Getting the Network Ready

Terrorism, crime fuel growth of CCTV surveillance market

Basic CCTV monitoring consists of video cameras transmitting a signal to a specific place -- though not as openly as with broadcast television signals -- where the images appear on a set of monitors. With fears of terrorism and crime growing in the 1990s and 2000s, private and business use of CCTV surveillance has rapidly taken off and evolved.

Networked IP cameras represent a growing segment of video surveillance. IP CCTV cameras use IP procedures along with a software package to communicate digital images over the Internet, across data networks such as LANs, within a building and WANS worldwide. IP allows users to view their cameras from anywhere the network connection is available through a computer or a wireless mobile device.

IP cameras also have the ability to operate without an additional power supply, using PoE, which supplies power to the camera via the Ethernet cable used to connect the network.

A networked DVR provides video recording, processed at the DVR, with a variety of performance options and features such as motion detection and e-mail alerts. NVRs are similar to DVRs, but the video is processed within the IP camera and streamed through NVR software for remote viewing and storage. Hybrid DVRs incorporate functions of both an NVR and a DVR so that IP cameras and analog cameras can operate in the same networked system.

IP cameras have a resolution of at least 640x480 and can provide multi-megapixel performance from 1.3 to 10 megapixels. The difference in image quality between analog and IP cameras is clearly visible. As the video image is uncompressed, the high resolution gives the user better image quality. Operators can use megapixel IP cameras to zoom in on a small, faraway object and see it in crystal-clear detail, whether it’s on live or recorded video. This is not possible with standard analog cameras. The H.264 video compression standard used in networked cameras significantly reduces network bandwidth and storage requirements of megapixel video.

IP cameras, DVRs, NVRs and servers can be used with existing networks, eliminating the use of independent cables. Because the system network is more efficient, a standard PC or server connected to the Internet can be used to house the main central client software and store and back up all recorded video.

An added benefit of network IP video surveillance is the ability to view realtime video and play back recorded video securely over the Internet, making it viewable from anywhere in the world.

Why is Networked Video Necessary?
Life safety is a concern in businesses and communities all over the world. Integrated systems using networked cameras give users sophisticated tools to respond more quickly to adverse events.

For example, video analytics incorporated in IP surveillance software simplifies live view, recording and search processes by automating them. It provides an additional way to detect abnormal behaviors, such as an intruder walking into a restricted area or leaving a package behind in an airport terminal.

Networked video, along with emergency notifications, is becoming an integral part of prevention, early warning and readiness programs, and will continue to grow rapidly as we move into the next decade.

What Are the Advantages?
Networked systems require fewer cameras, less cabling and wiring and installation costs. Megapixel IP cameras cover a wider area than analog cameras, so fewer cameras are required to cover the same area, and they produce higher-quality images. Networked systems use less cabling because of this, and PoE eliminates the need for local power supplies.

IP cameras, featuring high-definition megapixel performance, provide clearly detailed images. This makes for video capture and analysis that better aids in law enforcement and criminal investigations, whether the application involves reading license plates on highways or monitoring one’s home via an Internet video feed.

Does it Require Technical Support?
Integration of IP cameras with an organization’s existing IT infrastructure and network is becoming more desirable, making an IP manufacturer’s role in customer service more than just repair.

The most difficult technical support task is walking an installer through a network setup.

The vendor has to deliver technical support at a higher level, starting with remote access and network configuration.

Customer satisfaction is not just about the product anymore. The quality of the vendor’s troubleshooting support also is crucial.

When configuring an IP video installation into an existing network, the integrator has to consider how much of the customer’s bandwidth is available for the system’s use and what it can handle in the future. A manufacturer’s technical support team may be asked for advice on which IP cameras are best for a specific network situation. The integrator must also analyze the network’s backbone. For example: Is the network run over fiber-optic cable, or is it Cat-5e or Cat-6? This will help determine if standard or megapixel resolution can be used as well as how many IP cameras can be installed now and in the future.

Bandwidth plays an important role in configuring an IP video system, especially when dealing with existing network infrastructure. Until recently, network infrastructures for many commercial buildings were designed for data transmission only. Most existing networks have servers, client PCs, printers and VoIP, and may already be at the 20-percent-below-bandwidth standard. This means the network has a 20 percent buffer so that when the data load gets heavier at certain times of the day, it will not crash the system. If the existing network does not meet the customer’s surveillance needs, the integrator could create a parallel network.

Communication among manufacturer, integrator and end user is key, ensuring the job is specified and installed to meet end user requirements.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.

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