Thinking Outside the Box

Affordable thermal security cameras bring new opportunities to light

There’s no denying it: Bad stuff happens at night.

Whether we’re talking about terrorists crossing borders or burglars jumping the fence into your back yard, nighttime is the right time for bad things to happen.

But thermal security cameras even out the odds by giving homeowners and security professionals alike the power to see clearly in total darkness.

Accepted throughout the industry as the best 24- hour visual surveillance imaging solutions available, thermal security cameras are vital tools in securing homes, corporate campuses and industrial facilities -- not to mention their role in secure borders, airports, sea ports, nuclear facilities and other critical infrastructure installations.

And now that full-featured, full resolution, thermal security cameras are available for a competitive price, security dealers and integrators are finding scores of new ways to use this effective, affordable technology.

Thermal security cameras have been the best nighttime security imaging solutions for years. Until just the last couple of years, however, they’ve just been too expensive to be a viable component for residential security.

The last few years have seen the cost of high-quality thermal security cameras come down dramatically.

Offering 320x240 resolution, network-ready models are now affordable, greatly expanding their use around the security industry in general, and in the small business, residential and personal security fields in particular.

Most small businesses or home owners couldn’t realistically stomach spending tens of thousands of dollars for a thermal fence perimeter security system.

Now, people are coming up with new and innovative ways of using thermal to keep their homes, families, and businesses safe.

Residential Security
A single thermal security camera outfitted with a wide-angle lens can play a multitude of roles in improving the safety and security of a house. Perimeter security is obvious -- point the camera along unsecured avenues of approach, and let the analytics alert anyone in the house about uninvited visitors.

But parents of small children also use thermal to make sure that none of their little ones gets too close to the pool when a parent isn’t around.

Many residential clients prefer thermal cameras because they don’t need bright security lights to work.

They see heat, not light, so the amount of light available to the sensor is irrelevant to its imaging performance.

Being able to see clearly without the inconvenience of bright lights makes thermal the “good neighbor” security camera solution.

Affordable thermal cameras are also popular solutions because they protect the privacy and modesty of family members, visitors and neighbors. Thermal can neither recognize facial features, nor can it see through windows.

Small Business Security
Many of these same attributes make thermal security cameras an ideal solution for businesses of every size.

Single-site businesses use thermal cameras and analytics to watch entry points and loading docks, alerting owners by e-mail of unauthorized entries.

Large business campuses use thermal for the same thing, just on a larger scale. These same facilities use thermal to guard server rooms and access to intellectual property by monitoring large data lines under false floors and dropped ceilings, as data theft can ruin a business as fast as a physical break-in can.

Most businesses also tend to underestimate the threats posed to their roofs. Criminals can gain access to the roof and vandalize or steal metal components from rooftop air conditioning units. They can also enter buildings from roof access points. These areas are quite often unlit and unsecured; a couple of thermal cameras -- often even only one -- can close a gaping hole in any facility’s security.

Thinking Outside the Box
Innovative security integrators are devising new and exciting uses for affordable thermal security cameras every day.

Telecom companies can use thermal cameras to monitor the thousands of cell phone towers around the country, safeguarding them against theft and vandalism.

Energy companies use thermal to watch over small, unattended substations -- not just the big ones -- staying vigilant against copper theft and vandalism that can cause expensive service outages.

Gated communities and homeowner associations use thermal cameras to keep an eye on gated entries and common buildings used by the entire community.

The expense to repair damage to any of these common buildings is borne by the community as a whole, so an ounce of prevention is seen as a pound of cure.

Even horse breeders and owners of equestrian centers are getting into the act. Horses represent a significant investment -- their acquisition and upkeep costs thousands of dollars per animal -- so using thermal cameras to solidify a farm’s perimeter security is a nobrainer.

But during foaling season, breeders can use thermal cameras to keep a watchful eye on pregnant mares and be alert to any potential problems in the confined foaling pen or stall.

Thermal security cameras have broken the price barrier, as promised for so many years. Now it’s time for enterprising and entrepreneurial security dealers and integrators to discover all of the new ways people can put the ability to see in total darkness to work for them.

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

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