Selecting an Internet protocol (IP) camera can be mind-boggling. Do you need 4K, one of the highest resolutions available? What about storage? Does the camera save with the super-efficient H.264 compression algorithm, or can you store on SD memory cards?
Every specification or project will be different, and this is no time for cookie-cutter surveillance specifications. Contractors need to sit down and talk to customers about their goals. A thorough consultation begins the conversation and specification.
According to Bob Germain, director of product management, Hikvision USA, City of Industry, Calif., the required resolution and lens size are the most basic determinations.
“You need to look at the field of view that needs to be covered and what level of detail is desired, whether it is recognition level or identification level,” he said. “Based upon this, lens size and resolution can be determined.”
Resolutions for IP cameras vary from 1 megapixel (MP)/720p (1,280-by-720), 2 MP/1,080p (1,920-by-1,080), 4K/8 MP (4,096-by-2,160) to beyond.
“The rule of thumb is the larger the number, the better the image and larger the digital file size as well,” Germain said. “It is important to balance the higher image quality with network capacity and the amount of data you want to record.”
Consider options of pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) or fixed cameras. In some cases, multiple fixed cameras can cover an area more cost-effectively. However, PTZ offers better monitoring with its ability to move and zoom into an area of interest. PTZ cameras can provide a closeup or zoomed-in view based on motion detection, trip wires or intrusion-zone analytic events from the fixed cameras.
Consider if local camera recording is a good option. Recording onto an SD card of up to 128 gigabytes is common. They save bandwidth on the network and space on the recording device.
Network security should be a key consideration in IP camera selection. Ensure measures are in place to protect your customer’s network; cameras should not allow default passcodes, and they should require administrators to implement unique protected passcodes.
The ability to use the IP camera with assorted security-management systems allows for flexibility in system design. IP camera manufacturers follow Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) standards, and they foster open platform integration.
Lower prices, more features
According to Randy Miller, vice president of sales, WavestoreUSA, West Palm Springs, Fla., falling network video camera prices and advanced features are contributing to their proliferation. End-users enjoy better image quality. New analytics offer even greater forensic and business optimization tools. According to Miller, high-definition (HD), 360-degree and MP IP cameras come with their own challenges for efficient video surveillance management.
“HD, 360-degree and megapixel IP cameras generate larger video files,” he said. “In video surveillance, high resolution means high storage needs. A basic IP video surveillance solution with up to eight cameras recording continuously for a week can consume over 1 terabyte of storage.”
Electrical contractors (ECs) need to know IP terminology.
All network cameras vary in the bit rate between cameras and manufacturers. Bit rate directly drives the amount of necessary storage. Video compression encoding formats (CODECS) have a tremendous effect on bit rate, going from the highest (MJPEG) to the middle of the road (MPEG4) and the lowest (H.264).
Miller said WavestoreUSA offers technical assistance to ECs.
“Another consideration when specifying network cameras specifically involves 360-degree cameras,” he said. “Starting with the potential to reduce camera counts, 180/360 degree cameras have become an attractive option for a variety of video-surveillance installs. In addition to quality and performance, 180/360 degree cameras offer the potential of lower costs for equipment, installation, maintenance and more.”
Miller said the raw image captured by 180/360 degree cameras provides detailed video of a broad area, often allowing a single camera to replace multiple units. However, the images from a 180/360 degree camera’s fisheye lens are distorted and require dewarping technology.
“Dewarping is a processor-intensive method that makes flat, rectangular images from the original images,” he said. “You can dewarp at the camera itself; however, client/server-based dewarping is a better choice.”
Miller said client/server-based dewarping records at full resolution. Conversely, when dewarping at the camera, users must preselect the field of view, and he said there is no going back to other views.
There are many considerations in the proper selection of IP cameras. Take advantage of all of the resources and training manufacturers offer, and listen to the customer’s needs before designing the system.