The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on where technology and market trends are taking us and to ask what these trends might mean for our development over the next 12-months.
2014 certainly saw multi-megapixel and HD IP cameras going fully mainstream. At Network Webcams we rarely sell cameras which are less than a megapixel and as the leading online supplier of IP video products in the UK we are selling a lot of them. We anticipate this trend will only accelerate through 2015 with full HD 1080p cameras becoming the dominant resolution for new installs and CCTV upgrades by year-end. These cameras now deliver very high quality images in low light conditions making reliable 24-hour surveillance much easier to achieve, in some cases supported by IR or White LED lighting.
It is also noticeable that these cameras now contain so much more capability out of the box. A good IP camera might contain electronic image stabilisation (vital for installation on high poles or exposed roofs). In addition, they often offer an ability to enhance images to combat local conditions such as fog or smoke which previously would have rendered images useless for identification purposes.
The increase in numbers of successful end-user deployments of video analytics software have also been great to see after so many years of over-promising and under-delivering in this area. More and more ANPR, facial recognition and intelligent video motion detection analytics solutions are proving reliable in the field and are no longer cost-prohibitive to deploy. There is no doubt that much of this analytics only works reliably today because most cameras are providing those high resolution images that the analytics software demands to do an efficient job.
As prices fall further, end-users will also begin to recognise the power of the latest breed of thermal cameras. Â New thermal camera technology provides arguably the most reliable and accurate method of detection at night as they are not prone to problems experienced by standard surveillance cameras such as shadows or dark patches where lighting is especially poor.
Less positively, 4K cameras will NOT go mainstream in 2015. Associated technologies needed to make 4K of any real use are not yet mature enough and early examples have light sensitivity (noise) issues. In addition, lens technology needs to improve and H.265 compression, still a couple of years off by all accounts, needs to come to market for 4K IP cameras to reach their full potential. However we predict 4K will move deeper into its early adoption phase in 2015.
Edge-based video systems have been boosted significantly by the mainstream availability of 64GB SD cards for edge-based storage in 2014 and increased in-camera processing power being delivered by a new generation of chips in the latest cameras will see more and more advanced software being deployed on the camera instead of centrally on a server. We see this trend continuing in 2015 (and beyond) as 128GB cards reach the market and chip sets continue to grow more powerful.
We are also going to see increased deployments of high capacity Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) as even medium-sized CCTV systems, if HD camera-dominated, routinely demand several terabytes of storage capacity.
Distribution of images to mobile devices will also continue to become more important. On this note, video management software (VMS) which delivers easy and reliable access to images on smart phones and tablets will also see increased demand in our view. VMS systems and cameras must also be viewable from all mainstream web browsers and platforms. A few leading camera manufacturers such as Axis understand this but many are still focusing just on Internet Explorer which is no longer good enough. Browser agnosticism will start to become a more significant differentiator in 2015.
Market demand for IP video
Looking beyond technology leaps to wider market changes which might impact IP video‘s wider adoption; there is no doubt that the rising tensions in society create an environment in which more public space security and surveillance systems are likely to be deployed and upgraded.
However, the other key trend we are seeing is the demand for IP video systems to meet a wider range of business management and business intelligence needs. For example, we will see more video systems being deployed to ensure health & safety procedures are being properly followed in warehouses, factory floors and across retail and leisure sites. These systems will be used by production managers, health and safety officers, facilities managers, HR managers and learning & development professionals. Recordings they gather will be used to support efficiency drives, insurance claims or underpin training requirements.
Cameras are already being used in the retail sector to analyse how shoppers circulate around stores via heat mapping software. They are also used to monitor till queues and help managers determine when to open up new tills. This information can be used to help improve the in-store customer experience. They also help retailers design stores more efficiently – enabling them to charge suppliers more for premium high traffic locations for example.
Non-security specific deployments of IP video are increasing as more business systems are being migrated onto the corporate network and integrated with each other as part of efficiency drives. We are seeing this trend in the industrial world in particular as plants embrace Industrial Ethernet. For example this year, we are exploring the opportunity to offer IP video systems to support Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and associated Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs) in industrial plants and utility sub-stations. Once all key control systems travel over an IP network, integration becomes relatively easy and inexpensive so, if there is a business case for doing so, these projects are being given the green-light in increasing numbers.
It remains noteworthy that leading industry analysts still estimate that three-quarters of all surveillance cameras sold in the UK are analogue-based. If this is really true, and we are no longer convinced, it is fascinating given the fact that we now know that the value of the IP cameras sold has definitely already outstripped that of the analogue cameras as we predicted a year ago.
A recent report by Transparency Market Research predicted the Video Surveillance market to maintain a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 19.1% through until 2019. Other estimates are all in the 17-25% range over the next 4-5 years. Our own growth rate over recent years (as well as discussions with a wide range of product manufacturers whose products we sell and install) suggests these estimates are in the right range, notwithstanding any further global economic turmoil that may still hit us over the next few years.
So it is with some confidence that NW Systems and the rest of the IP Video market can look forward into 2015. However we must remain cognisant of new technology adoption expectations and wider market trends; not least the trend for bringing business operations systems and devices together onto the IP network and getting them communicating with each other over the same network infrastructure.