IP security: a win-win for end users and installers

Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc.

A look at the rise in IP security, the advantages of digital technology and the opportunity it offers to network installers.

Increasingly CCTV systems have moved from analogue to digital transmission and IP security systems offer greater control, management flexibility and storage options. This article reviews the dramatic growth in IP security focusing on CCTV and IP cameras to illustrate the benefits to both end users and installers.

Technology advancements

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of IP security it is worth taking a short historical view of CCTV systems to understand how far technology has advanced.

It is claimed that the use of the first CCTV system was recorded in 1942 in Germany by Siemens AG. This was followed in the US in 1949 as they launched the first commercial CCTV system called Vericon. These early systems didn’t have the ability to record images and so required constant monitoring. Obviously this was very labour-intensive so recording systems were developed sometime later but these were pretty basic using magnetic tape technology which still required manual operation and management. As a result of this somewhat primitive technology the use of video surveillance was very limited. The major breakthrough came in the 1970’s with VCR technology, which had the ability to record and erase data. In 1984 the first digital video recorder was produced by Dallmeier.

CMS CCTV Control Panel for NCN - Dec 2013

The UK started trialling CCTV systems in the 1970’s and 1980’s primarily for crime prevention and is now considered a “super user” of CCTV cameras with claims that the average person is seen by 70 CCTV cameras on a typical day.

The global political environment has acted as a catalyst for the exponential growth in the use of video surveillance and alongside government institutions many commercial organisations have deployed more sophisticated systems as a standard element of their building infrastructure.

CCTV cameras in focus

Analogue cameras were the original CCTV camera and can record straight to a VCR. The image capture rate is quite low and the resulting images can be relatively poor quality and not always sufficient for securing convictions for crimes. Analogue signals can be converted to a digital signal which enables the recordings to be stored on a PC or Digital Video recorder. In this application the camera must be plugged directly into a video capture card in the computer and this converts the analogue signal to digital. The cards are inexpensive, but the digital signals are compressed which can compromise their quality.CMS DF4920HD-IR for NCN article - Dec 2013

IP and IP-enabled CCTV cameras offer a number of advantages over analogue units including wider distribution and use of video images, ease of installation and lower maintenance costs combined with the ability to install these cameras on existing Ethernet cabling systems.

IP cameras are available in 2 formats

1)      Centralised IP cameras, which require a central Network Video Recorder to handle the recording, video and alarm management

2)      Decentralised IP cameras, which do not require a central video recorder as they have a built in recording function and can record directly to local storage media such as flash drives, hard disc drives and standard network attached storage devices

The first centralised IP camera was launched in 1996 and was followed shortly after by the decentralised camera in 1999.

Most recently the introduction of High Definition megapixel IP CCTV cameras and associated recording devices, have been a major watershed in the industry in terms of the quality of images being produced, which have a dramatic impact on the ability to identify suspects and achieve successful convictions.

IPSec Network Security Standards

IPSec is a series of open standards that provide security for the transmission of sensitive information over unprotected networks such as the Internet. IPSec network protocols support the encryption and authentication of data packets, and operates at level 3 of the OSI layer.

The combination of the IPSec protocol and development of IP Cameras has revolutionised the way in which video surveillance can be deployed and the ability to implement a security solution on the traditional network infrastructure has, undoubtedly increased its adoption in commercial organisations.

Advantages of IP security systems

If we examine IP security in the context of CCTV and video surveillance, we can see it offers a number of benefits.

Use of infrastructure

By adopting IP security, all security devices can be connected via the existing cabling infrastructure, negating the need for additional proprietary cabling.

Management

By deploying IP cameras on the network, management of security is centralised as part of the overall network management process. By using internet and Ethernet connections, network or estate managers can check security remotely using a laptop. This saves on the time and expense of travelling to specific location. Equally all information about security can be interrogated via a central control point, such as a control room. This can result in manpower cost savings through centralised control.

Flexibility and scalability

Using the existing network and cabling infrastructure allows a high degree of flexibility and scalability. IP cameras can be easily added or relocated without any disruption to the network. Obviously the cabling infrastructure will need to build in some buffer to accommodate this, but this is standard practice in most network installations.

Centralised storage

The latest decentralised IP-based CCTV cameras can support the recording of images and data directly to network attached storage devices.  This means network managers can utilise storage devices to their best advantage. It is of course still possible to have a dedicated storage device to capture this information, and this decision will lie with the network manager.

Camera control

Transmission of commands for pan, tilt and zoom can be conducted via a single network cable. Equally, two-way audio can be transmitted via a network cable. Examples of this are in retail applications such as petrol stations where the sales clerk can provide instructions to the customer at the petrol pump.

Wireless Network capability

IP cameras can function on a wireless network.

Of course if the CCTV system is going to be deployed over an existing cabling system it will use resources. A typical CCTV camera with resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and 10 frames per seconds in MJPEG model with require about 3 Mbits/s from the network. In addition, provision will need to be made for storage of video data and whether to use a dedicated or shared storage device. Network managers will also need to build in a redundancy path for the CCTV system in the event of a failure.

For a new build project adequate planning and provisioning for the incorporation of the CCTV system on the network is fairly straightforward and the plans should address all the aforementioned issues. When CCTV systems are added after the original cabling system has been installed, careful attention will need to be paid to the additional demands the CCTV system is placing on the network.

Opportunities for installers

The advent of the IPSec protocol and the development of IP cameras has effectively opened up an additional revenue stream opportunity for installers. It makes sense for them to install the systems as part of a network cabling installation, or indeed as an addition to an existing cabling infrastructure. Obviously installers interested in this new opportunity will need to invest the necessary resources gain an understanding of the products available on the marketplace, how to integrate CCTV products into the network and the capacity planning and budgeting that need to be undertaken as part of their deployment.

Summary

The world of CCTV cameras have seen dramatic technological advancements over a relatively short period of time. Camera capabilities and performance have advanced significantly. It is however the development of the IP security protocols that have facilitated the adoption of IP cameras as part of a standard network installation, and this has removed a barrier, de-mystifying the technology and making it more accessible to end users. For installers this is a great opportunity to maximise their revenues from customers by integrating the security offering as part and parcel of their standard service.