The Great Divide: Digital CCTV vs Analogue CCTV

Of the past couple of years we’ve visited major camera manufacturers and wholesalers a couple of times to get a feel for the balance of analogue and IP camera sales. The end of 2011 feels a good time to get another snapshot on the canary in the datamine.
WE’VE all had a growing sense of the increasing prevalence of IP cameras and fully networked surveillance systems over the past 18 months or so – there’s a growing momentum in the sector that can’t be denied. Not surprisingly, the numbers camera makers and distributors offer suggest analogue and IP are now at or will reach parity sometime next year.

It’s a pivotal moment and one that has been a decade in coming. Since those first sepia-toned CMOS IP cameras were released in the late ‘90s, full digital surveillance cameras have developed at a frantic pace and now offer end users and installers that most wonderful of network devices, the customisable platform.

If anything should indicate to our readership – users and installers – the veracity of the arguments for IP, then this should be it. Our market has spoken. The time for motivated reasoning is past. We need to own our networked future fully – for better or for worse – the worse being an acceptance of revenue loss to network infrastructure.

We’ve chosen not to speak with pure IP camera manufacturers or distributors, given their build or sales will reflect their complete bias to digital. Instead we are looking for a feel for the balance of sales in business that support both sides of the market.

First cab of the rank is Cliff Simons of QVS, who says that the company’s sales are now 50 per cent analogue and 50 per cent IP, with 80 per cent of the IP being HD or megapixel and only 20 per cent being 4CIF devices. That 80 per cent IP being HD or megapixel is a key for me. The future is staring us right between the eyes.

According to Simons, about 10 per cent of QVS’ high end analogue cameras are sold with encoders and the business is still sufficiently worthwhile that there are plans for new releases of analogue cameras next year.

“Most quotes going forward are for IP systems where companies are looking for higher resolution cameras and longer storage scenarios,” Simons explains.

For all their strengths, Simons agrees there are still certain weaknesses with HD but he says are being addressed by the latest technologies.

“HD is still suffering in low light but there are some nice IR LED assisted cameras to help compensate,” he says. “Wide Dynamic Range is also much better now. Costs have reduced dramatically too, making HD cameras much more affordable. The key issue is getting the right lens for the camera. I think there is a shortage of affordable lenses for 5MP cameras and up.”

Regardless of these issues, Simons thinks 720p and 1080p HD cameras are simply superior across the board – taking certain extreme applications out of the picture.

“Yes, the pictures are fantastic. We can place 2 x 8MP Cameras back-to-back with no moving parts and achieve what a PTZ used to do without missing anything at all. And this is just one example.”

Over at Pacific Communications, Keiron McDonough says the company has seen a steady progression in the take-up of IP products. According to McDonough, the decreasing prices of IP products compared to analogue, are further driving the IP take up.

We’ve spoken before in SE&N about cameras as a digital platform and Panasonic’s SmartHD range certainly was a pioneer in smart digital features like face detection and banknote recognition settings for POS applications, as well as VMD. Importantly, McDonough says Panasonic is planning on expanding its range of digital features over the next year.

“There are some very exciting features coming up in analytics, camera performance and more. We are very excited by this…watch this space.”

On the key issue of minimum scene illumination, McDonough believes 0.3 lux in colour and 0.05 lux in black and white are sufficient for most applications – and good enough to make analogue yesterday’s technology.

“SmartHD cameras use Panasonic’s unique MOS sensor technology that gives great low-light sensitivity, equal to most analogue cameras, plus you get megapixel resolution. In addition, low noise and a full digital path from camera to NVR make the SmartHD solution a smart step forward.”

A key area of interest for installers and users is whether the standard for CCTV will correlate with SMPTE’s 1080p HD standard or if there’s room for proprietary interpretations of 1080p and 720p with similarly high standards of resolution, compression and frame rate.

“SmartHD cameras use Panasonic’s unique MOS sensor technology that gives great low-light sensitivity, equal to most analogue cameras, plus you get megapixel resolution.”

“Historically, CCTV has its own specific technology and many of it is borrowed from the Broadcast TV,” McDonough explains. “We believe CCTV manufacturers will closely correlate with any current standards. But other resolutions and standards may arise from particular requirements from a project or to implement a particular camera feature.”

