IACP 2010: In-car video goes 'High-Def'
The WatchGuard 4RE HD Wireless In-Car Video System uses multiple Texas Instruments’ DiVinci DM365 video processors to offer high definition in-car video
New developments in in-car video systems was one of the hottest technology topics throughout the Exhibit Hall during the 117th Annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference and Law Enforcement Education and Technology Exposition in Orlando late last month. A few weeks ago, we reported on several new in-car video solutions from Motorola, but they weren’t the only company with some pretty impressive solutions on display. For example, the attendees with whom we spoke were particularly impressed by what they saw from WatchGuard Video.
Just prior to IACP 2010, WatchGuard announced the release of a new a high definition in-car video system called WatchGuard 4RE HD Wireless In-Car Video System. The company claimed in its press materials that the underlying technology, WatchGuard 4RE — which stands for Four Resolution Encoding — is “completely revolutionary because it eliminates the agonizing compromise between video quality and file size.”
WatchGuard’s marketing materials also stated that the company’s patent-pending design “provides more than three and a half times higher image resolution than the best video quality offered by any competing system while simultaneously lowering the overall file storage requirements.” That’s a bold statement, to say the least, so we stopped by the WatchGuard booth to see for ourselves. In short, the technology is pretty impressive, and the system seems to deliver what the Plano (Texas) company promises.
WatchGuard Marketing Manager Andrew Scriven explained, “This is the first high definition in car video system in the world. In the past, HD didn’t make sense for law enforcement, primarily because HD takes up so much server space, and it’s just very expensive to store all of that video. So WatchGuard said, ‘How do make this make sense for law enforcement?” so we came up with 4RE, which means four resolution encoding. This means it’s recording the same video at multiple resolutions. So we have the HD resolution but we also have standard definition as well. So based on the type of event of the recording, they have the option of uploading the HD version or the standard definition version. So the standard definition version is going to be used 90 percent of the time, just based on our experience in the industry. You’ve got your routine motorist assists and traffic stops. But if you have a DUI, a drug bust, or maybe a celebrity encouter, you’re probably going to want — or need — that evidence in high definition.”
To accomplish its objective of getting HD to work for the law enforcement environment, WatchGuard partnered with Texas Instruments, a Dallas-based company whose name is synonymous with leading-edge innovation. That company had developed a unique microprocessor — dubbed the DiVinci chip — that combines a digital signal processor (DSP) with a general-purpose processor that “offers speeds up to 300 MHz and supports production-qualified H.264, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MJPEG, and VC1/WMV9,” according to the T.I. website.
“T.I. was interested in helping us incorporate this chip so we could use this technology to compress the file size for the videos to a size that would make sense for server storage for long periods of time,” said Scriven.
“Using the DiVinci chip, we’re the first company to implement H.264 Main Profile Compression Technology. There’s MPEG-4, which is ubiquitous, then there’s baseline profile H.264, but this new chip is the first of it’s kind that can take that evidence and compress it to a significantly smaller amount, so that’s what allows us to incorporate high definition.”
Getting Really Small
Scriven added, “With most MPEG-4 systems, for about ten hours of video, you’re going to take about 20 gigabytes of space, but with baseline profile H.264 it’s about 12 gigs which is a lot better. We’re using main profile H.264 so it’s that same ten hours of video storage is only taking up 2.4 gig of storage and one of those events was kept and shot in high definition because it was a high profile event. That way you can have high definition but still make it viable for your agency.”
Video files will typically be uploaded wirelessly using a new, advanced industrial grade 802.11n antenna system with an 5.8 GHz multi-radio antenna. According to WatchGuard, this system “has transfer speeds fast enough to upload nine hours of video from six vehicles simultaneously in about 300 seconds, and is completely scalable for large agencies that require a high number of concurrent transfers.”
Going Back in Time
Another feature of the product is the touch-screen display with a graphical user interface (GUI) for easy identification and manipulation of the system even in the most stressful circumstances. The system records onto a solid state USB flash drive locked behind the unit’s access panel. In addition, a built-in, non-removable hard drive provides data redundancy. This creates a record-after-the-fact capability much like a TiVo.
“This allows you to go back in time,” explained Scriven, “and capture video that you had not previously captured by using the internal hard drive to buffer the video on the DVR. A lot of times, an occurrence that doesn’t seem important at the time turns out to be very important. We had a scenario where there was a bank robbery, and with this product here, this is our flagship TV Dbase product, they were able to go back two days later, the investigator reviewed video from a police car in the vicinity of the bank and they got the license plate of a car that wasn’t supposed to be there. The officer at the time had no idea that it was important, he was just on patrol, so the 4RE carries on that same technology so you can go back and check that... say you got from 10am to 12pm you want to pull up all video that was in 1.3 miles of a certain GPS location, our server can find that video, pull it up and play it for you.”