Adding Life to Analog Video Infrastructure

The working life of security devices like card readers and cameras has tended to be 10 to 15 years or more. Whether or not to replace them depends on the bigger picture context.

Q:    A security colleague of mine told me that his company is not just keeping their analog cameras, they are buying new ones now. How can that make sense?
A:    The rest of the story is likely about two things – cybersecurity considerations and investing in video analytics.

Security Camera Bigger Picture

For companies having a significant investment in analog camera infrastructure – especially outdoors – there are many factors to consider regarding the surveillance camera deployment.

Camera Replacement Factors

Evaluating the current camera deployment includes answering the following questions:

  • Performance. Are the cameras doing the job you need them to do
  • Useful Product Life. How old are the cameras and what are the camera life expectancies?
  • Service Cost. What are the annual service costs and their trends (up, down or level)?
  • Replacement Criteria. Given the factors above, what would be the criteria to meet for a camera being a candidate for replacement?
  • Upgrade Considerations. What kinds of security operations improvements are possible through camera replacement? If secure Ethernet networking is not currently available at or near the camera location, what are the costs of implementing a secure network connection versus reusing the existing coax cable? Are wireless network cameras an option?

Camera Security ROI Improvements

Analog cameras that are performing satisfactorily may have their security return on investment increased by the addition of video analytics – depending on the activity in their field of view. Today’s machine-learning-based video analytics have very high accuracy rates and can be a force multiplier when it comes to video monitoring. Adding intelligent motion detection to cameras so that alarms and alerts are bases on the presence of people or moving vehicles can make live video monitoring feasible where, especially for large analog camera deployments, it simply wasn’t possible.

It’s usually a simple matter to add video encoders at the points of analog video recording using either single-camera encoder devices or rack-mount video encoder appliances such as the Axis Communications Q7920 rack-mount video encoder chassis that can hold up to 14 hot-swappable multi-camera encoder cards, with a total capacity of 84 analog cameras. In terms of key functionality, encoders turn analog cameras into intelligent network cameras at a significantly lower cost than camera and cable infrastructure replacement.   

High-Definition Analog Cameras

High-definition analog cameras (such as 1080p, 3MP, 5MP, and 8MP) exist because coax cable is capable of carrying much more video signal than is needed by a single security video camera. Only now does electronic technology now exist to take advantage of that fact. Several cameras based on one format, HD-TVI, support Power over Coax (PoC), eliminating the need for separately provisioning power at the camera. There are also PTZ camera models available.

HD analog cameras enable improving the video views at critical locations using higher definition video. The cost of a good HD 1080p analog camera can be as low as $50, a cost lower than an IP camera because. The low cost is possible because, unlike an IP camera, HD analog cameras are not embedded computing devices with a built-in web server. Furthermore, analog cameras transmitting over coax don’t have the cyber vulnerabilities that networked IP cameras have. This can be a significant factor in wide-area outdoor video security deployments.

Reuse of Existing Coax Cable

Reuse of existing coax cable for analog camera upgrades is feasible in most, but not all, analog camera deployments. Specifics regarding coax cable reuse are included in a best practices guide published by Eagle Eye Networks, titled, Analog Video to Cloud, available at: In particular, the detailed checklist for camera acceptability review will help ensure that the intended end results of an analog video improvement project are achieved. The guidance in the paper will help you avoid the common pitfalls that project involving video coax cable reuse have encountered.

Existing Video Coverage Landscape

For most medium and large organizations, security video system infrastructure has been acquired site by site over the past decade or more, resulting in a mix of camera fields of view selected based on earlier technology limitations rather than what’s best for the risks being addressed. Furthermore, facility physical security risks and related corporate liabilities have increased, resulting in video coverage shortcomings.

An assessment of current video coverage should consider these factors:

  • Are enough cameras in enough places to detect and document potential situations of security concern?
  • Are the camera fields of view acceptable?
  • Is the detail in each camera image sufficient for the purposes of the camera, such as activity detection, person or object recognition, and a person or vehicle identification?

If camera coverage is insufficient, adding video analytics won’t fix the existing camera deployment shortcomings.

About the author:Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities ( In 2018 IFSEC Global listed Ray as #12 in the world’s Top 30 Security Thought Leaders.He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insightsavailable on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is a Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (SEC) and an active member of the ASIS communities for Physical Security and IT Security. Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.

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