Through the Digital Lens

Airport IP surveillance is more than meets the eye -- more cameras, more users, and more uses that go beyond security


Walking through an airport nowadays is like strolling through a showcase of modern security technologies. Security personnel, canine units, access control, surveillance cameras and X-ray machines—you see them all. But what you may not see, or not notice, is the recent trend in video surveillance: the shift from analog to IP video.

Video surveillance cameras have been part of airport security for decades. But until now the systems have been limited in scale and functionality. Since the first network video surveillance camera came on the market in 1996, airport directors and security executives have been arguing the merits of analog versus IP technology. A recent report from IMS Research indicates that 50 percent of the surveillance market is converging on IP, and as a result, these conversations are changing.

As airports of all sizes take on new surveillance initiatives, there are major trends emerging that wouldn’t have been possible two or three years ago. From checkpoints to perimeters to restricted areas to retail stores, airports are turning to IP video for help in facing their many security challenges.

So what is driving this move toward IP technology?

Two things: A host of benefits that include things like better images, expanded light capabilities, and greater scalability; and a multitude of uses in nearly every area of the airport.

Lengthy Benefits List

What are some primary benefits that IP technology brings to the table?

  • Better Images. Video surveillance is only successful when it produces actionable images. One of the most significant benefits of IP video surveillance cameras when compared to analog is image quality and, more importantly, image usability. IP cameras bring HDTV image quality to video surveillance, which can mean the difference between identifying the person entering a restricted area and simply knowing an intrusion occurred. To maximize usability, corridor format turns the aspect ratio on its side, delivering a 9:16 image to provide better coverage of hallways and aisle and high-racking shelf environments without wasting pixels on the sides.
  • Improved Light Capabilities. IP video also has made great strides in producing high-quality video even in difficult lighting conditions, which are common in airport environments. Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) combats changing lighting conditions, such as backlighting near large windows or in loading bays. While award-winning Lightfinder technology produces color images even in low light—down to .05 lux (think moonlight or minimal street lights in an alley).
  • Scalability and Ease of Use. In addition to improved image quality, IP-based systems offer scalability and ease of use. All it takes is an Ethernet drop to add a new camera to a specific location. Video playback is also easier with IP, with users able to playback footage virtually anywhere and at any time. Retrieving a specific video segment with analog video is often a painful and time-consuming process. But with IP technology, operators can use video management software to easily access the video they need through smart search features and mobile access. They can search the video by date, time, pixels and more, and if configured properly, airport security can even track an object with the software, which essentially stitches together the sequence of events camera-by-camera.In addition, the robustness of today’s network infrastructure, the ability to integrate video with other airport operations subsystems, and the business intelligence captured through video analytics are leading to an increase in larger IP camera installations.
  • Storage Requirements. Because IP video uses H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10 advanced video coding, these systems enable video to be transferred and compressed quickly, and stored easily.

Think Big

But wait a minute. With increased functionality and better image quality shouldn’t airports be able to do more with less?

Not necessarily. Today, many airports are discovering that they can actually do more with more.

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