Next-gen in-car video systems are here today
Motorola’s MVX1000 In-Car Digital Video System represents the latest and greatest of what is presently available
I’ve lost count of how many “generations” there have been to patrol video systems, starting with dashboard-mounted VHS camcorders in the late 1980s. Whatever level we’re at now, it’s probably safe to say that the MVX1000 from Motorola represents the latest and greatest of what is presently available.
The MVX1000 incorporates the newest innovations available in portable computing, starting with the use of solid state drives (SSDs) for storing recordings. SSDs are, in essence, very large flash drives with no moving parts. They’re far more shock resistant and durable than traditional spinning disk drives for obvious reasons, and both read and write data much faster than disk-based drives. The MVX1000 comes with either 32GB or 64GB drives. Recording capacity is easy to calculate, at about one GB per hour per camera at max resolution and frame rate.
The “per camera” spec is essential, as this unit will record the output of four cameras simultaneously. This means that you can have the usual forward-facing camera, a back seat camera, a rear-facing camera, and one more for, I don’t know — the driver?
All of these can be recording at the same time, and in fact they do record at the same time with up to 180 (user-configurable) seconds of “pre-event” recording. Pre-event recording captures what you wish you had been able to save in the seconds before you activated the recorder. From the time the recorder is started by either pushing a hardware or touchscreen button or activating one of the external triggers such as the overhead lights, the recording in the pre-event buffer is appended to the start of the recording. You’ll never miss the guy who runs the red light in front of you while your brain is still in “neutral.”
An extra related feature is a one-button ten-second rewind capability. Did that car make the light? Push the button and see. If ten seconds isn’t far enough back, each successive push takes you back another ten seconds.
The included front-facing camera exceeds the recommended IACP specs of a 40° field of view and expands this to 63.3°. In more practical terms, if the car you’ve stopped is 35 feet away and centered on the camera, the recording will include everything 21.5 feet either side of that centerline. We’ve all seen patrol video clips of struggles that move out of the video frame. Recordings from this unit are more likely to capture the whole picture. The camera has optical zoom capability up to 27X, or more than twice that of most in-car video systems.
Recordings are at 4CIF resolution, or 704x576 pixels, at 30 frames per second. H.264 compression is used to conserve drive space. This is the standard used to fit most HD video recordings onto DVD, so it’s superior to most tape-based formats. The system is delivered with the Inform Mobile Digital Video Management System, which can combine the video output of several vehicles to provide multiple views of a single incident. It can also integrate data from some CAD/RMS software so that radio communications, recorded telephone line output, and fixed surveillance camera footage can be combined to reconstruct an incident with multiple data types.
Video recordings include different types of metadata (“data about data”) such as time, date, officer’s name, unit number, GPS coordinates, traffic radar output, emergency light status, etc. The Inform management system allows searches on any combination of metadata, making is easy to locate exactly the recording one wants quickly and easily. The same system preserves the evidentiary value of the recordings, creating an audit log of every access and change to any file. Recordings go from the patrol car to the server by removing the keylocked drive, connecting an Ethernet cable, or over a secure wireless network when in range of the base station.
The MVX1000 is operated from either a dedicated five-inch touchscreen display or can be integrated with the MDT display to reduce clutter in the patrol car. Buttons are big, to allow operation while wearing gloves. The most common functions, including display blackout and recording bookmark, have dedicated hardware buttons you can hit without taking your eyes off the road.
Here’s hoping your agency can upgrade its in-car video to this new standard.