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The long and short of external detection

05 August 2009

Long range detectors tend to be favoured by manufacturers, but little admired by remote video response centres (RVRCs), and for valid reasons on both sides. But recent talks have led to a softening in both their respective positions.

Historic challenges
The problem is an historic one, and one to which most if not all installers and end-users will relate. Dome cameras, when installed externally, have to be pre set where to ‘look’; in layman’s terms, they can either see what is in the background, or the foreground, but not both. The end result is a blurred image, with little opportunity of proper identification either at the time or subsequently.

With static cameras, there is also a problem. A static camera is only able to deliver an image within the focal area of its lens, and not beyond, and so the same challenged of image/identification are apparent. With short-range detectors, this has not posed a problem. Cameras and detectors have been installed alongside one another to provide optimum performance at set distances. It is why the 30 metre and 40 metre detectors have become industry standard as the optimum footprint.

However, on larger perimeters, this has meant installing multiple cameras and detector combinations at regular intervals, with all of the associated capital costs of product and cabling, not to mention the practical issues that can sometimes arise. For a 100 metre perimeter, this would mean installing no fewer than three dome/detector combinations set at c33 metre detection range to cover the entire length effectively. Utopia has been to find a way of installing just a single camera and single detector to cover the whole distance. So why has this not been possible before?

Design and performance
The principal reason has been one of design. Long-range detectors have been fundamentally designed to provide an ‘alert’ of a perimeter being broken, rather than as devices that would be used in a RVRC scenario. Put another way, the RVRC market has traditionally been in short-range detectors; the longer-range detectors are used in locally monitored installations where a local operator can pan and tilt and look.

Performance has also been an issue. Whilst a long range detector may have been able to detect an incident occurring, the camera technology has been lacking to be able to accurately discern what it is that has been detected, especially in adverse weather conditions or conditions of poor light.

The third problem has been one of trust. The RVRC operators have ideally demanded a fixed camera view, where they know that if an intruder is detected they can flip through the cameras and see instantly what is happening/has happened. They can trust that the image they receive will conform to the requirements of BS8418 (ie that the image must fill at least 10% of the screen height).

So what has changed?
What has changed, fundamentally, is that all three of the previous hurdles have been overcome: design has improved, performance has been enhanced and trust is gradually being established between the manufacturers and the RVRC operators that the detector will do what it says on the tin. This has in turn been brought about primarily by closer cooperation between the two parties, and indeed the emergence of the first of a series of new generation long-range detectors that have been truly designed with the RVRC operators in mind.

A new generation
Amongst this new generation of products is the REDWALL V SIP100 – a 100metre detector utilising synthesised intelligent passive infrared technology and able to integrate fully with most makes of dome cameras. This 100-metre range sensor is capable of being broken down into three zones; in simple terms again, perimeters of 100 metre length now only require one detector and one dome, automatically pre-set to zoom in on the relevant zone in which an incident has been detected.

The addition of an innovative ‘creep zone’ detector built-in to the REDWAL V design, also prevents an intruder from approaching the detector from beneath, to vandalise or destroy the device. The ability for the product to be mounted on poles of up to 4 metres also enhances performance whilst reducing the likelihood of tampering.

Domes, which have similarly not been the favoured technology of the RVRCs, now adopt the same basic characteristics of static cameras, with fixed views. The opportunity of ‘capturing’ an event and being able to respond to it has dramatically increased.

The advent of new technologies does not negate the importance of professional installation, however.  One of the problems with long-range detectors in their early days was that their capabilities were ‘over-sold’. Now that the technology has caught up with the promise of a decade or so ago, it is essential that the installer understands the tool at his disposal, and its true potential. Not only does it need to be properly installed, but it also need to be properly commissioned, again working hand-in-hand with the RVRC. Indeed in Remote Video Response’s case, it will not take responsibility and liability for any new site until such time as it has been fully certified.

The proof of the pudding, of course, will be in the eating, but initial tests have proven most encouraging. RVR and Optex Europe can rightly claim to be pioneers in this area, with several pilots now underway on which it will report in due course. The ultimate objective, however, is not simply to reduce costs, however welcome this will be, especially in the current climate. The ultimate objective is to deliver a better solution altogether.

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