Anything––and everything––is a possible subject of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance.

Better known as CCTV, video surveillance is catching on as quickly as the Internet did years ago. Prices in cameras and peripheral equipment have dropped, reliability is up, and technology advances at what seems to be light speed. Cameras are smaller and smarter. Wireless is becoming widespread, and, intranet and Internet surveillance is more common than ever.

For discreet surveillance, cameras can be disguised as clocks or even Teddy bears, functioning as nanny- or baby-cams. Cameras operate in extremely low- or no-light conditions, and have motion-activated capabilities as well.

CCTV presents a whole new world of possibilities in application and installation for the electrical contractor. Newtech ECI, Joliet, Ill., has seen its share of these installations rise.

“We use CCTV in more applications than ever before,” said Tony Smith, project manager. Some of the company’s recent CCTV jobs include a McDonald’s, an area recreation center, and a building for Joliet public housing.

The company is a National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) member and an authorized dealer for HME Electronics Inc., based in San Diego. Newtech ECI installs the VisionTech digital recording and surveillance system, which, in essence, operates as a mainframe/head end control, as opposed to using a separate multiplexer and timelapse recorder to process and record images, Smith said.

Remote surveillance

Intranet- and Internet-based surveillance is one of the hottest trends in CCTV. And, it transcends what was typically an upscale market. Sony is one of the latest companies to offer remote video. Sony On.Site collects digital video feeds from different closed-circuit cameras installed at a business location. The owner can then access live or redundant data by logging onto a special password-protected Web site.

“The service provides something every small business owner needs—the ability to be in several places at the same time,” said Ken LaMarca, director of security systems for Sony Electronics in Park Ridge, N.J. “One of the most appealing features is the elimination of the traditional videotape and timelapse video recorder.”

Also on the market are cameras with built-in Web servers that attach directly to the network connection. Installers connect the camera to a network or a modem, assign an IP address, and view images remotely from any PC.

Networking is the future of video, by all indications. AXIS Communications, a company which focuses on network connectivity and emerging wireless Internet-based services, recently introduced the 2120 Network Camera. “It lends itself to a number of new applications,” said Martin Gren, chief technology officer, AXIS Communications’ Camera Division.

“It is now affordable and easy to remotely monitor areas inside or outside a facility—for instance the main entrance or a parking lot—via the Web or an intranet.”

Gren added that network cameras have a built-in server and attach directly to the network, unlike Web cameras, which may require additional hardware or software for the connection.

Night vision

Even in the harshest environments, CCTV surveillance has what it takes to perform. Areas with poor lighting are a target for crime and often require surveillance. Manufacturers have addressed these environments with cameras that operate in low-light levels, and/or illuminators, which lighten dark areas so cameras can see and record with success.

A product from Silent Witness Enterprises Ltd., headquartered in Surrey, BC, the Puck Infrared Illuminator expands the application of cameras by allowing these devices to see in the dark. It uses 25 light-emitting diodes (LEDs), rather than halogen infrared filter technology, to cast a beam up to 40 feet.

“You can now use CCTV cameras to capture detailed images in complete darkness,” said Taryn Wagman, communications supervisor for Silent Witness. “Some of the applications include sleep laboratories, schools (inside and out), clubs/bars, jail cells, nurseries, school buses, offices, and anywhere you might need cameras for nighttime surveillance.” The Puck works with most infrared-sensitive, black-and-white cameras.

Cameras continue to move beyond the future, addressing a new range of installation possibilities. Pelco, Clovis, Calif., recently introduced the Espirit Series integrated camera positioning system with Integrated Optics Package. IOP offers an auto-focus camera and lens module with programmable features such as white balance and sharpness control. With auto focus, the picture is always sharp during pan and tilt, allowing faster recognition of subjects while tracking.
For existing or new customers, consider the addition of CCTV surveillance. It’s an easy sell, and nearly a must-have. It’s an exciting area of low voltage you won’t want to miss.

In the field and everywhere

Do you have a customer? No matter what business he or she is in, there’s probably a CCTV application. With Internet and intranet capabilities, consider some of the following potential applications:

• Construction surveillance

• Live images of weather conditions

• Ski facilities to observe specific areas

• Facility monitoring and parking lots

• Research centers and behavioral studies applications

• Live, remote feeds directly to a company’s Web site

• At home, to monitor baby, or even in an outdoor area such as the pool, as well as key entrances or exits.

• Mobile surveillance in buses, taxicabs, and limousines

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Chicago and contributing editor of security for EC Magazine. She may be reached at (773) 775-1816 or domara@flash.net.