Digifort VMS V7.3 Review
Digifort is a VMS developed in Brazil in 2002 that has enjoyed 2 decades of constant development. The latest version, Digifort V7.3, includes full VMS functionality along with an LPR module, video analysis, mobile monitoring, forensic analysis and Digifort Insight.
Digifort VMS is a deep study. But for all its raw power and capacity for integration, the most compelling takeaway from my recent demo with Andrew Cho and Kang Lu at EOS Australia was how shallow its functionality lies. There’s no scrabbling through layers of tabs for a function you half recall in a moment of panic – everything is right there in the cockpit, actionable via classic MS drag and right click.
It’s always nice to demo a solution that’s revered by its distributor and that’s certainly the case when it comes to EOS and Digifort. This is a long relationship – EOS first saw the Digifort solution in 2008 when only available in Brazil, and the team immediately saw potential for the Australian market. Now distributed through 120 countries globally, that potential is fully realised as a solution tailor made for integration.
Vertical and lateral integration has always been central to the Digifort ethos, and it seeps through every monad of its being. That integration isn’t just about supporting the 10,000 cameras and devices in its current list – it’s also about supporting adjacent security systems and subsystems as well using simple HTTP commands.
Central to liberating its power is that 99 per cent of Digifort’s functionality can be driven through an API, empowering third party integrations of all kinds. In an operational sense what this means is that Digifort’s core functions of VMS, LPR, video analytics, mobile camera streaming, transcoding slave server and face recognition, are natively integrated, not external. This means LPR is searching LPR databases within Digifort, and people counting is handled within Digifort – the system is not having to address a third-party system to deliver on internal operations. At the heart of this is ActiveX creation of HTML pages and communication exchanges using HTTP-5, which makes integration between Digifort and third-party applications very easy.
“Another advantage of the way we integrate is that communications are very fast – communications need to be handled instantly in critical areas, 1-2 seconds latency is far too long,” explains Andrew Cho of EOS Australia. “As well as point of sale and access control integrations, Digifort also integrates Briefcam’s Video Synopsis module, which allows hours of video to be reviewed in minutes by simultaneously showing events from different times linked back to original video. It’s perfect for crowd management or monitoring traffic, as well as making investigations faster.”
Digifort V7.3, which I see during this demonstration, comes in 4 grades, including DGF Explorer for smaller applications, DGF Standard for SMEs, DGF Professional for large sites and DGF Enterprise for enterprise applications, with all versions compatible with one another. Explorer is for use in small applications where it connects with DVRS, NVRs and encoders.
Standard supports applications up to 32 cameras and include advanced features, like the integrated web server, and mouse control of PTZ cameras. Professional is for bigger clients seeking PTZ control by joystick, synoptic maps, up to 16 unique user profiles and unlimited connections, a web server, camera view via a cell phone, integration with optional Digifort modules. Professional also offers integration of alarm and automation modules and Digifort Evidence, giving a complete monitoring, alarm and automation solution.
Top of the heap is Enterprise, which offers unlimited tools and functionality, alarm solutions, access control and automation. In addition to the features available in other versions of the software, this edition offers integration between alarm and automation modules, supports an unlimited number of cameras, and features IP filters and server status reports.
Included in the demo solution I see are the VMS, an LPR module, video analysis, mobile monitoring, forensic analysis and Digifort Insight. Like every demo, the process of revelation is organic, and we dip in and out of the key pieces of functionality as we go along, always with a focus on the latest upgrades to the core system. With a system capable of such lateral expansion, getting hold of anchor points isn’t easy.
Points of interest Cho touches on include the fact V7.3 can undertake LPR using standard cameras at up to 250kmph using camera or NVR-based video analytics. Another enhancement is POS integration, which supports tracking of people and events, as well as perimeter detection using CCTV cameras or intrusion detection devices. There’s also a consolidated cloud management platform, which allows all databases to be located in the cloud and accessed remotely. There are ongoing developments in face recognition, including integration with SAFR, which will support watchlists in line with new gambling regulations.
“Digifort software is very light – it’s written using fiber database engines – there’s no Microsoft SQL, which enhances affordability,” Cho explains. “This allows us to support multiple integrations on a single platform without having to go to different providers of applications.”
According to Kang Lu, licensing is another area of difference with Digifort. There’s a once-off license for unlimited cameras based on use of a dongle, instead of machine code.
“The benefit is if the server fails, instead of needing to undergo a lengthy rebuild process, all you have to do is unplug the dongle and then plug into a new server,” he explains. “This makes recovery from server failure very simple and because the dongle can license unlimited cameras, it’s cost-effective as a solution grows.
“Additionally, there’s no cost for Active Directory, no cost for mobile client, no workstation client cost, no virtual matrix cost. The fact there are no extra licenses makes it a lot easier for customers to calculate their return on investment.”
The simplicity of Digifort extends to deployment.
