Over the years, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance has demonstrated its value as a security measure in a wide range of applications and environments. CCTV is most commonly used for monitoring private business premises and as a tool in tackling crime in public places, such as car parks, housing estates and town centres. Chris Davies, General Manager, D-Link UK, discusses the next evolution in video surveillance.

Historically, monitoring and surveillance applications have been served by analogue technology, so CCTV has traditionally been recorded to VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders). However, the digital age has shown up some of the flaws in the analogue predecessor. For example, analogue CCTV systems are generally maintenance intensive, offer no remote accessibility, and are renowned for being difficult to integrate with other systems. Plus tape technology has been plagued with reliability issues.

IP surveillance is based around IP camera technology. This is effectively a CCTV camera that uses the Internet Protocol (IP) to transmit image data and control signals over an Ethernet or Wireless Network. A number of cameras are typically networked and deployed alongside a Network Video Recorder (NVR) in order to create a complete record and playback system.

Recent technological advances and the move towards an increasingly online society has led to a wave of IP-based surveillance systems that bring several benefits over current CCTV solutions, which we will explore now.

Cost-effective

IP surveillance is simply an extension of the existing network infrastructure, therefore the cost of investment is minimal and migration is seamless. Many organisations are shifting to IP video systems to consolidate their network infrastructure, which helps lower total cost of ownership (TCO), realise greater value through both established and new usages, and achieve a higher return on investment (ROI).

When looking at the cabling structure involved with CCTV and IP, the Cat 5 network cabling used in IP network surveillance is a fraction of the cost of the coaxial cables required for CCTV deployments. Not only is the IP cabling less expensive but the cable runs are typically much shorter with IP video.

Cable runs with CCTV deployments can be thousands of feet because the cable from each camera must run back to the recording device, whereas IP cameras simply need to run to a nearby switch or media bridge connected to the network. Many premises already have a network infrastructure that can accommodate video in place, which limits the cabling required even more.

Remote monitoring

With regards to remote monitoring, there is no CCTV versus IP comparison, as it doesn’t exist with CCTV surveillance. IP cameras are directly connected to the Internet without the need to be attached to a PC, so the user can now see captured images from any computer or handheld device on the network?without the need and expense of additional hardware or software. Any connection to the Internet enables you to securely login from anywhere in the world to view a chosen facility or even a single camera from your surveillance system. By using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) this access can be completely secure.

This can prove to be a very efficient and cost-effective way for business-owners to monitor a number of different sites from one central location. This also provides automated, real-time event notification, which allows better analysis and a timelier decision/response to events and thus, a better chance at prevention. And, in the event of a potential incident arising, individuals can be alerted via email or text message immediately.

Scalability and flexibility

Any effective surveillance solution needs to be scalable to specific needs. A key benefit of IP surveillance is the flexibility and scalability available with its deployment. IP video can be configured to precise requirements and expansion involves simply adding additional cameras and NVR storage devices onto the network. Expanding a DVR based CCTV system involves adding cameras in batches of 16 for the proprietary DVR, as well as installing the expensive and complicated cabling for the CCTV cameras.

The majority of IP cameras now feature Power over Ethernet (PoE) functionality, meaning they can be deployed pretty much anywhere. IP surveillance also caters for wireless deployments, removing the need for cables altogether. For either indoor only or indoor-outdoor installations, using wireless rather than wired connections provides real versatility.

Moreover, the wireless network can be made completely secure, so along with the increased bandwidth available with the new WLAN standards, there is nothing lost in extending a wired Ethernet network into the realms of wireless. Only one cable is required, such as a Cat5/6 Ethernet cable to provide PoE connectivity, so very little work is required to install the camera in its recording location.

Remote recording and management

One area in which IP surveillance really demonstrates its true value is in its remote management capability, particularly in large, multi-site installations. The ability to not only view, but also record video and manage surveillance operations from any location, means that less staff, room space and storage equipment is required at each location?as is the case with CCTV. IP surveillance management can be centralised from one location with recording and playback occurring on any server around the world?offering a more cost-effective and flexible solution for businesses.

Advanced functionality

Many of the traditional analogue cameras used in CCTV deployments are basic in their functionality and lack some of the more advanced features such as digital zoom. IP surveillance offers powerful and robust digital zoom cameras and enables integration with other systems and functions such as access control, alarm systems and building management etc.

Another valuable feature of IP surveillance is image distribution. Since images are stored as regular image file types, they can be distributed in the same way as any other digital video or picture. So, for example, you might want to take snapshots of an intruder or incident and email them immediately to the police. Again, access can be made completely secure, so you can set up a secure list of viewers?for example, local police and emergency services?who can access the images remotely and securely.

As storage costs continue to fall dramatically, an IP surveillance system gives you the ability to store near unlimited images. Moreover, these images can be both easily stored and viewed off-site and easily backed up.

The future is IP

In today’s Internet world, IP surveillance is the logical successor to traditional CCTV systems. Ease of installation plus the ability to view and manage IP cameras remotely from anywhere with an Internet connection (or on local LANs/WLANs) make IP surveillance a very flexible and cost-effective solution.

IP cameras themselves have improved the resolution of images with digital zoom facilities and motion detection making the recordings both more accurate and time sensitive. Combined with NVR technology, they provide an easily managed system with near infinite storage capabilities and instant access to any stored images.

As a means of providing monitoring of any location, indoors or outdoors, from anywhere in the world, cost-effectively, IP surveillance is the logical solution now and going forward.