MOBOTIX S14 Product Review
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Product Reviews | January 30, 2013, 8:00am AEDT
I GOT a look at the MOBOTIX S14 system at the company’s Pyrmont HQ recently. We played with Set 2 of the S14 suite, which includes a pair of ‘day’ camera modules and a base unit. When MOBOTIX’s Chris Watt opened the case of the S14 the build quality and the presentation of this MOBOTIX gear was what struck me.
There’s simplicity and function everywhere and the cameras and all components are built with typical MOBOTIX precision. Perhaps because this is the first time I’ve seen a MOBOTIX S14 kit being unboxed it strikes me just how much care and attention has gone into these S14 kits.
Kit 2 includes an S14D FlexMount Core with a pair of day sensor modules, 2 x 2m sensor cables, a pair of 40mm bridge extension sets for tunnelling through walls, a 0.5m ETH patch cable and 2 replacement domes in white. All the lens modules are field replaceable with the same tool – one side of the tool is for focusing, one side for popping covers on and off.
When it comes to imaging the S14 is capable, too. Featuring the latest MOBOTIX imaging platform, the P3, the 3.1MP S14 sports a ½-inch chip size offering a maximum resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels at 20ips. Sensitivity is said to be 0.5 lux and there’s 8x digital zoom and pan/tilt.
Interfaces include Ethernet 10/100 Mbit, MiniUSB, MxBus and there’s IP65 rating, an operating temperature between -30C and 60C. Each camera head also has an integrated microphone. All other MOBOTIX lenses, from super-wide angle to telescopic, are now available as options with the S14 as day or day/night versions.
“S14 is the first of our solutions to have the full sensor modules and these will also go into the MOBOTIX M15 and any future cameras we release. There are also plans to bring in different types of modules, including megapixel and thermal in the future”
There’s onboard storage – an SD slot protected by a plug that you screw out in the field. The supplied chip is a modest 4GB but this can be increased if required at reasonably low cost. Locally, Cheap Chips is selling SanDisk Extreme 128GB microSD cards for $A222 which, given this moves genuinely useful storage servers to the edge, is not expensive, in my opinion.
“The P3 is the MOBOTIX platform going forward,” Watt tells me. “The S14 and the base unit are technically the same hardware and firmware as other P3-based MOBOTIX cameras – the S14 base unit has the same board as our cameras. The successor to the M12 camera is based entirely on this new P3 board.
“The S14 is the first of our solutions to have the full sensor modules and these will also go into the MOBOTIX M15 and any future cameras we release. There are also plans to bring in different types of modules, including megapixel and thermal in the future.”
It’s certainly designed to be very easy for installers I say, peering into the polystyrene box.
“Yes,” agrees Watt. “And it’s not just the physical connections that are simple. When you plug the components in, the base unit detects exactly which sensors are attached so you don’t have to configure anything manually.”
We’re pulling components out of the packaging now and I can see that in all the connector ports there are little blue protective port plugs. You pull these out when connecting camera to base unit. If a base unit port is not being used the protective plug remains in place.
This strikes me, in a good way, as being typical MOBOTIX overkill. Nothing is left to chance and at multiple levels significant thought looks to have gone into ensuring vulnerable parts of hardware are adequately protected right up to the point of installation.
Sorting out connector cables is simple, too, and Watt tells me all the cable terminations are exactly the same as MOBOTIX has been using since the Q22 was first released in 2008. As we go through the process of setting up a system it’s clear just what a simple process installation actually is.
When you’re building an S14 system you just pull out all the components, select the lenses, fit them, extract the port plugs, connect and lock the cables and you’re done. Obviously, there’s the physical installation of camera hardware and base unit to consider, but there’s no soldering, crimping, screwing in of microscopic termination grub screws.
Once the cameras are installed we wait for the Control Centre software installed on a PC in the demo room that’s linked to a video wall to boot up. Once this happens the software will find the devices on the network automatically. According to Watt, MxCC will even find the cameras if there are on a different subnet to the main PC and then allow you to change the IP addresses to suit the local machine.
“It’s very simple to get started and you can do the bulk of your configuring from MxCC – image setting, exposure, recording setup,” Watt explains. “It’s a nice GUI to work your way around and it does lots of the setup for you, which is what I really like about it. And if there’s anything more advanced required in a given application you can just jump into the web browser.
As well as handling basic setup, MxCC can handle more complicated applications and system changes with no input from the installer. When you change hardware in an installed system, MxCC automatically detects that – there’s no need to change settings.