“This is a very quick and easy system to deploy or to upgrade – it won’t take more than 5 minutes, even though it’s a whole new edition,” Lu explains. “And that lightness is evident in processing, too. It’s up to 50 per cent less demanding than competitors and this means that you can support double the cameras on the same type of server, or downgrade the server to save money with no loss of performance.
“Often when organizations upgrade their cameras to the latest high-resolution devices, they have to upgrade their server as well. That’s not required with Digifort because the system requires much less processing capability – we describe ourselves as the lowest CPU-consuming BMS in the world.”
Another key aspect of Digifort is the simplicity and malleability of the interface. There’s plenty of power – you can create 400 camera divisions on a single monitor, or you can manage 3200 cameras on a single workstation. There are also multilayered maps, thanks to Google Maps integration. They work simply, too. All you need to do is type in your coordinates, place the map and superimpose cameras onto it.
“Digifort is one of the few VMS solutions that has a native keypad to control the system. There’s also thumbnail search, smart search, audio detection at high levels and low levels and the system can detect the cessation of noise, so if machinery shuts down when it should be running that event will be detected.
“On the recording side, we can send data to a third party, as well as recording via NAS. We can also archive to the cloud. Quick Sync is also supported, as well as IPv6.”
According to Lu, the whole ideology behind Digifort is that everything is designed to be very simple and clean.
“As an operator, all you see is the menu on the left-hand side of the screen,” he explains. “You don’t have to go anywhere else looking for additional information – nothing is hidden, everything is right there on the left side. From the point of view of the camera registering process, it’s very simple. You click and can go through to many integrated manufacturers, and you go through their camera models. We get a lot of questions from customers wanting to know whether cameras are integrated. With Digifort, it’s not complicated – everything is listed, easy to find and not hidden away.”
When it comes to setting up the interface, users can group cameras by drag and drop and then pull things into different folders. They can also segregate whether things are indoor cameras outdoor cameras, or separate them by location.
“The live interface is where 90 per cent of users would manage the system,” Lu says. “There’s simple drag and drop and click-based building of custom interfaces and nothing’s hidden. If you want any cameras on the screen, you just drag and drop then click the add button. You have the freedom to create any style you want, you can just customize it by using a mouse. No functions are hidden. If you want to remove a camera, it’s just as simple.
“The same goes for maps. You just find them in their folder and then upload them and that’s it. And then once the maps open, you just drag cameras and drop them onto the map. There’s nothing complicated about it. If you want to playback, you can right click on the icon to open multiple playback options, including instant playback, the last 30 seconds, and more.”
According to Cho, something you often see with other VMS solutions is that they’re tab-based.
“Being tab-based requires operators to drill down through layers to find functionality,” he explains. “But with Digifort, everything is right there at your right mouse click. Digifort is known for right mouse click functionality. It’s everyday Windows usability – very simple, very intuitive.
“The simplicity extends to operating more complex cameras, including PTZs and fisheyes. For a fisheye, just click it and then start moving the view around. With PTZs you just pull the PTZ onto the map, open it via the icon and then you can drive the camera immediately. Neat, too, events based on motion or sensor activation can also drive the PTZ to presets and display the event on screen.
“You can also create your own viewing windows in whatever style you like, or you can create viewers for use by all operators, or operators can make their own and save them in their names. The whole idea is to make working easier for operators. Any number of icons can be added, and they can be made transparent so they don’t get in the way but will appear when the mouse hovers over them.”
At this point Cho points out a feature called object link, which allows groups of cameras to be linked together in a way that makes it possible to move from one camera to the next as an event unfolds simply by clicking on an arrow on a map in the direction the event has taken. The beauty of this is that operators don’t need to remember adjacent camera numbers, especially beneficial in more complex sites.
“You can just click the next arrow/link and go straight to the next camera view,” Cho explains. “And when the event is finished, you click the icon again and go back to the original camera – it’s like an easy investigation feature that makes action easy to follow. And the moment the action finishes, you can save the entire sequence to support later investigation.
“If I choose to save and then do a video export of the events, when I play back the footage, it plays back with the exact same screen layout it was captured on – the entire playback screen interface is duplicated. And if you undertake reports, all the information is stored – who the operator was, the file can be encrypted, you can add a watermark – there’s general information about server status, server authentication, your login details, every action undertaken – everything is recorded here and available for later audit. It’s fantastically simple and powerful. Digifort has been around a while now but I’m still very impressed by it.”
Integrated Video Analytics
Integrated video analytics is a core feature of Digifort – it’s inside the system, meaning it’s lower latency and less complex and less costly to manage.
