Video Surveillance Today

March 7, 2011 at 11:30 am

Remember those late nights watching Cops? They would show video of convenience store robberies where the images were so grainy and of such poor quality that you sometimes couldn’t tell whether the robber was a man or a woman. Most of the time these videos could not actually be used to identify the perpetrator. All they were good for was to record a series of events. Fortunately video Surveillance has come a long way since then. Not only can surveillance cameras be used to reliably identify a person, but they can be used for facial recognition, license plate recognition, and even behavioral analytics to detect loitering, slip and falls, tailgating and more.

If you are looking to setup video surveillance for your home or business, you first need to consider exactly what it is you want to record. Some of the things you should consider are…

  1. Daytime or nighttime recording, or both?
  2. Do you need to be able to identify people? From what distance? Do you need detail, or do you just need to know your house isn’t on fire?
  3. Do you want to be able to look in all directions, or do you want fixed camera views?
  4. How long do you want to store recorded video?
  5. Do you want to view recorded video on your computer, or over the internet on another computer or mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry etc.)
  6. Wired or wireless cameras?
  7. Do you want to integrate with your door and window sensors?
  8. Do you want e-mail alerts when motion is detected or doors are opened?

For a simple but flexible solution you can pick up an out-of-the-box solution from Lorex or Q-See for roughly $500 which includes an 8-channel DVR with 4 cameras included, and an LCD monitor to display them. You can add 4 additional cameras, and view video locally, or over the internet from a computer or iPhone. This system is great for basic surveillance needs, and has a low cost of entry. If you want more advanced features like integration with door/window sensors, lights, pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ), e-mail alerts or the ability to record on specific events like when a door is opened at a certain time of day or night, then you’ll need to invest a bit more into the system.

The best way to accomplish the kind of surveillance system described above, in my experience, is to use IP cameras and video management software. IP cameras could be considered “smart” surveillance cameras. They all run a flavor of linux and can be directly controlled from your computer for viewing or configuration using a built-in web server. Most of the time they can be setup with their own motion detection rules and alerts, but the video management software you choose can usually do this on its own. If that isn’t cool enough, they typically deliver a higher quality image than analog cameras. It is not uncommon now for IP cameras to have 5 megapixel image sensors.

Some IP cameras, like those from Mobotix, can be configured to record on motion to an SD card or to your computer. If you want more flexibility than that, you can pick up free video management software which supports the most common needs of an entry-level surveillance system, or you can explore some of the many options out there which range from “dirt-cheap” to “you want how much?”. Just remember, you get what you pay for!

For the last five years I have worked for a video management software company. In my time here I have setup license plate recognition for an airport parking garage in the mid-west, played with facial recognition, assisted with data recovery for criminal investigations, and helped members of various government organizations. If you ever have any questions, or need help setting up a surveillance system for your home or business, now you have a friend in the surveillance business!

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