Despite the proliferation of IP cameras, security buyers still have a lot of unanswered questions about these modern edge devices, such as how an IP camera works, what features are important, what is a megapixel device and why they would need one, to name a few
Here we’ll examine the considerations, key criteria and questions to keep in mind when making an IP camera investment part of your broader security network.
Let’ face it. Security systems will only continue to converge and integrate with each other and sooner than later, those still using analog cameras will eventually have to migrate over to IP. On the front end, IP cameras operate in the same way as traditional analog cameras. Video images pass through a lens and image sensor at the front of the camera. At this point in the recording process instead of preparing video images for transmission over a CCTV network, they are passed through a sophisticated circuit board or IP board, where they are translated into digital data.
Once the video images have been converted into digital data, they are compressed for efficient travel over IP wire line or wireless enterprise networks. The compressed video data then exits the camera through an Ethernet port, versus a coaxial cable port, on the back of the camera.
While many organizations choose to upgrade to full IP cameras to take advantage of their robust feature set, some have elected to keep their analog cameras in place. This doesn’t exclude them from transmitting video over an IP network. IP encoders sit on the network edge behind the analog cameras and encode and compress the analog signals into digital data. Encoders combine encoding and compression with other technologies, including video analytics and wireless transmitters and can be a cost-effective way to gradually migrate to IP video surveillance.
The makings of an IP camera
So what are some of the “robust feature” capable of IP cameras? For starters, circuit boards inside IP cameras contain software that controls the operation of the edge device. Since camera operation is software-based, operating parameters can be updated and new features added simply by uploading new software onto the camera. The same software can report on the operational status, of the device using IT standard tools like SNMP health checks and software upgrades can be performed automatically via a remote management system, significantly simplifying maintenance and reducing the burden on security and IT personnel.
In addition to simplified maintenance and management, IP cameras are integrated with other information systems. This means that IP cameras can operate based on specific rules triggered by a variety of alarms and alerts from other devices.
Sensor technology is driving an emerging trend in the IP camera market – megapixel surveillance cameras. As is typical with the introduction of any new technology, there is a lot of hype and confusion surrounding megapixel cameras. However, the value proposition is fairly straightforward. The sensor on a megapixel camera records images using more pixels, one million pixels to be precise, than typical IP cameras that only use 300,000 to 400,000 pixels. The dramatic increase in the number of pixels on the sensor results in significantly improved image quality. This technology is rapidly evolving to include 2 megapixel, 5 megapixel and even 10 or 16 megapixel cameras.
However, with increased resolution also comes an increase in the amount of data that must be transmitted across the network. For this reason, megapixel cameras are only ideally suited for certain applications. One example would be across large unmanned perimeters with unobstructed views (like outdoor parking lots).
Whatever the needs of your organization might be, there are IP cameras suited to meet a full range of requirements. These cameras represent significant investments in today’s secure organizations. And when the right cameras are chosen, the end result can be multi-faceted--from reduced total cost of ownership to decreased burdens placed on security resources.