It is not IP or nothing

July 2013 Integrated Solutions

For many people, the lure of IP surveillance technology is the improved quality of video they receive that delivers clear megapixel images when compared to the standard images they obtain from analogue systems. However, moving to an IP system is not simple or cheap.

Some of the common complaints we hear from people considering moving from analogue to IP surveillance solutions is that IP is too expensive, it takes too long to migrate or that installers do not have the skills required to set up an effective, quality IP system. While the IP industry is working to deal with these criticisms and prices have come down over time, IP is still a challenge, especially in the small- to medium-size business (SMB) market.

In the SMB market, companies do not have the time, skills or money to spend on moving from analogue to IP, which means installing a new networking infrastructure and replacing all your equipment. Until recently, if these organisations wanted to enter the world of high definition and megapixel (MP) surveillance, they had no choice but to make the move to IP.

This is no longer the case. Clyde Elhadad, CEO of local distributor, Hitek Security, says that analogue systems now have an extended, high-definition (HD) lifespan because of the introduction of HD-SDI (High Definition-Serial Digital Interface).

Analogue HD

HD-SDI offers users clear 1080P video transmission with no traditional analogue noise. More importantly, it offers this service over traditional coax cables, such as RG59. This means you can install HD analogue surveillance without replacing your network infrastructure – which is important when considering that installing a new network is the most labour intensive part of a new IP implementation and consumes as much as 70% to 80% of the project’s labour. Moreover, the installers do not need to learn any new skills as they are dealing with the same analogue interfaces as before.

And moving to HD-SDI is far cheaper than moving to IP. As an example of the cost difference, Elhadad mentions a quote that was recently done for a company. The quote for a full IP system consisting of some 120 cameras was about R1,4 million, at a cost price of around R900 000. The cost price of the equivalent analogue system was around R500 000, meaning the analogue provider could have sold it for the same price as the IP system’s cost and still made a healthy profit.

Another benefit of HD-SDI is that there is only one standard for analogue HD, which means that you are not forced to stick to one hardware manufacturer or buy an expensive video management system (VMS) if you want to be able to use your camera of choice. Analogue is analogue and all HD-SDI systems work with each other.

To upgrade from traditional analogue to HD-SDI, Elhadad says all you need to do is buy new cameras and recorders (DVRs). The technology is the same, meaning your technical team does not have to learn new skills, they can simply plug the new hardware in and start using it. The user interfaces on the recorder as well as the cameras are the same, allowing one to start extracting value from your analogue HD video immediately.

No latency, full frame rate

Another advantage is that there is almost no latency when using HD-SDI because the signal is uncompressed. HD-SDI transmits video at 1,485 Mbps over coax cables, which is immune to the failures that can affect IP networks. With IP video, the signal is compressed in the camera, broken up into packets which are transmitted using the TCP/IP network protocol. On the other side, at the recorder or screen, the process is reversed, leading to a latency (delay) of between two to three seconds (or more over busy networks) between the action and the operator viewing it.

And there are still other advantages. Elhadad explains that network video recorders (NVRs) do not always manage to capture the full resolution of IP cameras. You may, for example, get a 16-channel recorder that cannot accommodate 16 2 MP feeds at the full frame rate, meaning your recorded video will be of a lower quality. This, according to Elhadad, is the same as paying for a Ferrari and getting the performance of a Toyota.

HD-SDI technology, such as ProVision ISR’s DVRs, are able to record the full video stream over all 16 channels. In other words, 16 channels recording at 1080P (or 2 MP), at 25 frames per second (fps). When purchasing a recorder, Elhadad advises buyers to always take note of two factors: recording resolution and the frame rate as measured in fps.

There currently is a con to all the pros of HD-SDI. Elhadad says that the technology is still new and there are therefore a limited number of cameras on the market. More will be developed as the market grows, but this limited availability is standard across all camera brands.

While HD-SDI is a new technology, a number of global camera brands have started producing products to meet the expected customer need. The technology has its detractors in a world where the IP camera manufacturers command the mindshare of almost everyone involved in the industry, but companies, especially in the SMB space may find that HD-SDI is the solution to their need for better video resolution without the labour, skills and financial costs of migrating to IP.


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