Decoding the Digital Picture

By Laura Spadanuta

Surveillance technology has undergone a revolution in the past several years. Systems once made up of low resolution analog cameras hooked up to VCRs and monitors now consist of analog and IP cameras attached to encoders, networks, and ever-evolving digital video recorders (DVR) and network video recorders (NVR). These advances create not only great potential but also problems, including increased demands on unprepared corporate networks and unheard of bandwidth and storage needs. This overview looks at some integral aspects of video surveillance systems to help managers make more informed decisions about the system features that will best meet their needs.

 IP Video

The benefits of moving to digital networked cameras are clear, but most companies can’t afford to scrap their legacy systems. Instead, companies are creating hybrid systems by encoding the analog video to digital and sending that data over the network.

This way, “you can still have all the functionality that you have with an IP camera,” but with far fewer dollars invested, says Dilip Sarangan, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

As companies get to a point in the lifecycle of their surveillance systems where it’s time to replace equipment, they more closely assess their options in the digital arena. “You see a cycle of about every two to three years of a technology refresh,” says Brad J. Wilson, CPP, president of RFI Communications and Security Systems, which is a member of SecurityNet, a group of integrators.

Even when they buy new equipment, many companies aren’t yet ready to go digital. Only 20 percent of camera sales were IP last year, according to JP Freeman Co., with analog holding strong at 80 percent.

Many companies are hedging their bets, however, by laying the groundwork for future adoption of completely IP-based CCTV networks. Wilson says, for example, that clients have him pull Category 5 (typically used for Ethernet) cabling to cameras even if they’re not IP and will instead be using coaxial cables initially. That move prepares the networks for the eventual replacement of analog cameras. When it’s time for the switch to IP, the infrastructure will already be in place.

Another way companies transition toward digital and networked systems is to have DVRs that can record from both analog and IP cameras, concurs Bob Banerjee, IP video product marketing manager for Bosch Security Systems.



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