Arecont Vision created the category of multi-sensor panoramic cameras back in 2006. Now the market is taking off, and many manufacturers now offer panoramic cameras. I recently spoke with Jeff Whitney, Arecont Vision’s Director of Marketing, on the current market for panoramic cameras, and also about some other hot topics – from cybersecurity to making the installer’s job easier.
SourceSecurity.com: Where do you see the category of multi-sensor panoramic cameras going from here, and how does Arecont Vision continue to differentiate itself as the market becomes more crowded?
Jeff Whitney: When Arecont Vision launched the industry’s first multi-sensor panoramic cameras, we knew we had something that would disrupt the industry. A single panoramic camera can cover 180 or 360 degrees for outstanding video coverage, indoors and out, enhancing situational awareness, and reducing the number of required cameras all at the same time. Legacy PTZ technology can’t compete with that, being expensive, including many moving parts that can fail and require maintenance, and unable to cover the entire scene uninterrupted.
It was a lonely effort to bring that message to customers 10 years ago, but many manufacturers have now copied the idea – and in some cases our designs – with varying levels of success. Competition is always good for any industry, including security. Other vendors are now picking up our message about the benefits of multi-sensor cameras, spreading the word across the industry with a louder voice than one company alone can deliver.
"Other vendors are now picking
Arecont Vision remains the leader in this space and remains easy to differentiate from all the copies. We are in our 5th generation of the SurroundVideo 180- and 360-degree four-sensor panoramic camera series, with multiple generations of new technologies and features incorporated into each series. Our competitors remain early-generation products.
In 2014 we ramped up the SurroundVideo family even further, introducing the multi-sensor omnidirectional family of products. SurroundVideo Omni offers four independent sensors on a 360-degree track, which can be pointed individually in just about any desired direction. This makes an Omni ideal for intersections – indoor hallways or outside covering streets – or any open space indoors or out that needs to cover an area for enhanced situational awareness. In 2015 we introduced SurroundVideo Omni G2, which adds remote focus sensors.
SourceSecurity.com: End user customers want great images and dependable systems, but integrators want systems that are easier to install. How are Arecont Vision’s product designs evolving to make the integrator’s job easier?
JW: All of Arecont Vision’s camera families offer remote focus capability, and where appropriate, remote zoom as well. These features can reduce dramatically the integrator’s time at the job site. They can hang the camera quickly, point the sensor in the general area to be covered and then remotely focus the camera at their leisure over the network. The installer no longer has to balance a laptop or tablet computer while perched atop a ladder or lift in order to focus a camera.
Arecont Vision also bases our megapixel camera designs on our FPGA (field programmable gate array) technology. We load our firmware, with all the options and features included in the camera, onto the FPGA, instead of having to add additional circuit boards and components that take up space. The result is that our cameras are typically much more compact that those of our competitors, and easier for installers to handle. When we combine that with multiple generations of experience in reducing camera size, cameras like our SurroundVideo Omni G2 are much smaller than our closest copies made by competitors, and while all our cameras are quite rugged, they are often lighter than those of our competitors as well.
"Arecont Vision’s camera
Our efforts to help the integrator have also focused on our designs. We are using more magnets in our dome camera designs, including our MegaDome® 4K series. The installer screws a base plate in place, then slips on the rest of the camera enclosure which is held in place magnetically while he screws it in. Similarly, the dome is held in place magnetically until screwed down. While this may sound simple, the light weight of the camera, the remote focus capability, and the use of magnets during installation all can dramatically simplify and speed up installation for the integrator. This allows less time to be spent at the job site, reducing labor costs.
SourceSecurity.com: Cybersecurity is suddenly a big issue in our market. What is Arecont Vision’s take on cybersecurity, and how are you making sure your cameras are safe from cyber-threats? What are you hearing from customers about their need for cybersecurity?
Arecont Vision megapixel cameras are uniquely protected from many types of cyberattack. We have incorporated features like 16-character ASCII passwords into all our recent designs and provide education of cybersecurity risks and best practices through our Arecont Vision University free of charge to our systems integrators. We also go much further.
The September 2016 Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on French hosting firm OHV and on Krebsecurity.com has been reported to have used over 140,000 network cameras and DVRs that were turned into robots (or bots). That was followed on Oct. 21, 2016, by a major DDoS attack that lasted for 11 hours and is estimated to have resulted in 100 million U.S. dollars of lost revenue.
Arecont Vision cameras were not used in any of these cyberattacks. The reason is the FPGA (field programmable gate array) chip at the heart of all our cameras. This is a custom-designed integrated circuit (IC) on which we run our proprietary firmware “bare metal.” We do not use common operating systems like Linux, which is commonly used in network cameras, DVRs, NVRs, computers, and many other electronic devices. This is an important point, because operating systems like Linux have security vulnerabilities that can be used to gain root access to the device and make a cyberattack possible.
Operating systems like Linux
Should a hacker gain access to one of our cameras or somehow obtain the ID and password, they could access the camera just like any other device. They could access the setup menu, and make adjustments or shut the camera down. However, without a common operating system like Linux, the attempt would fail to turn the camera into a bot or launch cybersecurity attacks on other cameras or devices across the network and the Internet. Our cameras are best at combining ease of installation and use while securing them from becoming a participant in cybersecurity risks.
The industry overall needs to continue to grow its cybersecurity awareness. Cameras from many manufacturers need to be redesigned to eliminate the risk of being used in cyberattacks for the benefit of those well beyond the security and surveillance industry. Arecont Vision has embarked on a program to increase cybersecurity for all of our own camera designs, and I have become a member of the Security Industry Association’s Cybersecurity Advisory Board specifically to help educate and move the industry forward in awareness and adoption of best standards.
SourceSecurity.com: How is Arecont Vision responding to the trend toward commoditization of video cameras?
JW: Analog and standard resolution IP cameras continue to play a role in the consumer and low-end professional surveillance market. There is risk of commoditization in those areas as price rules over features and capability.
The mid- to high-end professional surveillance market remains quite different. There is still considerable growth potential across the board for megapixel cameras. The technology is continuing to be developed, improved, and upgraded, and thus commoditization really only rears its head in the lower range of camera offerings around 2-3MP based on price. Customers in this space focus on price and “good enough” cameras that often would not match the quality of more expensive competitive versions.
The reality of lower-priced cameras only becomes clear when an integrator or customer takes the time to evaluate cameras side-by-side. Then it is usually quite evident that cameras that claim to offer the same resolution don’t always offer similar image clarity, correct colors, low light performance, or any of a host of other issues.
Arecont Vision continues to invest heavily in R&D to add new features and capabilities, while coming up with new designs. We believe our products’ performance, reliability, and features will continue to make a difference in the marketplace.