What you need to know about video surveillance

November 2009

Video surveillance is a great boost to your home’s security. Here are a few tips on selecting the optimal solution.

Analogue or IP?
Before setting up a video security system, home-owners must decide whether they want to use an analogue system (using a video screen and cameras, no Internet) or an IP system (an Internet protocol used for transmitting data over a network).
While the IP route is the more expensive of the two, it is definitely the favourable option, and actually works out to be a more cost effective option in the long term.
An analogue system can connect to a DVR (digital video recorder) which can be used in conjunction with the Internet. An IP camera can be connected to an NVR (network video recorder) which is powerful because it enables you to view anything from anywhere.
IP-based video surveillance has improved the effectiveness of video security by leaps and bounds over the analogue CCTV equipment we have grown so accustomed to over the years. Today’s IP video surveillance solutions use an IP network, rather than complicated cabling setups, as the backbone for delivering information.
IP video technology provides flexible, scalable, and cost-effective surveillance solutions, with flexible installation and improved storage solutions. Because IP cameras capture and send video footage over an IP network, users can view, record, store, and manage their video surveillance images either locally or remotely over the network infrastructure. The camera can be placed wherever there is an IP network connection. It has its own IP address and does not require a connection to a PC in order to operate.
Along with streaming video footage, network cameras can include a number of additional functionalities, such as pan/tilt/zoom operation, motion detection, audio surveillance, integration with alarms and other security systems, automated alerts, intelligent video analytics, and more. IP cameras offer higher-quality images and new cameras can be added to the network at any time.
Recording and live monitoring tips
Remote video monitoring
With an IP-based surveillance system, network cameras can capture and transmit high-quality video images over any IP network or the Internet, where the footage can be viewed remotely using either a computer or cellphone. Additionally, the recorded surveillance footage can be stored at remote locations.
Monitoring with IP video software
Video management software gives users much more flexibility when it comes to viewing and managing their network camera systems. Video management solutions provide tools for simultaneous monitoring of multiple cameras, event management functions, alarm notification, recording, and more. IP video software solutions range from basic programs designed for individual users, to advanced solutions that allow multiple users to access an IP camera system simultaneously from different locations.
Network video recording (NVR)
Video management software is a key component of any video surveillance solution. It is the software that provides the tools for monitoring and analysing surveillance footage, as well as recording. While a standard web browser often allows for remote viewing, dedicated video management software is required for viewing and managing multiple cameras at once.
Choose pre- and post-recording
It is a known fact that an operator can only watch a camera and a site for plus/minus 20 minutes. It is far more beneficial to set the camera to recognise the necessary triggers to set off the recording device. It saves hours of useless unwanted footage.
3 points about video surveillance management
1. Use cameras that provide managed remote access: you really want to avoid setting up remote viewing yourself. Not only is it time consuming, it is likely that you will not get it to work effectively or that it will stop working after a few months. Remote viewing over the Internet costs around R99 a month to host your site but at least you can go into your home and see what is going on at any time.
2. Because network cameras transmit data digitally over an IP network, new security horizons have opened thanks to private video management. Users can access their cameras from anywhere using a standard Web browser, and are provided with advanced tools for monitoring and recording with IP video management software.
3. A good home video system is not designed to determine the finer detail of an intruder; it must define if the movement is from a person or an animal. It is just not feasible for home video cameras to zoom in for detail, they must serve rather as a warning mechanism, for homeowners to take action.
Other need-to-know facts
Lighting is vital and should be linked to a sensor, so that if someone is walking around a light will automatically go on. And the camera must be suitably placed to best optimise this light for recording purposes.
The lower the light level, the more sensitive the camera. Most cheap cameras operate poorly in low light. The cheapest way to handle this is for the camera to have a ring of IR illuminators around the lens. As a rule of thumb it is important to have as much light as possible.
Voice/sound facility
This is a powerful feature due to its ability to record sound. If you are sitting watching TV your panel can alert you to a problem in the kitchen zone. Equally, if you are not at home, you can dial into the panel and hear what is going on in your home. There is also the option of a pre-recorded voice or sound which you can tailor-make to trigger should an intruder walk into your home.
Integration with an intrusion panel
Make sure your video device integrates with your intrusion panel. Traditionally, intrusion panels have been used purely to monitor the perimeter and inside of your home. Visonic has moved away from this by integrating the whole home into the panel. This would therefore ensure that all CCTV is covered, home care and old people with medication problems can be monitored, as can babies. Fire and gas prevention can also be linked into the panel, as can your home automation ie, it can be set to put lights on, open gates.
Privacy and security are important factors; homeowners want to know that no one can tap into their video feeds. With IP network cameras, protecting your files from unauthorised viewing and tampering is ensured because the network camera encrypts the surveillance video before sending it over the network. This helps to ensure that only authorised viewers can access the camera feeds. Most systems also include password protection and different levels of authentication.

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