If you have a black and white sensor attached, MxCC will automatically detect that there was both a colour and a black and white sensor attached and automatically sets itself to switch to the black and white sensor at night. Watt tells me setup is it’s 90 per cent exposure, 10 per cent configuration and watching him work, that sounds close to the mark.
“The sensor modules have an FPGA chip on board,” Watt explains. “At the moment that chip identifies the hardware but in the future we’ll be able to move image processing out to the edge, freeing the base unit for tasks like more elaborate video analytics, which is currently only available in the Q24.”
Current analytics are targeted towards support of marketing campaigns in retail environments – that includes people counting and heats maps – and its capabilities are already impressive. Loitering and speed alarms are coming.
In real time operation, you drive the system using the MxCC control panel. You just set the cameras up to a camera grid that reflects areas of interest, risk or high activity. You can change the wall, configure an alarm, do playback, there’s no limit to the number of cameras, no limit to layouts.
Simplifying our demo, Watt has already done layouts with maps that are very easy to negotiate your way around. You simply select a camera on a map and bring it up in a live window and the icons can then be synchronised across multiple computer. You can also handle viewing in full screen with navigation by buttons – MxCC can scale up and down – as far as you need it to.
There’s also an alarm window that shows alarm events as well as a new event handler – Watt says the old one was basic – while the new one extracts the sensor from the event.
“This means that for video motion, I can have many video motion events linked to different windows. There’s also recording and you can bring in signal inputs,” he explains.
“We have applied this capability to 24 hour gyms to stop tailgating after hours. This allows them to establish which member is letting people in. We’ve also been able to use event logic – in this case a VM – to detect sequences of door movement in a nursing home to increase the safety of disoriented residents.”
MxCC is a nice management solution. It’s not just simple and modular – there’s a lot of customisability just below the surface. According to Watt, there’s a subtle stigma attached to bundled software, which can be seen by the market as a less capable video management solution. However, Watt says these preconceptions are flawed.
“While we don’t bill for it we consider our management software to be an integral part of our system. Logically, we want MxCC to be as powerful as anything else that’s on the network. To ensure this, the camera firmware is upgraded every 6 months while Control Centre is upgraded every 12 months.”
Next, we fit a hemispheric lens to one of the sensor heads, just to get a sense of the performance of the unit. Before we start driving this, Watt shows me footage of the entry to the MOBOTIX HQ in Germany. All the colour cameras in the Foyer are 3MP and its easy to see the hemispheric lens is great solution for this sort of application.
Perhaps this large, bright foyer is 15m wide and 15m deep. At the rear of the foyer there are glass windows, then an open courtyard area and another building on the other side with glass windows – the MOBOTIX demo room. Depth of field is so good we are able to see what people in the building behind are doing – great performance for a fixed lens camera.
Back in the Pyrmont demo room, I aim the camera through the window towards Blackwattle Bay. It does a good job – handling the glare through the window and giving a general view over the water but the hemispheric lens is designed for closer work than peering across the 8 lanes of the Anzac Bridge.
It’s in the demo room itself, as well as applications like the MOBOTIX foyer than you see the S14 camera at its best. The fixed lens gives good face recognition at around 4 metres, and usable face recognition out to 10 metres. Past this distance the camera is perfectly able to pick up clothing colour, hair colour, events, groups of people, and handle variable light and backlight. And using a pair of hemispherics gives complete overlapping coverage of a large space – no blind spots.
The flexible nature of the S14, with its separate base module and twin camera heads means installers can deploy the pair of hemispheric lensed cameras in a range of nifty applications designed to suit particular challenges. These might be to secure 2 rooms that are adjacent, or a room and an external corridor, or both sides of a right angle turn, 2 rooms located one on top of the other, or to provide 360 degree coverage.
According to MOBOTIX’s BDM Dean Hobin, the company grew 24 per cent in Australia & New Zealand last year. Given MOBOTIX is no newcomer to the Aussie market these numbers really are excellent. And with products like S14 and upcoming cameras based on the powerful P3 platform, those impressive growth figures look likely to continue.
Features of the S14 include:
* ½-inch colour or monochrome CMOS sensor
* 2048 x 1536, 3.1MP resolution, 20ips
* 0.5 Lux minimum scene illumination
* 8x Zoom and digital Pan/Tilt
* Ethernet 10/100 Mbit, MiniUSB, MxBus
* Dimensions mm: 201 x 110
* Operating Temperature -30C to +60C
* MicroSD slot – 4GB supplied.