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Profitability of Megapixel solutions

altThe latest generation of Megapixel cameras is demonstrating increased cost efficiency and video performance.

By: Raúl Calderón*

Network security and video surveillance systems are gaining momentum, and the use of Megapixel video technology is becoming a general-purpose solution for all types of applications.

Initially, the Megapixel video system encountered problems and adverse reactions and was only used in special and specific applications due to the limitations of the transmission, bandwidth, and storage technologies that existed. But today it has become a compelling business, and the use of Megapixel technology does not represent a problem but an advantage in efficiency and reduction of overall costs of any system. As a result, today's Megapixel cameras are changing the specifications of video surveillance systems, their implementation, and the justification for their use.

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Here's how Megapixel formats and IP technology can be combined for cost-effective systems:

Megapixel cameras can improve functionality and reduce costs. The current network systems allow the application of Megapixel cameras, which offer technology and image functionality far superior compared to analog cameras. A single megapixel camera can normally be used in place of several standard definition or conventional analog cameras. Fewer cameras mean fewer cables, fewer software licenses or DVR inputs and, most importantly, thanks to reduced installation time, labor costs are drastically reduced.

In addition, the use of Megapixel cameras avoids the use of Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) mechanical devices, which reduces the costs of mechanical maintenance of video installations to zero; users can digitally perform Pan, Tilt or Zoom movements with the image in real time while simultaneously recording the entire field of view. This is something absolutely impossible to do with the analog systems that have been the market standard. In addition, and depending on the resolution of the Megapixel camera used, we can obtain between four and 30 times more resolution in the recorded video, compared to the analog ones that are currently still used. In general, in the long run, Megapixel cameras produce a higher return on investment (ROI) than conventional cameras and even in many cases, this return is immediate.

Standardized components. Megapixel IP video systems are configured exactly like the block diagram of any IT system, including servers, network switches, digital storage of information, etc. This allows Megapixel cameras to easily integrate with any other video surveillance system and security devices, with extreme cost efficiency.

The use of H.264 compression has dramatically reduced costs related to network bandwidth, server CPU capacity, and storage. In this way, it decreases the total cost of a Megapixel system for the end customer. Competition between suppliers has also led to lower prices and accelerated the development of new technologies to further improve product functionality. These trends have contributed to raising system performance while reducing overall costs.

Software is taking on a leading role. Because the "brain" of IP video systems is in the software, it is much easier to upgrade or extend a system once it has been finished or even in the execution phase. Software updates are available through simple online downloads and, above all, much more cost-effective than the equipment swap.

Scalability provides greater flexibility. One of the biggest intrinsic advantages of networking is scalability. With an analog system, adding a camera or moving camera locations requires a great deal of effort, labor and expense – from physically moving the camera to a new location or installing new wiring from the end of the recorder to the location of the camera, to installing a local power supply and adding additional processing hardware such as multiplexers or even the need to change the recorder to lack of video inputs.

With a Megapixel IP system, you can add or move a camera by simply mounting it, connecting a single cable to the structured network, and thus providing video, bidirectional data and power. Server configuration and storage of additional cameras will be fully managed by a video management front end system (VMS). In most cases the IP address is automatically assigned to you the moment the new device connected to the network is detected, and the system will be immediately operational.

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Existing infrastructure may be sufficient. Networked systems that include Megapixel IP video surveillance cameras can often use existing Internet or WiFi infrastructure, or through the corporate network. In any case, the existing network infrastructure helps to eliminate the need to create a parallel network just for the video surveillance system.

Lower wiring costs. Structured cabling – specifically CAT5/6 – is less expensive than coaxial cable. Its weight and volume is lower and it has a faster transmission speed. Wiring is also simplified thanks to Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology, which supplies power to cameras via the same cable as video and data, eliminating the need for a separate power supply for each camera.

As a result, it is no longer necessary to provide localized power at every camera location, allowing us infinite installation and move flexibility, dramatically reducing the most significant costs, labor, as well as equipment, accessories and services.

Intelligent systems decrease operating costs and increase ease of use. Networked systems, with high-resolution Megapixel cameras capable of capturing large amounts of data, are ideal for performing video analytics based on intelligent system servers and improving overall security by simplifying operations. Megapixel cameras are excellent tools for applications that require the monitoring and tracking of vast areas, and also provide recorded information of an infinitely higher level.

The cost of staff to monitor monitor video walls – often with hundreds of cameras – is expensive and impractical. With Megapixel cameras, intelligent systems can do an optimal job of detecting changes in a video frame, depending on the parameters defined by the user, as well as automatically notifying the appropriate personnel of the news. This allows you to reduce the number of employees (lower payroll) and be more sensitive to the real-time benefits of IP video systems.

