Why do I want to use a Wireless Surveillance System?
Wireless security cameras are among the most innovative surveillance technologies on the market, combining both affordability and functionality. Closed Circuit Television or CCTV cameras have come a long way in the last decade. As the industry develops and adopts new technologies the cost of systems have dropped, while the quality has improved.
The increased performance and reliability of wireless and Wi-Fi equipment has combined with a vast improvement of video quality and general affordability. This combination has provided some very good video surveillance equipment, to be affordable to the normal person.
Unlike the more traditional coax cable connections of older systems, newer network cameras are developed on the digital platform. Video quality, and functionality is only limited only by your budget. Otherwise known as IP cameras, these digital cameras are network enabled. Some connect to your existing network in your home or business via Wi-Fi or network cables, while the more advanced units, for use as remote cameras, are able to connect to the telecommunication cellular internet network. Flexibility is the key driver in choosing to use a wireless system to protect and secure your premises.
How are Wireless CCTV Cameras being used?
Surveillance cameras and monitoring systems have a multitude of uses and adaptations. As a result there are many variations in their manufacture and design. The following are some of the common installations for wireless CCTV networks.
Nanny Cams or Spy Cameras
There are a variety of nanny cameras on the market today. Many of them are used for the monitoring of family and pets, and as is their nature, provide security surveillance as an added bonus. The majority of nanny cameras, though wireless, still require a power supply.
Many of these units are set up as a method of surveillance on the owners family while in the care of a caregiver or home alone. Elderly parents going about their daily affairs in the home could be comforted in the knowledge that they are able to be remotely monitored when a difficulty arises. Parents could also place a couple of these devices as monitors for their children in their own home, to watch them sleep and play.
Numerous reports of instances where caregivers or invited guests have been known to take advantage of the trust instilled to them. So called nanny cameras have been able to provided many the proof, or insurance, that their trust is not misplaced. Tactics employed by those that aim to deceive you and your family have resulted in the development of in home spy cameras.
If you have suspicions about the goings on in your home, the openly displayed cameras might be easily avoided by the perpetrators. Hidden cameras and surveillance cameras are now available in everyday items, from the traditional teddy bear to a wall hanging clock, allowing for more natural behaviour from the visitors.
Difficult installation / Rental Installations
There are potential advantages with a wireless cameras if an installation is just plain difficult. With older homes, apartment buildings or certain building materials access might be difficult to install a wired camera solution. Rental housing could also be an issue if the landlord is unwilling to have the building ‘damaged’ by the installation. Or you intend to move frequently and the wired system would be an expensive or difficult removal process.
Now none of these scenarios would prevent you from having the peace of mind of a secure surveillance system in your home. With wireless cameras the install could be as messy as a picture hook or installing the camera on a shelf.
Out Building Security
Running cables over large distances and in difficult terrain is both labour intensive and requires plenty of costly cabling. Outside positioning of security surveillance cameras is usually the primary set up for a good surveillance system. Covering all methods of entry into the properties buildings and the ability to monitor any activity within the perimeter of the property.
There are many choices of outdoor cameras, many of those are capable of being wireless. The ability and quality of cameras is primarily determined by the need of the surveillance required, the second is limited by the budget. Any wireless camera still has a need to be covered by a network or else it will not be able to be monitored. There are several solutions available to overcome difficulties when a distance needs to be covered. Range extenders and RF transmitters and receivers are an option for remote cameras, including cameras installed in a location several miles away.
Wireless network cameras have made the task of monitoring remote installations and points of entry so much easier. Wireless cameras are able to be connected to a network via a range extender, from several hundred feet to several miles (reportedly by a manufacturer). Some of the more ingenious remote installs I have seen is where a camera is equipped with a 3g or 4g cellular network connection internally and powered by a solar panel charging a battery. Truly remote and wireless. Admittedly this is not a cheap camera you can pick up from Wall-Mart. It does show that there is a solution for any problem set up, and wireless technology can assist in the process.
How Wi-Fi Surveillance Cameras work?
As mentioned in the introduction to this website, there are several versions of network cameras on the market. What I call dumb IP cameras and Smart IP cameras. As always, there are versions that are somewhere in between. All IP cameras are basically a digital camera that is connected to a surveillance network by way of an IP address. The inclusive capabilities is determined by the manufacturer to control the cost of the item.
The dumb wireless IP camera is primarily a updated analogue camera. The only processing it is able to do is to talk to a network. The Network Video Recorder, be it a PC or a dedicated unit, has to have a Central Management System software package installed. This CMS is where the video processing is done. All the capabilities of the surveillance system is controlled by the CMS. Motion detection, time stamp, recording functionality, database management, playback and live viewing.
