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What the future may bring

With SP&T turning 20 this year, it is amazing to look back and see how much the industry has evolved since the first issue was published.

September 28, 2016  By  Colin Bodbyl

IP cameras did not even exist 20 years ago, but today they dominate the industry. With the pace of innovation only speeding up, it’s difficult to imagine what the industry will look like 20 years from now.

Most camera systems today have a maximum lifespan of five to 10 years. The rate at which these systems are becoming obsolete is only accelerating as new technology is constantly being introduced. While most of us expect resolution, compression and low-light performance to improve in the years to come, these are only simple features. The exciting changes in video surveillance will not be improvements on existing features, but rather what will become possible because of these advancements.

Wireless technology in the video surveillance space is still in its infancy, but in other markets, wireless usage far exceeds hardwired connections. There are hundreds of millions of Internet-enabled smart phones in North America and there is no doubt the technology works. The first iPhone was released less than a decade ago and today, consumers spend more time accessing the Internet through mobile devices than desktop. As costs come down, video surveillance cameras will not have to rely on wired network connections. Whether the cameras stream back to an Internet-connected head end or directly to the mobile network, there will no longer be a need for hardwired connections.

One consequence of video surveillance going wireless is that HD over analogue will become obsolete. HD over analogue is the most cost effective method for upgrading old analogue systems to HD. While HD over analogue is capturing a large part of the market today, the technology is critically flawed and will ultimately prove to be nothing more than a flash in the pan. In a future where everything will be connected through the Internet of Things (and in most cases, wirelessly), there will be no place for HD over analogue.


Cloud video storage has struggled to gain the support of integrators. The main reasons for its slow adoption are directly related to bandwidth costs. While bandwidth will inevitably become less expensive, video compression techniques will also become more effective. The combined evolution of bandwidth and compression will make Cloud storage not only cost effective, but a cheaper option than using local storage. Cameras will have built-in drives for redundancy, should a network failure occur, but Cloud storage or large offsite data centres will become the primary means of storing video surveillance footage.

Better analytics will also reduce bandwidth and storage requirements, but that doesn’t scratch the surface of what video analytics will be able to do 20 years from now. Analytics can already distinguish between race, gender and age with a relatively good level of accuracy. Analytics will ultimately be able to identify specific people in a scene. Technology will allow authorities to locate missing children or suspects anytime they appear on camera. That same technology will allow advertisers to market directly to passersby based not only on their gender, but also on their Internet history and daily activity.
Virtual reality is yet to be adopted by the video surveillance industry, but it will happen soon. Virtual reality will become commonplace in the security space. Guards will no longer roam sites risking their own safety. Instead, monitoring station operators will wear virtual reality headsets and immerse themselves in the sites that they monitor. Responding to incidents will become a quick click to the site of the alarm where operators would explore the scene virtually from the safety of a monitoring station thousands of miles away.

It might seem preposterous, but at the rate technology is evolving nearly anything could happen in the decades to come. Even by examining today’s most popular technologies it is difficult to predict what the next disruptive product will be and how it will impact our industry in the future. Twenty years ago we could never have predicted multi megapixel cameras accessible from touch screen smart phones anywhere in the world.

With the pace of innovation today, the only guarantee is that the next 20 years are going to change our industry in ways we could never have imagined.

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