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3D NAND Technology Enables Major Breakthrough in Video Surveillance

3D NAND Technology has created a major breakthrough for video surveillance as Amit Gattani from Micron Technology explains how the technology has created ultra high-density microSD cards.

By Umar Hassan

The video monitoring market is growing rapidly worldwide thanks to the almost insatiable demand to have visual sensing of the environments around us — be it in and around our homes, businesses, factories, enterprises or infrastructures. However, the number and location of systems deployed is significantly limited by the supply-side economics of video cameras and the complexity of the infrastructure needed to deploy, manage and monitor them.

Amit Gattani, Senior Director Segment Marketing, Embedded Business Unit, Micron Technology

The last leg of major disruption in the video surveillance industry was enabled by dramatic improvements in image sensors and digitalisation, as well as the pervasive use of Internet Protocol (IP) networks. Today, some very powerful new technical trends — including 3D NAND-based microSD cards — are expected to change the shape of the video surveillance industry again and drive the next leg of growth for all its players.

Today’s Trends Advancing Video Surveillance

These powerful industry and technology trends are all being driven by other markets such as mobile, storage, Internet and Internet of Things (IoT), and they will significantly benefit the video surveillance industry in years to come. What is important to note, is how these trends build on each other, enable each other and, hence, are expected to lead to a virtuous cycle of growth and adoption in the video surveillance market.

  1. Further commoditisation of high-resolution image sensors

In 2016, more than 5 billion CMOS image sensors were shipped to customers worldwide. While most sensors are destined for mobile phones, other applications like video surveillance could also benefit from these sensors’ economies of scale, especially since nearly half the sensors had a resolution of 5 megapixels or more, which enables very high-resolution images. 

Benefits to video surveillance

Video cameras can be designed with higher resolution than ever before for better intelligence gathering and improved video analytics, without the equivalent increase in cost.

  1. Use of 3D NAND-based flash storage technology

In the past few years, flash storage technology has transitioned from planar (think a single-story building) to vertically stacked 3D (think a 64-story skyscraper) implementations. For example, you can now find a 64-layer 3D NAND technology, which packs 32GB of storage on a tiny 59mm silicon die at a density of 4.3 Gb/mm. That’s 5-6 times the density of equivalent performance planar NAND technology. It is now possible to build highly reliable video surveillance microSD cards with ultra-high densities, for example 128GB and 256GB.

Benefits to video surveillance

Surveillance cameras have supported microSD card slots for some time now, but they have been used sparingly due to limitations of previous-generation consumer-grade cards, both from a reliability and density perspective. New industrial microSD cards designed specifically for video surveillance edge storage will give system designers unprecedented freedom in designing and cost-optimising large distributed surveillance systems. These microSD cards, with extremely high density and reliable data storage at the silicon level, make it possible for the first time to store many days of video in the camera itself.

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  1. Advances in machine vision and deep learning-based artificial intelligence algorithms and reduction in implementation costs

Broadly speaking, the cost of image and pattern recognition-based analytics has been decreasing exponentially. While drivers of this reduction are as varied as social media and internet video to medicine and autonomous cars, nearly every industry, including video surveillance, is benefiting from the availability and maturity of a wide range of deep-learning frameworks, algorithms and semiconductor system-on-chip (SoC) integrated circuits (ICs) designed for efficient and cost-effective implementation of advanced video analytics.

Benefits to video surveillance

Human monitoring of video is expensive, error-prone and not scalable. Instead of bringing high-resolution video to the central network video recorder (NVR) or servers, which forces users to deal with cost of bandwidth and central storage, cameras can now perform most of the video analysis, using centralised capabilities only for more advanced functions. This means users can get advanced video analytics in the camera, enabling better insights, decisions and outcomes at the source itself.

  1. Evolution and adoption of cloud-based device deployment and management services with transition to the IoT

Thanks to the IoT, sensors and smart devices are being deployed across many verticals like smart cities, transportation infrastructure, factories, enterprises and homes. But scale and manageability requirements of the IoT is driving a shift towards cloud-based device deployment and management models, where devices can be provisioned, authorised and managed directly from the cloud without need for separate physical networks and intermediate equipment.

Benefits to video surveillance

Many use cases will benefit from the ease and cost effectiveness of a direct-to-cloud deployment model for video cameras, and the infrastructure and tools required are maturing in support of IoT deployments. On the do-it-yourself (DIY) end of the consumer market, the benefits of this model have led to accelerated adoption of devices such as Google® Dropcam® and Netgear® Arlo™. But now with the adoption of edge storage and/or increased edge intelligence in the camera, professional-grade surveillance will significantly benefit from this model as well, while maintaining a professional class of service and service-level agreements (SLAs) with reduced total cost of ownership (TCO). While consumer-grade devices work on public clouds, professional-grade deployments may use a combination of private and public cloud to benefit from the overall ease and cost benefits of the cloud.

3D NAND-based products with 128GB and 256GB densities, can help move the industry further down the path to where edge storage in the camera can become the primary video storage or at least be a strong part of hybrid deployments where edge storage is used in conjunction with traditional NVRs, which significantly reduces bandwidth, storage and maintenance costs and increases deployment flexibility with cloud-based deployments.

The size of actual video created in a specific deployment is highly variable. OEMs and system integrators have many tools to manage the size of data — starting with camera resolution, choice of video compression codec used, frames per second, variable bitrates, hours of recording needed based on situation, and so on. The number of recording days to be kept for evidence management also varies based on country or region legal requirements, type of use case and the SLA between the system integrator and end customer.

Grainy Videos No More

Previously, there were multiple factors inhibiting the deployment of high-resolution cameras for video surveillance:  cost of the camera, cost of bandwidth from camera to the NVR, cost of storage and cost of video analytics on high-resolution videos. Hence, the industry compromised and coped with grainy, low-quality videos, often not sufficient to address the very reason why we need video surveillance.

With the new lower cost structure of high-resolution camera and electronics, the ability to intelligently analyse and store video locally at the edge and bring only relevant data to the cloud/central stations, system integrators can significantly minimise the cost of bandwidth and equipment needed for these deployments without comprising on the high quality of the video. We can finally move past the typical grainy video of the past 20 years.

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