The Novelty of New Technology

Technology is always marching forward and there is a constant flow of new high-tech products that hit the market with claims of improved performance and reliability. Some of these product innovations do indeed make a big difference, others utilize new technology in their design implementation and offer no real improvement. The merits of every new design must be carefully considered in the context of the application and its typical application environment. It must be determined whether the new technology actually lives up to its expectation, or if its increased technology and complexity is little more than a novelty.

One of the newer entries into the Technical Rescue Camera System market to be considered is a camera that provides a full 360-degree view without mechanical (neither motorized nor manual) articulation. The belief is that a 360-degree view lets you rapidly determine whether a victim is present or not and with no moving parts, the camera system will be less prone to damage or malfunction.

This seems like a good application for a new technology and the benefits seem legitimate. There are however, some caveats with regard to this approach that need to be considered along with these benefits. This paper will highlight some of the issues that need to be considered when applying this new approach for looking for trapped victims in a building collapse, and how products manufactured by Zistos compare with them.

No Moving Parts and Increased Reliability:

This might be accurate when the 360-degree cameras are compared to some of the systems that utilize mechanical articulation to remotely position their camera head.  The issue in many of these designs is that mechanical articulation requires a motor and gear assembly that could be prone to damage when forcibly back driven. This was a problem for many early entries into the search camera marketplace. The camera assembly would break when the camera head was forcibly positioned. This potential source of failure is easily remedied by a well-thought-out mechanical design that includes a simple component in the drive mechanism. A slip clutch assembly that couples the camera to the drive train can prevent damage to the mechanism if back-driven. The rescue systems from Zistos are designed and built to be rugged and able to withstand the demands of a typical rescue environment. Specifically, Zistos poles have slip clutches to insulate the gear trains from shock, virtually eliminating articulation failure. The advantages of the “no moving parts” claim is not really an advantage over a properly designed mechanical mechanism for articulation. Missing from the claim of improved reliability is that the increase in system complexity to accomplish a 360-degree image involves both additional electronic hardware and system software. The increased electronic complexity and software processing requirements of any system will generally have a negative impact on its overall reliability and the systems MTBF estimates, (Mean Time Between Failure).

The Advantage of Rapid 360-Degree Image Assessment:

Another claim regarding 360-degree cameras is that they provide an instant, 360-degree view without the operator having to pan an area of interest. This supposedly saves time and allows for faster response time.  The quick, overall view may save a few seconds of search time; but what is more important in a technical rescue search is image quality. With a 360-degree image, subtle signs of the presence of victims can easily be missed. Much like the popular children’s game, “Where’s Waldo”, there can be too much visual information in a 360-degree image. This could prevent an operator from properly analyzing the image and keep them from making a fast and accurate determination of the presence of a victim. The methodical, close up panning available with Zistos rescue systems will reveal subtleties that cannot be seen with a quick, distant overview. In addition, Zistos offers a zoom camera that provides 10X optical zoom, not the limited digital zoom with poor resolution available from 360-degree cameras.

Many of the 360-degree camera systems do offer a pan and digital zoom function that is software dependent. This method degrades the image quality by reducing the resolution of the image when you need to zoom in and pan the area. Some manufacturers of 360-degree camera systems even suggest that to achieve meaningful zoom resolution, their camera must be physically moved closer to the target area. This task is not always easily achievable in many collapse scenarios.

Illumination Concerns and Thermal Imaging Options:

Illumination is another problem with 360-degree camera systems. It is very difficult to create well balanced, even illumination about the 360-degree field of view of a camera. This creates light and dark areas in the video image. This is more of a problem the further away you need to look into the void space and away from the camera head. It would be very easy to miss a subtle tell-tale indicator of a trapped victim if the area happens to be in a dark spot in the field of view. The Zistos systems produce a powerful beam of light that moves coincident with the camera. This eliminates dark areas in the video image and allows the operator to see the important visual clues that may be present indicating the presence of a trapped victim. In addition, Zistos systems have a thermal imager option. This option can show a victim’s heat signature even when covered in concrete dust or mud. These victim images may not be visible on standard video cameras and most 360-degree camera systems do not offer a thermal option.

Wireless Transmission Issues:

A 360-degree system design disadvantage that can be particularly serious is the location of the system transmitter. With most 360-degree systems, the transmitter is in the camera itself. The camera is attached to a pole and then inserted into the unknown environment. This will work without issue in a lab setting, or even in a collapse with debris that is mostly wood. If the environment that is being searched has a lot of metallic debris such as you would find in the collapse of a structure that contained metallic debris from building construction materials, heavy machinery, and even banks of file cabinets, the video transmission can be compromised or even lost as the camera passes into a void space in a rubble pile. The Zistos systems are designed with the transmitter located in the handle which resides outside of the unknown environment that is being inspected. This eliminates the chance of radio frequency interference from metal debris that can block radio signals and minimize, or negate the usefulness of the search tool.

