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ADPRO INSIGHT VIDEO ALARM AND VIDEO CENTRAL

 

STANDFIRST

Advanced multi-camera video surveillance, site security management and PC controlled remote monitoring come together in one discrete box with InSight and Video Central systems from Adpro

 

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Traditionally video surveillance alarm systems have been put together using the building block principle with key functions, such as camera control, video multiplexing and intruder detection handled by separate off-the-shelf components. The Adpro InSight system turns conventional wisdom on its head by integrating a wide range of security and surveillance functions into one convenient panel and in the process enabling a number of additional facilities that would either be impractical, unwieldy or uneconomic by other means.

 

The InSight system has been specifically designed for use in commercial and retail premises and larger homes. Flexibility has been given a high priority and it can be easily configured to meet the demands of a wide range of installations and end-user requirements. The panel -- an anonymous cream-coloured steel case measuring 430 x 580 x 100mm -- is the heart of the system. Inside is a single, self-contained module that handles video processing, alarm functions, site security management and communications with remote monitoring and alarm control systems.

 

Core facilities revolve around the video control unit, which can process up to eight inputs from PIR sensor-equipped cameras with audio monitoring capability. (Standard CCTV cameras can also be used in place of dedicated camera/sensors with an optional adaptor). The camera controller's main feature list includes video switching and auto sequencing, spot monitoring, quad display, video motion detection (VMD), alarm following or 'homing', freeze frame, multiplex recording to an external time-lapse VCR and remote monitoring via ordinary telephone lines. Pre-alarm image capture records six snapshot images in a memory buffer; recording stops if an alarm or associated trigger is activated and the images are stored until needed.

 

InSight is controlled locally by up to four 'CodePads'. Arming and access to the system is protected by four levels of user authorisation in addition to 'Master' and 'Installer' codes. Individual user access can be further limited by the time of day, and/or days of the week. The system has a total of 16 alarm zones, 8 of which are linked to sensor-equipped cameras. Zones can be divided into main and sub-areas, allowing parts of the premises to be secured (store rooms etc.), whilst the main area remains occupied. There is provision for five auxiliary-switched outputs, which includes 2 siren drivers.

 

The remote monitoring option is based on a PC software package called Video Central. The panel communicates via a built-in modem, which dials up a remote PC when an alarm or trigger is enabled. Once connected to the remote PC or Central Monitoring Station (CMS), the panel reports on the nature of the alarm (from a list of options covering panic, duress to heating and ventilation faults) and uploads captured video snapshots from before and during the alarm event, or live video (and audio). CMS operators can dial in to the remote site at any time to monitor video and audio and control devices, such as lights or door locks. We will take a closer look at Video Central in a moment.

 

But first, a tour of the main InSight panel and the principle ancillary components. The high level of integration is immediately obvious once the case has been opened. Inside the panel there is a fully enclosed mains power supply, space for up to four backup batteries and the main module. This is encased in a metal cover, both to shield the electronics from external interference and protect the circuit boards. Inside the module there are three PCBs, the largest one is a motherboard, which contains the power regulation and alarm circuitry plus all of the external interfaces and connections, neatly arranged along the outside edges of the board. The biggest of the two daughter boards is concerned with video processing; the other one is a telephone modem. All three are high-quality glass fibre PCBs using mainly surface mount components. There is no internal wiring between the boards, which must contribute significantly to long-term reliability.

 

Most of the connections to cameras/sensors, CodePads, alarm sensors and switched devices, are handled by simple terminals blocks (Adpro thoughtfully provide a suitable miniature screwdriver). Video inputs and outputs to the monitors (one live, one processed digital video) and the recording VCR use BNC sockets. A 9-pin D-sub socket acts as an RS232 serial communication port, for local connection to a PC -- for set-up and testing -- or an external modem. The On-board modem has its own set of RJ11 sockets, for the phone line and a telephone handset. A built-in amplifier can be connected to a loudspeaker to enable two-way communications with remote site control via CMS.

 

Tamper protection is provided by a user-mounted push-switch that senses when the case's outer cover is removed. There is plenty of room inside the case and access to the wiring terminals is very good indeed so there's no excuse for sloppy wiring.  Incidentally, the quality of the supplied instruction manuals is generally very good with all of the information clearly and intelligently presented.

 

Adpro have dubbed the dedicated cameras BiSensors and they are available in various configurations that include colour or black and white with wide (90 degrees) or narrow (45 degrees) fields of view. Each one contains a PIR sensor -- with the field of view matched to the camera -- plus the camera module, a microphone and the control electronics. Monochrome cameras also incorporate an IR illuminator that strobes when scene illumination falls below a pre-set level and an alarm event occurs. BiSensors connect to the main panel by a shielded dual twisted-pair cable, carrying video, audio, alarm trigger and power. All BiSensor cameras are fitted with two tamper switches that are activated if any of the panels are removed. Wiring has been kept as simple as possible, the detachable rear panel/mounting plate has a four-way screw terminal and a plug, that fits into a socket on the back of the BiSensor, so units can be quickly installed or exchanged. Cameras have able runs can be up to 100 metres.   

