Video Surveillance: 6 Must-Ask Questions

Use these questions to successfullly deploy thermal and infrared cameras

Recent years have seen significant growth in the use of a variety of video devices for outdoor surveillance and threat detection. This can be attributed to a growing realization that proactive security measures are an important part of a complete security plan, compared to only using reactive or forensic measures. This desire is complemented with the improved capabilities of today’s technologies, such as remote transmission over IP, monitoring, intelligent video analytics and the imagers that can provide usable information, day and night.

Getting usable video imagery outdoors often means you have to overcome any number of challenges. These can include shadows, reflections, sun glare, inclement weather and of course lack of light during nighttime hours.

To this last imaging challenge, historically, IR (infrared) illumination has been used to provide light that is not visible to the naked eye, but that day/night cameras are sensitive to. But now more and more people are using thermal imagers to overcome many of the imaging challenges that can plague effective video surveillance. The costs of thermal imaging have been dropping steadily, enabling a viable return on investment feasible for applications beyond traditional critical infrastructure uses and including applications as diverse as auto auctions, storage yards, construction sites, car dealerships and gated communities.

Whether you’re looking at an IR illuminated solution, a thermal imaging solution, or a combination of the two, there are a number of factors to consider if you’re going to deploy these technologies effectively. Knowing the needs of your customer and designing the installation plan to fit their needs is critical. In order to do this, you need some baseline questions answered. Here are some of questions to ask initially of the owner or end user.


1. What are the main objectives of surveillance at the customer’s site?

Is the customer looking for detection, assessment/classification or identification capability or some combination of those three basic functions? This is critical as it will determine which types of imagers—or what mix of imagers—are most able to provide a comprehensive solution, as well as the fields of view, resolution and placement of the imagers. If the customer determines that detection and general assessment is the most important function, you should be looking at thermal imagers as they maximize detection capabilities by providing greater contrast on what’s important as well as less noise and clutter, regardless of the lighting conditions. However, thermal cameras don’t provide identification capabilities like facial features or color information.

2. What is the customer trying to prevent and what are the expected costs/consequences should a breach in security happen?

This falls in line with the client’s budget expectations and the general level of security they will need at the site. They need to consider the cost of any loss of materials stolen and the potential for loss of life. What will it cost to fix the issues created and just as importantly, what will the resulting losses in revenue be from a stoppage in operations? Damage to the client’s reputation may be a consideration as well.


3. How and where will this information be processed or used? Will it be recorded for after the fact forensic and/or evidence?

Many customers will have onsite personnel to monitor their surveillance system, while others may have a centralized security operations center and still others may look to a third party central station that has the capability of remote video monitoring. If the video will be saved for evidentiary purposes, remember that thermal will not provide details necessary for identification in a court of law.

4. Are there other systems they are trying to augment? What are they and are they operational?

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