More Than Music – Security Applications For the IPod

In computing, entertainment and now cell phones, Apple is the little company that grew quite big on its insanely great technology, the term that founder Steve Jobs coined some 25 or 30 years ago. the Macintosh ushered in the era of user-friendly computing, the iPhone changed cell phones forever and the iPod can be found in every country on the planet.

We all know what computers can do (everything), and the iPhone — which went 2G (second generation) and 3G (wireless network) at the same time in late 2008 — is turning out to be almost limitless in expansion capability. Apple’s new online App Store has hundreds upon hundreds of programs, both low- and no-cost, that add to the iPhone’s already impressive feature set. First-rate design and manufacturing ensure the wow factor stays high on Apple’s flagship products.

King of the hill Still, in sheer numbers alone, it is the iPod that is the king of the hill. Introduced in November 2001, in seven years Apple sold about 170 million of the various iPod models, making it by far the best-selling music player in history. the original model used small, 5GB hard drives and introduced the revolutionary click wheel controller for one-handed operations.

The first iPod was sold for $399, while a 10GB model was introduced in March 2002 for $499. because of the advances in technology since then, today you can buy an iPod Touch with 8GB of flash memory, a color touch screen, built-in Wi-Fi and browser, efficient rechargeable battery, etc. — for a list price of $229. even today’s 160GB hard drive-based iPod Classic sells for a hundred dollars less than the original model, and has 32 times the storage, color screen, more advanced components of every type and even weighs less.

Premium peripherals In the world of boy racers, it is the many aftermarket companies that produce the add-ons and upgrades that help motivated and mechanically inclined young men (and more than a few ladies) add 100 horsepower or lower the ride height. It is much the same in any field, and in the high-tech world of audio and video (A/V) there are plenty of players producing premium peripherals for the iPod.

There are snap-on FM transmitters to broadcast (rather, narrowcast) your iPod music to an unused spot on the radio dial. there are GPS units that connect and lead the way. every week, it seems, a new device appears in the form factor of an alarm clock, mini-stereo system or boombox that lets you dock your iPod, charge it and play it through amplified speakers. the music side of iPod peripherals has been pretty well covered for some time.

The iPod got its video capabilities in 2005, but serious A/V peripherals did not appear right away. as Apple increased hard drive capacities and upgraded other video-related hardware and software, more video peripherals became available. of course, for basic iPod-to-TV functionality, you just need the correct cables, which were standardized again in late 2007. Apple’s Component AV Cable is supposed to deliver the best video an iPod is capable of displaying. unlike the now-incompatible iPod AV Cable or the iPod Docks, which allow composite RCA or superior S-Video output from new and late-generation iPods, the Component AV Cable has DVD-quality output (on paper, anyway).

Stealthy recorder the iPod can record video, as well, thanks to some creative aftermarket companies. the example we will be looking at in the balance of this article is the Pinnacle Transfer Video (PTV) — from Pinnacle Systems, inc., a subsidiary of Avid Technologies, a leading A/V firm with vast Apple and PC experience — but such products as iSee, Catapult and Streaming Networks’ iRecord offer similar capabilities and are worth a look if iPod recording interests you.

Pinnacle Systems unveiled the PTV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2008. a small, mobile device capable of recording analog video directly onto iPods and USB 2.0 storage devices, it comes with three RCA audio/video cables and an external power supply.

The discreet device, a mere 4.8 by 2.6 inches and 0.9 inches thick, has S-Video, Composite video and stereo audio analog inputs. the PTV can record and send digital content from any source — TV, CCTV, DVD player, personal video recorder, camcorder, etc. — directly to late-model iPods (including Nano and Classic), as well as Sony’s PlayStation line of products, any USB hard drive or even an unpowered USB flash drive.

The PTV captures video in the H.264 video compression format, natively supported by iPod, and can be used to transfer videos stored on older VHS, Hi8 or VHS-C tapes to USB hard drives for long-term retention without the use of any additional software. once on a computer-accessible disk, the video can be burned to DVD, backed up to Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices or archived in other ways.

Pinnacle and other aftermarket firms will also supply special cables to power the iPods or PSPs during use, or to re-charge them during the later video transfer session. because a PC is not required to copy recorded files for transference from the device, hard drive use is reduced and data transfer speeds to the final storage destination can take place faster and sooner.

Endless uses, now and future the PTV, teamed with a new or recent iPod, may just hold the record (for a moment, anyway) for the smallest high-quality video recording system available. You could hold both components in one hand, and considering the size of camcorders and cameras these days, you could throw in all the cables, power supplies and the camera, too, and still fit everything in a shoe box. Ain’t high-tech grand?

With such a small footprint, this sort of security system faces fewer and fewer barriers as far as location and positioning. Depending on the front end — the video camera, camcorder, CCTV or other image capture device — your iPod can now be used to record security camera feeds just about anywhere. With the proper battery packs, even remote locations without utility service can now be surveilled at low cost with high-grade results.

Expect more iPod add-ons in the future to extend recording options, beef up battery time, increase onboard storage, add removable memory and so on. there are essentially no limits to what can be developed in the way of small, easily hidden recording systems. the fact that you can also review/preview the video right on the recording device, instead of having a separate monitor, is a big plus, too.

This new and improved iPod video recording capability is an important addition to the security toolkit for businesses, institutions, schools, homes and even law enforcement. the Wi-Fi-capable iPod Touch adds yet another dimension to the mix, making it possible to upload and download video clips. when a future Touch model gets a camera built-in, with webcam and recording capabilities, the front end will be taken care of and you will have an even smaller, more capable security system.

So, the answer to that question a few paragraphs back? It is definitely, yes, high-tech is grand

More Than Music – Security Applications For the IPod

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