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.

5 Reasons to Use ZistosHD Rescue Tools

1.        High Capacity Batteries
2.        Motorized Articulation
3.        Low-Latency Video  
4.        Wide Array of Interchangeable Accessories
5.        Connectivity to External Networks

High Capacity Long-Lasting Batteries

Rescue teams are often positioned in out-of-the-way locations and in time-critical situations. Being able to quickly swap out a battery and know it will last for the duration of a much-needed rescue mission is vital. 

ZistosHD Rescue Systems all use long-lasting, rechargeable Smart Lithium-ion batteries. The Extended Capacity Battery (BAT-15XL) is included with all of the ZistosHD Rescue Systems. The BAT-15XL can typically run for 6-12 hours, depending on camera options and illumination settings. The battery also has an easily viewable, built-in five segment LCD charge level indicator, which displays the charge level even when it is not connected to the system.

Articulating Motorized Poles

Lightweight, easy-to-use rescue tools are essential for technical search teams. The ZistosHD telescoping poles offer the flexibility and durability needed for real-life conditions.  The HD motorized series are weatherproof, lightweight carbon fiber poles, which makes using them excellent for extended time, and in any environment. 

The ZistosHD motorized poles allow the operator to adjust the camera position remotely. This is important when the pole is extended and the camera is not accessible to the operator, or it is inserted into a collapsed structure or void space in rubble.

These poles terminate with an articulating camera mount and enable the operator to remotely rotate the camera to pan +/- 120°. The motion is controlled using the buttons on the HD Handle, or using the touch screen controls on the display. The operator can control zoom, video capture, illumination and more. The HD Poles use easy twist collars to expand and collapse, and are available in lengths from 3 to 30 feet. Unlike many existing articulating pole cameras, our camera has a specially designed slip-clutch that provides protection against damage to the motor assembly if the camera is forced backwards when in use.

Low-Latency Wireless Video Streaming

For rescue missions, low-latency video supports operations that require near real-time access to quickly changing conditions. Many other digital video systems are plagued by slow response that can create a delay of many seconds between the event and the viewable video image. The low-latency performance of the ZistosHD systems allows the video images to be viewable without a significant delay.

The system can also be utilized in a wired configuration when wireless operation is not feasible. The ZistosHD system will directly support up to three different wireless viewers concurrently. The encryption of the video stream helps ensure that sensitive information will not be intercepted by unauthorized parties. The system supports WPA2-PSK (AES) encryption for secure video transmission. It also can be configured for fully-wired operation for situations where wireless operation is not practical. The system’s video is also compatible with commonly used ATAK compliant external radios.

Wide Variety of Interchangeable System Options

ZistosHD’s modular design allows maximum flexibility for the rescue team in the field. One system can be configured to serve multiple applications, and added to as needs arise. Interchangeable poles — different types and lengths — can be paired with an array of camera technologies such as ultra low-light, 10X zoom, and dual mode thermal that generates both standard B/W video and thermal imaging. Maximizing the usefulness of a system also enables rescue departments to get the most from their investment in Zistos equipment. ZistosHD components are deliberately designed to be compatible with new and future system options.

External Network

Video images can be shared with others to view situations as they unfold in real-time, on multiple displays. Zistos offers an optional WiFi network bridge attachment, which enables multiple ZistosHD systems to be simultaneously viewed on a single computer via a common external network at a command location.

Locating and rescuing trapped victims is often a race against time…

For victim location operations… details could be the difference between life and death.

Dual Mode Thermal Camera THC-51D (with Audio Listening)*

The Dual Mode Thermal Camera allows the operator to instantly switch between remote thermal imaging and low-light, high resolution B&W video. Its built-in infrared illumination and slim 1.8” (46mm) diameter, as well as its rugged, weather-resistant design make it ideal for rescue missions. The camera housing incorporates audio listening capability.

*Please contact us regarding Int’l Export Regulations for this product.

ExplorerSCOPE ESM

The ExplorerSCOPE™ is compact, self-contained, 4-way articulating video scope with excellent low-light performance, that can generate images of objects and individuals as far as 40+ feet (12 M) away in pitch darkness. It’s a rapidly-deployable search camera system that can be inserted through openings as small as 10mm in diameter to look for victims following a collapse. The unique features of the ExplorerSCOPE translate into a faster search operation which can save lives in time-critical rescue situations.

Talkback Audio Module AAM-TB

The Talkback Audio Module enables rescue personnel to detect faint sounds of trapped victims in life-critical situations. It provides 2-way communication between the rescue team and a trapped victim. It incorporates an omni-directional microphone and an audio processor circuit to amplify low-level sounds and compress high-level sounds. The audio module has a weather-resistant enclosure and rugged, well-padded headphones.

Rescue Reel RR-166LS 

The Rescue Reel facilitates victim location and extrication by providing video and audio access into long vertical drops such as elevator shafts, wells, etc. It’s 166 feet (50M) of ultra low-loss video and audio signal cable spooled onto one portable, compact and extremely rugged reel. The Rescue Reel can also be used to connect a second display.

For more information or a free product demonstration, 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.