Depending on who you listen to, IP CCTV is either the solution to all the security world’s problems, or an under-performing over-complicated attempt by the IT manager to expand his area of control into security and surveillance. The real situation is probably somewhere in between. This paper aims to cut through the hype and present the facts about IP CCTV so that you can come to your own conclusion.
The traditional CCTV system consists of a number of analogue cameras, with the video image from each camera routed back over a dedicated copper or fibre-optic communications infrastructure to a central control room. The video inputs are switched to one or more monitors by a video matrix, and the video images may be recorded on a VCR or DVR. Operators typically use a keyboard to select cameras and monitors by number, and a joystick to move the camera. There are established industry standards (1V peak-to-peak video signals, PAL and NTSC video formats) so that any combination of camera, matrix and monitor can be interconnected.
While this technology has served us well for over 30 years, it has a number of limitations:
- Complex cabling – each camera typically requires a dedicated cable from the camera to the video matrix, another cable for power, and often a third cable for camera control.
- Limited monitoring capabilities – each viewing position requires a dedicated video monitor and cabling, with limited capacity for remote monitoring.
- Limited recorded picture quality – traditional VHS tape quality is limited, and picture quality degrades every time it is copied.
- Inflexible recording – retrieving a recording from tape is slow and labour-intensive.
- Video signal degradation – an analogue video signal degrades depending on the length and quality of the transmission path.
- Limited scalability – a video matrix imposes physical limits on the number of video inputs and outputs.
- Restricted to interlaced standard-definition images.
Depending on your application and your specific requirements, these limitations may not affect you and a traditional analogue CCTV system may be perfectly adequate. However, in today’s world where there is increasing pressure to move CCTV from a dedicated infrastructure to a multi-service network then it is clear that we need an alternative solution that embraces modern network technology.