 

CodePads can be wall mounted, or placed on a desktop (with a supplied tilt stand. The main feature is a multi-function backlit LCD screen surrounded by six function buttons. The actions of these buttons or 'Softkeys' changes according to the CodePad's mode or status. Below the display there is an alphanumeric keypad covered by a hinged panel. The CodePad is the primary operator interface, controlling all of the InSight panel's functions from a set of menu-driven displays. In normal day to day use a CodePad is used to arm and disable the system and control video surveillance operations and for that reason one CodePad will normally be located adjacent to the panel and a monitor, others can be positioned strategically around the protected premises. Recommended connection to the Insight Panel is via a screened dual twisted-pair, once again cable runs can be up to 100 metres long.  

 

OPERATION

After switch on the system boots up then goes through a brief self-test routine before arming itself. Disarming requires an ID code (4 to 8 digits long); there are four levels of access. Level 1 users can operate basic video surveillance functions, arm a sub-area or the whole system. Level 2 access additionally allows the user to disarm both main and sub areas and reset alarms. Level 3 users can also isolate alarms and enable VCR replay, and Level 4 users have access to the master set-up menus, which requires a further ID code.

 

The main System Access menu is divided into six sections: video, zone status Installer set-up, arm/disarm, zone isolate and Review Log. Menus time out after 10 seconds if a selection isn't made and the master access code has to be re-entered. Each Softkey selection takes the user to another set of related menus, with further sub menus and set-up options, scores of them in fact and far too many to list here; suffice it to say the system is very flexible!

 

The main Installer menu covers time and date setting, system tests, user ID change and the main system, area and zone level set-ups.  Zone Level includes the video and non-video alarm inputs. Video zone options are for the individual camera configurations, with provision to create an on-screen ident, specifying the camera type and programming the video motion detector. This comprises a field of 12 rows of 32 individual 'targets', that can be switched on or off to mask areas of random or expected activity. Non-video zones each have a facility to set a user ident and type of alarm trigger. Additionally there is a contrast switch setting (triggers a response when the camera produces a low contrast image), PIR count setting (PIR becomes primary movement alarm when a BiSensor camera is in low contrast mode), plus a facility to set entry and exit paths.

 

The Review Log records all system activities including set-up and alarm events. Up to 200 actions is listed in either short form or with full details of what happened, and when and where it occurred.

 

That is just a very small sample of what is involved. In practice this high level of user and installer flexibility puts a considerable demand on the relatively simple CodePad, making the installation of a large systems a long and potentially tedious business. In short there is an opportunity to get into a tangle -- which we duly did on several occasions -- discovering to our costs that it is easier to get into a situation, than get out of it. Our problems were compounded by the fact that our first panel had a fault, which made life even more difficult. Our faith in the reliability of microelectronic circuitry meant that we spent a long time trying to figure out what we had done wrong, rather than realising that the errant behaviour was actually a fault! This highlighted a small but possibly significant flaw in the design in that there's no obvious 'idiot button' that will allow an installer to return to factory defaults. InSight told us they will be looking into this facility, though we later discovered a jumper on the motherboard that did the job…

 

VIDEO CENTRAL

Video Central extends the InSight system capabilities beyond local control to -- in theory -- anywhere with access to a telephone line. The main requirement is a PC with a modem or a purpose-designed Video Central Receiver Module (RXM). The latter is necessary if the requirement is to be able to monitor audio as well as video.

 

A single Central Monitoring Station is capable of monitoring between 25 to 50 sites. Video Central software can also be used in a network configuration comprising up to 11 PCs; with an expanded network it would be possible to monitor between 200 to 300 sites.

 

The software is designed to run on any IBM or IBM compatible PC with at least a 90MHz Pentium processor (P166 recommended). It will also need 16Mb RAM (32Mb recommended) and a minimum of 500Mb free hard disc space; something like a 6.4 Gb disc drive is necessary in order to be able to record images and full system data. The PC also needs the Windows 95 operating system and be capable of displaying an 800 x 600 VGA image in 24-bit colour.

 

In addition to the two program installation discs (3.5-inch floppies) the Video Central package includes a Software Protection Key or 'dongle' that connects to the PC's LPT1 printer port (the dongle is transparent to printer data and the port can continue to be used as normal). One dongle is required for each PC in a system or network (PCs using the optional RXM module have internal protection). 

