It’s 2019 and surveillance cameras have changed Pt. 1

It has been a few years since we wrote last, and much has changed in the world of surveillance and CCTV equipment.

IP Security Cameras

The major developments in the IP and Digital Surveillance Camera space have come in the form of better performance at a better price. Higher resolution cameras (8K, 4K, and 4MP) are now available at the prices that used to be reserved for 1080p (2MP) cameras. That means that an image quality of up to four times what was commonly available just two years ago can be purchased for the price of a premium 1080p camera just two years ago.

Night vision has improved

Just a short time ago 20′-40′ night vision was considered the norm for a quality CCTV camera, now 60′-160′ is not unusual to see. However, brighter IR LEDs are not enough to guarantee a better image without features such as WDR, Smart IR, and Intensifier. Next time you see a high resolution surveillance camera advertising Night Vision for an unrealistically low price, see if it has any of the above features. Would you be ok with seeing a white blob instead of facial features? It may be good enough, or it may be the difference between “we are looking for someone who looks like this blob,” and a conviction.

New Features of IP cameras

Stand alone operation: Many mid-range cameras can now operate without a recorder. Insert a MicroSD card, and through the internal menus you can set up the camera to record internally instead of to a recorder. That not only saves you money on the recorder, but simplifies the installation, keeping the costs down further. Bonus: Most of these cameras can get power either through PoE (where the network wire connecting it to your router also supplies the power), or a standard 12VDC 1A power supply that can be plugged in to the nearest outlet, further simplifying installation.

Remote Access: For many years we have been reliant on a recorder to manage the off-site access to video feeds and recordings. If you wanted to see what is going on from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you needed to have a recorder. Many of these cameras can be directly accessed using an app. As long as the camera can connect to your internet router, you can access it from anywhere in the world, no recorder needed. (more on this at another time).

Distributed installation: If you have an existing commercial facility with network wires already deployed, the cameras can communicate to a central recorder over your local network, resulting in substantial savings. However, there are caveats, such as the cameras affecting your network’s speed, and potential security vulnerabilities (the cameras are now exposed to the network without the protection of a recorder acting as a firewall). A cost-benefit analysis may be necessary to see if this form of installation is right for you.

New Smarts: VCA (Video Content Analysis), and AI GPU (Artificial Intelligence combined with Graphic Processing Units) have resulted in better smarts coming down to mid-range cameras. Features like Line Crossing, Intrusion, Object Removal, Unattended Baggage, Entrance and Exit Detection, Scene Change, Audio Exception, Defocus, Face Detection, Plus AI Human/Vehicle/Face Recognition, are rapidly trickling down, and are available in the cameras rather than the recorders. With the cameras able to trigger a relay (e.g. set off a siren, strobe, trigger an alarm, lock or unlock a door, or play a pre-recorded message), send a push-alert, or email a message with a video clip if a pre-programmed event is detected. More on these features later.

Motorized Zoom, and Auto-Focus: The ability to change the field of view on the fly (although not our favorite feature, see our explanation of resolution) has significantly come down in price to even budget level models.

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