ZistosHD Optical Zoom Cameras

A valuable feature of any remote video inspection system is the ability to zoom in and get a close-up of a point of interest without having the operator be in close physically proximity. In some instances, getting close to the point of interest is not possible because it is either impossible to access, or getting into a close inspection position is dangerous to the inspector.

The ZistosHD systems offer a true optical zoom feature that can magnify the image to many times its true size. Optical zoom uses a series of adjustable lenses that are controlled by the operator to magnify an image. Digital zoom cameras magnify an image by artificially increasing the number of pixels to make an object appear larger. Digital zoom cameras reduce the resolution of an image when they magnify its size. Optical cameras maintain the highest image resolution, even when they are at maximum magnification. The ZistosHD zoom cameras utilize optical zoom and maintain full resolution at maximum zoom settings.

Zistos’ zoom cameras are available in 10X (WPC-2.5Z-HD) and 30X (WPC-3.5Z-HD) optical magnification options. These cameras are housed in rugged, waterproof housings. Both have audio listening capabilities, self-illuminating LEDs, and provide high definition 1080p images and video. Our 10X camera has both white light and IR (WPC-2.5ZIR-HD) illumination options. The cameras can be fixed with additional side illuminators.  The systems can also be equipped with a talkback speaker box for full duplex audio. This allows the operator to listen and communicate back with others who may be in the inspection location. These zoom cameras are compatible with all ZistosHD systems.

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!

We would welcome the opportunity to set up a virtual product demonstration so you and your team can see the ZistosHD Portable Pole Camera System with our optical zoom camera in operation. These sessions can take as little as 15 minutes and can be scheduled at your convenience.

Google Cloud Integration with ZistosHD Pole Camera Systems

One of the design objectives for the new ZistosHD Pole Camera System was to provide a simple way to remotely share recorded images and videos. Traditionally this was accomplished by offloading images and videos onto a computer by either removing the system’s SD memory card or using a USB cable to transfer files. While the files reside on the computer, they can be emailed to the specific individuals for review. This process works, but we were hoping to come up with a mechanism that would provide faster access to the files for those who may be situated in remote locations.

To achieve this desired result, we utilized Google Cloud services along with the ZistosHD Pole Camera System’s dedicated imaging application. A Google Cloud account needs to be set up in advance. The ZistosHD tablet normally connects to a dedicated network created by the system’s handle. Following the Google account creation, the ZistosHD tablet can be configured to access a secondary network with internet access. This network can be a local WiFi network used in an office, facility, or even a WiFi based cell modem. Once setup is complete, all that needs to be done to upload images and videos to your Google account is simply turning off the ZistosHD pole camera with the tablet still powered on.

When the pole camera is turned off, the tablet will automatically connect to the local secondary network. It will then begin syncing the images and videos to your Google account. Once the sync is complete, just turn the handle back on and you are instantaneously ready to continue using the system to inspect, surveil, or search. The time for this process to complete will vary and depends on the amount of data, along with the bandwidth of the network connection.

With this process, anyone with access – and only those with access – to your secure Google account can access your photos and videos anywhere with an internet connection. This Google Cloud account can also act as an archive for your collection of videos and images that can be accessed from anywhere.

The ZistosHD products can now share and archive images and videos anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection by just connecting a Google account to our system tablet. This solution facilitates image sharing with anyone/anywhere, and it is accomplished with a single push of a button.

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 Tanker Inspection System Accessory – The Valve Inspection Camera

The Valve Inspection Camera (VIC-2-HD) is the ideal tool for searching drop valves of tanker trucks and rail tankers. This accessory is the perfect complement to the ZistosHD Tanker Inspection System (HDTI-5AR-TIP6-3.5Z)

The ZistosHD Tanker Inspection System has been designed to perform a safe visual inspection of the interior of a tanker trailer or rail tanker car for hygienic conditions, residual heel, foreign objects, cracks, and corrosion. This uniquely configured video pole camera inspection system is inserted into the tanker hatch. It allows an inspector to visually assess interior conditions inside of a tank, without the need to enter into the confined space. The ZistosHD Tanker Inspection System features a self-illuminating, 30X optical zoom camera mounted on a telescoping pole that can be positioned in any orientation for a thorough tank inspection.

The Valve Inspection Camera is a self-illuminating, high resolution, color camera on a 2-foot, semi-rigid gooseneck that attaches directly to the ZistosHD System handle. It can be manually manipulated to any desired position and can be interchanged with the pole camera portion of this system to visually inspect the drop valve and piping for hygienic conditions, missing gaskets, and other issues, from the back end of the tanker. This area is not usually visually accessible for an inspection and can be a source of contamination.  

The images produced by the system are displayed locally on a 5” or 10” display. Still images and video clips can be recorded for later review. The wireless display has a removable SD card for easy image archiving, but images can also be uploaded to cloud storage, if desired. The wireless video produced by the system can be viewed locally by the inspector, or over a network to others who can be situated in a remote location.

The ZistosHD Tanker Inspection System with the Valve Inspection Camera accessory, allows an operator to conduct a thorough inspection in critical areas of a bulk transportation or storage vessel, in a safe and efficient manner.