Multi-Person Viewing and Operation:

Other advantages to a Zistos system include the ability for our images to be viewed simultaneously on multiple tablets; many 360-degree camera images can be viewed on only one tablet at a time. In addition, 360-degree systems offer only a nearly 10” tablet. This can make some operations difficult for one person to handle alone. Some companies suggest that two persons may be needed – one to operate the pole or camera, and one to view the images and operate the controls.  Zistos offers not only a 10” tablet, but also a 5” tablet, making it easier for a single individual to conduct a meaningful and effective search.

Summary:

While the concept of a 360-degree camera can be intriguing, some of the claims of operational advantages need to be scrutinized. Their actual application in real-world conditions can be problematic and the novel nature of their design may not actually yield a more reliable and improved search tool. The increased complexity involving electronics that requires special software, illumination issues, wireless transmission issues, confusing 360-degree images and poor resolution zoomed images could be a detriment. The latest generation search tools from Zistos can offer a more usable and field reliable victim location solution. The principal function of a video-based victim location tool is to provide a technical search team with a meaningful and reliable image of conditions in locations that are inaccessible, or dangerous to enter. A camera’s usability, reliability and image quality can be the key to the success or failure of a rescue mission.  Up close, high resolution images – with the availability of 10X optical zoom, thermal imaging capabilities and reliable operation in any environment – are what are needed. These are what Zistos offers.

For more information or a no obligation product demonstration, Virtual or In-Person, please don’t hesitate to reach out by phone: (631) 434-1370, email: info@zistos.com or website: www.zistos.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

ZistosHD Battery Technology Evolution

Portable Video Systems rely on batteries for power and are an integral part of any system design. Batteries are also a frequent cause for system failure, unreliable field performance, and cause for end-user complaint. The most common battery problems and complaints include;

  • Not having enough power to last for an entire operation
  • Recharge time for a battery can be excessive
  • It is difficult to tell if a battery is properly charged
  • It is difficult to know what the remaining charge that is left on a battery after partial use
  • One-time use batteries are expensive and inconvenient to constantly purchase and properly dispose of

The new ZistosHD systems are designed to address these issues of battery power. The new ZistosHD batteries (BAT-15XL) are lithium-ion, rechargeable batteries that have significant advantages over many of the batteries that are supplied with other battery powered systems.

These BAT-15XL batteries have a significant period of time they can power our ZistosHD system. They provide power for 6 – 12 hours of continuous operation. The exact time depends on the camera in-use and the user-controlled illumination levels. They also have a quick recharge time of 3 and a half hours if fully depleted. Our batteries can be charged using our system battery charger, that itself can be powered using standard AC power, or using a vehicle power source. All ZistosHD systems come standard with two BAT-15XL batteries. This allows for one battery to be charged to full capacity while the other battery is in use.

Another one of the big issues for battery life in portable video systems is knowing how much battery life is left on any given battery, at any given time. The BAT-15XL battery solves this problem by providing a power/charge meter on the base of the battery. This battery meter has an LCD screen that displays 5 segments that represent the battery life remaining on the battery. This window is visible whether the system is on or off, and is visible even if the battery isn’t connected to the system at all. An operator can tell how much power is left on the battery at a glance. This is especially important in those instances when a system is deployed that was previously used on a recent job and the batteries may not have been recharged.

The BAT-15XL batteries help keep ZistosHD systems powered and operating without having to worry about constantly maintaining a supply of disposable batteries, such as the CR123s. There is also no need to constantly deal with the nuisance of proper disposal of one-time use batteries.   All in all, our new ZistosHD Systems have been engineered to remove the inconvenience and problems associated with many of the other battery-powered video systems that are on the market. They help ensure that the ZistosHD system remains operational in times of crisis, when reliable system performance is essential.

ZistosHD Under Door Camera System

The ZistosHD Under Door Camera System (HDTS-5AR-ZDV) is designed to help operators conduct both visual and audio (which can be disabled) surveillance into a room, through the space under a door, during a tactical mission. The system includes a specially designed, hand held pole mounted camera that is approximately .25” thick and can be inserted into the space between the floor and a closed door. The pole camera transmits encrypted, low-latency (delay), Wi-Fi video images that are viewed on a rugged 5” display. The system also supports wired operation in situations where wireless operation is not feasible.

