A Primer on Electronic Security for Schools, Universities & Institutions

Blog Site for 2nd Edition Discussions & Reference Material

This is an excerpt from the draft of the 2nd edition, “A Primer on Electronic Security for Schools, Universities & Institutions”.  Readers are asked for their comments and viewpoints surrounding this snipet.
Tangets and offshoots to this topic are welcome.

2nd Edition Snippet: Video Compression… H.264 The Solution?

In order to take advantage of the benefits of IP-based systems, security professionals must understand the nuances of IP video. There are two major issues relating to IP video (and more specifically megapixel video) that need to be addressed.  They are the limitations of bandwidth and the fact that high-definition digital video data requires greater amounts of storage/recording space.  The key to striking the right balance comes down to one critical factor – compression and how it is controlled or more appropriately how it is “managed”.

The emergence of the H.264 standard is significantly changing the demands of megapixel video on bandwidth, and consequently, storage utilization. For this reason, the limitations are becoming much less of a factor.

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  1. Geoffrey Stoliker Said,

    The two forementioned ‘issues’ with megapixel (MP) cameras; bandwith and storage, are in fact true with most manufacturers and with most servers/networks. However, these issues do not relate to Arecont Vision MP cameras when operated at H.264.

    Let’s start with the overall misconceptions, though true for most manufacturer’s, about H.264. H.264 has been a ‘buzz word’ for a few years now and most people have figured out that it is a compression method, albeit one with some limiting factors for most, and one that seemed to not live up to the expectations that marketing departments tried to impart on the public.

    Loss of video quality and ‘blowing up the server’ are common complaints/misconceptions. H.264 is so compressed it cannot be decoded without putting too much pressure on the CPU in the server, and even if it does decode the images they are tiled or not put back in order etc etc etc.

    Arecont Vision has three PhD’s on staff and are accountable for over 70 patents and over 20 of those are in MP technologies i.e. CMOS. Not being sucked into the hype and disappointments of H.264, they looked at how to make H.264 efficient without causing any loss of video quality or CPU usage. And they have achieved those goals and we now offer the largest line of H.264 MP cameras.

    Utilizing Arecont Vision MP cameras in H.264 gives you the following positive results:

    1. No loss of video quality.
    2. No increase in CPU usage to decode. In fact, often the CPU usage drops with Arecont Vision cameras!
    3. A reduction of bandwith across the network.
    4. A drastic drop in needed storage.

    And the most important question people forget to ask, as a whole, about H.264 is this; at what resolution? At what resolution can a MP camera run H.264? For Arecont Vision the answer is easy. At FULL resolution. Why would you purchase a 1.3MP or 2MP camera but then have to set the camera at VGA resolution to achieve bandwith and storage savings utilizing H.264? Arecont Vision believes that you should be able to achieve the full resolution of any camera purchased at H.264 and we do across our entire product line.

    The end-users have always known what they want and what they need and with MP technology they are able to achieve thoses needs and wants. This is particularly true in schools across the US. And with the massive reduction in bandwith and storage utilizing Arecont Vision’s H.264, these wants and needs are able to be provided at a reasonable cost to any school district.

    I encourage you to go to http://www.arecontvision.com, select Support, then Sales Tools, and then the Storage Calculator to see for yourself just how much reduction can be achieved using Arecont Vision cameras at H.264.

    Finally, remember to always ask the follow-up question you didn’t know to ask when looking at H.264 camera solutions… At what resolution?



  2. Doug Marman Said,

    There is another solution to these problems of bandwidth and storage through the use of intelligent storage in the camera. This is the capability of some new IP cameras to store a months worth of video or more right in the camera, and to use video analytics to intelligently adjust the quality of the recording when it detects that important events are taking place in the scene.

    Since the video is recorded and contained in the camera, it takes up no bandwidth until there is a critical event and video needs to be viewed. Since only about 1% or less of video is ever viewed, this saves 99% of the bandwidth consumed by traditional IP cameras.

    Video analytics built into the camera provide a number of benefits: First, they can be used to optimize the storage and to assure the highest quality recording when important events are taking place. The analytics can detect when something important is happening and records these events in high resolution, high quality and high frame rates, while recording unimportant scenes at the traditional lower quality and lower frame rates that most video systems record.

    Second, the video analytics can send an alert when something important has been detected. This can be used for proactive warnings, to help stop a problem before it goes too far. Or it can be used to automatically send a video clip for redundant storage at a central location, to assure the video is protected.

    The bandwidth and storage savings can be substantial, and the value of proactive detection increases the value of the video system. These new cameras can also use H.264 compression, to even further reduce bandwidth and storage costs.

  3. Charles Foley Said,

    Interesting thoughts. However, when discussing storage requirements, one of the key factors that must be outlined is the RETENTION PERIOD. In the educational systems, we are increasingly seeing extended retention periods moving from the ‘old standard’ of 30 days, to a period around 9 months. This is to allow for extended forensic capability in order to access data for scenarios such as:
    a) liability claims filed months later (in 47 of 50 states, you are allowed 2+ years to file a personal injury type claim, such as a ‘slip and fall’ claim)
    b) bullying – this is a common issue in schools for which schools are increasingly being held liable. In cases such as this, the pattern of behaviour must be proven/disproven, and an extended trail of evidence is needed.
    c) potential abductions – in the event of a potential or attempted abduction, forensic investigators often need to go back weeks/months to determine if there was a pattern of behaviour from a person, a vehicle, etc. leading up to the incident
    d) property theft – often, this occurs in smaller units over time, to avoid detection. It is often reqiured to be able to show a pattern of XYZ employee or contractor entering/exiting a certain area over time to ascertain the true value of stolen property and establish a reasonable basis for suspicion.

    Schools are increasingly struggling to establish policies that allow them to protect their people, property, and assets, and a solid Physical Security Plan with a strong Surveillance Policy is key. Retention is emerging as a crucial aspect of those plans, and I believe we need more guidance and best practices’ shared to assist these institutions that are so vital to th future of our country.

  4. Mathanas Said,

    This is a brilliant post. There are two major issues relating to IP video. The fact that high-definition digital video data requires greater amounts of storage/recording space depends on how we control it.

    Thanks for this fancy post!

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