Economies of scale in the video surveillance sector, coupled with increased processing power, has resulted in the growth of 360 degree surveillance devices. While the majority of modern 360 degree cameras should only be used for general scene surveillance, the AXIS Q6000-E can be used to replace and upgrade legacy systems, and could form an essential part of smart surveillance solutions.
Increased interest in 360 degree surveillance has seen a wider number of options become available to installers and integrators in recent years. The growth of these cameras has inevitably seen a split in marketing messages. Some claim that a single camera can be used to replace numerous static units, others point out that they’re lower cost than PTZ cameras, whilst some point out that they’re best deployed for general surveillance purposes to back up existing or additional cameras.
As with many marketing claims, there is some truth in each statement.
Whilst it is true that one 360 degree camera can view an area that – if given absolute coverage – would require a number of static cameras, it does not necessarily hold true that the performance of the 360 degree unit will be sufficient to effectively replace those cameras. A 5 megapixel 360 degree camera might sound impressive when compared to a 2 megapixel HD1080p camera, but that resolution covers a full 360 degree view, while the HD1080p camera will cover a much smaller angle.
Dependent upon the size of the dewarped and cropped view a specific model might deliver, it is not unusual to see 5 megapixel 360 degree cameras which stream VGA virtual views. More often than not, 360 degree cameras are suited for use as an additional tool, backing up other cameras.
Whilst it is also true that a 360 degree camera does carry a lower cost than many PTZ dome cameras, the latter can again deliver higher resolution for a viewed area, and can supplement that with distortion-free optical zooming. Admittedly a PTZ dome can only view one area at any given time, but the results are very different to those achieved from a 360 degree camera.
A number of manufacturers and suppliers seem intent on promoting 360 degree cameras as a cost-saver, which in itself does tend to undersell the potential these devices offer. However, the reality is that static cameras, PTZ domes and 360 degree devices all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and should be used in combination where they offer an additional layer of protection to the application in question. If anyone suggests otherwise, then maybe you should question their motives!
Despite the growth in 360 degree imaging being predominantly based upon fisheye lenses and dewarping, that is not the only solution. The use of multiple sensor-based options is again nothing new, but is one that should be reconsidered by installers and integrators.
Multi-sensor cameras used to be difficult to mount, expensive, bit-rate hungry and ugly – and yes, that does matter to end users. Often you were left with the distinct feeling that they had been designed more because the R&D team could create them than to offer a realistic security tool to the end user.
Whilst this inevitably led to multi-sensor cameras not becoming more prolific in many applications, not all multi-sensor devices are the same. By exploiting economies of scale and using existing components, Axis Communications set out to create a multi-sensor camera with 360 degree coverage which could also integrate with existing PTZ-enabled domes to deliver a higher level of protection in an easy-to-install package. The result was the Q6000-E.
The Q6000-E is sold as a standalone product, but to realise its full potential it should be used together with the Q60-E networked PTZ dome camera. The two are designed to fit together to deliver a single device.
The Q6000-E is a multi-camera unit which is made up of four independent HD720p cameras, each with a 90 degree field of view. Together they provide full 360 degree coverage. The output can either be displayed as a panoramic view using two 16:9 monitors, or in quad view using a single 4:3 display.
In standalone format, the Q6000-E might not seem that remarkable. The benefits it offers have more to do with mounting and cabling. However, it is when the device is used in conjunction with any Q60-E series PTZ dome that it makes sense both in terms of performance and functionality.
The Q60-E dome camera fits into the space in the centre of the Q6000-E. Both devices share the same mounting bracket, which not only simplifies installation but also reduces in-the-field costs.
Additionally, a single network cable is required for the combined units, and a PoE+ supply can power all of the connected cameras, thereby further simplifying the implementation of a solution.
The Q60-E series of domes includes a number of options, with PTZ domes offering HD1080p resolution and up to 36x optical zoom. Other features include support for two-way audio, auto-tracking, alarm inputs and outputs, and image stabilisation.
Once the two elements are installed together, the user benefits from a 360 degree view of the protected site in HD resolution – thereby making it ideal for identification of individuals or vehicles – backed up by an HD quality PTZ dome camera with a high ratio optical zoom, allowing full investigation of events without degradation due to e-PTZ control. The latter is common, even with the best single-sensor 360 degree cameras utilising dewarping.
The output from the combined cameras can be shown as a 360 panoramic view across two monitors, with an included zoomed view from the dome. The user simply needs to make a single mouse click on any point in the 360 degree image, and the Q60-E will automatically zoom in on that area, presenting a high quality live stream.
This makes it an ideal solution where a large area is being protected and operators need to be able to investigate events as they unfold.
The combination of cameras can be utilised around the clock, as low light performance is one of the headline features of the Q60-E dome series. This, combined with Axis’ proprietary low light technology, ensures that the innovative solution can provide around-the-clock protection.
It is easy to dismiss 360 degree surveillance as a solution typically designed for internal applications covering relatively small areas. It is equally simple to consider multiple-camera devices as being costly, complex and not a realistic option for real-world applications. However, in a rapidly evolving market, such thinking would be foolhardy.
The Q6000-E, when used in conjunction with a Q60-E series dome, is not going to be a low cost option. It is designed for applications where high quality video is essential, and where the ability to rapidly track events and deal with potential issues is vital.
However, the one-click zoom functionality certainly adds value, and the high quality 360 degree view elevates it to a point where customers with suitable applications will certainly understand its cost-efficiencies.