The resolution revolution in video surveillance: 4K and beyond

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Product manager, video security, Sony Professional Solutions Europe

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Roger Lawrence is Product Manager for Video Security at Sony Professional Solutions Europe. Beginning his career in the industry in 1990, Roger is highly experienced in broadcast engineering, professional audio, network systems, CCTV systems and network video surveillance. Since joining Sony, Roger has acquired an expert knowledge of camera technology, Video and Audio processing techniques, and IP networking, across roles ranging from video production engineer to product quality engineer and product specialist.Over the last 10 years Roger has been working predominantly within the Video Security and Visual communications business segments, in a variety of roles covering the EMEA region. In his current role, Roger manages Sony’s range of network-based video security products, including IP cameras, network recorders, CCTV and security software. Roger believes market awareness is a key element, and regularly represents Sony at major industry trade shows as well regional events.
January 27, 2017


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The video security industry continues to be a challenging and competitive one, but that hasn’t stopped a growing awareness of the benefits of 4K technology.

Recently, industry professionals have been working hard to promote 4K to the new standard, with continued success.

Today’s conversations in video security are going beyond traditional HD, and the appetite for high performance, high resolution and high sensitivity solutions is growing. This shift has enabled manufacturers to look beyond the previous trends of the market place, as uptake in 4K continues to grow.

4K versus analogue

There’s frequently an element of apprehension when a new technology launches. It’s synonymous of attempting to innovate within a marketplace, and happens both within the video security industry and beyond.

Many people will search for limitations about a particular technology before they allow themselves to admit the benefits. In these occasions, it’s up to technology providers and industry professionals to reassure the market of the opportunities the new technology can offer.

Analogue still has a strong presence in low cost markets where the main consideration for selecting the right solution is the price point. In contrast, 4K and IP are driving customer demand when quality of image and reliability are priority.

One 4K camera is capable of covering the same area as four HD cameras, bringing greater flexibility and ROI

Those security buyers that initially paused when making the transition from analogue to HD have recognised that a new level of solution is available. It’s not just about HD anymore, but 4K HD has undergone a revolution and 4K is quickly becoming the new standard.

The move from analogue to HD won’t happen overnight, but with maturing technologies comes more open buyers, and an environment which openly encourages them to upgrade to the next level of technology.

As a surveillance technology, 4K is miles ahead of analogue. It can cover greater areas in more detail, giving more information within an image than the grainy types often generated from analogue.

Imagine a car park: looking at an analogue image, we would be able to make out a vehicle with a person in it. In comparison, a 4K image would reveal the vehicle model, the registration number, and will let you identify who that person is, even what brand of clothing they’re wearing.

What’s more, one 4K camera is capable of covering the same area as four HD cameras, bringing greater flexibility and ROI – criteria all security professionals should be considering when sourcing the ideal solution.

Going to market

Security managers have always been asking for higher resolution in the solutions to ensure detailed replay footage, clearer facial recognition and more accurate live-monitoring. While 4K surveillance can be applied across many different markets, there are a few which really benefit from making the resolution upgrade.

City surveillance – car parks, shopping centres and critical areas of cities – need to be able to monitor large areas in great detail, making them ideal for 4K. The detail provided by 4K technology lets security professionals ensure anything suspicious is dealt with appropriately and accurately, eliminating any guesswork in identifying who or what is the object of interest in any one particular frame.

It also has the ability to manage business loss. In logistics settings, such as shipping areas with a high volume of parcels, 4K imaging can also help identify where packages might have been misplaced – offsetting costs and managing loss in a positive way.

There’s a split in the video security market between those who have security cameras simply to tick a box for insurance purposes, and those who invest in it to solve a problem, make a prosecution or to reduce crime. Those with the latter mindset are those that are most likely to benefit from the features a 4k solution can provide.

Education case study

A perfect example of this is Harton Technology College, which recently became the first educational institution to install a 4K video security solution in an effort to improve security and safety. The college wanted a solution that would provide superb image quality to ensure the most effective monitoring of key areas on the site.

