In no other market has technology advanced as quickly as in digital video and closed circuit television video (CCTV) surveillance. Digital signal processing is state-of-the-art and beyond, and cameras are nearly end-to-end digital. Recording is most often tied to computer technology, with storage limited only by hard-drive space, which continues to increase.

Digital video offers myriad advantages.

Cameras yield the highest quality and clean, sharp images. Cameras are smaller and more intuitive, many lending themselves to “plug and play” operation. Covert is common, with the smallest cameras the norm.

Digitally recorded systems offer extended recording time and reduced maintenance. For the end-user, the advantages are even more pronounced, lending digital video surveillance operations to myriad applications and endless possibilities for efficient recording storage and instantaneous retrieval.

From small retail applications to large national accounts with enterprise systems, digital video technology represents the latest in surveillance, recording, storage and retrieval.

It can do so much, in a smaller package, and in areas perhaps never considered possible.

Digital video makes surveillance a snap—at your fingertips are control functions such as pan-tilt-zoom, recording and limitless options in remote monitoring. Monitoring over the Web is the here-and-now.

Need to monitor a remote location from HQ? Add another site to a networked system over a LAN or WAN? There’s virtually nothing this surveillance workhorse can’t handle, thanks in part to the Internet, phone lines, broadband and other transmission capabilities.

The beauty of digital video surveillance is its adaptability. Digital video multiplexing and recording is now often Ethernet-ready, making it perfect for many of your existing customers and applications. With an IP address, Ethernet versions make it easy to dial into a recorder and view images over the existing network.

Location is no longer a constraint; anyone with a computer and network line-of-sight to the CCTV system has access to live and recorded images. These images can be exported, saved to disk, printed or e-mailed. Cameras can also be configured to record based upon motion or activity, external alarm lines, and serial data from point-of-sale and card-reader devices. Best of all, many functions can be programmed easily at the camera or remotely via the computer.

Intranet- and Internet-based surveillance is one of the hottest trends in CCTV. Flooding the market is a plethora of cameras with built-in Web servers that attach directly to the network connection. Installers connect the camera to a network or modem, assign an IP address and view images remotely from any PC. The transmission technology in digital provides the opportunity to view and control CCTV systems not only over LANs and WANs, but virtual private networks (VPNs) as well.

Digital video is still not end-to-end digital. Analog video signals are converted to a digital format, and the digital image is then compressed, which removes redundant information and intelligently eliminates data not needed to reconstruct the original image. Compressed images stored on a hard drive can instantly recall events based on a camera number, date or time. When the digital format becomes standard from top to bottom of a CCTV system, further application possibilities will emerge.

Scalability: Small to Large

Digital technology can tailor CCTV systems to the end use. Whether it’s four, eight, 16 or 32 cameras or more, digital allows CCTV systems to be scaled to the application, and that is good news for electrical contractors who can offer these systems to large and small customers alike. Tasks such as remotely monitoring and controlling a bridge or industrial site become a reality with digitized control.

The most revolutionary effect on the networking evolution is the integration of CCTV systems with related electronic security such as access control, yielding yet another opportunity for the electrical contractor. Historically, integration between access control and video surveillance systems involved the use of interposing relays and extensive interconnecting wiring systems. In the last few years, matrix switches have evolved to an open protocol, thus providing other system designers simple integration solutions using serial RS232 or LAN/WAN (TCP/IP) interfacing.

Fully integrated digital networked surveillance systems are clearly the future. Innovative stand-alone or integrated networking solutions to connect system components and satellite systems are next. It’s all good news for the electrical contractor and customer.

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.