Covert “007” techniques are possible

James Bond, watch out! Now, many of the techniques employed by the action adventure hero turned cultural icon are possible—especially when it comes to closed-circuit television surveillance (CCTV). CCTV is one of the fastest growing product segments in the industry. Even in this sluggish economy, CCTV offers promise.

According to dealers and integrators queried as part of the annual Forecast Survey by Security Distributing & Marketing magazine, a BNP publication based in Bensenville, Ill., one of the strong market niches that its dealers focused on in 2002 was CCTV, because of current and anticipated growth. Many of these companies, according to the report, gained a substantial amount of their revenue from surveillance and integrated systems, away from traditional burglar alarm installations.

There are many reasons for its popularity, including greater emphasis on personal security, technological innovation and lower cost. But the bottom line is that overall, surveillance works well, both as a deterrent and to provide evidence when necessary.

Near-dark surveillance

Low-light or near-dark applications are the best testing grounds for today’s sophisticated CCTV products. Couple that with a vandal-proof dome enclosure and software-controlled pan-tilt-zoom functions, and you’re James Bond.

Now, with microprocessor innovation and other refinements and developments, some software-based CCTV can satisfy a variety of scenarios.

First, color cameras with infrared illuminators are not advisable because of interference in transmission wavelengths, said David Liu, owner and marketing director of Bolide International Corporation, City of Industry, Calif. “Second, no camera can see in the dark; there has to be some form of illumination. Cameras are designed for indoor or outdoor applications, so where you’re installing them really does matter. Finally, the amount and varying levels of light available at the scene are crucial.”

Microprocessor developments that allow for cameras to switch between day- and night-vision capabilities in one unit; and infrared illuminators, either built into the cameras or used separately to illuminate the scene, provide reliable recording and surveillance images in low-light levels.

Some illuminators are capable of lighting images in the very lowest of light levels, also referred to as “lux.” New camera products on the market also have “super fast” lenses that enable them to capture quality images in low light levels. Resolutions are no problem—around 470 lines in 0 lux. The F/1.0 aperture lens introduced by Tamron of Commack, N.Y., effectively lets in twice as much light as a standard F/1.4. In addition, manufacturers are releasing illuminators based on 24VAC, rather than 110V of power previously required by many of these units, said Liu.

All in one

The strong emergence of combination day/night cameras is taking the industry by storm, and reducing the need to use two different cameras in some applications, making them more affordable in the long run.

With these cameras, there’s no longer the need for two different units in tricky light locations—a day (color) and a night (black and white). The camera can switch automatically between the color mode for daytime use and a more sensitive monochrome for nighttime viewing at a light level generally switch-selectable by the user.

As a result, one camera provides round-the-clock surveillance, reducing equipment costs and maintenance costs, according to Scott Jolma, GE Interlogix Kalatel product manager, Corvallis, Ore.

For users of dome enclosures for outdoor applications or pan-tilt-zoom, you’ll cut the number of those needed, too. And, by being able to produce clear images in low light, your customers can also save the expense of installing additional lighting.

According to Video Security Specialists in Burbank, Calif., color cameras may require a higher level of lighting than black and white. Here are some other tips to make the most of your next low-light surveillance system.

- To select the proper lighting, consider the scene, its colors, surfaces, materials and the reflective and available levels of light, determining the minimum lighting level that the camera will need to operate properly.

- A scene or target can be illuminated by natural or artificial light sources. Artificial sources include incandescent, sodium, fluorescent, infrared and other man-made lights and, of course, infrared illuminators.

- The better the light, the better the picture.

- In near dark or low light levels, you can deploy CCTV successfully, with a little help from new technology. EC

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.