Outside the Walls

Outside the Walls

Video surveillance designed for challenging environments

Enterprise operations can’t always be protected by walls, barriers or environmental controls. When it comes to video surveillance for outdoor use, security solutions often require specialized camera technology to be effective and maximize monitoring capabilities.

Despite the potential challenges posed by dirt, dust, wind, light, temperature and water, virtually every industry relies on video monitoring to play a key part in their security strategy. For facilities spanning from oil and gas production to power and utilities to wastewater treatment — just to provide a few examples — resiliency and reliability of video security technology is paramount.

Today, camera manufacturers are designing ruggedized devices featuring innovations in both hardware and software, allowing end users to benefit from camera technology that not only withstands the elements, but also continues to deliver high-quality video.

LIGHT MANAGEMENT

Providing consistent, reliable video surveillance in all light conditions is crucial for security operators. What’s more, every application has its own unique set of challenges with lighting. So, the key to optimizing video surveillance in environments where there may be low levels of light or a high level of contrast within a scene is to leverage technology from innovators in the industry that enhances control of exposure and expands the scope of usable light.

Advancements in light management technology with adaptive low-light capabilities enable the cameras — particularly in 360-degree technology — to dynamically manage the available light to achieve the best results in every corner of a scene. It starts with the design and construction of the lens and applies all the way through to the final images and how they are streamed.

Manufacturers carefully make specific hardware choices, such as a large, high-quality aperture fisheye lens, a high sensitivity image sensor and image signal processors that drive how firmware adaptively manages exposure and light levels. Whether it be extreme low light or a complex mixed lighting environment, image quality can be optimized automatically no matter the light available to produce clearer, full-color, lower noise surveillance videos, all the while maintaining the sharpness of static or moving objects even in very low-light conditions.

Managing scenes that have very dark and very bright elements present at the same time can be trickier. There is one image processing technology that has clearly been the differentiator on this front. The continued advancements in high (or wide) dynamic range (HDR) technology have allowed both dark and light areas within the same image to be clearly visible at the same time, revealing important details that matter. HDR enables the camera to intelligently capture two different images of the same frame with different exposure levels, and it then merges those to bring out the detail in both areas.

Unlike the more traditional sequential HDR technologies, recent innovations have made it possible to capture the two frames concurrently, minimizing the time lag between short and long exposures and generating clear, sharp images with minimal motion blur.

PROTECTION CERTIFICATIONS

Outdoor security often lacks a robust video surveillance system due to the physical challenges of demanding environmental conditions or hazards that come with cameras being exposed. What to look for is a high-level certification that guarantees protection against harsh elements. An IP (International or Ingress Protection) rating gives an indication that the camera’s enclosure has been tested by a strict set of standards, and therefore, guarantees safe operation without malfunction or damage, respective to the various forms of outside disruptors.

Cameras that undergo these tests are put through a rigorous evaluation process, so implementing devices that achieve any number of these ratings can help ensure surveillance investments are protected — and will provide some peace of mind. IP codes represent different levels and categories of protection, which are applicable for varied environments that experience dust, harmful particles, water pressure, wind, precipitation and even vandalism. However, out of the many levels of IP protection, there are three “gold standard” codes that, if achieved, users can be assured that even in the harshest, most extreme or threatening circumstances, video technology will not just survive, but it will continue to perform as required.

IP66. For a camera to be considered “weatherproof,” this is the primary rating that it needs to attain. The meaning behind this rating is twofold: Dust Tight, or optimal protection against dust, debris and other particles, as well as jets of water from any direction. In essence, this ensures that the device will still operate fully and be safeguarded from dust particles and significant amounts of rain. An IP66 rating is also crucial if video surveillance cameras are deployed at a site where dust, dirt, sand or other foreign particles frequently occur.

IP68. Cameras that reach the IP68 rating yield the protections as outlined above, but they are also deemed resistant to submersion underwater up to a depth of 1m or more for a specified period of time (30 minutes, for example). Simply put, these cameras have a more advanced weatherproof rating and resistance. The use cases for devices that are designated as IP68 range from enterprise or commercial facilities that regularly face heavy storms, to remote locations in arid or semi-arid regions that experience common dust or sandstorms and even in a variety of boat or marine applications.

IP69K. Difficult to attain, but critical in certain industries, the IP69K rating is for applications where high-pressure, high-temperature wash-down is necessary to clean equipment. Where intense cleaning with high temperature water is required, this specification allows users to continue wash-down procedures without the fear of damaging video surveillance installations. This advanced test was originally put into effect for construction and maintenance vehicles, such as garbage trucks or a cement bulk trailer, and it is now widely used in instances where video monitoring technology is housed on surfaces that require regular, high-pressure cleaning, such as food preparation, car washes and road vehicle applications.

The IK10 rating. Whether a video security system is installed at an outdoor site exposed to extreme conditions or in a straightforward surveillance position outside a building or facility, users often need reliable cameras that are designed to be durable and will continue to function when subjected to rough treatment. An IK10 rating designates that a camera can withstand up to 20 joules of force impact.

Think of the potential for debris hitting one of these devices or even just the risks posed by powerful winds. What’s arguably an even greater benefit, however, is the fact that these cameras are deemed vandal-resistant. They are designed to withstand violent blows to their housings and lens covers and absorb the shock without breaking and without interrupting the video, making them very difficult to tamper with.

Monitoring systems outside banks, casinos, warehouses, production facilities, parking lots and even large-scale businesses would be optimally protected from all threats with the integration of IK10, vandal-proof surveillance cameras.

ACCESSORIES FOR TEMPERATURE PROTECTION

Resilient video technology at remote locations is all too often overlooked. These are places where extreme conditions, such as those previously mentioned, are frequently present. But they also see temperature fluctuations both from harsh weather and due to the specific industrial work. In many video surveillance systems, manufacturers work with integrators to appropriately install a protective sun shield, which of late, has become a rather simple installation process.

Similar to the compact design trajectory of modern surveillance cameras, most notably in panoramic technology, sun shields are usually lightweight and unobtrusive, but they allow for cameras to be used in direct sunlight, mitigating damage from intense sun and also reducing glare.

Likewise, recent innovations in optional heater modules for extremely cold environments are expanding the video surveillance options in a variety of industries. Outdoor cameras can continue to function in temperatures as low as -40°C (-104 °F) during normal operation; however these accessories allow for the camera to even start up (cold start) in areas that reach an ambient temperature of -40°C (-104 °F).

NEW BEGINNINGS FOR OUTDOOR VIDEO SECURITY

Outdoor applications of IP video surveillance technology have been marginally adequate for decades. Users in remote locations or with operations that require more advanced protection from outside elements now have the advantage of integrating camera systems that are specifically designed to withstand a wide range of extreme elements.

New, sleek and compact designs eliminate the need for additional protective housing; they are built to be durable and intentionally engineered to endure specific weather conditions. But, what’s the true advantage? Modern outdoor surveillance cameras allow users to harness the benefits of cutting-edge features, processing technologies and high-quality images regardless of the tough external conditions.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2021 issue of Security Today.

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