Networked IP systems: Why they’re better

by FM Media
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GERBEN ROMIJN, chief security officer of LevelOne, puts the case forward for IP-based network systems, explaining their benefits over traditional, cabled CCTV installations.

When it comes to choosing between a traditional, cabled closed circuit television (CCTV) installation and an IP (internet protocol)-networked system for your surveillance needs, there are many factors to suggest that an IP-based system will provide better results and flexibility in the long term, despite being more expensive to purchase upfront.
There are two types of IP cameras: the centralised camera, which requires a network video recorder (NVR) to capture and store images, and the decentralised camera, which has in-built recording functionality and can store data on a network attached storage (NAS) device, USB or remote hard drive. Both provide a much higher image resolution than CCTV cameras.

OPERATIONAL SAVINGS
While an IP camera is still relatively expensive to buy, there are savings to be had in the simple act of wiring up an installation. A traditional CCTV system needs to be cabled and hardwired to a power supply. Electrical cables cost money, holes need to be drilled into walls, and tradesmen will have to crawl through roof spaces. The cables themselves will be exposed to dust, heat and vibrations, which can compromise signal quality.
An IP camera with power-over-Ethernet (PoE) draws both power and data from the Ethernet cable, so straightaway the amount of wiring is reduced, and the typical network hazards found in a busy facility are likewise cut in half.
With IP cameras that use WiFi, each individual device has its own receiver, negating the need for cables – a central transmitter relays signals to each device. Each transmission is sent in a straight line to every endpoint, so there are no corners, no exposure to electrical disturbances or vibration and, therefore, no weak points.

HIGHER RESOLUTION
The resolution of traditional CCTV images stops at about 0.4 megapixels, whereas an IP system averages about three megapixels, with some going as high as 10 megapixels. A CCTV image can be converted to digital to achieve an HD picture resolution, but this often results in loss of image quality.
An IP system can send true HD signals over 100 metres and, by adding a switch at this point, can be extended almost indefinitely with no loss of image quality. With the bandwidth achievable by a fibre optic IP, the range can extend to several kilometres. Traditional installations are limited by the distance from the central server to each endpoint. To send a true HD signal over cables, 60 metres is about the limit before image quality starts to deteriorate.

FLEXIBILITY
If you need to expand an existing IP network, it can simply mean buying and installing new cameras. With a WiFi system, cameras can be installed and connected remotely to the controlling PC (personal computer). A CCTV installation would have to be wired up and routed to the mains power supply.
Any new extension would also be limited to the same specifications as the existing system. Different grades of cable can’t be mixed. For instance, an existing network of copper cables can’t be extended using fibre optic cables.
IP cameras can also be moved around anywhere within the network, which enhances the flexibility of an installation. In addition, IP solutions are more flexible in their consumption of power, as they can be scaled to consume as much or as little as required. CCTV cameras tend to be fixed for the life of the network, drawing the same power both day and night.

HIGH TECH ADD-ONS
The latest developments in surveillance software for IP systems also offer a range of cutting edge benefits. Look for Smart Guard and Smart Search elements in the surveillance management software, and features such as Foreign Object, which learns what should appear in front of any given camera and sounds an alert if foreign objects are detected within that space. Similarly, with the Missing Object feature, the system detects that an object that should normally appear on a camera is missing and alerts the system controller. An instant alert will sound on their phone if something goes missing from a chosen field of view at any time.
Recent software developments also provide new, more flexible ways in which a system can be monitored. Instead of being locked into the controlling PC or server, image information can now be controlled remotely from any computer attached to the network. Many vendors offer smartphone apps, which means a camera image can be surveyed from anywhere at any time. Transmissions sent via the network can be encrypted to make them secure, so a system cannot be compromised by hackers or malware.
So, while the initial purchase cost may be holding some people back, an IP surveillance system holds a number of benefits for facilities of any size.

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