The impact of the return of analogue

Posted On 08 Sep 2017
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UK analogue video camera technology sales are reportedly on the up. So what do the experts think are the reasons for this and what does it mean for the video surveillance/security market in the future?

Up until recently we were told by some manufacturers that IP would dominate analogue systems into extinction and anyone still insisting on fitting analogue video was living on borrowed time. However after talking to a number of people at IFSEC this year it became apparent that the trend is actually turning full circle and the sales of analogue cameras is going up. What can we make of this state of affairs? The experts explain all:

Gareth Williams – Oprema

The UK is the most mature CCTV market in the world with wide reaching coax infrastructure already in place. With the development in HD over coax technology, such as HDCVI, TVI, AHD, installers can offer end users HD quality images and even 4K over their existing coax infrastructure. This solution can provide a less time consuming and disruptive upgrade path compared to re-cabling with CAT5 and IP. Another potential driver for analogue technology is installer familiarity and the barrier of retraining the engineering force, and the potential added layer of IT complexity that an IP system can present. Considering these added features and benefits, combined with the relative low cost of the hardware and ease of upgrade, analogue technology will continue to hold its own in the marketplace.

We are currently experiencing further research and development, which may not have been the case three or four years ago, into HD over coax technology with analytics and 4K now becoming available. However, we see a significant majority of new build projects using IP technology as the de facto standard. Underpinning this is interconnectivity and integration with other systems such as intrusion, access control, fire and BMS, which is significantly more achievable over IP technology. Using video combined with analytics as a form of business intelligence is now more prevalent in spaces such as retail, whilst safe city schemes are evaluating facial recognition technology which will no doubt increase the need for IP.

Pom Chen – Hikvision UK & Ireland

Analogue technology has improved significantly over the past two years giving a new lease of life to legacy security systems. The ability to display ultra-HD 4K images over regular coax cables provides installers with the opportunity to offer 21st century quality images using infrastructures which can sometimes be decades old.

With the increased image quality naturally bandwidth requirements and storage capacity are increased, this is no longer an issue for professional security installers, systems integrators or their end-user customers with the advances in smart codecs. For example the Turbo range from Hikvision benefits from a H.265+ smart codec which can reduce bandwidth requirements by up to 75% compared to the previously used H.264 codec allowing for high quality images without the worry of heavy bandwidth usage. Storage costs can also be significantly reduced as the smart codec provides ultra-high definition image quality without the need for large storage requirements making this solution a win-win for security installers and their end-user customers.

The other main difficulty security installers previously faced when installing analogue systems was having to run both a coax cable to transport the images back to the recorder and a power cable to provide power to the camera. With the recent introduction of Power over Coax (PoC) this problem is removed and only one cable is required for both images and power; something which hasn’t previously been possible with legacy analogue systems.

Alastair McLeod – Veracity UK

When IP cameras first arrived, they were expensive and the complexities of networking were beyond many traditional installers.  However, the images provided by the higher resolution devices were compelling and prices have fallen dramatically.  IP cameras enabled the CCTV industry to rise above its old reputation for producing fuzzy pictures which were not fit for purpose (i.e. identification).

Analogue camera manufacturers realised that, to compete, they also had to increase their image resolution.  They have responded, exploiting the availability of high-resolution sensors and by developing advanced analogue signal transmission schemes.  They achieved this whilst keeping costs very low, therefore it is not very surprising that sales are rising again after a long period of decline.

However, in my view, high-definition analogue cameras are a technological dead-end in the longer term.  IP camera resolutions are rising further and image quality is increasing.  It will be more and more difficult to match this with analogue techniques (which are also subject to transmission noise and signal degradation).  Further, it is very easy to connect and power IP cameras over legacy coaxial cabling with Ethernet-over-Coax adaptors.  IP cameras are already very powerful devices, able to run motion detection, video analytics, perform on-board back-up recording and even write directly to disk arrays, or to the cloud, or stream to mobile devices.

We must also remember that high-definition analogue cameras require very specific DVRs at the other end, so in many senses the customer is locking themselves into a technology which, like Betamax and HD-DVD, will eventually disappear.

In summary, high-definition analogue systems fit the needs of a specific type of customer and will continue to do well for a few years yet, but eventually they will hit a dead-end and multi-sensor, multi-purpose, networked imaging and sensing devices will become ever more sophisticated, yet easier to deploy and therefore will dominate the market.

Read the full article in the September 2017 edition of PSI magazine