The digital revolution continues
Sep 1, 2002 12:00 PM
By FRANK ABRAM
The CCTV and security industries are starting to reap the benefits of the digital revolution. Over the past 20 years, electronics technology in general has been developing at a rapid pace. Today's products are smarter, smaller and more efficient than ever.
But with rapid growth and development, there is also confusion ¡ª some as the result of bewilderment, some as a result of resistance. In either case, it is imperative to educate the industry and its customers to apply these technologies in everyday business.
So the bottom line question is, "As an industry, are we better off today with all this new technology than we were without it?" I firmly believe that we are much better off now than we were ever before. However, it's up to us to drive our business and its interests in the best possible direction.
As we work our way through the migration to a digital world, it is important to remember that the majority of CCTV systems across the country use analog devices with a high degree of effectiveness. In addition, the cost of analog equipment, specifically general- purpose analog cameras, has dropped significantly over recent years, one reason being the availability of CCTV devices featuring digital technology.
There is a monumental difference between a digital camera and a camera with digital signal processing. A digital camera ¡ª like those commonly found in the broadcast arena ¡ª process digital signals and output a digital signal. This results in exceptionally high quality, but also requires digital compatible devices downstream. To date, there are no such digital cameras available in the CCTV industry.
DSP cameras have become more commonplace over recent years. DSP cameras process analog signals digitally, thus providing a wealth of feature advantages, and then convert the signal to conventional analog output. Other CCTV devices that are often referred to as digital cover a wide range of product categories. They include matrix switchers, multiplexers, quad systems and other processing devices that use digital technology to process analog signals. Move a notch higher on the digital food chain and you'll find computer automation software followed by DVD-RAM recorders.
As with any new technology, digital CCTV equipment was initially more expensive than its analog counterparts. This is no longer the case. Many digital cameras have been scaled down or reduced in price to levels comparable with analog cameras.
The capabilities of tomorrow's CCTV systems will be dictated by the digital network's capabilities. A new scale of measurement will consequently govern the capacity and power to process and manipulate video images. As it was once explained to me, the size of the network "pipe" is all that limits the scope of a network's capabilities.
Today's digital CCTV technology is also paving the way for the transition to network integration. More and more CCTV system devices call upon computers to store and run programming. The video-data link is becoming inseparable at every level of application. As a result, there is a new horizon for CCTV applications ¡ª the next logical building block for CCTV systems is the Web. The Internet provides the most economical means of interactive video-data signal transmission. This opens up a new level of off-site control capabilities for intra-facility networking, multiple facility remote operations, central station monitoring, and more.
The integration of telecommunications and CCTV is another closely woven link. More companies, government agencies and municipalities are establishing private networks to handle their telecommunications needs. This provides even greater cost efficiency when utilizing standard telephone lines for video transmission. The utilization of telephone line transmission provides central station monitoring operations with a tremendous opportunity for growth with their existing base of customers.
The continued evolution of digital CCTV technology will foster additional opportunities as the industry and users find new means to apply them.
Frank Abram is general manager of Panasonic Security Systems Group, Secaucus, N.J.