Headed Out

Where is IP surveillance going?

Closed-circuit television has been the installation model for video security monitoring for years. CCTV evolved from the installation of large-format traditional vidicon tube cameras to the invention of the all-in-one CCD bullet and dome cameras; from recording on reel-to-reel time lapse recorders to the latest digital video media.

Unfortunately, CCTV does not easily lend itself to off-site live viewing. While it is suitable for local surveillance and review, to diagnose how serious a crime was, an off-site user can only view a recording after the event occured. In some cases, the recording device was destroyed before the event can be seen.

As access to the Internet became more viable for displaying moving images, the development of Internet-based, IP surveillance equipment took hold. The technology became a solution for delivering real-time video, still images and review of recorded images on demand or from an alarmed event over the Internet.

The Role of IP
IP surveillance was engineered to integrate with an existing or dedicated security network and Internet technology to transmit images from analog cameras through IP-ready DVRs and/or IP cameras. These systems allow live streaming video and still image transfer to a standard Web browser so motion can be remotely viewed in real time. IP systems also provide motion detection, auto time and date stamps, easy transfer of video, and pre- and post-alarm messaging through e-mail. Business owners can be notified immediately if an event has occurred. They can then log on to their system remotely to view a live feed, or a video clip can be e-mailed so they can see the captured event from their PC or laptop. Some systems even allow for transmission of video images to a PDA.

Many companies have already installed IP-based surveillance systems to help secure both the interior and exterior of buildings. Applications include retail stores, banks, convenience stores, gas stations, hospitals, monitoring companies, parking garages, transportation networks, public safety, schools, government offices, other small to large businesses and residential networks. Users have found that through IP surveillance, security breaches can be detected in a timely manner.

A Bright Future
The demand for IP video surveillance is creating a viable new market for dealers and integrators. Driving the growth in this industry is the fact that customers are becoming more computer savvy—watching video and news online and on other Internet sources. The idea of being able to hook into a video surveillance camera from a computer or laptop is becoming more acceptable. IP video systems can be integrated with other security solutions, such as access control, and companies want a more effective total security package to guard against all threats.

The future of IP video security is bright, but the timetable is seldom agreed upon. Will IP video become the norm in five, seven or 10 years—nobody really knows, but we all agree that it will happen. The final determining factors will be a combination of cost effectiveness, dealer training, bandwidth availability and infrastructure. Analog cameras have a broad base of acceptability and offer many years of reliable performance. The two technologies will certainly coexist for the next several years while the gradual transition to IP cameras takes hold.

True IP-based digital surveillance uses CCD cameras that use signal processing, sending packetized video streams over the LAN through Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable rather than a coax cable network, employing greater bandwidth and standard TCP/IP communication. This provides more intelligent data mining and information retrieval. If security is an issue, full digital surveillance offers the added advantage of data encryption to protect against image tampering. This is not possible with analog recording.

The Transition Process
Because IP-based digital surveillance is an ongoing process, it clearly can be said that we’re halfway there. Old VCRs are being replaced with DVRs, which are used for data storage. This is converted to digital so the information can be stored on hard disks, but the quality of the image captured still remains analog since this is how it originated. When shopping for a system, be sure to ask if the system is digital based on the DVR or on the camera. Many manufacturers consider a system digital by virtue of the DVR storage system even if the camera recording the images is still analog.

Taking the big leap into completely IP-based technology is a true upgrade to a user’s level of security. Users get the biggest bang for their buck for the money spent. Digital surveillance can be done over a LAN, but TCP/IP transmittal of surveillance makes more sense for remote monitoring of multiple locations and for remote recording of data onto backup servers and hard disks for longterm storage.

Using IP-based surveillance means users can connect to cameras or any network or wireless adapter, and it means they can be flexible in camera placement. Setting the system up is easy. Once a user has an IP address, it’s off to the races with a more stable and highly reliable system. While the technology is cutting edge, the best part is that it’s upgradeable. Users will be able to add on to this system for years to come, based on improvements in the market.

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