Network cameras, or IP Cameras, are the latest trend in surveillance technology and are rapidly surpassing the older analog cameras used in most surveillance systems. Why? Because IP cameras use digital imaging and network communications to send video footage straight to your computer from any location. That means you can set up cameras anywhere you please-literally, anywhere in the world-and monitor the area or areas from the comfort of your own computer at any time.
How Do Network Surveillance Cameras Work?
An IP camera is basically a computer that takes pictures. Each camera has its own Ethernet connection chip, CPU, memory, and input/output interfaces, so it's essentially a fully functional part of the network. Once the network camera captures an image, its sensor converts the image to digital format and sends it via Ethernet to a remote network computer, where authorized users can view, store, and manage the video footage. The camera's CPU and I/O interfaces make it programmable and bi-directional, so you can send commands and information as well as receive images.
Benefits and Features
As an integrated security system, IP cameras are cost-effective, convenient, and capable. Because network cameras come with most of the necessary equipment built in, they cost less to install, run, and maintain-no expensive cabling, no complex infrastructure, and if you've already got a communications network going, you just configure it to your existing system. The lack of extra cables also means you can position cameras as far away as you want without compromising the image quality-you get the same caliber picture wherever you put the camera.
Network cameras also have many advanced security features. You can opt for motion sensors, integrated audio, and on day/night cameras, removable infrared filters for sharper colors by day and clear black-and-white footage by night. Encrypted signals allow for secure communication, and I/O ports enable you to directly control the camera's pan/tilt/zoom capabilities, monitor alarms, program the camera to activate lights or locks if someone triggers those alarms, or even speak through the camera, intercom-style. You can also program the camera to operate selectively, telling it when to turn on, which information to send, and to whom.
Network Cameras vs. Analog Cameras
Network cameras have several advantages over analog cameras. First of all, as mentioned before, they require less equipment and excess wiring-especially if you want to include audio-and are therefore more convenient and less expensive to install and maintain. Second, because they connect via Ethernet, they draw less power and cost less to run. Performance-wise, they're more versatile and offer more features than uni-directional analog cameras. They also provide higher-resolution images that are better suited to computer viewing. While the network camera itself may be more expensive than an analog camera, you save more on energy, maintenance, and peripheral equipment in the long run.
The good news is, if you already have analog cameras, it's not hard to switch them to an IP system. You can use a network video server to convert the signals from analog to digital, and for recording purposes, you can use a network video recorder that does the same. Although the image quality isn't as good this way (it deteriorates every time you convert the signal), it means you can still use your old cameras to take advantage of IP surveillance technology. At the end of the day, you want the most efficient, cost-effective surveillance system you can find. In our digital world, IP cameras can play a valuable role in the modern security system. Consider the available options, consider the cost and the quality, and then make a decision that suits your security needs.