EOI Thermal and Day and Night PTZ Overview
Short and Long-Range EO/IR Systems
Our Vendor Infiniti Electro-Optics, which is a division of Ascendent Technology Group, which has been a manufacturer of CCTV cameras, PC-based DVRs/NVRs and IR night vision cameras since 2000. In 2008, Ascendent was one of the pioneers in long-range IR laser illumination when they released ZLID technology integrated into a turnkey PTZ system. Due to growth and demand for long-range EO/IR cameras, in 2011 Ascendent realized the need for a focused division specifically dedicated to R&D, support, and production of advanced long-range electro-optics, and Infiniti Electro-Optics was created.
Infiniti develops the highest quality and longest-range electro-optics systems, including systems with 1200mm cooled thermal, 5500mm visible/IR lens, 5km ZLID illumination and Elliptical Synchronous Drive pan tilt systems with advanced gyro stabilization. They have worked on numerous militaries, MOD, marine, and critical infrastructure projects around the world.
Infiniti camera systems have endured some of the harshest environments, with deployment by the US military in desert, marine and arctic conditions.
A company that is continually striving to push the level of surveillance security by creating and using the most advanced technology available.
Systems by Technology
ZLID (Laser IR)
Infrared (IR) is light that is just outside the wavelength of what humans can see. This makes it a covert illumination option that isn’t visible to the human eye but can be read by a camera sensor and converted to a clear black-and-white image. IR LED arrays are commonly used in the surveillance industry to illuminate scenes that are too dark for cameras to obtain a clear picture, however most LED arrays are only effective for a limited range of 300 meters. To go beyond that range, Infiniti has developed a technology called ZLID (Zoom Laser IR Diode).
Lasers have been used by other companies to extend the IR illumination range, but they typically result in inconsistent illumination due to the use of cheap lasers and the spot beam nature of lasers. Our ZLID Technology adjusts the laser’s intensity and focus area as the motorized lens is zoomed in and out, eliminating the overexposure, washout, and hot-spots that usually occur with lasers. Combined with our precision engineered optics and highly tuned image sensors, we are able to provide a clear, even image in complete darkness for up to 5km.
See up to 5km
By using powerful lasers and focusing them to a small field-of-view, we can provide illumination for targets as far away as 5 kilometers. Traditional IR LED arrays are often limited to an effective range of 300m.
Even, Balanced Illumination
Many competitors offer subpar laser illumination solutions. We use high quality lasers in our products that provide an even, balanced light, and we adjust the focus area and brightness of the laser according to the zoom level.
See Through Glass
Most glass blocks some portions of IR light, most notably the wavelengths used by thermal energy. The NIR wavelengths used in our ZLID illuminators pass through glass, which makes it the best long-range technology if you need to see through glass in the dark.
Effective for Identification
Because lasers use a wavelength of light similar to that which the human eye sees, objects look similar to how they would look lit with a spotlight. This means that identification markers, license plates and human faces are much more recognizable than they are with thermal cameras.
The comparison image here shows the difference viewing a construction vehicle with thermal and ZLID at night.
Uses Existing Optics
ZLID uses the lens and sensor already being used for the optical camera, so not only will the be picture be clear and detailed, the expense of a high-end lens and sensor won’t go to waste in the dark.
While ZLID is a revolutionary technology that solves many issues with IR illumination, it isn’t the best solution for every situation. This is why Infiniti believes in multi-sensor systems that can benefit from other technologies to fill in the limitations that ZLID may have.
Not Suited for Detection
While ZLID allows the user to zoom in to see great amounts of detail, it is not a good solution for wide-angle detection of potential threats. This is why we suggest pairing our ZLID technology with a thermal camera to achieve both easy detection and effective identification.
Dangerous at Close Range
All ZLID products come with an NOHD (Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance) rating. This means that the laser can cause permanent damage to your eyes if you are closer than the specified eye-safe distance and not wearing protective eyewear. The heat generated from the laser beam can also be a fire hazard for some materials at close distances. We can configure our cameras with LRF safety switches that will automatically shut off the laser if an object is detected within the NOHD, but for situations where there will regularly be people in close range to the camera, ZLID is not a recommended solution.
Not Entirely Covert
While the beam that an IR laser casts is invisible to the naked eye, the source of the beam is not. If you were to look at the laser source from a far distance, you would see a faint red glow. Additionally, many cameras will see the IR light beam and could easily follow it back to the source. If you need a completely covert nighttime surveillance solution, ZLID may not meet your needs, but SWIR or thermal can.
High Energy Usage
If energy is a concern, ZLID illumination uses more energy than other imaging solutions.
