You don’t have to go far back in history to rediscover the days when experienced plumbing teams would sometimes have to smash through concrete, rip up gardens and dig into the ground with excavators simply to pinpoint a problem with a pipe or drain – only to conclude that an entirely different area would need to be dug up next.
But as technology raced ahead all over the world, becoming not only more accessible and affordable but also smaller and more portable, inspection camera technology literally revolutionised life and operations for those in the business of seeing where the human eye simply could not see before. Today, it’s nothing short of a must-have for all sorts of tradespeople and industries and even DIY enthusiasts – whether they’re peaking deep into a sewer pipe, under the bonnet of a car, beneath a floorboard, or somewhere else entirely.
In the past several years, modern inspection cameras have become very impressive pieces of kit indeed. These portable and now almost always hand-held devices mean no unnecessary excavation fishing trips, easy and empowered maintenance, and countless saved dollars in undiagnosed or delayed leak and other repairs and remedies.
But if you thought the nifty ‘snake camera’ had basically reached the pinnacle of innovation, what with its high-res displays, LED illumination, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and USB and all the bells and whistles already on board, think again. The areas of rapid evolution as we get ever deeper into this decade are already clear:
One traditional drawback of analogue CCTV was the resolution – but the latest and the next-generation devices are capturing images at staggering levels of high-definition. The results are digital, unfolded images that not only show you what’s going on – you can then use, manipulate, evaluate and catalogue them with similarly rapidly-evolving software. Higher and better resolution is just one of the fast-moving existing frontiers of inspection camera tech alongside LED illumination, zoom, useability, connectivity, and more.
Another area of this technology that is really attracting the attention of innovators is the incorporation of additional cameras within the same familiar and easy-to-use package. For most inspections, a forward facing camera is good enough – but what if you could just press a button and flick to a side-view as well, with no need to make a physical adjustment? It’s an exciting development not just for the additional convenience and speed of an extra feature or gizmo, but it’s perfect for those truly tight confines that might still have been making clear diagnoses difficult. And, as ever, where there are two cameras, why can’t there be three?
Although held comfortably in your hand, the computers that handle the operations of today’s inspection cameras are already capable of highly complex processing at high speed. But as we have discovered since human beings invented the computer last century, almost exponential innovation is not only possible – it’s inevitable. The next big processing innovation set to go mainstream in this technological realm is 3D – and, like the multi-camera systems, it’s not even close to a mere novelty. It makes detecting with incredible realism the tiniest flaws and dents on the target not only better, but in many cases simply possible. A 3D camera – which can capture 2D images at the same time – also overcomes the current limitations of lighting, distance detection and contrast, while that third dimension – depth – provides so much more detail about the depth and severity of those defects.
In 2021, the inspection camera market is already counted in the billions of dollars, and for the end-user, that means two things: variety, and constant improvement. No matter your industry, application, expertise or budget, there’s already something for you out there to add to your tool-box today … and plenty of exciting developments coming down the pike (or is it pipe?) very, very soon.