With a busy main gate carrying students, staff, parents and visitors through it every day, it was crucial that the solution was able to capture the most minute of details.

4K technology has given the school broad coverage with high image resolution, allowing them to cover a large area with fewer cameras, whilst simultaneously having the ability to zoom in to areas of interest within the scene without the image quality becoming imperceptible.

Harton Technology College not only needed a high level of physical security. It also needed a visible level of security to give parents, staff and pupils peace of mind, demonstrating that is has the capability of taking appropriate action should incidents occur.

The college has been forward looking in its approach, knowing what problem it had to solve and identifying the 4K solution that could solve it.

Beyond resolution

4K is about more than imaging. It’s about integration and providing an all-round solution. The most effective 4K technology is that which has been designed to integrate into full HD systems.

Security buyers shouldn’t refrain from making the move to 4K because of existing models they have. 4K cameras can seamlessly integrate into existing systems with no impact on the hardware infrastructure in place.

The cost of having people monitor cameras 24/7 is very high and inefficient financially

There’s still anxiety within the industry that high resolution means low sensitivity. It’s simply not the case.

Advancement in technology means the industry can enjoy high sensitivity and strong bandwidth performance alongside the best resolution – it’s not the case of one coming at the expense of another anymore. Manufacturers are on a mission to overcome anxieties users have about transitioning to 4K, such as low light sensitivity and low frame rate.

The industry needs solutions that go above and beyond resolution to deliver an offering to significantly change the effectiveness of security for end users.

Flexibility also needs to be a priority. People are becoming more digital in their everyday lives, from online banking and shopping to communication, and the video security industry shouldn’t be any different. Physical control rooms are declining across Europe, and having the option to access cameras from smartphones is becoming ubiquitous.

The cost of having people monitor cameras 24/7 is very high and inefficient financially. Mobile applications give security buyers the opportunity to have round the clock access, without a person being there physically, and it’s something manufacturers should not ignore when developing solutions.

The future’s bright

4K is here now, and it’s here to stay. But what’s next?

The next logical progression is for CCTV to become fully integrated with other systems, such as alarms and access control, and it’s already starting to happen. Cameras available in the market today have features preparing for this – analytics, plug in software and audio capability, for example.

As this technology develops to become standard, and it’s easier to do, more users will get on board. Users will demand interactive, rather than separate systems, and manufacturers will develop technology to fulfil this.

Some security professionals are linking 4K sensors to generate a 12K image, so it’s clear resolution is high on the list of priorities

Many organisations today have different resource owning security, networks and building, but as home automation grows, so will the line between their responsibilities.

Looking forward, the industry will continue to demand the highest resolution. Stitching technology is already facilitating 8K imaging and beyond.

Some security professionals are linking 4K sensors to generate a 12K image, so it’s clear resolution is high on the list of priorities. Security professionals need to be able to follow the full journey of an object of interest within a scene, and high resolution imaging is the way to achieve that.

The resolution revolution is well and truly upon the video security industry, and it’s not going to stop at 4K. The benefits of high resolution technology will become more widely recognised across the industry, with reduced camera counts offering savings on installation and running costs, and high sensitivity and bandwidth becoming part and parcel of 4K technology.

Change is being driven by end-users and the public and there’s an opportunity to transform surveillance. It’s down to manufacturers to take security into the next decade and beyond with the next generation of imaging technology.

The technology is out there to improve safety, reduce crime and alleviate anxieties about security. Solutions are only going to get smarter and security professionals will have access to greater resolution than they ever have before. Watch this space!

Check out four 4K dome cameras go head to head in our tech specs infographic








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February 2, 2017 5:27 pm

Why fake and misrepresent reality by using the comparison image at the top of this piece? Isn’t it a shame someone does that? How disposed are we to trust what follows? If we take the 4K side as 100%, then the “HD” side of the image would be 50% the clarity (3840 vs 1920 pixels wide). I felt this looked wrong, so I’ve analysed it. It seems this image doesn’t show 50% but is inexplicable reduced to only 25%. This conveys the HD image at only half of its realistic clarity. As an independent consultant, most definitely not trying to… Read more »