An IP camera stands out over it’s analog cousins in a number of ways. First and foremost, it isn’t simply a camera. An IP camera is a miniaturized computer with a camera attached. That means the image is processed, compressed and even analyzed before it even leaves the body of the camera. While the primary selling feature of IP camera systems is increased resolution (sharpness of the image) over previous systems, there is much more to it than simply capturing an image.
Many IP cameras can handle on board storage (on a microSD card) and act as stand alone combination camera and recorder, accessible from your cellphone or a computer and even send out email alerts when activity is detected. You can even define areas of interest and set schedules to minimize false alerts. More on that later.
Because IP cameras require a network connection to function, the great majority of them require network wiring (Cat 5, Cat 5e, or Cat 6) to make them work. The two advantages here are that Category wire is thinner than traditional siamese (coaxial and 18/2 power) cables, and power and information are sent over the same wire. In many older surveillance systems separate power and video signal wiring had to be run to the cameras.
Another advantage of IP cameras is how easy it is to add another camera to the existing system. Rather than running each wire back to the recorder, it is possible to add a network router or a network switch and spread network from there. So, you can run a single wire from the recorder to each floor of a building and then install a PoE switch to distribute the wiring to the cameras on each floor.
You can also use this trick to add additional cameras once the project is completed. Just splice the wire going to an existing camera, and put the end going to the recorder into the switch and the one going to the camera to the switch, and add other cameras to the other ports on the PoE switch.
Because the IP camera is effectively a mini computer, there are many additional features available that would sound like science fiction back in the analog days. I will touch on a few of them here.
Because the connection to the camera is really a network connection that allows for a lot more information to be exchanged between the recorder or the user and the camera. More importantly, you can send information to the camera not just receive images from it.
Two-way voice is a feature of a number of cameras that allows the user to have a conversation with whomever is standing near the camera.
The advantages are as simple as having an instant intercom wherever your camera is positioned. You may even be able to deter some unwanted behavior by yelling at the perpetrators and making them aware that their activities are being monitored and recorded. You can even warn them that you are calling the police.
Speco Technologies even added a feature they call Digital Deterrent, where a pre-recorded message can be automatically played through a camera when activity is detected. Picture a camera that announces “Please vacate the area! The police have been notified of your unauthorized activity,” when it detects someone loitering after business hours.
Because modern cameras are more than simply an image processing platform, advanced analytics can be preformed right in the camera, lessening the processing load on the recorder.
Motion Detection has been a staple of CCTV systems for a long time. It simplifies forensics by only recording events rather than constantly recording a space where nothing happens.
From the days of simply detecting motion in an image. You can now define sensitivity. So, the neighborhood cat, or leaves blowing around in the fall are less likely to trigger a system.
You can also define zones with varying sensitivity or even excluded sections. This way the section by the front entrance gets the most attention, but the busy street is completely ignored. You can get an alert when somebody is in your driveway, but not when people are walking along the sidewalk.
This is an advanced form of Motion Detection. Rather than simply looking for motion in an image, it is capable of analyzing whether somebody is actually spending time in an area or merely passing by. It’s a great advanced feature if you are worried about vandalism or there are homeless sleeping in the neighborhood.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Draw an invisible line in the scene, and define which direction is critical. This way you get a special alert when someone enters a particular door in a hallway or approaches the safe in the storeroom.
Again, this one is exactly what it sounds like. The camera triggers recording and may even alert you when the sound in the area goes above the preset threshold.
For higher security applications where terrorism is a possibility, a special alert can be set up to trigger if an object larger than a specified size is left in the scene for longer than a certain amount of time. I have even seen this used in a commercial application to send an alert when someone was dumping trash in their parking lot.
Next we will talk about recorders…
Return to First Article…