Misconceptions of this technology
A productive debate about Megapixel video systems requires us to discard some false ideas spread about this technology:

Megapixel cameras are too expensive. Comparing the price of a megapixel camera to the price of an analog or standard VGA IP camera doesn't tell the full story. To compare apples with apples, you need to determine the cost of the cameras and compare the total number of cameras along with the total infrastructure needed to support them. This cost assessment approach clearly reveals the efficiencies and cost savings through the use of Megapixel cameras. In addition, current Megapixel cameras have also reduced their costs; in some cases, prices are comparable to VGA IP cameras or analog cameras with encoders.

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Megapixel video takes up too much bandwidth and storage. H.264 video compression has eliminated bandwidth and storage concerns related to Megapixel video, as it can reduce the costs of a high-quality video system. The H.264 compression format produces video quality equivalent to the JPEG compression method we commonly use in our cameras.

The main difference between the two is that H.264 allows a significant reduction in bandwidth and also provides the same video quality. Reduced bandwidth translates into a reduction in the cost of security installations; as a result, disk storage and network equipment requirements are reduced. H.264-based cameras produce smaller file sizes, which means the VMS server uses fewer CPU resources for greater system efficiency.

H.264 compression has a "hidden" cost. A common myth about H.264 is the so-called "hidden cost", a mistaken belief that indicates the high CPU resources needed for H.264 encoding, so the resources required in the decoder must also be high – even more so for Megapixel video. Actually, the opposite is true: H.264 streams may actually require less CPU power to be decompressed. The complexity of H.264 encoding is found in the camera. And the Megapixel video decompression by VMS H.264 software is similar to JPEG.

Profitability analysis
A challenge for security professionals is to demonstrate the value of high-quality video to their company's executives through management and security measurements that are specific to their company and industry. The correct expression of the technical capabilities and benefits of new technologies for the management of the company, in terms of final benefits, is an essential part of the work of security professionals in today's business world. Knowledge is vital – both knowledge of technologies and their capabilities and knowledge of how they can benefit the profitability of the company.

When working with the constraints of corporate spending, security professionals must carefully consider both the initial cost of the new technology and the expenses that will occur in the future. Above all, they should focus on the value that technology can bring to their company. The cost of new technologies can be covered through the prevention of future costs and greater efficiency in terms of superior image quality and better recoverable information after the recording of video images.

These technologies have proven their worth in protecting corporate assets, improving the prevention of random losses, defending companies against onerous liability lawsuits, and improving the effectiveness of simple security operations. Here are some suggestions for communicating to your superiors about the cost of the system:

Be specific about cost savings. Create a spreadsheet comparing the costs of a standard megapixel camera system versus IP or analog camera technologies. Focus on the specific impact of using an infinitely smaller number of cameras, the unnecessary use of PTZ systems and the optimal result of all this. Consider all expenses, including savings on infrastructure, reduction in the number of components (cameras, lenses, housings, brackets, wiring, etc.), installation savings, and repair costs. Prepare your case to present the benefits of the technology in terms of operational advantages for the company, as well as in the long-term cost to the owners.

Emphasize the best resolution of video images. They say that "a picture is worth a thousand words" and the modern corollary could be "a Megapixel image is worth a million words." The quality of a Megapixel image is a great sales tool thanks to its technology. Viewing live or recorded Megapixel images is one of the best ways to strengthen a decision for a new system. Try comparing an image recorded with standard definition or an analog image with a Megapixel image, and zoom in after an event to demonstrate the utility in judicial expertise of the images recorded by Megapixel cameras.

The real applications
Each customer's image and application quality expectations must correspond to the correct Megapixel camera. Although a 5MP camera might be an excellent choice in some projects, it's not necessarily ideal for all scenarios. If an app requires its different frame rate or light sensitivity, for example, a 1.3 MP, 2 MP or 3MP camera might be a better choice. You have to be attentive to the needs of the application and set real expectations, as these are important steps in choosing the right Megapixel camera. It is also of utmost importance to find an installer and integrator with sufficient knowledge to be a reliable advisor.

Like all management personnel in today's economy, security professionals need to justify every dollar spent on security. While cost savings are one of the main challenges, providing the strictest security regarding asset and personnel protection outweighs any other challenge.

It is essential to demonstrate that with the use of Megapixel cameras compared to conventional imaging devices, the ability to return on investment – in addition to savings and increasing efficiency – will be safe. In this way, we urge sellers and users to compare the results of any analysis related to analog or VGA technologies, with Megapixel technology. We assure you that the results will be evident. Use Megapixel.

*Raúl Calderón is the Vice President of Marketing at Arecont Vision.

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