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TO SAY CHANGES ARE OCCURring in the closed-circuit television (CCTV) industry as fast as a signal travels from a camera to a switcher may not be an exaggeration. The market for high-quality, high-tech CCTV surveillance equipment becomes more demanding each day. Products are barely off the shelves before users want something better, faster, more sophisticated.

Software is making hardware more powerful and flexible. Systems are being streamlined and customized for every installation. The future is not in bigger, bulkier systems but in more compact, more intelligent equipment that can make the security officer's job as easy as touching a single button.

The most basic CCTV surveillance system pairs one camera with one monitor for continuous viewing. This setup is sufficient for small applications but can become cumbersome and expensive in larger facilities. As more cameras are needed to view more scenes, video switchers have become a vital part of efficient surveillance operations.

Basic four-position switchers provide manual and automatic sequential switching of up to four camera inputs that may be displayed on one monitor. They provide variable dwell time from two to 60 seconds. Automatic camera call-up can be activated by motion detectors or remote alarm closure devices. Alarms will override front panel controls to home in on an alerted camera.

This simple switcher system is certainly effective, but it has its limitations. For instance, an application may require more cameras to view more scenes, the user may wish to position monitors in separate locations, or an operator may wish to vary the sequences of video displays.

Every application is unique, and the industry has been moving toward meeting the specific requirements of individual users. The introduction of microprocessor-based switcher technology has erased the limitations and expanded switcher capabilities to fill virtually any requirement.

Microprocessor-based switcher technology has allowed the integration of greater numbers of cameras and monitors. Switchers are much smarter and more sophisticated, offering options and customized programs that were never thought possible.

Microprocessor-based switcher systems combine advanced electronic switching capabilities with computer technology to provide unlimited flexibility. Some systems can accommodate as many as 368 camera inputs and 32 monitor outputs.

Such s stems have the ability to interact with a standard DOS-based IBM-compatible PC. These systems can be programmed to display the video from any camera on any monitor, either manually or via independent automatic switching sequences. Up to 60 such sequences can be programmed and stored in the system memory for recall later. Programmed sequences can be run independently of each other and in either a forward or reverse direction.

At the touch of a key, the operator of a closed-circuit security surveillance system using an individualized program can automatically scan the input of any number of cameras in the system on any of the monitors. Dwell time for each scene is variable and can be set for each camera in the sequence.

For example, an operator can program a viewing time of six seconds for camera one, 15 seconds for camera two, 30 seconds for camera three, eight seconds for camera four, and so on. Dwell time and sequence are determined by the needs of the individual operator.

On-site receivers in such systems give the operator control of the pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and iris functions. In addition, the receiver provides four auxiliary relays to control other remote functions such as lighting, gates, and locks.

Three alarm modes are built into these microprocessor-based systems. With the addition of the alarm interface unit, the user can automatically view any camera under alarm. The three alarm response modes include basic, autobuild, and sequence and display.

The basic alarm mode allows any or all of the system's monitors to be designated as alarm display monitors. The video of an alarmed camera will be displayed on any monitor armed for that camera.

The autobuild mode uses a fixed number of monitors as alarm display monitors. For example, if three monitors are selected, video input from the first alarm will be displayed on one monitor, alarm number two will be displayed on a second monitor, and alarm number three on the third monitor. A fourth alarm will sequence with the first alarm on the first monitor, and so on.

With the sequence and display mode, two monitors are designated as alarm monitors. The first alarm appears on both monitors; a second alarm sequences with the first alarm on the second monitor; a third alarm will also appear on the second monitor, sequencing with the first two alarms received. The first monitor will display the first alarm until cleared and then display the next alarm in the order received until all are cleared.

Alarm inputs can originate from a variety of sources, including infrared heat detectors, motion detectors, burglar alarms, or other devices that provide a contact closure or logic-level output.

THE MARKETPLACE REQUIRES A HIGH degree of flexibility. Switchers must The able to interface with computers and other systems, including burglar alarms, CCTV, access control, and motion detection. The focus for larger installations is on creating a network of CCTV systems that can be monitored and controlled from a central location. Such capabilities are particularly desirable at casinos, nuclear power facilities, and military bases. The emphasis on software development for switchers has provided many advantages. As equipment becomes more software oriented, it becomes far more powerful and compact. Because less hardware is needed, less rack space is consumed. Installation is easier because there is less to hook up. More features can be added at lower cost to the user. Changes can be made more easily and quickly.

The compact nature and easy integration of computer-assisted switching is directing manufacturers to become full system suppliers. Users want their systems all in one package. They don't want to get one piece here and another there and then have to put it all together like a puzzle.

The future of switcher systems in the CCTV industry is moving toward integration, software orientation, and customization. The CCTV user wants the system to be sleek and efficient, attractive and powerful. In essence, the user wants to be able to sit back and let a surveillance system specifically designed for his or her unique application do the work.

About the Author . . . John Villella is product manager of the security products division of BURLE INDUSTRIES INC. in Lancaster, PA.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Lights! Camera! Action! supplement; closed-circuit TV in security systems; switcher systems
Author:Villella, John
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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