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When you're shopping around for an IP-based video surveillance system, you will need to be particularly cautious about what exactly you're looking at and what the individual terms mean. How IP-based video surveillance works is open to interpretation as far as some video surveillance and security sales people are concerned -- not because they are trying to confuse the issues, but because there is no genuine consensus on what the term "IP-based" or related ones such as "networked" or "web-based" means.
Originally, video surveillance was done based on analog technology -- closed circuit television (CCTV) and recording on video tapes. This was fine for recording what was going on, but it didn't broadcast actual live information, so it wasn't practical for monitoring stores, for instance, from a remote location. It simply provided what happened after the fact. The picture quality wasn't great and it relied on human reliability as well -- someone had to remember to change the tapes regularly, etc.
Digital revolutionizes video surveillance
With the Internet revolution and the ever-increasing presence of Local Area Networks, technology took great strides in video surveillance in the 1990's. Analog camera tubes were replaced with CCD (Charged Coupled Devices) and digital cameras became affordable for most people.
This combination meant that video surveillance could do two things: go live over the Internet or a closed network for surveillance and provide clearer, crisper images that could be tracked and manipulated easily. For law enforcement, digital surveillance meant it was much easier to zoom in on images, track particular scenes and enhance features.
The basics of IP-based surveillance
A digital camera "views" the scene in front of it, broadcasts the video images as a digitized signal over a LAN line (Local Area Network) where it's then transmitted to a computer or server. The server in turn manages all of this information. Depending upon the software used to manage the digital images, it can record, display or retransmit the images to anywhere in the world.
The software package can easily be upgraded to allow for analyzing data, selecting specific "flagged" items to watch for and a host of other functions, making it a truly customizable security tool.
True IP-based digital surveillance uses CCD cameras that use signal processing that send packetized video streams over the LAN through a Cat 5 cable rather than a coax cable network, utilizing greater bandwidth and standard TCP/IP communication.
It also provides more intelligent data mining and information retrieval. If security is an issue, full digital surveillance also offers the added advantage of data encryption opportunities to protect against image tampering -- something not possible with analog recording.
The "middle of the road" of video surveillance is upgrading video surveillance by utilizing a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). A DVR system is not really fully IP-based, but is step toward the more advanced IP technology. In actuality, a DVR system uses the same camera and structures for cabling as the older CCTV analog systems, but the old VCRs have been replaced with DVR for storage of the data. The data is converted to digital so that it can be stored on hard disks, but the quality of the images captured remains analog since this is how it originated.
When shopping for a system, be sure to ask if the system is digital based on the recording (DVR) or on the camera, since many manufacturers consider a system digital by virtue of the DVR storage system even if the camera recording the images is still analog.
Analog is going by the wayside and IP is taking its place a leader in the market. Old Analog cameras used to have all the options, such as very low operating temperatures, multiple lens options etc... however in the last 5 years IP Netowrk cameras have come along way!
Going all the way
Some people will move to the hybrid models of a CCTV/DVR system when they first move beyond an analog system because it seems like the next practical evolutionary step in video surveillance. However, shifting to this method largely ignores how IP-based video surveillance works.
With CCTV/DVR surveillance, you have actually simply delayed the inevitable by adding on a relatively new technology (hard disk, digital storage) to an old technology (analog video over coaxial transmission lines). Rather than moving forward into something new, you have prolonged the demise of the old.
Advantages of IP-based video surveillance
The leap into completely IP-based technology is the best bang for your buck both monetarily and in terms of security by far. Digital surveillance can be done over a LAN network, Satelitte, 3g/4g/LTE of course, but TCP/IP transmittal of surveillance makes sense for remote monitoring of multiple locations and for remote recording of data onto back-up servers and hard disks for long-term storage.
With IP-based video surveillance, you can connect your surveillance camera or cameras or networks of cameras to any network or wireless adapter, and you are extremely flexible in your placement of the camera itself. A typical PC-attached video camera, while providing digital picture image quality, still has to be within approximately 300 feet of the computer itself.
Set-up of an IP-based video system is simple, once you've configured your IP encoder / IP camera with an IP address, configured it in your (VMS) Video Management Software, you're up and running and it's extremely stable and reliable. Because this is the technology of the future, it is also upgradeable. You won't be outgrowing an IP-based video surveillance system any time soon because new developments are based on improving this market such as ONVIF compliancy allowing multiple different camera manufacturers to offer their equipment into the slip stream. Therefore, you will be able to add on and improve this system for years to come while older, CCTV+DVR hybrids will dead-end and become obsolete. The big change and fight for the top will be in the software, such as our Surlytics (VMS) Video Managemnt software which is compatible with 6000+ current IP devices and IP cameras on the market today!
A better way to understand the differences between analog and IP-based video surveillance may be to compare the two and how they work:
Analog or CCTV+DVR video surveillance
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Note: All prices in US Dollars