A Buyers' Guide to IP Surveillance Cameras
IP network-based surveillance cameras offer enticing possibilities. But do you want full or partial IP? How much bandwidth? We'll walk you through the entire process.
By Mary Brandel
April 16, 2008 — CSO —
Network cameras for IP-based video surveillance systems have been around since 1996, when market leader Axis Communications introduced the first one to the market. These are attached directly to the network and send video to a network video recorder or to a server equipped with video management software, which stores, displays or broadcasts the images. It will be another five years, according to consultancy and research firm Gartner, before the market favors IP over analog. However, IP cameras are considered a fast-growing market; according to IMS Research, the global network video market grew 42 percent last year and is expected to reach $2.6 billion by 2010.
Experts say the reasons for analog's continued dominance center mainly around upgrade costs and a general lack of knowledge about networking technologies in many physical security departments.
Two Key Decisions in IP Surveillance Systems
When looking at your options, the first thing you need to consider is whether you should use full or partial IP.
You can still get some of the advantages of IP while maintaining your investment in analog by using encoders that convert the analog signal to one that can run over IP. Leaders in analog-to-digital systems are Pelco, the "800-pound gorilla of the analog world," according to Steve Hunt, founder of security think tank 4A International; and Bosch Security Systems, another traditional analog supplier.
According to Hunt, these systems work well but are not architected for growth. "With an IP-based system, I can use a 24-port switch to plug in anything I want on the network, but [these companies] are building their own proprietary network," he says. Full IP installations, he says, are more streamlined and efficient and require less maintenance. "They're digital from one end to another and are very reliable because there are fewer moving parts," he says.
But for North Carolina State University, analog-to-digital cameras from Pelco were the best choice for upgrading its previously diverse video surveillance system in mid-2004, according to Scott McInturf, project manager of the AllCampus Network at N.C. State. "It was the early days of IP cameras, so we felt more comfortable with analog," he says.
At the time, network cameras didn't have features like backlight compensation and a wide selection of lenses. "The advantage of using analog cameras connected to an IP encoder is we can pick any camera we want that will fill our need for lighting and environmental conditions," he says. Network cameras are fast catching up with analog in terms of breadth of features, according to analysts. N.C. State also uses purely IP-network cameras from Axis that other departments had already invested in.
Second, consider if there is enough bandwidth on the corporate backbone.
Because IP-based surveillance places new demands on existing network infrastructures, the physical security department has to work with IT to implement or even choose the best system, which means overcoming a traditional barrier between the two groups. Network cameras are "forcing these two groups together, but they're kicking and screaming and reluctant to do so," Hunt says.