Digital security surveillance (DSS) is changing video surveillance in many ways, enabling the easy networking of cameras and other system components, as well as the use of the high resolution video. These changes create new demands for the client workstation. Where DSS developers and system integrators used to simply specify a standard PC for these workstations, the demanding needs of today’s video surveillance require a robust solution designed for continuous 24/7 operation, 365 days a year. Modern DSS client workstations need the performance power to handle playback of multiple high resolution video streams, transcoding and export of videos to other devices, frequent use of camera pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) features, integration of access control software and other security solutions, and general multitasking.


In this blog I want to examine the performance needs for DSS client workstations and how DSS system developers can meet these needs through products from the member companies of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. The 200-plus members of the Alliance collaborate closely with Intel to create hardware, software, tools, and services to help speed intelligent systems to market. These include a wide range of solutions designed around the latest Intel® architecture (IA) processors, which offer a number of features that benefit performance-oriented designs.


DSS Client Workstation Requirements

A client workstation is the front-end of a DSS solution, providing the interface between the user and the rest of the system. The primary demands on a DSS client workstation are compression and processor-intensive decoding to properly render multiple streams of live and recorded video. As compression algorithms continue to evolve, the demand on workstation performance will grow exponentially. From a future proofing perspective, DSS developers should specify a workstation with even more powerful processors and graphics capabilities than they might think necessary for the present system, anticipating both the addition of more cameras, more video streams, and more demanding compression algorithms. In general, a purpose-built workstation for DSS solutions should feature a high performance processor, high resolution graphics processing capabilities, expanded display options, and often dual Ethernet adapters (one for management).


Selecting the Right Processor

In a previous blog, I talked about how 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor-based platforms deliver best-in-class performance and reliability for mobile NVRs. These processors are also an excellent choice for DSS client workstations. Their 3D tri-gate transistor technology and 22nm process technology deliver up to 20% better performance in the same thermal envelope as the previous generation. The biggest news, however, is the upgraded integrated graphics engine. It provides an up to 2X boost in 3D performance and support for three displays. I/O also gets a major upgrade with support for PCI Express* Gen 3 and USB 3.0 more than doubling I/O throughput.


Let’s take a deeper look at this upgraded graphics engine. Some of its innovations include:

  • Intel® Quick Sync Video for native support for all mainstream codecs and the ability to handle multiple 1080p streams simultaneously. This feature has been upgraded in the current processor to support up to 1.8x faster video transcode (useful in exporting video to smartphones and tablets) and 36 percent faster decode.
  • Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 4000 for up to 60 percent faster graphics performance along with new support for DirectX* 11, OpenGL* 3.1, and OpenCL* 1.1.
  • Intel® Clear Video HD Technology
  • Three independent displays support
  • Support for up to 32GB of dual channel DDR3 memory, multiple Gigabit Ethernet, SATA, and  PCI Express Gen 3 and USB 3.0 for high-bandwidth video applications in which multiple, real-time video streams need to run simultaneously. PCIe Gen 3 also helps enable external graphics cards, when used, to achieve the fastest performance ever realized in an Intel® Core™ processor-based system.


This same powerful graphics engine is available in a server-grade processor, the Intel® Xeon® processor E3-1200v2 product family. The v2 generation—also built on 22-nanometer process technology—boasts a 15 percent CPU performance increase over the previous generation. Of interest for DSS client workstations are two processors in this family, the Intel® Xeon® processors E3-1225v2 and E3-1275v2 with the Intel® C216 Chipset. These are the ones that include the integrated Intel® HD Graphics 4000 engine and deliver up to a 50 percent 3D graphics performance improvement and up to a 1.8x HD transcode performance increase over the first generation. In this updated processor, one HDMI and two DVI graphics interfaces simultaneously display high definition images for up to three independent displays. Intel Clear Video HD Technology provides advanced imaging capability for high definition video processing and integrated next-generation I/O technologies such as PCI Express* Gen 3.0 and USB 3.0 enable video streaming without the need of a discrete graphics card.