InSb Thermal Imaging
Thermal imaging uses cameras that “see” heat instead of light. Sometimes referred to as “FLIR” cameras, they produce an image that portrays objects using their temperature instead of their visible properties.
So how does thermal imaging see heat? All objects warmer than absolute zero (-273°C/-459°F) emit infrared radiation in the MWIR and LWIR wavelengths (3μm–14μm) in an amount proportional to the temperature of the object. Thermal imaging focuses and detects this radiation, then translates the temperature variations into a greyscale image, using brighter and darker shades of grey to represent hotter and cooler temperatures, which gives a visual representation to the heat profile of the scene. Many thermal imagers can also apply color profiles to these images, showing hotter objects as yellow and cooler objects as blue for example, to make it easier to compare temperatures in the image.
No Illumination Needed
Most cameras require a light source to create an image. But since thermal energy is naturally emitted radiation, a thermal imager is able to “see” the environment regardless of lighting conditions. This passive technology can be used in complete darkness without the need for an illuminator, making it an extremely covert and versatile solution.
Detect Threats at Long Range
Humans, animals and vehicles are typically warmer than their environment, providing a high contrast that allows for fast wide-angle detection of threats from a much further distance (sometimes up to 50km) than what can be achieved with optical imaging.
Consistent Day/Night Coverage
A visible camera’s image quality is dependent on good lighting conditions, and in areas where contrast is poor or dynamic range is too wide, visible cameras can become practically useless. Thermal, however, is completely immune to changes in light, allowing it to see consistently in any lighting environment for true 24/7 day/night imaging.
See Through Smoke & Light Fog
Thermal energy passes through many visible obscurants including smoke, dust, light fog, and light foliage. The comparison image shown here demonstrates how effective this can be when viewing a forest fire.
In addition, the precise temperature differences that thermal imaging detects can sometimes reveal objects underneath the surface of other materials, such as joists behind a wall or items under clothing, since they affect the temperature of the surface material.
The precise temperature sensing capabilities of thermal imaging can be used to monitor critical equipment in areas like datacenters or manufacturing plants to ensure that it remains in a safe operating state, triggering alarms if temperatures exceed set level
While thermal imaging has many great advantages, it’s not a perfect or complete solution for every situation. This is why Infiniti believes in multi-sensor systems that can benefit from the multiple advantages of thermal while still providing a visible imaging system that covers its drawbacks. Here are some limitations you should be aware of with thermal technology.
Doesn’t Show Visible Contrast
Thermal imaging relies on contrasting temperatures to clearly define objects, whereas humans are used to using contrasting colors and shadows to see definition in objects. This can make thermal imaging less effective in situations where definition is expected but the surface temperatures of objects are very uniform, such as printed text and images.
Can’t Identify People
Humans also look very different in a thermal image’s and lack the shadows and highlights that we use to see the shape of someone’s face in a 2D image. So while thermal makes humans easy to detect, it is not an effective method for identifying individuals.
*Please see our whitepaper on DRI ratings to properly understand what “detection” means in thermal camera ratings.
Can’t See Through Glass
Since glass emits its own heat and is also partially reflective of thermal energy, thermal imaging is unable to see through glass, which means thermal cameras cannot see into building or vehicle windows and cannot be mounted inside a window looking out.
Thermal sensors for security purposes are often limited to a resolution of 640×480, which is much lower than most current optical sensors. However, it’s important to know that the types of details detected by thermal and visible cameras are very different; a high level of detail isn’t as critical with thermal cameras.
Full HD- Visible HD
Visible light is the electromagnetic radiation that we humans see every day. Infiniti uses high-resolution HD sensors that capture that information in sharp, clear color images. Our 2-megapixel video sensors are the same 1080p resolution as most modern monitors and televisions. If needed, we can provide cameras with a higher resolution, but we have found that 2MP sensors offer the best performance ratio, balancing light sensitivity, amount of detail, and far-reaching zoom.
Full Color Images
Color comes from differing wavelengths of visible light. The sensors we use detect those same wavelengths to provide a color image. Other imaging solutions use wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum, so true-to-life color imaging is not possible with those methods.
Using not just high-resolution sensors, but also highly-tuned high-definition lenses is the key to our excellent detail. Many companies upgrade their sensors to HD resolution but continue to use the same lenses that were designed for standard definition sensors, which limits the level of detail to the lower lens resolution.
Great Zoom Ranges
We offer a variety of telephoto zoom lenses that deliver extraordinary optical performance for extreme long-range surveillance, with zoom ratios up to 128X and focal lengths as long as 5700mm at HD resolution. These lenses allow for wide situational awareness while also providing excellent detail on long-distance targets.