“When it was first introduced, Digifort analytics was designed for the retail market, so it’s very discerning,” Cho explains. “For instance, it has the ability to detect up to 80 objects – not only people or cars but a phone, a motorcycle helmet, a vest, a knife, a gun and lots more. You hear about AI a lot in the market, but we differentiate between normal AI and security AI like this: If I do a line crossing analytic and if doesn’t matter what kind of object as long as it fits within the minimum and maximum size criteria activates the alarm, then it’s normal AI. But if the AI module first needs to recognize the object/subject and the line crossing rule only applies to that recognized object, then that’s security AI.
“This Digifort capability is very powerful with analytics like people counting. We no longer get false alarms because of shadows or because of a big person or a smaller person, or because of a person reflected in a window. Digifort recognizes a human much more accurately. That applies especially to perimeter detection where there are rabbits, kangaroos, foxes, deer and shrubs all triggering line crossing false alarms. Digifort will only trigger if a human crosses the line.”
According to Cho, Digifort’s integrated analytics module is from IPX in Brazil and was developed by a former Digifort staff member, so there’s plenty of synergy in the partnership. Importantly for operators, any event triggered by LPR, or analytics, will be recorded in the Digifort event log, which gives the ability to look back on when an event occurred and then click on an event to playback the footage. You can also search for events by time and date but the integrated event log inside the operator interface makes the process much quicker and easier.
“Everything’s integrated – the data is received and you’re able to search for it within Digifort without leaving the screen, and the same process works with license plate recognition,” Cho says. “If a license plate is detected, then the event will be stored, and listed license plates can generate an alarm event.
“The software will tell you the number plate and it will tell you what state it’s from. Or you can undertake a quick search by typing in a number plate of interest. Digifort will then give you a list of events involving that license plate with thumbnails of video you can play. Alternatively, you can create a filter, and do a search – let’s say it’s based on time and date. When you search, every event will be thrown up and you just playback the video.
“Great with this functionality is that there’s a reporting function built into the same section – you can create a PDF report as a document based on the investigation requirements of the company procedures. And if you’ve had an event flagged on a camera and you want to take a look at the adjacent cameras it’s all in the same interface – you just click on the next camera in the same screen and there’s the view, you don’t have to go anywhere else to look for it – object link is still working in the background.”
Next Lu shows me sequence exporting, which allows an operator to export a series of events as one sequence.
“As you are clicking arrows in the sequence to reveal relevant cameras, there’s screen recording of everything in sequence. When you stop the video, that becomes the sequence,” Lu explains. “And when I back it up everything is saved showing the cameras following an event as it unfolds, all the way through the different cameras to the point the event is no longer visible.”
Digifort InSight is another cool feature of the solution. Fundamentally, it’s a screen capture module capable of operating on any computer running the Windows operating system, which functions as an IP camera, encapsulating a camera license and generating a video stream to the Digifort server containing the live video of the screen of the desktop where it is running.
Insight allows visualization in the monitoring client of Digifort as well as of the monitor of the workstation on which it is installed, and can display a set of screens in the grid interface, simulating a Video Wall. It also allows recording of user actions on the screen in the form of video, as well as monitoring and access of stations in places with little access. The system even provides remote control of the workstation, allowing it to operate multiple systems from a single screen. It’s a powerful piece of functionality that allows the system to support remote sites in a global context.
“It’s like they bought built TeamViewer into Digifort,” Lu explains. “It gives you control over how you want things to operate, there’s also an embedded web page feature if you ever want to control anything via a web page. It’s perfect for applications where a camera or device might be separate from the security network. Using Insight, you can connect to everything to anything so long as you have Digifort installed on the system.
Insight runs deep. If parts of the platform are web-based, and operators want to do record reports there’s an embedded web page so they can only access those web-based reporting functions through Digifort itself. Because it’s through Digifort, you can control what the operators can see in terms of LPR and analytics and other modules. It’s also possible to send camera views to remote workstations to inform team members of unfolding events.
Digifort is a light-footed, yet powerful solution that handles integration in unique ways – the use of Digifort Middleware to undertake access control and alarm integrations is a case in point. Using TCP and built around HTTP commands, Middleware will handle communications between field devices and Digifort, allowing it to generate events, bookmarks and more, using multifarious layers of communication.
Operators can drive the system using drag and right click, or they can employ the Digifort keyboard controller DGF-KB1000, which was developed exclusively for the Digifort system. The system also has an alarm and event management platform, with the recognition of alarms created by any device that has been connected in the cameras or video servers. In integrated systems, operators can be alerted to alarm events by alerts, with relevant video always to hand.
According to Cho, many big organizations want everything integrated and consolidated through a single platform, but they don’t always get what they want.
“Users want seamless integration, not only from a video management perspective, but also access control, sub systems, IoT devices, with everything managed through a single platform, but very few solutions offer it,” he explains. “When it comes to seamless integration, Digifort is perfect, as it has one of the best SDKs in the market. It wasn’t originally designed to meet current trends, simply to be an open platform – a system capable of integrating many cameras and many platforms. In some ways, the market is still trying to catch up with Digifort, not the other way around.”