IP Camera Technology 101

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 nowadays.  But what is IP camera technology and what are its benefits?

What is an IP camera?

An Internet protocol (IP) camera is like a closed-circuit television camera in that it is also used for security and surveillance. The difference relies on 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 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 and license plate recognition.
  • Communication Device. IP cameras can also work like a two-way intercom, where a conversation can happen 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 Internet connectivity is available. 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 adjustments to 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 of motion and sound activity that it detects.
  • Minimal Cables. Some IP cameras only need a few cables to set up, and can even go wireless.

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, providing high-definition video with around six to ten frames per second with a H.264 codec.  Be prepared to provide your IP cameras with more bandwidth if you require higher resolution footage and greater frame rates. However, the available bandwidth can be determined and easily adjusted to 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.

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 a wired Ethernet network that courses electrical current through data cables.  There is no need for power cords and require 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 gives more flexibility with the placement of cameras, because it no longer requires placement near an available socket or installation of an outlet near the camera.

PoE also allows remote management of power supply to cameras including those 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 for a PTZ IP camera, or those that allow pan, zoom, and track movements.  Additionally, consider having separate power sources for your IP cameras so that all your cameras do not go down at once if there is a problem at the PoE switch.

Meanwhile, Wi-Fi IP cameras eliminates the need for cables altogether.  Set up your IP camera in places where it is difficult to lay cables.  However, 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 appliances that may interfere with the signal.  Signal strength and availability may be limited, and sometimes the packets received may not be in order.

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