The key with any new technology is how quickly customers handle the transition. In the case of SmartHD, McDonough says existing customers adapting, and IT-capable clients are embracing the company’s technology.

“For existing customers, Panasonic’s SmartHD NVR (WJ-NV200) makes life easy with a simple setup wizard making configuration of the NVR arguably easier to setup than a standard DVR,” he explains.

“Because of this most customers are adapting well. In addition our Hills training institute will be softening the transition by offering training on the complete Panasonic IP product.

“As part of this transition IT departments are now interacting more with CCTV systems that typically was confined to the guardroom. The result is new IT-capable clients.”

Over at Bosch Sean Borg believes there’s been a major change in the past year.

“I think we are starting to see a steep curve all of a sudden – only this year are we starting to see people starting to decide – well you know what – it’s time to buy 720p cameras,” Borg says. “It’s probably in part because more DVRs can handle IP, record HD and manufacturers have made it easier to set the system up.

“Before now, setup was a bit antiquated and difficult to get this and plug it into that and make sure this drive was mapped to that system – now everything is finding each other, becoming more plug and play and I think that’s helping. And there’s a lot more education out there. I think it’s fair to say that we really should have been there by now with IP.”

"HD is still suffering in low light but there are some nice IR LED assisted cameras to help compensate. “Wide Dynamic Range is also much better now."

Part of the reason for the slowness of the transition isn’t the technology itself, it’s the age of the decision makers in installation and integration companies, according to Mark Edwards of Central Security Distribution.

“In our experience, all the owners of businesses that are older – say mid-40s and above – are little slower to adopt IP solutions,” he explains. “This is not universal by any means but the companies with younger guys as decision makers are generally much faster with new IP technology. They come from that background.

“The guys used to running cables and plugging coax in and not having to deal with the IT side of it are harder to drag through. There certainly are a few exceptions but it’s hard to get the analogue guys to change.”

According to Edwards a key moment this year was when the CSD people say the new 1080p cameras at Security 2011 in Sydney.

“When our team saw the new HD 1080p cameras and DVRs they were raving about them,” he says. “As our next step we will be bringing that technology in and then I think the analogue will really fade off.”

As part of its move to IP, CSD distributes and supports Mobotix cameras which are renowned for their performance and that are increasingly competitive in price.

“We carry Mobotix as our IP camera solution – we supply the electronic security industry with the product and stock is on the shelf with us – there’s no delivery delays,” Edwards explains.

“Mobotix is incredible stuff. The products we have – when you compare the images – we don’t have anything like them so Mobotix is our flagship when it comes to IP video CCTV.”

A really interesting study of the analogue/IP transition is Sony, which manufactures most the chipsets for the security industry and was brilliant at analogue and is equally brilliant at IP Video. Surprisingly, Sony’s numbers reflect a very strong pull to IP, despite the fact Sony is in the top 3 in analogue camera makers in terms of image quality, in our opinion.

This reflect Sony’s pulling back on analogue CCTV and focusing on chipsets just as the analogue/IP transition began, as well as highlighting the fact Sony was an IP camera pioneer and has been in from the start.

“Currently IP sales are 85 per cent versus 15 per cent for analogue with our current range, however, we have a new range of 650 and 700TVL analog cameras due for release in 2012 with wide dynamic range,” says Sony’s Steve Charles.

“We have sold over 5000 channels of encoders over the past couple of years but we now see this now scaling back. Our focus is now on the soon to be released Z Series IP over Coax Hybrid SLOC cameras.

“We still see growth in the higher end of the analog sector and over the course of 2012 we plan to further expand our existing analog business,” Charles says. “But IP business will remain our core focus and with the release additional complimentary products and cameras we expect to grow our IP business exponentially in 2012.

Pointedly, Charles says a key reason end users choose analogue cameras over IP or megapixel in today’s market is due to existing coaxial infra-structure but he says that with the release of the Hybrid Z Series range, customers who choose to remain with analogue will have a HD alternative”
When talk turns to outright performance, Charles does not think analogue can compete with HD.

“No - IP camera performance is superior and now end users are more tech savvy - they are used to HD standards and picture quality,” he says. “We expect the cross over point where IP and analog market share cross paths is only 1 - 2 years away.”

“Before now, setup was a bit antiquated and difficult to get this and plug it into that and make sure this drive was mapped to that system – now everything is finding each other, becoming more plug and play and I think that’s helping.”

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