These systems tend to be at the lower end of the cost spectrum. That does not mean that they are either cheap or nasty. If purchased as a package, and that package suits your purpose, this can be the most economical and simplest DIY method of gaining a surveillance system for your home.
How to decide on the right set up?
Unfortunately if not purchased with a package NVR, the Central Management System is a separate purchase to your cameras. Depending on the CMS manufacturer you have chosen to use, this can be a costly venture as many are on an annual subscription per camera cost structure. Just be aware of all costs when buying. The cameras might also not be compatible to a non manufacturer CMS, I would recommend that when buying a system, stick with the same manufacturer for extra cameras or replacements parts.
The smart wireless surveillance camera could be classed as a stand alone unit, accessible via an internet connection anywhere in the world. These cameras have essentially a CMS built into the camera, allowing you to alter all the settings within the camera over the network. Most have the ability to also record to an internal SD card, or download to a Network Storage Device elsewhere on your own network or even a cloud storage provider. An NVR is not necessary for these cameras, as they are built into the camera, reducing the cost and potential failure of equipment.
The variations that come half way can be the most difficult to quantify as the number of variations are almost limitless. The wireless nanny cam has the most variety of inclusions to the camera. Notably one of the more popular Nanny cameras, Dropcam, doesn’t have internal storage and will require a subscription to upload, store and view recorded activity from your camera. That aside it is a very good fully functional IP camera.
The cheaper wireless IP camera variants either don’t have a SD card for recordings or if they do, will not be able to download files to a network storage device or able to maintain a crucial database date stamp and chronological order. Without a built in NVR to record and manage the video feed, an external NVR will be needed to manage those video files.
It is important to know that all the different pieces of equipment you buy for your surveillance system are compatible and work well together. To this end the industry has developed an IP based security standard known as ONVIF. Equipment that comply to this standard have the building blocks to easily communicate with each other.
Video feed expectations and advertised capabilities can be a long way from the real word experience. Unfortunately there are many reasons why the specifications on the box of your shiny new camera gear is not going to come to fruition. Network congestion, bandwidth limitations, varied camera specifications and so on. The reality is that a 2 mega pixel camera is going to need a large amount of data feed or bandwidth to display that image in full HD quality and frame rate. If you are viewing remotely away from home, unless you have a home internet data plan with a large upload speed, you will probably not receive all the information needed to maintain a good streaming image. The same goes for any recording device, if several cameras are feeding into a NVR or network storage device, chances are there will be limitations on the image quality and frame rate able to be processed.
Hard Drive Space
Recording space is probably the most under estimated piece of hardware in the surveillance industry. To put things into perspective, a 1 hour movie saved at the 1080p and 30 frames per second will require almost 3 gigabytes of storage. Multiply this by the number of cameras, and the hours of recording you expect to make if you set it up to record only when there is movement.
Hypothetically, lets say about 4 hours of movement per day with an 8 camera system would use up just shy of 100 gigabytes of storage per day!! This can be reduced significantly by compression of the video image, but it does highlite the need to understand how many days of storage you are actually going to be able to store before you run out of space and need to over write the data. Know how much video footage you wish to retain, and over size the storage capabilities to do so.
When buying outdoor cameras it is important to understand the ability for them to withstand the rigours of the great outdoors. Weather resistance is measured by an IP or Ingress Protection rating.
This rating is made up of 2 digits. The first is for solid ingress rated from 0 to 6. Typically all outdoor cameras are protected at level 6 which means dust tight. The second digit is a liquid ingress rating from 0 to 8. Typically for outside cameras the rating is either 5, 6,or 7. 5 means water jet resistant, 6 is powerful water jet resistant and 7 is immersion up to 1 meter is possible without damaging the camera.
A wireless CCTV system is a fantastic option for the requirements for the security conscious consumer. There are several benefits to use a wireless camera system. There are also limitations and costs involved in doing so. I believe that a system should be tailored to the location to be protected. If it makes sense to use a wired option, do so. If there are complications to go wired, use wireless. The IP protocol will not discriminate, using both might save you in the end.
If you are going to install this as a DIY project around your business or home, it truly has never been more accessible or affordable. Information on system types and designs are available from all manufacturers. If you are staying with a lower priced “dumb” IP camera system, I would suggest you buy a ready to install kit. Even a base starter kit should allow you to grow your installation. And when you do grow your installation, to keep things simple, stick with the same brand.
If you wish to install more sophisticated system, get some advice from the manufacturers. It is important to have an understanding of all the equipment, and how they will work together. There are plenty of resources out there where product specific information is readily available. Configuring the communications is probably the most difficult part of the creation of your system.
I aim to review and provide information here on this website as often as I can. Creating a resource for your surveillance needs.