When most of us think of CCTV footage, a very specific image comes to mind. This image is grainy, it’s dark, the colours are off, and lines are struck through it. This image, if we’re being blunt, is terrible.
While this style of CCTV footage may still dominate real crime TV shows, over the years technology has (thankfully) moved forward. The world is going digital and ultra-connected, and surveillance tech is doing the same. This advancement is best embodied by IP security cameras.
IP stands for Internet Protocol, an anagram which hints at just a few of the major differences that these modern surveillance solutions offer when compared to those of the past. So how have IP cameras changed the CCTV game? Let’s look at the main differences between the cameras of old and the cameras of new.
How many pieces of modern day technology can you name that have been unchanged since the 50s? Presumably not many. Analogue CCTV cameras, as it happens, are one. No matter what the manufacturer may state, these cameras by definition use the NTSC video standard, a standard introduced in the 50s. That means modern day cameras are no better on resolution than those built almost 7 decades ago.
By contrast, IP security cameras are available in a range of different resolutions, all of which are far greater than those available from analogue cameras. In fact, the lowest quality IP camera – usually 1.3 Megapixels – is 4x the resolution of an analogue camera. There are cameras on the market that stretch all the way up to 30MP, allowing you to get an crystal clear view of your property, and use far less cameras in doing so. Faces become more recognisable, licence plates more readable, and intruders more catchable.
When people think modern day tech they might think of complicated equipment that requires complicated installation and even more complicated upkeep. But the truth is quite the opposite.
Analogue cameras require a separate cable to transmit video signal back to a recording device. That means that you’ll automatically need to install two cables – one for the video and another to power the unit. For PTZ cameras (those that are able to pan, tilt and zoom), yet another cable is required in order to control this function.
Most IP cameras these days are simple plug-and-play units. One cable is capable of transmitting video signal, power and PTZ functionality, and because the camera can connect to your network, you only have to link this cable to the nearest network switch rather than directly to a recording device. And with less connections to go wrong, the upkeep is also simpler.
This simplicity extends to the user experience. With more and more organisations switching to IP security camera systems there has been a strong focus on making IP software as simple and user friendly as possible.
Intuitive menus, minimalist layouts and an incredible range of functionality; if you are tech-savvy enough to use a computer or smartphone, you’ve got all the skill set required to control an IP security camera system.
For those with the right skill set, analogue transmissions are a cinch to intercept. Without any form of security over and above the casing of the cable, your CCTV footage is ripe to be stolen should someone have the want to steal it. The only way to sidestep this flaw is to install fibre optic cable – an incredibly expensive exercise.
IP cameras, on the other hand, will almost always feature encryption technology that guarantees your privacy. The signal is encrypted by the camera before being sent back to the database where it is subsequently decrypted – if the signal happens to be intercepted on the way it will be entirely unintelligible to anyone outside the system.
Analogue systems will generally make use of a coax cable in order to transmit video from a camera to a recording device. This recording device will either take the form of a VHS recorder or a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) which converts the analogue signal into a digital file. The issue with this is the recorders will always have a finite amount of ports to plug into, limiting the amount of cameras you can utilise on your property. In order to add more you need to buy another recorder.
IP security camera systems, by contrast, offer the ultimate in scalability.
Whatever your scaling needs, an IP security camera system will be able to handle it. The same cannot be said for analogue.
Proactivity or reactivity. When it comes to security, the former is far more desirable than the latter. Unfortunately analogue CCTV systems only give you the opportunity to react – a person is required to sit down and watch the footage, whether it be in real time or after the fact, and deconstruct exactly what is happening. It’s time consuming, labour intensive and inefficient. As humans we are fallible, and it only takes one slip of concentration to have an intruder slip through the net.
IP security camera systems change all that. Video Management Systems (VMS) now come with intelligent software that automatically monitors all video feeds simultaneously. The software analyses the video looking for anything dangerous or out of the ordinary. An alarm is triggered if the VMS picks up on anything, be it a dangerous area being entered, a person loitering, an object being taken or an unauthorised person being present in an area.
Let’s face it, in the world of business it always comes to cost. Do the chips stack up?
When everything is taken into account – purchasing the tech, installing it, maintaining it and using it – the total cost of ownership for an IP security camera system can be a fraction of what an analogue option can cost. Less equipment, more automation, greater functionality and higher levels of security combine to make an IP system a simple choice for modern day property owners.
When compared to the standard analogue offering, IP security cameras are nothing less than game-changing. The value, flexibility and effectiveness of IP offerings are streets ahead of anything that analogue is capable of; it’s like pitting a horse-and-cart against a modern day Mercedes Benz.
If you’re a property owner who takes security seriously, the choice is simple. It’s IP or it’s nothing.