Altera Corporation, a semiconductor device manufacturer, has announced the development of the industry’s first HD WDR video surveillance chipset:

Government, municipalities, financial institutions, and businesses are driving new uses for video surveillance technologies beyond crime prevention or security into applications such as asset management, risk mitigation, and safety.

The challenge for camera manufacturers, however, is developing “smarter” cameras at lower price points. More and more, digital high-definition (HD) Internet protocol surveillance cameras are replacing analog cameras because of lower installation costs, scalability, and the ability to add intelligence.

Recognizing camera manufacturer challenges and surveillance market demands Altera has enlisted CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) image sensors into their design to help power the next generation of IP cameras.  And for good reason because CMOS image sensors have some disinct advantages over their CCD (Charge Coupled Device) counterparts such as:

  • Allowing processing circuits to be included on the same chip (not possible with CCD sensors)
  • With CMOS sensors, the more light the better.  CCD sensors produce “smeared” images under very bright lighting conditions.
  • Provide lower total cost for the camera.
  • Enable more integration possibilities & functions.
  • Lower power consumption.
  • A smaller chip size makes it possible to produce smaller cameras.
  • Megapixel resolution is available.

WDR (Wide Dynamic Range)

With HD (high-definition) and megapixel resolution technologies having asserted themselves as the future of IP camera funtionality and now becoming more commonplace, you will begin to see more emphasis on advanced features such as WDR as a distinguishing option.

What is WDR?

WDR technology is used in challenging lighting conditions and it will assign different weights or priorities to specific sections of an image that are important to you.

For example, if you have a camera focused on a doorway, direct sunlight or too much shade during different parts of the day can affect your ability to get a clear image of who was entering/exiting that doorway.  So with WDR technology you can specify the section of the image you need to have the exposure value or lighting condition adjusted and corrected for a better view.

Below are a couple of examples.

From Altera, Standard Sensor vs. WDR Sensor Output Image Applied to Entire Scene:

From Axis, Conventional Camera Without WDR vs. Camera with WDR Applied to Shaded Area:

Conventional camera without WDRCamera With WDR

Why is HD WDR Important?

So what’s all this fuss about the first HD WDR surveillance chipset?  As great as WDR functions in making adjustments to create usable images, it comes with some inherent problems by creating:

  • Noise – With WDR, different image sections are susceptible to displaying high levels of visible noise.
  • Pixel Variation – In images with different levels of lighting, a WDR side-affect is to allow pixels between the different sections to show large visible artifacts.
  • Weak coloration.
  • Low Dynamic Range – Every part of an image can look bad if too low of a dynamic range has been allocated to the different exposure regions.

So, by pairing WDR technology with the more flexible CMOS image sensor and HD capability, Altera’s new solution is able to provide techniques to combat those pitfalls with defect pixel correction, gamma correction, dynamic range correction, and noise reduction.

The Future of IP Cameras?

Compared to standard technology now, the way we were used to dowloading and streaming video content back in the 1990′s would be neither fun or interesting today – it’s simply unacceptable.

So like everything else, with faster processing speeds and larger bandwidths available technologies like Altera’s new solution may one day become standard as we get used to better image quality at higher resolutions with advanced features available to correct for varying light conditions.

 

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