Camera systems have become a routine and necessary part of a company’s security for protection from thieves, vendors and employees. Designed and installed correctly they can help to deter crime, vandalism, identify different types of activity and aid in training and proper work flow and other behaviors. While camera technologies have evolved, they also require a proper understanding of how they capture video and transmit and store the information. When purchasing a system, it is important to understand the objective so as to provide a system that meets the goals and expectations of the organization. In addition to making sure cameras are NDAA compliant, setting up a separate network is one of the key factors that can decrease the chance of being hacked or compromised through the cameras and improve overall functionality of the system.
Like all technology, cameras have improved drastically over the years in their ability to capture better pictures, potentially identify specific people, animals or vehicles. Internet Protocol (IP) cameras have become the standard to achieve the best performance. When choosing cameras for a business the first question should be what you are trying to observe and where the key areas are. It may be entry doors, a parking lot, warehouse space, an assembly line or a server room. Cameras are not a “one size fits all” and taking the time to understand the differences in cameras is critical. Typically, IP cameras will be described by the style of camera which includes turret or vandal dome cameras, bullet cameras and PTZ cameras (pan, tilt zoom). There are also thermal imaging cameras which detects and measures the infrared energy of objects and converts it into an electronic image. Next, the lens will be rated by the number of megapixels (MP) such as 2MP, 4MP, 8MP (or 4K). A common misconception is that the higher the mega pixels, the better the camera – for any application. In reality you need to understand and define what role the camera will play.
When designing the system some questions and considerations are do you need to monitor persons on the property and if so, do you need face recognition and/or specific object recognition. What is the traffic flow, and is license plate recognition critical to capture. When specifying cameras it is important to understand that more megapixels does not always mean it is the better choice for a location. Just because you purchase a 4K camera does not mean it will function any better than a lower resolution camera such as a 2meg. There are many factors that affect this such as the amount of light where the object is relative to the focus and the speed at which the object of concern may be moving. For instance, a camera at a door is looking a short distance and is focused on a small area typically with little movement. A 2 MP camera in many instances is the perfect camera for this application. A camera that covers a parking lot may require a 5 MP or higher to focus on a longer distance while providing a clearer image with moving objects such as a person walking. Next, determine the style needed for the application. A turret dome camera can have a 360-degree field of view and the lens can be adjusted for a specific field of vision. A turret vandal dome cameras has the same capabilities but is in a housing with higher security features. Finally, a bullet camera can be directed for a long distance at a specific area
Security of the network and limiting the amount of bandwidth on the network should also be of utmost concern. Is the equipment NDAA compliant, are the cameras best to be on their own network, is the data encrypted, can the network support the data across the network, can the WAN support the camera network as well as other concerns. For instance, if you were to purchase 32 4K cameras set at 32 frames will the NVR support that bandwidth? Do you have the proper amount of storage space? Can you achieve the objectives with lower resolution cameras thus reducing bandwidth, processing and storage requirements as this will save a significant amount of money to the end user while providing a system that still meets all of the objectives.
Once the initial design has been done, understanding which areas need to be monitored – and the distance they will be viewing, it is critical to understand the bandwidth they will draw and how to set up the network. In particular, the network is something that should be given top priority to decrease the security risk since these cameras utilize a LAN network. Setting up a separate network is highly beneficial in that it tightens the overall security of the cameras in that it offers less risk to them being hacked as part of an overall network. If there is an issue or problem with the camera recording, or speed it is easier to identify any issue since it is a closed network. It is not uncommon to hear about businesses being breached through a seemingly harmless device, such as smart thermostat or lighting system which opens up the entire network to the hacker. By taking the cameras out of this network it reduces this threat of cameras being a conduit to a network and the cameras themselves being compromised or viewed.
Taking the time to understand the types of cameras, what they are supposed to capture, the lighting at night and the bandwidth draw are all critical elements of an effective system. Additionally, putting the cameras on their own network will not only improve the functionality of the system but will provide another layer of critical security in protecting potential breaches. The most effective systems are those that have been carefully thought out and executed.