As with so many other areas of technology, optical fiber is making serious inroads in the traditional copper and coax segments of the new-installation business for closed-circuit television (CCTV).

In the typical installation, there are two basic connectivity issues with CCTV: video and data. While there definitely is a long-term place for traditional wire cabling, glass appears to be the wave of the future.

“I’m a big fiber advocate,” said David Damron, Philips CSI senior product specialist, Lancaster, Pa. (www.philipscsi.com). “You can have fits with copper,” he added, basing his remarks on 20-plus years of experience as a field installer.

In fact, the fiber worked so well that—when he was working in a previous job at an oil company—he almost worked himself out of a job, he said with a smile.

Working with fiber is not all a bed of roses, but that is true of any CCTV installation. “You need to have the right equipment to do the job. You have to be ready for the scenario you are going to face,” he said.

It is important to know what to expect on the job site. He recommends dispatching a truck with a wide variety of different products to meet an installation need, especially for maintenance activities.

“It is important to build some kind of consistency (of products used) in your installations,” Damron continued. His advice to “stay with the products that have been successful” makes sense from a reliability point of view, but there is more.

“Standardization helps to minimize the amount of stock you keep on your maintenance trucks,” he said. Not only does this practice simplify the inventory that a contractor needs to keep on the truck, it also makes it easier for the customer to deal with stocking spares, he noted.

Having a limited number of products means less training time for the installer. Whether it is a new job, integration of an existing system with some new components, or a repair of an older system, it pays to keep the number of variables at a minimum.

No matter how well stocked a truck, sometimes an installer has to improvise on the job. Damron said this is another reason to keep the list of products used as lean as possible. “You want to make sure that components are readily available so if something breaks on a system you can swap it out and get on with the next job.”

An additional factor is standardizing on equipment with parts that will be available locally. For installers with large regional businesses, this can vary from one city to another.

New fiber product available

Phillips CSI is known for its complete line of video cameras, AutoDomes, monitors, VCRs, multiplexers, microprocessor control switcher/controller systems, transmission systems, turnstiles, and other related surveillance equipment, along with exceptional technical service. The company currently is developing a new product that is fiber-based.

The installer needs to run power from the box to the camera, normally a local configuration. A fiber optic jumper cable with a jack is run to the main fiber backbone. “That’s all there is to it,” Damron said. “You can control it from a remote site and key in your camera parameters like focus, backlighting, and so forth.”

Digital CCTV products can be networked. Once a digital product is on fiber, it can be streamed anywhere in the world where there is a network connection. “If you are on a wide area network (WAN), you connect it just as you would an Internet camera. As long as you know the network address and have authorization to access the site, you can call up that camera,” Damron said.

Philips CSI offers bi-phase control in its applications. This is the aspect that tells cameras to pan, zoom in or out, tilt. It also sets focus.

The newest product will be a fiber dome. It will allow a customer to connect an AutoDome directly to fiber without any coaxial cable or dedicated data control lines. It hooks directly into a multimode fiber cable. The system allows transmission of data and video simultaneously through a single fiber.

“You need to be able to control the camera,” Damron pointed out. “You need to move it left and right or zoom in or out. To do that, we send out a control code to our camera system. The system recognizes these codes as bi-feed data.”

Something such as the Philips Digital Video Multiplexer/Recorder (DMX-16) can be used where high-quality multiplexed digital recording is required and economy and ease of use are desired. Live cameras can be displayed in full, sequence, quad, or multiscreen, while excellent high-quality pictures from all cameras are sent to a built-in hard disc drive. Alarm, time, date, and camera search provide instant access to critical recordings.

Either copper or fiber could be used to accomplish the same thing in the network. In the past, the argument against integrating a copper-based system with fiber has been the cost. “People don’t want the expense of fiber,” Damron said. “But fiber installations are going down as far as cost of the cable is concerned.”

He says that the cost of labor is about the same—one way or the other, the technician has to run the same amount of cable—and whether he pulls fiber, copper, or coax, the labor rate is the same.

Computer-based digital surveillance systems are reliable

Array Microsystems (www.array.com), Los Gatos, Calif., produces the VideoOne CCTV Surveillance System. It uses a PC and MPEG-1 compression to provide live multiplexed NTSC or PAL video and MPEG audio, which can be recorded and typically stored on an inexpensive 3 to 6 GB disk.

According to Kirby Kish, vice president of marketing, an available software development kit supports programmable multiway split screen display of incoming multiple camera video and audio signals. The unit will handle up to 16 NTSC cameras at once.

“VideoOne Sentry will prove to users of analog surveillance systems that computer-based digital surveillance systems are dependable and reliable,” he said. The kit includes a Sentry PCI card, video multiplexer (mux) daughter-card, and four BNC cable connector panels.

Fiber works for longer distances than copper

“The way the industry is going, people want to put things on fiber. For one thing, you can go longer distances with fiber than you can with copper,” Damron said. “For another, you don’t have the interference problems you get with copper or coax. So you are eliminating quite a few of the problems you would have with cable or wire.”

Damron notes that the use of fiber retransmitters or amplifiers has all but eliminated distance limitations from a practical point of view.

Of course, repeaters can be used on copper as well. However, Damron pointed out that, along with amplifying the signal, an electrician is also amplifying the noise and extraneous signals with co-ax. Fiber is fairly immune to such interference problems. There may be problems with the fiber filtering circuits, giving rise to some AC ripple. However, that is not really a fiber problem as much as it is a problem with the interface module between the digital lightwave and the electrical worlds.

The actual labor to install fiber optics has been simplified, another point in favor of integrating fiber with wire infrastructures. “You now can crimp fiber instead of using an epoxy connector and a portable oven,” Damron said, referring to the early method of connecting fibers. “All you need to do is strip back the material, trim to specification, and insert the fiber in the connector. A mechanical scriber cuts it off. With 30 or 40 seconds worth of polishing, you’re ready to go. The method for installing and terminating fiber has been simplified in the past few years. For an experienced person with the right equipment, it is not all that difficult.”

HARLER, a contributing editor to Electrical Contractor, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He can be reached at (440) 238-4556 or charler@compuserve.com.