Due to the vast demand for color image sensors in consumer-grade cameras, cellphones, computers and a variety of optical applications, visible sensors and lenses are the most cost-effective imaging technology and can be affordably incorporated into all of our integrated camera systems.
Requires Good Lighting
The quality of any image is largely dependent on the quantity of light. Since the best light source is typically the sun, this creates poor and inconsistent performance at night for most visible light cameras. Our visible cameras can automatically switch to a black and white IR mode, which in addition to visible light also senses light in the NIR (Near Infrared) wavelength. IR illuminators can be added to increase the quality of the image; however, these can create problems like hot spots and overexposure.
Infiniti has developed a laser technology that focuses its NIR illumination as the user zooms, extending the possible illumination range to be as far as 5km. For more information, see our ZLID Illumination page.
Poor in Smoke & Fog
Visible light sensors are subject to the same optical obscurants that we see. This means that smoke, dust and fog will impede your view. Other imaging technologies are often able to see through these types of obstructions.
NIR (Near Infrared)
Near Infrared (NIR) is a subset of the infrared band of the electromagnetic spectrum, covering the wavelengths ranging from 0.7 to 1.4 microns. This wavelength is just outside the range of what humans can see and can sometimes offers clearer details than what is achievable with visible light imaging.
NIR is very close to human vision but removes the color wavelengths, which results in most objects looking very similar to an image that has been converted to black and white. One exception is trees and plants, which are highly reflective in the NIR wavelength and thus appear much brighter than they do in color. That difference in reflectivity of certain objects, in combination with reduced atmospheric haze and distortion in the NIR wavelength, means that detail and visibility are often improved at long ranges, as shown in the comparison image below:
See Through Haze & Smoke
The longer wavelengths of the NIR spectrum are able to penetrate haze, light fog, smoke and other atmospheric conditions better than visible light. For long-distance imaging, this often results in a sharper, less distorted image with better contrast than what can be seen with visible light.
Effective for Identification
Unlike thermal energy which displays objects quite differently from visual perception, NIR is a reflected energy that behaves similar to visible light, which means that it can see things like printed information on signs, vehicles and vessels that thermal imaging usually cannot. Faces, clothing and many other objects will also look more natural and recognizable than they do in thermal.
Takes Advantage of Existing Optics
The premium glass lenses that we use for our HD visible imaging are designed with NIR in mind, so an additional lens and sensor are not needed. With a simple preset call, a motorized IR filter is applied and the sensor switches to a special NIR mode, allowing the operator to quickly switch back-and-forth between the two imaging methods.
Every color is a specific wavelength of light. Blues are around 400nm, greens are around 520nm, etc. Since NIR detects the light between 700nm to 1400nm, we’re seeing information beyond the wavelengths that make up color, so the image is represented in greyscale values.
Requires Illumination at Night
NIR is a reflected energy like visible light, which means that an NIR light source is required to create an image. During the day there is plenty of IR light from the sun, but at night, an IR light source is needed to illuminate an area. IR light sources have the advantage of being invisible to the human eye, but they are not a truly passive surveillance option.
Most cameras that use NIR at night utilize IR LEDs for illumination, which are limited in range, usually no more than 500m. Infiniti has developed a laser technology that focuses its NIR illumination as the user zooms, extending the possible illumination range to be as far as 5km.
SWIR (Short Wave IR)
Short Wave IR (SWIR) is a subset of the infrared band in the electromagnetic spectrum, covering the wavelengths ranging from 1.4 to 3 microns. This wavelength is not visible to human eyes and as a result can often offer a better image than what is achievable with visible light imaging.
A number of manufacturers make SWIR imagers and FPAs (Focal Plane Arrays) that detect various ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum with various qualities. One type is InGaAs sensors which, unlike other sensor types, require no cryogenic cooling. They are sensitive to the 0.9 to 1.7 micron wavelengths, meaning that they detect both NIR (near infrared) and SWIR. InSb sensors are also available with a broad spectral response from 0.9 to 2.5 microns, and other cameras capable of sensing everything from 0.4 to 2.5 microns, covering the visible, NIR and SWIR regions with one sensor.
No Illumination Needed
SWIR cameras are extremely sensitive to light, with individual pixels of the focal plane array able to capture and detect single photons. When combined with a phenomenon called night sky radiance, which emits up to 700% more illumination than starlight and is comprised mainly of SWIR wavelengths, SWIR cameras are able to see objects with a high level of detail, even on moonless and starless nights.
