Shape of things to comeNew surveillance camera offers panoramic view, zoom-in capabilities

Published 11 March 2010

Not unlike the surveillance cameras that tracked Will Smith’s every move in the movie “Enemy of the State,” Adaptive Imaging Technologies’ “panoramic telescope” may yet revolutionize the field of surveillance: the camera can, at the same time, monitor a panoramic field of view and zoom in on any spot in real time with exceptional clarity

An Israeli startup has developed a surveillance camera that can both monitor a panoramic field and zoom in on details. ISRAEL21c’s Brian Blum writes that the camera may remind some of the surveillance equipment used by Jon Voight’s secretive intelligence unit to track Will Smith’s every movement in the movie Enemy of the State.

The company, Adaptive Imaging Technologies, calls its invention a “panoramic telescope,” and says it can monitor a panoramic field of view and zoom in on any spot in real time with exceptional clarity.

The company won the Most Promising Startup award from the Global Security Challenge last year, has received a $100,000 cash grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, and already has orders, even though its flagship camera is still only in a pre-prototype stage.

Gideon Miller, Adaptive Imaging’s genial CEO, described the workings of his technology to ISRAEL21c, explaining that unlike consumer cameras, which have somewhere around 10-megapixels, the Adaptive Imaging camera has a full gigapixel (that is 1,000 megapixels) of resolution. With its telescopic lens, the camera can take in a very wide field, one which usually would require a much larger number of individual cameras.

Miller explains that no software can handle a gigapixel of data. Adaptive Imaging’s solution is to spread those million pixels out evenly across the camera’s view space. Then, if the camera operator wants to zoom in on any particular spot — say, a border fence or an individual face in an airport security line — the pixels can be focused on that target, resulting in a remarkably clear picture, while de-emphasizing less critical parts of the scene.

Because there are so many potential pixels to draw upon, the camera can zoom in on multiple images simultaneously,” Blum writes. An operator might choose to set the camera to only look at faces and not torsos or sky, for instance.

Adaptive Imaging’s Panoramic Telescope can be deployed in three different modes.

  • Set the camera to monitor specific areas in advance. This is useful if you want super-high resolution on the gate to a building complex.
  • The operator pans and zooms manually. Here the advantage is that a single telescopic camera can replace multiple units, resulting in significant savings.
  • Software can instruct the camera only to detect motion, such as an infiltrator prowling along the border. The camera automatically zooms in whenever there is something suspicious, while not wasting bandwidth and storage on areas where not much is happening.

Blum writes that the one drawback is that the camera only works in real time. It can not zoom in on a pre-recorded video with the same level of clarity, as this would be “after the fact.” “It’s all a matter of tradeoffs,” says Miller. “That would require a level of computing power that maybe only NASA has. You can’t have a free lunch.”


Miller says that the camera will cost a few tens of thousands of dollars (he would not commit to a precise figure yet), and says that this pricing make his company’s camera equivalently priced to other high-end cameras on the market: “The camera itself is a relatively small part of the costs of a whole project,” he adds. Blum writes that each camera needs its own towers, mounting, communications, and electricity. “The more cameras you have, the more maintenance you’ll need and the more failures there will be,” Miller notes.

The surveillance cameras market is big, and Adaptive Imaging estimates the demand for surveillance cameras at $6 billion a year.

Miller points out that his company’s solution offers an effective alternative to the politically sensitive issue of profiling. “We can compare faces with a black list and flag a particular threat in real time,” Miller points out.

Adaptive Imaging is based in the small town of Yokneam in northern Israel. It aims to deliver a full prototype by the end of 2010.