This special dual view camera has 2 cameras recessed within its tongue. One looks forward into the room for a subject and the other looks up to check for booby traps or barricades on the back of the door. The two images generated by the forward and upward looking cameras can be toggled on the display with the push of a button. This camera has IR illumination to covertly light up a room without being visible to the human eye. If the door doesn’t have the necessary quarter inch of door to floor clearance, an air jack is provided in the system to lift the door enough to slip the camera underneath.

The specially designed, dedicated 8’ telescoping pole with universal joint for this system facilitates horizontal panning of a room while the operator remains out of the fatal funnel of the doorway. For long term surveillance operations a drop cable can be used, allowing the operator to set the camera and view the image from a safer location.

The 5” display included in this system features a rugged, industrial design, excellent screen brightness and resolution. The tablet features a removable battery that is hot-swappable. This negates the need to take the display out of service if its battery gets low. The display can be worn on the wrist, chest, neck or can be pole mounted at the user’s preference.  It also has a removable SD card that can be removed to archive captured images and video clips.

The ZistosHD wireless bridge accessory allows the system to interface to a standard cell-modem, (a product that is offered by most major cellular carriers). This allows transmission of real-time video from anywhere that has cell coverage – to anywhere that has internet access!

This tool is excellent to support jobs that involve a barricaded subject, hostage situations or to help minimize collateral damage when explosive breaching techniques are utilized. 

5 ways ZistosHD Industrial Inspection Systems Make Confined Space Operations Safer and More Efficient

ZistosHD Industrial Inspection equipment is designed to help make confined space entries safer and more efficient. This is accomplished by allowing a single individual to perform a visual inspection of a confined space, without the need to perform a potentially dangerous confined space entry that would require a second worker to fill the role of attendant. If, upon completing a confined space inspection it is determined that a confined space entry is required, these systems can also be used to increase safety. The system can be used by the OSHA mandated, confined space entry attendant who remains outside of the space, to visually observe the confined space entrant.

ZistosHD blends in wireless, high definition (1080P) video, with a system configuration that facilitates remote access into difficult to access or dangerous locations. High capacity, extended life, rechargeable batteries will keep the system operational for up to 10 hours. When power is drained, a battery can easily be switched out. Also available are optional, specialty cameras with thermal imaging and optical zoom capabilities.

Features and Benefits of ZistosHD Industrial Inspection Systems:

1) It is not necessary to enter a confined space in order to do a visual inspection of conditions.

The first step of any maintenance/repair operation is a visual inspection of the environment and conditions of a space. With a ZistosHD Industrial Inspection System you are able to inspect interior conditions of a confined space – from outside the space. Whether the confined space is a tanker truck, rail tanker, storage vessel, or underground vault, these systems keep workers away from many of the confined space hazards that can cause injury and death. With the use of 1080p, 10X and 30X Optical Zoom HD Cameras these kits can help pick out any hazards, structural issues, cracks, corrosion, delamination, contaminants or foreign objects that may be present.

2) If an entry is necessary, advance intelligence has been provided about conditions and hazards. 

If a confined space entry is required to remedy a problem, the entrant has advanced knowledge to potential hazards and conditions in the space. In addition, the entrant will know in advance of entry, what materials and tools may be required to attend to the issue. This allows for a faster, more efficient maintenance/repair operation reducing time in the confined space as much as possible and potentially reducing the number of times a confined space entry needs to be conducted.

3) The same ZistosHD system can then be used to monitor the entrant.

If the confined space entry is necessary, you can use the same ZistosHD to visually assess the wellbeing and progress of the entrant.

Many confined space accidents occur when an entrant is injured or overcome by hazards such as a toxic atmosphere. In many instances, additional injuries and fatalities occur from would be rescuers who fall victim to the same hazard after going into the space to investigate. Individuals tasked with monitoring the wellbeing of the entrant can respond quickly to visual conditions, such as an entrant collapsing or becoming non-responsive. In addition to the video monitoring, the system is also equipped with audio capabilities.

4) The wireless video images can be viewed by others. 

The digital video signal that is produced by the ZistosHD system can be viewed by the operator as well as other work associates. These other viewers would need to be in proximity to the wireless signal and be equipped with their own display system. In addition, the system can be configured with a wireless bridge option that allows the real-time video to be streamed onto a company wide network, or even a cellular connection. This allows an individual anywhere in the world to view real-time inspection video on a computer system or mobile device that has internet access.

5) Cloud Based Storage is available for archival purposes as well as instant sharing, no matter the physical location of the viewer. 

Captured images and video clips can automatically be uploaded to cloud based storage for later review, or for archival purposes. The system display can be configured to transition to a secondary network with internet access when the camera system is turned off. The system will then automatically upload any newly acquired video images, with a time and date stamp, to a cloud storage resource. This allows the inspection images to be reviewed by anyone, anywhere, as long as they have the cloud storage account login information. These images can be downloaded at a later time for inclusion in reports, or other documentation. 