See Through Fog & Haze
The longer wavelengths of the SWIR spectrum are able to penetrate fog, smoke and other atmospheric conditions. As a result, shortwave infrared cameras consistently provide superior images to their optical counterparts as they are able to see through these obstructions, making them particular useful in cities, marine and coastal protection.
Effective for Identification
Unlike thermal energy, which is radiated, SWIR is a reflected energy like visible light, which makes it a viable technology for identification purposes, and the only such technology that can be effectively used at night without additional illumination. While images made from the SWIR wavelength are black and white, they have similar properties to visible light, such as reflection and contrast.
See Through Glass
Another advantage that SWIR has over thermal is its ability to see through glass. This not only allows SWIR cameras to look through most windows but also allows for more affordable glass lenses and housings to be used.
InGaAs and InSb focal plane arrays (FPAs) are more expensive to produce than standard silicon FPAs, which makes SWIR cameras more expensive than a standard visible/NIR camera.
Because of its high performance, this technology is protected by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which places restrictions on where these products can be exported and who can purchase them.
Special Lenses Preferred
While the SWIR wavelength is able to use standard glass lenses, for maximum detail, specially developed lenses are recommended that are designed specifically to focus wavelengths in the 0.9−1.7 μm region.
There are many types of imaging technologies available, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Instead of choosing one set of pros and cons over another, Infiniti designs multi-sensor systems that allow you to easily take advantage of multiple imaging technologies simultaneously.
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Get the Best of Everything
Combining more than one of these technologies into a single unit provides the best of each world. In the case of Visible HD and ZLID, the HD sensor and lens can be paired with the ZLID unit and utilized for HD imaging. With other technologies such as thermal imaging, a completely separate lens and sensor is required. We build our custom pan/tilt enclosures so that the pan and tilt positions of all of the sensors are controlled simultaneously, making it much easier to track your target.
Having all of these sensors available in one unit offers faster setup and less confusion while trying to track a target.
Every situation is unique, and most require a variety of technologies. Whether your priority is top-of-the-line performance or the most cost-effective solution, we can design a custom surveillance system that is a perfect fit for your project. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you.
The Limits of Digital Stabilization
With digital stabilization becoming more popular on smartphone cameras, video editing software and even a one-click YouTube option, it’s understandable that many people may think that advanced digital stabilization could then solve any stabilization problems, but for long- range images it’s simply not possible. Digital stabilization works by comparing the frames of the video and watching for sudden shifts in the overall scene.
When these shifts occur, the algorithm digitally moves the image back to where it would be if the camera had remained stable. This means the edges of the video now have areas where there is no information. To compensate for this, the final video image is cropped to eliminate those jittery black edges. When the image is shifting by one or two percent, this method can work quite well, but when the image is shifting by over 100%, this is impossible as there is no overlapping image to track.
Every situation is unique, and most require a variety of technologies. Whether your priority is top-of-the-line performance or the most cost-effective solution, we can design a custom surveillance system that is a perfect fit for your project.
How Gyro Stabilization Works
Gyro stabilization works by mounting a state-of-the-art FOG (Fiber Optic Gyroscope) or MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) gyroscope to the camera base that measures for any movements that might occur. When the gyroscope senses movement, it then sends a command to the pan/tilt unit to counteract that movement by applying the opposite rotation to the camera. This keeps the image on target, even with massive shifts in movement (up to the rotation limits of the pan/tilt). Performance is then dependent on the accuracy of the gyroscope, the latency in the system, and the speed and precision of the pan/tilt motors. These components can quickly become expensive, which is why we custom configure your camera for the needs of your situation.
It is important to look at the specs of the pan/tilt before purchasing a gyro stabilized system as it must be able to perform quickly and accurately enough to stabilize the image. Not all gyro stabilization systems are created equal. What type of system you require will depend on its intended usage?
Mast & Tower
Just because a mast or tower is a fixed structure secured to the earth doesn’t mean it is completely stable. As an example, the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris can sway six to seven meters in the wind.
For mast and tower applications, gyro stabilization is recommended based on the distance and size of the targets you are tracking, as well as the height and stability of the tower.
For cameras mounted to vehicles, expectations can vary greatly. They are likely to be subject to significant movement, but often operate at a wider field of view which would make the effects of camera shake less distracting. Stabilization requirements will depend on the type of camera, field of view, speed of the vehicle and the condition of the terrain being traversed.
A vessel on the open ocean will experience a lot of movement, but again that movement is a different type than what would be experienced on a tower or off-road vehicle. Cameras mounted to marine vessels require different levels of gyro stabilization depending on the size of the vessel and the camera’s field of view.