It is a sad fact that every building owner or manager faces: Crime is an omnipresent threat.
Commercial buildings present an attractive target to criminals.
Security is usually lightly staffed, the buildings stay open late at night and they are often situated in fairly remote areas surrounded by dark parking lots.
Adding to these problems is the fact that business tenants'' offices are crammed with small, highly-valuable equipment, such as laptops, computer peripherals or cell phones, that can be easily carted off by an enterprising thief.
Vandalism to property is also not unusual, nor are other acts of violence.
To combat crime, a vast majority of building owners have installed traditional Closed Circuit Television systems or CCTV.
Generally, once a visible camera system is installed, only fools will attempt to perpetrate offenses within its field of view.
Perpetrators are often recognized and caught as a result of the images captured by a system.
In recent years, IP (Internet Protocol) networked video surveillance has become a viable alternative to CCTV''s bulky and expensive coax cables, analog interlace video cameras and time-lapse VCRs.
This is happening across a broad swath of industries at a replacement rate of 10 percent a year. Why is this?
For one, IP video surveillance systems allow authorized users to locally or remotely monitor a business using only a PC and a standard web browser or video management software — anywhere and anytime.
By simply logging into a password-protected website on a computer or other Internet-ready device, users can simultaneously view and control real-time video and record images onto hard drives for later searching and archiving.
In the long run, IP video surveillance can be more cost-efficient than CCTV.
Networking cable is less expensive than single-purpose coax cables.
A Cat-5e cable can also provide electricity to cameras through cost-saving Power over Ethernet (PoE), saving the expense of running electrical wiring.
Also, extensive user training is rarely required, nor is a separate room needed within the facility to house the video surveillance equipment.
IP network cameras have their own built-in server, so they operate as stand-alone units and require only a wired or wireless connection to an IP network.
Video Surveillance: Then And Now
Until a few years ago, video surveillance meant analog signals.
These original CCTV systems were built on a web of RG-59 coaxial cables that distributed video images from analog cameras to a dedicated monitor and timelapse VCR, sometimes complemented by a quad-board that would allow up to four cameras to be viewed on a single screen.
Analog video systems are interlaced, or made up of fields of lines, so fast movement often led to blurry action images, even when the camera was connected to a digital video recorder (DVR).
Distance was another problem. RG-59 could only carry a signal up to 750 feet, although RG-6 later extended transmission up to 1,500 feet.
Yet another issue was video storage.
Countless VCR tapes are required to store captured video on a timelapse VCR and the tapes have to be stashed away in case an incident surfaces months later.
Also, when the tapes are reused, their quality deteriorates.
With the advent of digital video, many of these problems have been solved.
Digital signals are made up of 1s and 0s, sort of a Morse code that designates the state of information.
Digital video data is stored on a server or DVR with mammoth capacities, eliminating tapes while providing pinpoint accuracy to the process of event searching.
Most importantly, digital video can be networked, enabling it to be sent over the Internet or Ethernet locally via a local area network (LAN), as well as be integrated to access control and other building systems.
An IP system also processes event handling, relay output, alert automation, motion detection and provides a variety of options such as resolutions, recording cycles and frame rates at the camera level to meet specific application needs.
Compared to CCTV, IP systems offer vastly improved image quality, higher resolution for better detail and wider coverage areas, more flexibility and an overall system design that is easier to maintain and troubleshoot.
Analog video signals transported over coax cable lack encryption or authentication.
In other words, anyone can tap into the video.
This is not the case with IP cameras.
Video is encrypted to block unauthorized viewers or hackers.
Cost vs. Value
A professional-grade IP network camera costs anywhere from $300 to $1,500, making its initial price higher than an analog CCTV camera.
Yet on a cost per channel ratio, an IP network camera is comparable with a DVR-based analog system.
Also, analog systems using pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) controls will require supplementary cabling, something not required with IP.
Because of their deployment of open and standard servers, storage and backend applications, the upfront total solution costs of installing an IP video system are lower than analog CCTV.
Most DVRs used in CCTV run on locked-in proprietary operating systems that increase long-term management and equipment costs, especially for larger installations where storage is a large share of cost.
Future costs, especially scalability, must be factored in.
Each time a DVR is added to an analog system it represents another 16-channel or more jump.
However, IP system increments may represent only a single camera at a time.
Additional cost-savings come from the IP infrastructure itself.
IP-based networks, whether they are Internet, LANs or wireless, are easily leveraged across the enterprise for non-security related data, video and voice applications.
In modern facilities where twisted pair-based networks are already installed, an IP-based video surveillance system can simply be piggybacked onto the network.
Like any other scalable network device — from printers to computers — IP cameras are plugged into the network.
Lee Muratori is the product marketing manager for Toshiba Security & IP Video Group.