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The Surveillance Migration

By Deborah L. O’Mara | Dec 15, 2016
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There is no doubt that video surveillance cameras are a critical, indispensable part of security at the customer’s protected premises. They can provide general security and assist with human resources functions when integrated with access control. The mere presence of cameras provides a high level of crime prevention, and they can be used for safety, liability and business process improvement. 


Snapshot of the market


According to IHS Markit, Englewood, Colo., internet protocol (IP) network cameras accounted for 53 percent of all security cameras shipped in 2015. In addition, research indicates a rapid transition from standard-definition analog cameras to high-definition (HD) closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. HD cameras use coaxial cabling, so contractors can make use of existing infrastructure. IHS reports that, in 2016 for the first time, more HD CCTV cameras will ship globally than standard-definition, analog cameras.


For customers with analog/nondigital cameras, and no budget to replace those devices, there are some solid and attainable strategies for still achieving the advantages of high-resolution network cameras, according to Charles McCready, senior product specialist, Panasonic Security, Newark, N.J. 


McCready said there are simple ways low-voltage contractors can migrate to IP video without totally ripping and replacing the current infrastructure and surveillance. He added that about 15–20 percent of customers still want or have a need for analog.


“Certain customers are very happy with the performance they get with an analog system and won’t necessarily update just because there’s something new,” he said.


When ready to migrate, McCready said the simplest way to convert to IP is with a video encoder, which changes analog video into an IP stream.


“Encoders have become a little smaller over the past few years and enable small or medium-sized businesses to migrate to IP over time or as budget allows,” he said. “Generally speaking, encoders consume lower bandwidth and successfully convert analog to IP without impacting network performance. For customers that are happy with the quality of the video from their analog system, encoders are cost-effective because they leverage the existing coaxial cabling infrastructure found in older buildings. This allows users to enjoy the benefits of higher megapixel IP cameras without bearing the cost of a completely new system.”


It’s more than cameras


Any change in systems solutions always necessitates a close consultation about technology with the client. McCready said, one of the most important questions to answer before embarking on a migration strategy is “What is the goal?”


“Even legacy systems have a life cycle, so businesses need to first determine if they want to make an analog system work in an IP world, or take the leap and make the investment in a total IP solution,” he said. “This will help determine whether a business stays with the current system—perhaps with incremental investments and a phased approach—or migrates to a new system that includes new cameras, switches, cabling, recording and management software. It’s more than just a camera to consider.”


Still, it’s important to remember that an analog system may not be a viable, long-term solution for most customers.


“That being said, if a customer has an existing analog system and wants to, for example, add a mix or hybrid of 10 IP cameras, they can do that without a major investment, but it would require installing an encoder to the analog cameras and updating the recording solution to a network video recorder or video management system software,” McCready said. “For new installs and larger systems, IP is the gold standard. New buildings and structures usually will choose IP because of the performance, ease of management, and infinitely more choices in terms of form factor and resolution from 720p all the way to 4K.”


There’s good reason that IP presents a gold standard. With the new suite of advanced technologies in cameras, such as analytics, a wealth of information, data and business intelligence can be gathered to assist customer’s operations. This can be used as productivity checks, with smartphone apps allowing business owners to look in on employees and check their status on the job. IP-networked cameras can also be used for these functions:


• In safety applications to protect against slip and fall reports, on-the-job injuries or other potential liability claims—cameras provide visual evidence and a dose of deterrence.


• Keep track of warehouse operations and goods to yield a measure of security and safeguard against internal theft or a production process gone awry.


• Use video integrated with access control in human resources functions to ascertain when employees come to work or when they visit the premises after hours or during holidays.


• Video cameras can also be used for businesses that do not have a receptionist to inform occupants when a visitor arrives. Deployed with motion detectors, they can sound an alert or other indicator to a smartphone or desktop, or initiate an email or text message when a visitor has entered.


• Cameras with onboard video analytics, well-suited for retail, are smart devices that may include heat mapping, a common analytic, to show the routes patrons covered in a store and dwell times at displays. They can also warn management when checkout lines have lengthened, so additional staff can assist—boosting a positive customer experience. 


Infrastructure considerations


Encoders may be a good migration path, but only if the cabling is still sound, according to Steve Surfaro, business development manager and industry liaison, Axis Communications, Phoenix.


“If a facility has a clean and organized cross-connect point, that’s where you use encoders,” he said. “The way to determine if the cabling is still good is by checking the DC resistance. It should be less than 15 ohms per 1,000, and the center conductor should be pure copper. Some of the cabling out there is copper-clad steel. If it’s copper-clad steel, it’s not worth keeping, unless you were to use the ethernet over coaxial adapters from companies like Axis or Veracity. With copper-clad steel, you don’t want to use encoders. It’s important to test the cable for impedance and capacitance before you do anything.”


Surfaro said that bandwidth, with encoders and converters, is actually a cabling issue that needs to be addressed.


“This is why infrastructures and cameras have to be upgraded,” he said. “We have higher and more complex threats occurring in security. We are relying on video surveillance for more information, like license plate recognition. LPR is very difficult to do with analog, and you can’t take advantage of any analytics with analog cameras.”


More end-users and contractors are beginning to understand that installing new cable may be the way to go.


“If they can be at or near their budget costs by making use of ethernet copper cabling, they are going to go that route,” Surfaro said. “You can carry many more cameras and you can scale the system up better with that type of infrastructure.”


Indoor coaxial cabling may still be viable, but if it is outdoor and buried and there is water damage, it’s time to do impedance and capacitance tests. 


Another challenge is cyber security. The customer’s point of connection to the network may be analog to digital video recorders (DVRs).


“That’s a very suspect connection now, and it’s guaranteed that you will have vulnerability of this recording point,” Surfaro said. “An unprotected DVR can be used in a distributed denial-of-service attack. What happens is that the device is put into a mode in which it is sending out HTTP requests many times per second. In fact, in one recent attack on a jewelry store the device was putting out 50,000 HTTP requests per second. If you flood these commands on the network, it will slow down and crash. That’s why it’s important to upgrade analog or legacy devices. It’s not necessarily the image quality, but the lack of cyber resilience in older products.”


About The Author

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 773.414.3573.

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