I’ve been writing about digital security and surveillance (DSS) for more than seven years now. One company I’ve been following is Milestone Systems, a General member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance (Intel® IoT Solutions of Things). Long a leader in open platform IP video management software, the company recently decided to launch its own line of network vieo recorder (NVR) appliances based on Intel processors.
This is a completely logical move. By offering NVRs with Milestone’s XProtect* video management software (VMS) preinstalled, Milestone saves systems integrators time in assembling and implementing DSS solutions for their customers.
In this post, I look at Milestone’s line of Husky* NVRs and how they use Intel® Core® i5/i7 processors to deliver superior performance.
The Milestone Husky NVR Series
NVRs are typically network-based computers that take video feeds from multiple cameras simultaneously and record the video in a digital format onto one or more hard drives. They offer an excellent alternative for smaller DSS installations that don’t need the storage capacity of a storage area network (SAN). NVRs are also useful for local storage in large DSS installations where, after a set period of time, they send compressed video files to a SAN for archiving.
Typical NVR capabilities include video recording, decode/transcode functions, managing camera streams, streaming video (live and recorded) to client workstations and mobile devices (such as smart phones), search capabilities, and, increasingly, video analytics. The capabilities of a given NVR depend both on the hardware performance and the features of the onboard VMS. With the Husky series, Milestone offers three hardware options and more than 50 preconfigured software options. These scalable options help integrators meet a wide range of customer needs - from a single-location boutique to a multi-site installation.
To see how this works, let's take a quick look at the hardware:
· Milestone Husky M10 – a sleek and small fanless device ideal for entry-level surveillance and sites with no space for traditional IT equipment. This model supports up to 8 cameras and up to 1TB storage space.
· Milestone Husky M30 – a customizable and scalable workstation-style unit designed for business growth (Figure 1). It supports up to 20 cameras and up to 4TB storage space.
· Milestone Husky M50 – a rack-mounted, feature-rich solution perfect for advanced installations with sophisticated security needs. It scales up to 80 cameras and up to 24TB storage space.
Figure 2. The Milestone Husky M50 is a rack-mounted solution scalable up to 80 cameras and up to 24TB storage space.
Ready to use out of the box, the Milestone Husky appliances feature preinstalled software that enables setup in minutes. Configuration wizards, automatic license activation, and automatic device discovery for cameras and other peripherals enable integrators to get customers up and running in minutes. Once connected, customers get instant and remote access to live and recorded video through a flexible choice of client interfaces: Milestone XProtect® Smart Client (available with the Milestone Husky M30 and M50 models), XProtect® Web Client, and Milestone Mobile – all available in 27 languages.
Customization and Scalability
For further cost effectiveness and nearly unlimited scalability, Milestone Husky M30s and Milestone Husky M50s can be connected in a primary/secondary configuration. This configuration enables viewing video from all connected cameras by simply connecting to the primary NVR. Installations using XProtect® Corporate, Milestone’s premium VMS solution, can use Milestone Interconnect, another Milestone product, to implement a cost-efficient and flexible way to establish centralized surveillance across geographically dispersed sites. Milestone Interconnect enables connection of all versions of XProtect VMS and the Milestone Husky NVR series into a centrally managed system.
As far as customization is concerned, the Husky NVRs allow mixing camera brands and models according to need. The units are compatible with the largest selection of cameras in the industry, supporting both ONVIF* and PSIA compliant devices. The Husky M30 and M50 models also enable XProtect add-ons and third-party integrations – such as access control and video analytics solutions.
What Makes the Husky NVRs Tick
For the rest of this post, I’m going to look deeper at the Husky M30 and M50 models designed for larger scale operations. These two models use powerful Intel Core i5/i7 processors to handle:
· Multiple camera channels
· Decode/transcode functions
· Sophisticated algorithms used in video analytics and object tracking
· Packetization for video streaming
· All the administrative components of the VMS software.
Intel® Core™ processors have all the necessary muscle for these functions. Their integrated graphics engine is designed to accelerate video decode and transcode operations, enabling faster video processing with less CPU loading (Figure 3). These processors also integrate I/O technologies such as PCI Express* Gen 3 and USB 3.0 to enable faster connectivity for handling multiple, simultaneous real-time video streams.
One of the most important parameters for evaluating NVRs is processor utilization. This parameter is crucial for ensuring the headroom to run other applications such as video analytics. Based on Intel's innovative 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistor design, Intel Core processors provide the high performance and integrated graphics processing necessary to efficiently handle DSS workloads. For example, the Intel® Core™ i7-3770 processor’s integrated graphics can decode 20 channels of 1080p 30 fps video. This performance enables the processor to run demanding media processing workloads and still have processing power left over for video analytics and other applications.
For the Husky M30 and M50 series such decoding/transcoding performance is critical and a major reason Intel Core processors were chosen to power the units. In a typical implementation, the original video feed coming from the camera is recorded to the hard disk in its original format. This ensures the highest quality surveillance evidence. Frequently though a lower quality video stream is desired for streaming the video feed over a slower Internet connection to a mobile device or to preserve network bandwidth. The original camera feed is kept intact on the NVR and a new feed is created through transcoding to fit the purpose of the network or requesting client. For example, H.264 video might need to be transcoded to a different codec with a lower frame rate and a lower resolution to enable security personnel or first responders to vide the video on a smart phone over a cellular connection.
Transcoding performance is also important to video analytics. While H.264 video is often preferred for its high resolution, video analytics software may require the video to be transcoded to a different video format for analysis. Doing this in real-time with multiple video streams requires a powerful processor.
In talking with Milestone, I found out that another key reason they use Intel Core processors is Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX). Intel AVX supports the high-performance 256-bit vector and matrix processing crucial to video analytics. The speedup in analytics performance contributes to faster response in sending out alerts, operating access gates, and activating other systems designed to respond to machine vision.
Other Important Intel® Core Processor Features
NVR systems like the Milestone Husky series also benefit from a number of other Intel Core processor features and innovations. These include:
· Intel® Quick Sync Video – provides native support for all mainstream codecs, enabling fast decoding and transcoding of multiple simultaneous 1080p video streams.
· Support for 3 independent displays – enables an NVR to double as a surveillance workstation. Intel Core processors support DisplayPort (DP), HDMI, DVI, VGA, and LVDS.
· Fast I/O – provides up to 32 GB of dual channel DDR3 memory, multiple Gigabit Ethernet, SATA, PCI Express Gen 3, and USB 3.0 for all the necessary high-speed connectivity for high-bandwidth video applications. Multiple, real-time video streams can run simultaneously in and out of the NVR.
· Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 – allows the processor to easily handle periods of intense workloads by using available thermal headroom to run at a higher frequency.
· Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology – uses simultaneous multi-threading to help boost performance for parallel, multi-threaded applications, allowing four cores to operate as if they were eight.
Systems integrators looking for ways to help customers protect their data can also make use of the advanced security features of Intel Core processors. For instance, Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) and Intel® OS Guard can ensure that an NVR launches from a known-good state, protecting against malware attacks on the boot environment. For cryptography, Intel® Secure Key digital random number generation and Intel Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel AES-NI) can help protect media, data, and assets from loss with little or no impact on performance.
Reinventing the NVR
The Milestone Husky NVRs tap the features and capabilities of Intel Core processors to deliver the performance, functionality and scalability. By preinstalling XProtect VMS and enabling a wide range of Milestone and third-party add-ons, these NVRs provide systems integrators with a great way to introduce customers quickly to the cost-savings and performance benefits of open platform IP video surveillance.
Milestone Systems is a General member of the Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine