In a challenging economic climate and with end users understandably demanding maximum Return on Investment from their financial outlay on video surveillance systems, it might be time for security professionals to take a closer look at how 360° cameras could give them a competitive edge, writes Enrico Bizzaro.
Simply put, 360° fisheye lens cameras are able to reduce the cost of video surveillance in many situations as they can be used to monitor very wide or large areas. Cost savings are achieved by significantly reducing the number of cameras needed for video surveillance projects in environments such as airports, hospitals, large office reception areas, retail outlets and public spaces.
In addition to a reduction in capital costs, such cameras are straightforward to install and commission. With no moving parts, 360° cameras offer further cost savings in terms of maintenance.
Even when fixed cameras are carefully installed, ‘blind’ areas may still occur which, in a retail environment, for example, shoplifters will be keen to exploit. While PTZ cameras will help to negate this problem, they cannot provide a simultaneous uninterrupted recording of all events, with the risk that they may not be pointing at where an incident is taking place. A 360° camera is able to exceed the capabilities of a PTZ camera by recording activity over a wide area and in every direction at the same time.
There’s certainly no shortage of manufacturers of 360° cameras. Axis Communications, Hanwha Techwin, Hikvision, Vivotek, Mobotix and Oncam are just a few of the well-known names who produce HD models, some of which are capable of capturing images at resolutions of 4K and beyond, as well as 360° lens manufacturers such as Immersion. These allow you to zoom in to see close up detail of any incidents or suspicious activity without any pixelation in the images, further underscoring the ability of 360° cameras to do the job of several standard cameras.
As you would expect, all of these manufacturers provide software which enables the 360° images captured by their cameras to be de-warped into various standard formats. It’s worth noting that this could be an issue if you wish to mix and match cameras from different manufacturers when designing an integrated video surveillance solution, as the de-warping software from one manufacturer may not support all camera types.
Client side de-warping
Advances in technology in the form of Video Management Software have come to the rescue. Software de-warps the fisheye images captured by any 360° cameras and provides the option for them to be monitored alongside video from other types of cameras in a multi-image display. An added bonus is that the images may be used by various client-side analytics (eg heat mapping and people counting).
The software allows operators to effortlessly ‘move’ throughout the 360° images either with a conventional joystick or a three-axis mouse or it can be set to pan like a continual PTZ. Most importantly, whatever the operator does, the original 360° images captured are stored unaltered such that specific video data can, if required, be presented and verified in a Court of Law.
A powerful feature of ‘camera agnostic’ de-warping solutions is their ability to create a unique video clip of a person or moving object. Operators can access the video data archive and select/record the actions of an individual by following them with the PTZ function and then saving the video clip. This action can be repeated any number of times to extract and then save the evidence of simple or complex events.
With the cost of 360° cameras falling and proven de-warping software readily available, the time might now be right to consider them as a cost-effective option for most video surveillance projects.
Enrico Bizzaro is Head of Integrations at Wavestore Global Ltd