Other than security personnel located in your control room, do you have other colleagues who, if authorised to do so, would wish to have remote access to the live or recorded video?
• Will the surveillance system be used for purposes other than security, e.g. health & safety compliance or management information, footfall management, parking control, etc?
• Will the surveillance system be expected to interact with other security systems, e.g. access control?
• Except when there is an incident that needs to be more closely observed, do you wish to be able to capture very highresolution recognition or even identification-grade images of all activity in the field-of-view of the cameras? Alternatively, will image quality, which enables an operator to just verify that an incident is taking place, be sufficient?
• Do you need every second of video from all the cameras to berecorded 24/7?
• Will you want to store recorded video for one week, onemonth, or even longer?
• What is the bandwidth capacity of your existing network?
• Will your network manager allow the surveillance system to share the available bandwidth with whatever else is being transmitted around the network?

When you have the answers to these questions, and perhaps some others that are specific to your port or terminal, your system designer should be able to make some recommendations on how your system should be structured to match your requirements. He or she should, of course, take on board the advice of your chosen installer or system  ntegrator. There are also manufacturers like Samsung who offer a free system design service and, while these manufacturers will quite rightly want to promote their own products, in the main you should be able to expect a high degree of objectivity when it comes to providing advice on the design of the system’s architecture.

Solutions

The key advantages of an IP-based surveillance system are:

• Substantial savings can be made on cabling installation costs because an existing network can be used, instead of installing totally new cables. A single network cable is also able to carry video, audio and data, as well as provide telemetry and PoE (Power over Ethernet).

• The opportunity to control and monitor the system from anywhere on the network.

• Resilience – Mission-critical video recordings can be stored at any location on the network and retrieved from any PC by an authorised user. A high level of redundancy can therefore be introduced by choosing to simultaneously record and store video at multiple locations.

• IP-based surveillance systems allow users to gain maximum benefit from the latest generation of high-definition cameras.

These cameras can deliver so much more than conventional analogue CCTV cameras, which typically generate images comprising of just 0.4m pixels. A 1.3-megapixel camera, depending on the field of view, can do the job of several analogue cameras as it can cover a wide area and then zoom in very close when required to a distant object without ‘pixilation’ appearing in the image.

The recent availability of multi-megapixel cameras offers the possibility of even higher definition images. While analogue cabling can connect these high definition cameras, the full benefits of the technology built-into the cameras are best achieved within an IP-based system. The much higher recording requirements of these impressive cameras needs, however, to be taken into consideration at the system design stage.

More often than not, the most cost effective and fit for purpose solution for port or terminal projects is likely to be a ‘hybrid’ system, where the best of both technologies are deployed. A hybrid system allows both IP and analogue cameras to be controlled from the same device, and additional cameras can be added at any time without the need for new long cable runs.

The recent advances in both cameras and digital video recording technology favour a hybrid approach. The WiseNet1 DSP chipset, for example, which has been incorporated into a large number of widely available analogue cameras and domes, provides technology that is ideal for a ‘hybrid’ surveillance system. This includes a practical time and cost-saving feature, such as BNC and Ethernet outputs, so that video can be transmitted via coaxial cabling as well as over a network.

Coaxial control offers convenience as well as cost savings, allowing both video and telemetry control to be transmitted via conventional analogue coaxial cabling. This gives users full control of camera functions, as well as access to set-up menus via a digital video recorder from the convenience of a control room. As well as a reduction in cabling costs, there is also the opportunity for existing equipment to be upgraded quickly and easily.

Simon Shawley, General Manager UK & Ireland, Samsung Techwin Europe Ltd., Surrey, UK
Edition: Edition 47

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