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 ZistosHD Handle

The HD Handle is the common modular component of the ZistosHD family of pole camera inspection products. It houses all of the controls, power, and WiFi transmitters for the system to function. The HD handle attaches to any ZistosHD camera pole or cable on one end, and the battery module is seated in the handle on the opposite end. The ZistosHD handle is designed with an ergonomic hand grip and offers easily accessible and intuitive keypad controls. These features allow the system to be operated by a single individual, with a minimal amount of training on system use and function.

The 9-button keypad on the ZistosHD handle module is designed to be actuated by the operator’s thumb. The 9 buttons include; Illumination Up & Down, Zoom In & Out, Motorized Pan Up & Down, Special Function, Snapshot and Record Video Start/Stop (see above image for button locations). The special function button’s purpose will vary with system configuration. The ZistosHD systems also offer full control redundancy. All of the keypad control functions are also available for the operator to select using touch screen menu overlays on the display module.

The rechargeable batteries that power the system reside in ZistosHD handle. The rechargeable L-ion batteries offer extended run-times. They also feature an integral LCD display that can alert the operator on the battery charge levels – even when the system is powered off (Learn more about our batteries here). The handle also contains the system’s WiFi radio that is configured with dual antennas. This design feature optimizes wireless performance and maximizes transmission and reception range.

Other communication accessories are available, such as a hardwired connection adapter cables and our optional WiFi bridge module. The WiFi bridge allows our system to connect with other external wireless networks. The various wireless and wired communication system options increase the overall system capability. They allow the video images to be viewed and shared by individuals who are both local and remotely situated.

All in all, the ZistosHD Handle is the module that allows full-control of our systems. It houses the control actuator buttons, power and transmitters needed for system function. Its impact resistant, lightweight and ergonomical design make all of the ZistosHD systems highly effective and easy to operate.

Digital vs Optical Zoom

Zistos has recently introduced a line of high-definition pole camera systems that have many new features and benefits. Our new systems feature securely encrypted wireless video, they support full HD resolution (1080P) and include a large battery to extend use time in the field (approx. 6hrs minimum). We have designed a full array of interchangeable options and accessories that further expand the system’s capabilities. Suitable applications for our new ZistosHD system include: Tactical Surveillance, Technical Rescue, Industrial Inspection and Vehicle/Cargo Search.

One of the options that is available for these new systems is a camera that features optical zoom capabilities. Optical zoom utilizes lenses to magnify the visual image. This method has significant advantages over cameras that are limited to digital zoom capabilities.

Cameras that utilize optical zoom have the ability to magnify an image without any loss of resolution. Digital zoom expands the image by using software to double up the existing pixel content in the image. This magnifies the image by increasing the size of the pixels in the image and thus reducing the number of pixels that make up the image. This makes the image appear larger, but at the expense of resolution. Images that use digital zoom will often look reasonable after a 2X, or sometimes even a 4X magnification, (depending on the size of the image sensor). Often the images will become too coarse, or pixelated to see any meaningful detail. The more digital magnification that is applied to the image, the worse the image quality gets. Optical zoom allows the user to zoom in without any loss of resolution. When you view an image with a camera that utilizes optical zoom, the picture maintains resolution and image quality regardless of zoom magnification. The ZistosHD line has zoom cameras that feature optical zoom capabilities that range up to 30X.  

When looking for victims in a rubble pile, searching attics for a subject, inspecting large storage vessels from a distance or searching the back of cargo truck for hidden contraband, having a quality image that maintains good visual detail is the most important aspect of a video pole camera system. The ZistosHD pole camera systems that are configured with the Optical Zoom camera options allow the operator to assess the smallest of image details and enable them to make critical decisions based on their visual assessment of the video.

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.

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.