Sample Boards

For developers looking to build their own client workstation, Alliance members offer a variety of motherboards. A good choice is the Advantech AIMB-581 MicroATX board (see Figure 1). Available with either the Intel Xeon processor E3-1200v2 product family or 3rd generation Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3 processors, the board provides high graphic performance with enhanced media acceleration whichever processor is selected. This compact industrial-grade embedded system offers extremely efficient high performance, high stability, and a flexible I/O motherboard configuration for peripheral control. You can learn more about this board’s advantages for a client workstation in an Intel solution brief providing a DSS system blueprint for a 1,000 camera IP system. The brief describes how the prior generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor made it possible to view nine channels of 1080p HD video in one screen or a video wall.



Figure 1. Advantech AIMB-581 MicroATX board.

Another board to consider is the DFI CL630-CRM ATX based on the Intel® Xeon® processor E3-1275v2. With up to eight-way multi-tasking and maximum memory capacity of 32 GB, this board easily handles DSS client software and additional applications while the processor’s integrated graphics decodes video. For playback, the board provides HDMI and DVI display resolutions of up to 1920x1200 and VGA display resolutions of up to 2048x1536 pixels. 


A third choice for a surveillance workstation based on the Intel Xeon processor E3-1200v2 product family is the IEI IMBA-C2160 ATX motherboard. This server-grade motherboard also delivers speedy media processing and enhanced graphics performance via its integrated Intel HD Graphics.


A Mini-ITX motherboard based on the 3rd generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processor family is the Norco MITX 6922 Mini-ITX (see Figure 2). This board features powerful performance and rich connectivity in its 170mm x170mm form factor. The board includes VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, LVDS video out, dual independent display; 6x COM, 8x USB2.0, 7.1CH HD audio, 2x Gigabit LAN; 1xPCIe x4, x16 connecting finger, and 2x Mini PCIe for rich expansion. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports are available for high speed networking.


Norco 6922.jpg

Figure 2. The I/O end of the Norco MITX 6922 Mini-ITX.

A Market-Ready Solution

For a small surveillance system, DSS developers can speed solutions to market by starting with a pre-loaded and easy-to-configure single-site solution from Milestone Systems called the XProtect Essential NVR (see Figure 3). Powered by the HP Z210 Workstation, this solution integrates NVR functionality into the workstation and comes pre-loaded with Microsoft® Windows® 7 Professional, Milestone XProtect Essential video management software (VMS), and XProtect Smart Client for viewing live and recorded video. Designed for the small business market, it provides fast setup, proven reliability, excellent performance, ease-of-use, and guaranteed support. Automatic camera detection and video configuration wizards enable fast set up of a surveillance system with 8 or 16 video channels.


The XProtect Essential NVR supports a wide choice of network video camera and encoder brands and models to fit a variety of needs. Customers can efficiently transition from analog to IP, continuing to use existing devices while blending IP security technology over time.

Xprotect setup.JPG

Figure 3. Milestone XProtect Essential NVR with HP Z210 Workstation.


The HP Z210 Workstation is available with either enterprise-class Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 product family or second-generation Intel Core™ i3/i5/i7 processors. In talking with Milestone Systems, I discovered they’re looking into upgrading the XProtect Essential NVR with the performance improvements of the latest generation Intel Xeon and Core processors (Ivy Bridge). Currently, this workstation includes 4GB RAM and up to 2TB of storage, It provides one VGA and one DisplayPort connection and can handle camera resolutions up to 10 megapixel, depending on the camera model.


Intel® Media SDK 2012

Software developers for Intel® platforms should check out the Intel® Media SDK 2012—a cross-platform application programming interface (API). This free software development kit provides easy access to hardware-accelerated video encoding, decoding, transcoding for Intel HD Graphics.


security_analytics[1].pngTo learn more about DSS solutions based on Intel processors, read Intel’s end-to-end guide on Building Digital Security & Surveillance Systems Based on Intel Technology.


Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. DFI-ITOX, HP, IEI, Microsoft, NEXCOM and Norco are Associate members of the Alliance. Milestone Systems is a General member of the Alliance.


Mark Scantlebury

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine