When we moved to our new premises I decided to install a couple of mega-pixel CCTV cameras. Mega-pixel CCTV cameras are IP based so rather than a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) I can record the footage to my file-server. The other obvious benefit of mega-pixel CCTV cameras is image resolution but there are other benefits too.
Why Resolution is Important
Some of you may say “duuuuhhhhh” of course resolution is important but there are specific benefits when it comes to CCTV.
- Less Cameras Required – One mega-pixel camera taking a wide view can replace multiple conventional cameras.
- Identification of People – conventional CCTV cameras require a zoomed image for positive identification. Often a separate camera is focused on a doorway to achieve this. Mega-pixel cameras can achieve positive identification with a wider view, once again reducing the total number of cameras.
- Number Plate Recognition – mega-pixel cameras provide enough definition to read text and hence number plates.
- Multiple Streams – One video stream at high resolution for recording. Another at low resolution for streaming to a mobile phone.
How Many Cameras?
Traditional DVRs have a fixed number of inputs, typically 4, 8, 9, 16 or 32. With traditional DVRs adding that extra camera to cover the new room/cash-register/display-case/etc. can be a headache. For example you have a 4-channel DVR and then you need a fifth camera. You would need to buy a new DVR, probably an 8 or 9 channel system. However when you are setting up an IP camera system the video is recorded to an NVR (Network Video Recorder) or NVR software on a file-server which are much more flexible.
Rather than a fixed number of inputs an IP system works on bandwidth. Each camera uses a given amount of bandwidth; mega-pixels use more, standard definition use less. You can customise bandwidths for each camera; increase resolution and frame-rate for important cameras, decrease for non-critical cameras, only record on motion detection, etc.
What this means for you is that you can start with one camera, add more as needed and scale the system as required. Eventually you will max-out the bandwidth of your NVR and you will need to expand your system (additional servers or NVRs) to add more. However adding more bandwidth is not the same as adding more camera inputs. On a traditional DVR you would end up with a bunch of unused camera inputs. On an IP system you can utilise any spare bandwidth to increase the resolution and frame-rate of existing cameras. Then when you need another new camera you can scale some of them back again.
Standard Infrastructure for all Services – Integration
Many systems are shifting or have already shifted towards IP. Alarm systems, Access Control, Intercoms, Building Management, Home Automation, Home Entertainment to name a few. With all these systems sharing a common infrastructure the opportunity for integration is limited only by your imagination:
- Have CCTV footage send to your mobile when an alarm is triggered,
- Pop-up live video on your TV of your front door when the doorbell rings,
- Answer your Intercom when away from home via the Internet, etc.
So far all I am utilising is the ability to stream footage to my phone via the Internet. It is very basic stuff and some traditional DVRs handle this pretty well anyway however it was entertaining playing with this overseas while trying recover from jet-lag.
Investing in the Future
This is my final point for this article… IP cameras are the future. Any advances in CCTV technology will almost certainly be for IP cameras and the simple fact – as stated above – is that to take advantage of mega-pixel cameras a shift towards IP is required.
This shift is already happening, the CCTV market is tipping towards IP. More new sites are being fitted with IP systems and older sites are being upgraded as systems fail. It will probably be a while before traditional DVR systems are no longer available but if you are planning a new CCTV install, in my opinion, IP is the way to go.