Security cameras have long been a way for organizations big and small to provide additional physical security. However, traditional security camera solutions can be a costly proposition, as most require professional installation, proprietary hardware/cabling, and offer only limited integration with other systems. It's even harder and more expensive to monitor remote installations from a central location.
There's a new breed of camera that uses existing infrastructure,a standard Ethernet network. These IP-based cameras also use common hardware and software for viewing images. In most cases, only a PC and web browser is required to view the picture.
Here's one potential scenario where you could leverage additional physical security for you and your customers.
We set up two IP-based cameras to monitor different locations. One camera monitored our main office space while the other watched the street in front of our office.
The office camera was hard-wired and set up to capture a constant video feed across a network. The feed was stored on a local hard drive, where it would be archived at the end of each day to a waiting DVD drive. This configuration requires more disk space than a trigger-based approach, which records images only when the camera detects movement. To save on disk space, we slowed the frame rate down to only capture one image every second. Unless you need to capture fast movement, one frame per second is probably adequate.
The second camera's job was to monitor the street in front of the office. One challenge is that there wasn't a network drop outside, which would make the camera inconvenient and expensive to install. A wireless camera solved the problem. We set up the camera to view the street and sidewalk directly in front of the office. However, we were not interested in capturing a constant video stream from this camera, so we set it up to capture video only when it detected motion, like when someone walked by or a car drove up. This trigger-based approach limits the amount of disk space needed to capture video from this camera.
Both cameras needed to be set up as securely as possible, so unauthorized users couldn't capture or view images. We only used the security methodologies supported by each camera manufacturer.
The captured video was stored to a local hard drive and then burned to a DVD drive for archival purposes.
All good implementations must start with a shopping list. Here is ours. Depending on your preference for hard-wired or wireless cameras, yours will differ.
This is how we connected it all together:
We learned several things during installation and setup. The cameras are incredibly easy to setup and configure. If you can insert a CD and assign an IP address, you can configure these cameras. A basic utility included with the cameras allow for initial IP address setup. Afterwards, a web browser can perform the bulk of the configuration through each camera's built-in web server.
We chose to use the Power-over-Ethernet kit from Intellinet for our hard-wired camera. This kit allows injection of power into the Ethernet cable and means you don't need a power receptacle physically near the camera. The technology is similar to how other vendors power remote equipment over existing Ethernet cabling. However, you need to be careful that you do not plug this cable into just any device. If you decide to take this route, you should uniquely identify "hot" cables. We used red colored cables. (Note that you will still need to get power to your wireless camera, however. Even in the best of worlds, there's got to be a wire somewhere.)
Security & Connectivity
Both cameras offered username and password security to access their configuration and images. The wireless camera also offered Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) for encryption of the data stream. As an additional measure, we used the built-in Media Access Control (MAC) address authentication in our wireless access point to prevent unauthorized access.
Even though the cameras contains their own web servers, they can both automatically push images to other servers using common protocols such as FTP. Alternatively, a remote web server could connect to the camera to pull images. And because the cameras are IP devices, a centralized server or console could pull images across the Internet or intranet from remote locations.
Recording & Archiving
The included software (and other common utilities) will only partially automate the process. Manual intervention is required to select and archive the captured video files to DVD. It should be possible with a minimum of skill to develop simple scripts that dump the files to DVD on a set schedule.
Over and above your client's existing network infrastructure and computer, the total cost to set up a single camera and DVD recorder is less than $800. Additional cameras run about $350 each, depending on the camera model. Accessories such as external housing (for outdoor use) and Power-over-Ethernet will cost extra, but could be cheaper than running power to your camera location. The total cost for our solution with both cameras was less than $1,150--quite a bit less expensive than the alternative proprietary solutions.
If you need a turnkey physical security solution and are not as concerned about cost, then a traditional proprietary solution may be for you. However, if you are willing to give up some of the robust automation that proprietary solutions offer, you gain the ability to leverage existing infrastructure, interface with existing systems and significantly lower your capital expenditure.