Get the Picture?

Dec. 3, 2004
A look at IP cameras
As companies find older video surveillance networks nearing the end of their life-cycles, many are considering purchasing IP cameras. But is the investment worth it? Will security really be enhanced? And what are the advantages of IP cameras compared to analog cameras?Over the last few years, IP cameras have taken a technological giant step forward. New IP cameras boast numerous features that greatly improve security surveillance, while streamlining operations and reducing operating costs. Here’s a quick comparison of older analog cameras to new IP cameras:Plug-and-Play. Analog cameras require a dedicated cable running from the unit to a controller. IP cameras can be plugged directly into an existing network using standard CAT-5 cabling – a simple, elegant solution.Powered Up. Analog cameras require an external power source, which is often cumbersome and expensive to deploy. The latest IP technology obtains power directly from the CAT-5 cable, making it easy to set up.Built-In Server. Some of the latest IP cameras come equipped with built-in computer servers. This enables you to create your own security LAN and allows programming and remote control of an individual camera’s PTZ functions.A Mouse-Click Away. Control rooms filled with video monitors may quickly become obsolete, as new IP cameras allow users to view live video feeds from the comfort of a personal computer via any standard Internet browser.Automated Surveillance. Users can remotely control or create preset pan/tilt/zoom patterns with IP cameras. Additionally, IP cameras typically come standard with input/output capability. This allows the camera to be connected to contact switches or motion detectors on doors, windows, security perimeters, etc., that – when penetrated – automatically trigger an alarm and/or recording of the event.
IP cameras are now available with digital pan/tilt/zoom features: No moving parts, no presets to fuss with – just a single picture that can be manipulated to give the illusion of pan/tilt or zoom. The entire scene is recorded at all times and can be accessed (live or recorded) at any time; authorized users can play back only the portion(s) of interest. In theory, multiple individuals could access the same image simultaneously, with independent, full pan/tilt/zoom options.A Clear Picture. IP cameras let you control the number of images and the camera’s resolution on a second-by-second basis. Each camera’s frame rate transmission can be set to transmit a standard non-alarm resolution at one-third of the normal speed, saving storage space and reducing transmission bandwidth. Additionally, the camera, on command or from alarm input from a door switch or passive motion detector, will automatically increase the frame rate or the resolution (or both) to 30 images per second at full resolution.Reduced costs, usability, clear images, streamlined operations, and automated recording sequences: IP cameras bring numerous benefits to organizations looking to enhance their video surveillance operation. While every organization has to evaluate its security needs based on its own objectives, many companies will find IP cameras to be an investment that yields lasting and tangible results. The best advice is to do your homework and to work with a firm that understands the latest in video technology and can design the system that best suits your business needs.William F. Wayman is the director of Security Services at TVA Fire & Life Safety Inc., based in San Diego.

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