The rise of IP-based camera surveillance systems

By Roy Alves
By Roy Alves, regional business development manager of Axis Communications

As the cost of bandwidth goes down, the appeal of IP-based camera systems goes up for companies that require a flexible, cost-effective surveillance solution with enhanced functionalities such as remote accessibility and better scalability.

Within CCTV (closed-circuit television) surveillance images are captured and recorded on a digital video recorder (DVR), with the images being relayed through analogue cables going from the cameras to the DVR in the surveillance room. IP-based surveillance cameras store their data on more common PC storage devices by way of a wireless network or wired setup (CAT-5 network cables), thus helping businesses save on installation costs as existing network infrastructure can be repurposed for surveillance.

Unlike an analogue system, IP security cameras can be installed at any location, no matter the distance from the surveillance room housing the storage equipment and can also be easily moved from one location to the next, without any cabling needing to be replaced.

IP flexes flexibility muscles

The flexibility of the systems comes in when you notice that bandwidth can be controlled differently for each camera, with higher resolution cameras demanding greater bandwidth for instance, and hard-drive space can be shared across many systems for the recording of video. Any amount of recordings per camera can also take place simultaneously, at multiple locations for redundancy purposes, off-site storage, or even live video surveillance at service providers.

In terms of the latter, a number of institutions such as the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society provide training for deaf people to make them more employable by surveillance firms. These companies use deaf people to monitor video footage and obtain better results. This is down to the fact that the footage itself is silent and deaf monitors have additional abilities like being able to read lips and aren’t so easily distracted by the environmental noise within a monitoring centre.

Bandwidth and storage

Beyond the advantages of IP-based surveillance, there are also a number of challenges with integrating such a surveillance system, with the most prominent of these being bandwidth and storage.

Networked video solutions utilise network bandwidth and storage space based upon their configuration in terms of factors such as the number and image resolution of the cameras used, what video compression type is employed, as well as whether recording will be done on a continuous- or event-based basis.

If a company only requires a small number (8-10) of surveillance cameras, a basic 100-megabit (Mbit) network switch can be used without having to consider bandwidth limitations. When businesses implement ten or more high-quality cameras that record at high frame rates, the network load for the system should be around the 2-3 Mbit/s mark of the available network bandwidth.

Large organisations using more than 12 to 15 cameras must consider using a gigabit-supporting switch and the server that is running the video management software should also have a gigabit network adapter installed.

When it comes to storage, the type of video compression used, plays a big role in helping determine a company’s network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area network (SAN) storage requirements. On this front, the H.264 compression format is the most efficient video compression technology currently available, translating into significantly less network bandwidth and storage space required per H.264 video file. For instance, three cameras recording 30 days’ worth of footage will require about 135 GB storage space, compared to 204 GB when recording in MPEG-4 format and a whopping 1002 GB for the same setup based upon Motion JPEG video format.

In conclusion, IP-based video solutions allows video to be monitored and recorded from anywhere on the network; whether it is on a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN) like the internet. These systems have capabilities that cannot be matched by an analogue CCTV camera system such as reduced installation costs, guaranteed video quality, flexible deployment, and scalability, making IP-based surveillance the way of the future for local firms going forward.

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