The combination of infrared (IR) technology and video cameras has proven effective for military, law enforcement, aviation and scientific research applications for several decades. Up until now, cost and lack of awareness have kept IR technology from being widely used for business and home applications. In recent years, more affordable price tags, easy to use form factors and designs for almost any application have driven growth in the use of infrared products by the general public.
When looking at video surveillance options, here are some reasons why a security dealer or integrator should consider infrared cameras:
1. They are good for covert applications. IR illumination is in a frequency range beyond what the human eye registers as light. However, most video cameras are sensitive to IR light just as they are to any other type of light. Since crimes are often committed in darkness, infrared is an invaluable tool to obtain evidence on a suspect who doesn’t know they are being watched.
2. They have better light penetration. IR light penetrates atmospheric haze better than visible light. Customers in areas of the country with high humidity and pollution can experience better video quality using infrared versus normal illumination.
3. They prevent light pollution. Plenty of visible light placed around houses, yards, parking lots and driveways may boost security, but it can annoy the neighbors. IR cameras enable surveillance without adding to the ambient light levels in an area.
4. They are versatile. The day/night capability of IR cameras provides the best of both worlds, delivering vibrant color images during the day and high-resolution black-and-white images at night.
5. They conserve energy. Video cameras equipped with IR capabilities typically use light emitting diodes (LEDs) to produce infrared illumination. LEDs use 80 percent less energy than incandescent lighting (a standard light bulb), while still producing the same or higher intensity of light. Infrared cameras are usually equipped with photocells that turn IR lighting on and off, providing IR lighting only when necessary and thus boosting the LED life while reducing energy costs. LEDs last a long time in any case – between 20,000 and 25,000 hours of constant use, compared to a traditional light bulb’s life of 700 to 2,000 hours. Some cameras are equipped with advanced LEDs that last up to 100,000 hours.
6. They are resistant to vandals. Today’s IR dome cameras use clear domes of polycarbonate plastic that can withstand blows of a three-pound hammer or more. Most mounting brackets provide an enclosed channel to protect Ethernet, video and power cables and prevent them from being cut. These same mounting brackets can withstand five tons of force without breaking, making it virtually impossible to disable the camera.
7. They are ready to go right out of the box. The time and money required to install IR cameras can be dramatically less than for other types of cameras because everything needed comes in a single plug-and-play package. There is no need to purchase a separate illuminator, lens, housing, camera, extra cable and multiple power supplies. IR cameras are also typically sold with the lens pre-installed and precisely focused for infinite viewing. There is no need to install the camera into a housing, or having to cut and strip cable for the housing.
Jake Lahmann is the vice president of Technology for Supercircuits, where he’s been an integral part of the personnel for some 10 years, serving in management operations and product development. As Supercircuits’ resident expert in video security technology, he is a key contributor to product development efforts and manages the technical support function.