ZistosHD Specialty Tactical Cameras

ZistosHD Tactical Cameras have been designed with the dangers of law enforcement operations in mind. These cameras allow law enforcement to establish “visual dominance”, it allows tactical teams to see their subjects without being seen themselves. This ability gives them a distinct advantage in any tactical mission.

All ZistosHD cameras are modular with all ZistosHD kits and components. This allows the system to be dynamically configured in different ways and allows the systems to be used to maximum benefit in many different tactical situations and environments. They also feature encrypted wireless video streaming. This enables the video to be shared in real-time amongst other team members, or with a command location. If needed, the system can also be used in a wired video mode with the transmitters disabled. The system batteries are rechargeable and have a battery life of up to 10 hours, depending on configuration and use, allowing the system to be used during lengthy missions without the need to worry about system power issues.

Some of the uniquely designed cameras and their capabilities are listed below:

Under Door:

The ZistosHD Under Door Camera (ZDV-HD) is designed to slip under a door and give operators both visual and audio (can be disabled) surveillance into a room during a tactical mission. If the door doesn’t have the necessary quarter inch of door to floor clearance, an air jack is provided in the system to lift the door enough to slip the camera underneath. This special camera actually has 2 cameras recessed within its tongue. One looks forward into the room for a subject and one looks up to check for booby traps or barricades on the back of the door. These two cameras are easily switched between with the push of a button. This camera has IR LEDs to covertly light up a room without being visible to the human eye. The specially designed telescoping pole for this camera facilitates horizontal panning of a room, while the operator remains out of the fatal funnel of the doorway. For long term surveillance operations a cable can be used, allowing the operator to set the camera and view the image from a safer location. This tool is excellent to support jobs that involve a barricaded subject, or to help minimize collateral damage when explosive breaching techniques are utilized. 

Ultra Low-Light:

The ZistosHD Ultra Low-Light Camera (ULC-2.0IR-HD) is a high-definition, 1080P camera. It can see in complete darkness for distances that surpass the range of most other low-light tactical video cameras.  The camera’s IR LEDs are completely invisible to the human eye and allow for team members to covertly search for a hidden subject in potentially dangerous & dark environments. The camera’s internal high gain microphone can be used to listen for the subtle sounds emanating from subjects that are trying to remain hidden. This microphone can be capped using the supplied mic screw when audio surveillance is forbidden. The Ultra Low-Light Camera can be used in any weather event due to its weatherproof housing. With the mic screw installed this camera can be complete submerged in water.

Dual Mode Thermal:

ZistosHD Dual Mode Thermal Camera in Thermal Mode (Left), B&W IR Mode (Right)

The Dual Mode Thermal Camera (THC-51D-HD) is a single camera module that has 2 cameras within. Not only is there a thermal camera to look for heat signatures, but there is also a black & white IR camera to gain more detail. This is an important capability because thermal images are great at detecting the presence of individuals in dark environments, but the images can sometimes be ambiguous. The dual mode video capability gives you the best of both worlds. The operator can switch between the two modes by changing the illumination levels of the camera without the need to change any components. This dual camera is ideally suited to look for subjects in wooded areas, bushes, attics, crawl spaces and other dangerous, dark or unknown environments. The thermal resolution for this camera is 320×256, which generates a meaningful thermal image. This is unlike than most thermal fusion cameras on the market today that offer very limited thermal resolutions and are ineffective when used in thermal only mode. The Dual Mode Thermal like most ZistosHD cameras has an internal microphone for audio surveillance and can be turned off by installing the provided mic screw when audio surveillance is forbidden.

IR Zoom:

ZistosHD 10X IR Zoom Camera – Same Scene – 1X Zoom on Left, 10X Zoom on Right

The 10X IR Optical Zoom Camera (WPC-2.5ZIR-HD) is a high resolution, 1080P camera with the ability to zoom in, optically, 10 times without losing ANY resolution (which would be the case for digital zoom cameras). This allows the operator to see greater detail, at greater distances. It is ideally suited for looking down from high rises, viewing large void spaces for subjects or and more distant surveillance operations. The IR Zoom is also provided with self-illuminating IR LEDs but isn’t a strictly black and white camera. This camera operates as a color camera until the IR illuminators are turned on. At that point, the picture transitions to a low-light sensitive, black and white image. This camera housing is weatherproof and submersible up to the ZistosHD handle. This camera is also audio capable and is provided with the mic screw when audio surveillance is forbidden.