Surveillance cameras grow in use, sophistication

Video cameras are one of the most widely used surveillance devices, with an estimated 30 million in use in the U.S. today. Advances in technology and decreasing costs are encouraging more businesses to consider video surveillance to secure their assets – both infrastructure and employees – and provide business intelligence.

Art Rosenberger, president of Shield Security Systems of Lehigh Valley in Zionsville, said he always asks new customers why they’re considering video surveillance. He said most often it’s related to liability and evidence, and some companies are concerned about retail and employee theft.

“If someone is injured on your property – whether it’s an employee, customer, or vendor – a surveillance camera can capture the incident and provide evidence,” Rosenberger said.

Rosenberger said there are still some companies that hire people to sit in front of monitors watching a live feed; however, because video can now be accessed anywhere, companies are less apt to spend the money to hire someone for that purpose.

A video revolution

Internet protocol cameras revolutionized the video surveillance industry. An IP camera is a digital video camera that receives control data and sends image data via the internet. All an IP camera requires to work is a local area network.

By the early 2000s major surveillance camera companies such as Samsung, Sony and Panasonic introduced high performance, megapixel IP cameras. By 2014, there were more IP cameras sold than analog surveillance cameras.

Since the introduction of IP cameras, more and more companies are transitioning from analog to IP cameras. Experts estimate the current market at about 80 percent analog and 20 percent IP; however, most believe that IP will eventually replace analog, just as CDs replaced cassette tapes and DVDs replaced videotapes.

Scott Schaeffer, president and CEO of HiTech Security Alarms Inc. in Easton, said video surveillance provides visual verification of recorded and live events, while dated and time-stamped recordings provide authorities with valuable information that could be used in a court of law.

IP cameras have other advantages, according to Rosenberger and Schaeffer:

  • Ease of Installation – An analog camera requires a power cable and a digital video recorder, or DVR, cable; whereas, an IP camera only needs one cable for both power and network connection, so installation is not tied to power outlets. Rosenberger said if a business already has an analog system in place, the existing infrastructure can be used to switch to high-definition.
  • Clear Images – One of the most significant advantages of IP over analog cameras is a clearer image. A 2.1 megapixel IP camera can capture more than four times the resolution of the best analog camera.
  • Video Analytics – IP cameras have many of the capabilities of a small computer, including a variety of analytics that can be used for motion detection, facial recognition, license plate reading, and more.

Video surveillance cameras today offer a number of advanced features that also appeal to business owners:

  • A PTZ – or pan, tilt and zoom – camera can swivel left to right, tilt up and down, and zoom in or out.
  • Thermographic or infrared cameras use infrared radiation to improve visibility in dark environments.
  • Video content analysis can automatically analyze video to determine unique situations including intrusion detection, abandoned object detection, people count, and loitering detection. It can trigger alarms or send emails or photos to a server. Schaeffer said it’s possible to create triplines, zones or squares to get notification within seconds of an event.

A few cautions

Rosenberger said it’s important to use discretion when installing cameras, for example, by not using cameras in bathrooms or other private areas. He also said in Pennsylvania, the majority of audio with video surveillance is illegal, although in some cases it can be a gray area.

Wi-Fi enabled cameras also can slow down a network. Schaeffer said the installation of security cameras is important, but it’s also important to stay up with technology such as firmware updates to protect networks against cyber attacks and hacking. He also said Wi-Fi enabled cameras need a good line of sight, which rain and snow can limit.

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