15 Jan Power to the People

Achieving good lighting performance and accurately specifying and comparing illuminators has long been a challenge for installers and security buyers. Here Tony Whiting, joint MD at Raytec, reveals exclusively to SME, how Raytec has tackled this problem by publishing the industry’s first lighting standard for surveillance. In conjunction with your choice of camera and lens, the right lighting is the most powerful tool in helping you to achieve outstanding night-time performance from any professional video surveillance system. But with many different lighting products available in the market today, it can be difficult to accurately compare the performance of different illuminators. At one level, this may seem fairly straightforward – just look at the claimed distance performance from the manufacturer. However until now, there has been no standard way to evaluate different illuminators and their performance claims – particularly Infra-Red lighting. And crucially, there have been no standardised testing methods for manufacturers to adhere to. Traditional lighting industries i.e. street/urban/commercial lighting et. have long established and standard testing methods allowing all illuminators to be accurately compared. Sadly, this is simply not the case for lighting for surveillance and security. Without standards – distance and image quality interpretation varies greatly. Consider the two Infra-Red images on the right (Figure 1 and 2) from different manufacturers (subject at 70m). Each manufacturer may try and argue that their illuminator delivers a distance of 70m+, but clearly one product significantly outperforms the other. As we can see the image on the bottom is far superior, delivering more clarity and detail, and less noise – ultimately helping the user to achieve far better analysis and identification. Open to interpretation Surveillance lighting manufacturers currently publish very limited information – mostly quoting a maximum lighting performance distance. But with the absence of standardisation, methods for calculating performance, especially distance, have always been left open to interpretation – leading to varying claims. Consider two products from different manufacturers with exactly the same light output. One manufacturer may take a realistic view and quote a distance of 150 metres (~492 feet) but the other may take an overly optimistic view and rate this same product for 250 metres (~820 feet). Who is right? Since both products actually deliver exactly the same light output, it is obvious that the illuminator from the realistic manufacturer is going to provide a much better picture at its quoted distance than the other illuminator at its quoted (overly-optimistic) distance. The manufacturer with the better claimed distance may have:

  • used a much more sensitive camera
  • used a much more expensive and higher performing lens
  • tested against a highly reflective surface
  • accepted a much noisier picture to quantify the published distance

Distance is only one area of lighting performance to consider. Other criteria to consider include: angle, flexibility and adaptability, integration capability, consumption, environmental impact, reliability, lifetime, warranty, customer support and lighting partner credentials. With no agreed performance measurements and standards, security professionals have therefore been unable to safely rely on some lighting manufacturers’ performance claims and are unable to easily compare different products.

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