Outside the Walls
Video surveillance designed for challenging environments
- By Dilen Thakrar
- Feb 01, 2021
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.
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.
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
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.