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 What is IP CCTV?

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.

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.

An IP CCTV System or Network Video Management System (NVMS) uses a standard IP network to transmit digitally encoded video, audio and other data. Unlike in a traditional analogue system the IP CCTV System uses standard IP network switching and routing technology to manage the connection of live or recorded video sources to one or more destinations, resulting in a ‘Virtual Matrix’.

The ultimate benefit of this over analogue CCTV systems is greater flexibility, better performance and easier installation.

IP CCTV systems do not require local recording, they can transmit their images across Local Networks, the Internet and Wide Area Networks to a central location, where they can be recorded, viewed and managed.

An analogue CCTV system is designed to record security cameras locally only. This means that if you have 2 or more premises, then each will require a Recording Device, this makes managing larger systems harder and not very cost effective.

IP CCTV systems convert all images to data and have no theoretical limit to resolution, providing the relevant bandwidth to transmit the images exists. Our IP cameras offer especially high detail precision with Megapixel resolution, at least 4x better quality than standard analogue cameras. These are very affordable, with pricing equivalent to analogue CCTV systems.

Analogue CCTV systems are based on PAL analogue technology and have a maximum possible resolution of just 414,720 pixels. This limits the amount of evidential quality images a single analogue camera can supply, or put another way the size of area it can watch. Resulting in an increase in the number of cameras required to watch an area, which increases costs and causes building aesthetics issues.

IP CCTV systems run over existing IP networks, wired or wireless, this makes wiring IP CCTV systems simple, causing less disruption, reducing the time required to install them and minimizing unsightly cables. For anyone familiar with networking, setting up an IP based system is simple with intuitive operation and evaluation. Simple 1 camera systems only require an IP Camera connected to a network/internet connection, and they can then be viewed by a PC using Internet Explorer. If POE (Power over Ethernet) IP cameras and networks are used then the IP CCTV cameras do not even need separate power, they can be powered via the network cable.

Analogue CCTV systems have their own proprietary cabling. Each camera has to be wired back to the DVR or Monitor using RG59 cable or similar Video Signal Cable and each camera has to be connected to a power source. This makes new installations and additions to existing installations both expensive and slow to implement.

IP CCTV systems communicate using IP, allowing them to integrate and co-exist on the same network/cabling as other IP based systems, such as Access Control and IP Phone Systems etc… Integration also means that these different systems can work together, for example an IP camera picking up movement will be able to transmit images of that movement to an IP Video Phone automatically. IP systems also allow the direct use of IP-based services as standard such as e-mail or image sending via FTP.

Analogue CCTV systems are designed to be closed circuit systems, this means that they do not integrate easily with Access Control, Intruder Alarm or other systems that are found in buildings. Each system requires it own cabling infrastructure and each device on each system is unable to communicate with other devices.

Simple 1 camera systems only require an IP Camera connected to a network/internet connection, and they can then be viewed by a PC using Internet Explorer. Our range offers a very affordable range of cameras, with pricing equivalent to analogue CCTV systems. Plus with installation and setup requiring little time in single and multiple sites, IP Systems can work out to be far more economical than traditional Analogue solutions.

Analogue CCTV systems are excellent value for money, and though the general consensus is that IP CCTV is more expensive, this is not true for every scenario. IP CCTV represents an investment in to a future technology and infrastructure, whereas analogue CCTV systems are based on old technology.

While the move to IP CCTV brings real benefits to the security industry, it also poses some significant challenges. In general, IP CCTV systems are more flexible, more scalable, and cheaper to install. As with any evolving technology, standardisation will take a while to catch up so in the meantime we will have to contend with a variety of competing standards. The change in focus from traditional engineering technology to IT systems means that a very different skill-set is required to sell, install, manage and support these systems. This is already exposing a skills-gap in these areas, and has led to a migration of IT companies into the security industry. We are only just beginning to see the benefits of IP CCTV, and as we break the shackles of traditional analogue CCTV and fully embrace the concept of IP network convergence then we will see CCTV finally move into the 21st century.