 

Software installation follows normal Windows routines. The opening screen gives the option for single or multi-user systems, and installer utilities for local or on-site diagnostics and programming. When installation is complete Video Central prompts the user to re-boot the PC. The first task is to enter configuration details, this includes user passwords, information about the sites to be monitored and instruction how to process and log incoming data.

 

When the system has been set up and started it will normally display the main 'Waiting' or idle window, which consists of a quad display, toolbar containing a set of function buttons or icons and standard Windows title and menu bars. Alarm events are shown in a field at the bottom of the screen.

 

From the Waiting window it is possible to receive incoming alarm calls from a remote site, connect to the site, review a site database or carry out configuration and diagnostic operations. To connect to a site the operator simply clicks on the call icon and double clicks on the site name that appears in a dialogue box. Once on-line the PC screen displays the image that would normally appear on the local monitor. Icons on the toolbar allow the operator to change camera, video quality, freeze the picture and save the image, check site information, download the Review Log and where applicable listen to site audio. Audio can also be broadcast back to the site from the PC an heard on a speaker connected to the main panel, though like the site audio monitoring facility this only works when the PC is using an RXM card, rather than a normal PC modem.

 

The video quality setting determines how quickly images are updated, at the 'high-res' level (464 x 288) settings they are refreshed more slowly than the 'low-res' setting (304 x 288). Actual transmission times vary, from several frames per second, to one frame every few seconds. This will depend on whether the image is colour or black and white, the amount of activity in the scene, the quality of the telephone connection and the speed of modem being used. Stored images can be printed out, the print preview function has the option to zoom in and out and adjust the size of the display.

 

When an alarm trigger occurs at the remote site the usual procedure is for the InSight panel to automatically dial up the Video Central PC and depending on the set-up configuration, download pre-event stored images and stay on-line, allowing the operator to switch to viewing live camera feeds.

  

The Installer utilities in Video Central give the operator the same level of control over the InSight panel as a CodePad, namely access to all set-up and configuration settings, though the PC interface makes this operation much easier. This facility is available on both local connections -- i.e. by cable from the PC to the RS232 port on the panel -- or remotely, by a telephone dial-up connection. In both cases the Software Protection Key or dongle has to be fitted to the host PC, unless it is using an RXM card.  

 

VIDEO PERFORMANCE

The BiSensor camera modules are high performance designs with good low light characteristics and within the limitations of the on-board lenses and auto exposure systems, produce a clear sharp image with lower than average amounts of picture noise. Camera switching is clean and glitch-free; the quad display and multiplexed video outputs are stable with negligible amounts of jitter. General video performance compares well with non-integrated components, which is not altogether surprising as several of the key video processing microchips used in the InSight Panel are common to a number of similarly specified systems.  

 

SUMMARY

It is clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into making the system as easy to install and convenient to use as possible and InSight go to considerable lengths to acquaint installers and end users with the system. The danger is that so many functions crammed into such a small space could become difficult to handle. In one or two areas of set-up and configuration it comes perilously close to doing just that (particularly when using the CodePad) but in general the well thought out software, control systems and documentation keep it manageable. Video Central is another potential minefield, PC software can be flaky and unstable at the best of times but it certainly behaved itself during our tests. InSight and Video Central represent a significant step forward in security and surveillance hardware and Adpro have done an excellent job of integrating so many previously diverse technologies.

 

PRODUCT SPECIFICATION

 

INSIGHT VIDEO ALARM

Features: 8 video lined alarms, 8 switched alarms, up to 8 combined camera/sensors or third-party cameras, up to 4 control 'CodePads'. Video functions: video and audio processing, spot monitoring, video switching, quad display, auto sequencing, video motion detection, activity following, freeze frame, multiplex recording to VCR, remote video monitoring. Alarm functions: 8 alarm input zones, 5 auxiliary outputs, 2 siren drivers. System security: 4 levels of user authorisation, Master user and Installer user access

 

Power supply              230 VAC 50Hz

Dimensions                 (main panel) 430 x 580 x 100mm

 

VIDEO CENTRAL

System requirements: IBM or IBM compatible PC, 90MHz Pentium processor (P166 recommended), 16Mb RAM (32Mb recommended), 500Mb free hard disc space, (6.4 Gb recommended), VGA display (800 x 600, 24 bit colour), 33.6kbps modem, Windows 95

 

PSI RATINGS

Product                      

Product design 9

Build quality               9

Ruggedness                10

 

Operation                  

General functions            9

CCTV functions            9         

Ease of use                 7

Instructions                9

Manuf. support            9                     

 

Performance

Video quality              8

Switching                    9

Audio                          8

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1998 3011

 


 

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