Many video surveillance companies offer mobile apps or the ability to view video via browsers, but in the real world, South African cellular communications often don’t allow for reliable connections to video streams. The result is that people either have to put up with bad video on their mobile devices, or only use them when they are in areas with decent 3G or better connections, or when they are connected to an ADSL line that performs adequately.
The reality is that good 3G and above connections are few and far between, no matter what the cellular providers claim. In built-up areas, you can get a signal and even stream video if there are not too many people using the same bandwidth, but when travelling you will have to rely on Edge or most likely, GPRS connectivity. GPRS is fine if all you’re doing is sending e-mails, but for video it simply doesn’t work.
Laurence Smith, executive at Graphic Image Technologies (GIT), says a normal video codec would require around 132 Kbps to deliver a decent video stream to a mobile device. This simply doesn’t work when one is out of 3G range. But this is all changing as companies start to understand the limits of cellular connectivity and compress their video streams for mobiles.
Smith says the higher the compression companies manage to deliver, the better the video stream users will be able to receive. There are companies offering 4 fps (frames per second) video streaming in the 24 to 32 Kbps range, which makes a difference for mobile users, but in areas of limited connectivity, this is still a problem.
He adds that SerVision (distributed by GIT) has released a compression technology that allows the same video to be streamed at only 8 Kbps – which means it is usable in places with only GPRS coverage. This means that companies using this solution will be able to keep tabs on their homes or businesses from almost anywhere in South Africa without racking up a huge cellular bill.
He says CCTV has always been a grudge purchase and people tended to install it in businesses and forget about it unless something happened. However, as more people begin to realise the benefits of having remote insight into what’s happening elsewhere, more are asking for this capability.
As an example, he explains that a business owner with more than one franchise can cut down on travelling and monitor all his franchisees by having remote access to the surveillance cameras in the stores. In other words, mobile access to video is growing as more people realise the business benefits the service can provide.
So while there always seems to be an app for anything, choosing the right technology to facilitate your mobile surveillance tasks is important if you actually want to see what’s happening on the other end of the camera. Even if the user is in a location with 3G or 4G connectivity, limiting the use of your cellular bandwidth as a rule also delivers business benefits in the financial sense, as long as the image quality is usable.
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