IP Camera Technology 101: What is it, what are the benefits, Wi-Fi vs PoE

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Fierce Telecom has recently reported that more than 24% of American households with broadband Internet connectivity will also have an IP camera by 2020.

That’s how prevalent IP cameras are.  But what is IP camera technology and what are its benefits

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What is an IP camera?

An Internet protocol (IP) camera is like a closed-circuit television amcrest security camera in that it is also used for security and surveillance.  The difference lies in the fact that the IP camera can transmit data over the Internet or computer networks.  While the CCTV involves looking at the signals or footage using a monitor, the IP camera is networked and digitized.

An IP camera has a number of advantages over comparable analog technology.  These include:

  • Remote viewing. Remote viewing without having to buy additional hardware/software. Instead of being physically in the same room as the monitors you set up for CCTV cameras, an IP camera can send footage and feeds to any location. That means that whether you are in your bedroom at home or dining at a restaurant in a different state, you’ll still be able to check video clips of the areas covered by your IP cameras. Of course, there are analog cameras that can be paired with a network enabled digital video recorder (DVR) to allow it to be viewed remotely. The DVR is connected to the analog camera and it records the video footage in digitized format, allowing for remote viewing over networks.
  • Enhanced Video Resolution. While traditional analog systems max out at 2-Megapixel resolution, modern IP camera systems are capable of up to 24-Megapixels. This helps with digital zoom allowing for a more detailed image especially useful in applications requiring facial & license plate recognition.
  • Communication device. IP cameras can also work like a two-way intercom, where you can have a conversation over the said platform. This is perfect for the home, wherein you do not have to open the door to talk to the person knocking outside.
  • Send or store the footage anywhere. Footage can be sent virtually anywhere as long as you have Internet connectivity. IP cameras can record direct to a cloud, on board memory card or a network video recorder (NVR).
  • Adjustable resolution and frame rates. IP cameras allow you to adjust the camera resolution and frame rate to account for network and bandwidth limitations as well as hard drive and storage limitations.
  • IP cameras can be set up to send you e-mail, SMS or push notifications to alert you of motion and sound activity that it detects.
  • Minimal Cables. Some IP cameras only need a few cables to set up. You can even go wireless.

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Some IP cameras also provide intelligent video.  Intelligent video is a digital technology that comes with an analytical program or software.  This enables you to track a moving person, search for an object, count the number of people entering your office or home, and trigger alerts or alarms.

All of these benefits do come at the cost of consuming higher bandwidths.  According to IP Video Market Info Inc., IP cameras used in 2012 used up 1 to 2 Mb/s of bandwidth, giving you high-definition video with around six to ten frames per second with a H.264 codec.  If you need higher resolution footage and greater frame rates, then be prepared to provide your IP cameras with more bandwidth. However, you can determine how much available bandwidth you have available and then easily adjust the frame per second and resolution of your IP camera to work within this available bandwidth.

The benefits of having an IP camera far outweigh the potential disadvantages, which easily plugged anyways.

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Wi-Fi vs. PoE

Another area that you should look into when considering security (not just IP cameras) is whether to go wireless or take advantage of Power over Ethernet (PoE)

PoE is when you have a wired Ethernet network that courses electrical current through data cables.  There is no need for power cords and you will be working with lesser wires.  That gives way for lower costs, lower complexity, quick and easy maintenance, and more flexibility with your installation when compared to traditional wiring.  PoE can give you more flexibility with the placement of your cameras because you no longer have to place it near an available socket or install an outlet near the camera.

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You can also remotely manage power supply to your cameras, so you can still maintain those cameras that you have placed out of reach.  It also lowers total cost of ownership.  However, PoE can only produce power of up to 15.4 W and this might not be enough if you have a PTZ IP camera, or those that allow you to pan, zoom and track movements.  Plus, you might want to consider having separate power sources for your IP camera because if there is a problem at the PoE switch, then all your cameras will go down.

Meanwhile, Wi-Fi IP cameras eliminate the need for cables altogether.  You can put up your IP camera in places where it is difficult to lay cables.  But these Wi-Fi networks are prone to interference as well as overcrowding.  That means that your camera may fail to transmit when too many Wi-Fi devices are in used or if somebody operates a Bluetooth device or microwave ovens and other appliance that may interfere with the signal.  You are also limited by the signal strength and availability, and sometimes the packets that you get may not be in order.

This is just the basic information you need when considering IP cameras used to view camera footage remotely via internet connectivity.

 

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