A good security camera system will enable you to conveniently view remote portions of your property. It will also enable you to record violations of your property rights to aid in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders.
Wired vs. Wireless Security Cameras
Wireless security cameras are quite popular right now, but they are susceptible to RF jamming and are theoretically susceptible to signal interception. RF jammers are widely available and inexpensive. With an RF jammer, an attacker can prevent your wireless security camera from successfully transmitting it’s signal back to the viewing and recording equipment. An attacker might do this to lure you into an unsecured area where you are vulnerable to attack.
The danger of signal interception is potentially worse, especially for security cameras placed inside your home or business. If an attacker can intercept your security camera signals, he can monitor your schedule, your security precautions, and any other “private” affairs that occur within the field of view of your security cameras.
For these reasons, I recommend using wired security cameras wherever possible. Of course, wired cameras are vulnerable to anyone with a pair of wire cutters, so you will need to ensure that the wires to each of your cameras are protected as well as possible. This is also true of the power cables — including the power cables to your wireless cameras.
Security cameras equipped with infrared illuminators are able to provide useful images from areas which appear to be totally dark. This is an alternative to security lighting. Most infrared illuminators use LED’s which transmit at 940nm. Depending upon the power of the LED’s and the design of the illuminator, these devices will provide infrared illumination from 60 to 330 feet.
You can purchase cameras with built-in infrared illuminators, or you may use external illuminators. If you are using external illuminators, be sure that your cameras can see into the infrared range. All black and white security cameras can see into the infrared range, but only some color security cameras can. When using infrared illumination, it is best to buy cameras that have lenses treated with filters to protect against infrared bounce back. IR bounce back occurs when infrared light reflects from objects in the environment, back into the security camera. This can make some areas or objects difficult to view. I recommend buying cameras and infrared illuminators from the same vendor, to ensure that they work properly together.
Fake Security Cameras
Many vendors sell fake security cameras which are just plastic shells and contain no electronics. The theory is that these will deter criminals, without the effort and expense of building a real security camera system.
The cost of real security cameras has fallen so much in recent years that there really is no excuse for using dummy security cameras. I do not recommend them.
Hidden Security Cameras
Hidden security cameras provide two major benefits. First, they help to maintain the aesthetics of your home or office. Few people want to live or work in a building which looks like a prison. Second, they are less likely to be avoided, jammed, or vandalized by an attacker. If an attacker doesn’t see a camera, he usually won’t protect himself from it, giving you an extra edge in the battle for security.
The downside of hidden security cameras is that they do not deter crime via an obvious physical presence. This makes them less useful in applications where surveillance has a deterrent effect, such as retail or warehouse environments.
I recommend the use of hidden security cameras and visible security cameras — depending upon the environment and the likely threats to it. This is a situation where “the right tool for the right job” rule applies.
IP Security Cameras vs. Analog Cameras
Modern IP (Internet Protocol) security camerasu tilize unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wiring which is far easier to work with than the older coaxial cable. The newest systems use power-over-Ethernet (POE), which enables you to run just one wire to a security camera for power, video, and voice. The output from these IP cameras can be stored on dedicated video recording systems, or on any PC equipped with security camera software. These system can automatically record only video containing motion, to dramatically reduce data storage requirements. This is perfect for most non-retail and non-industrial environments. In this day and age, I cannot recommend purchasing a system built on the older analog technology.
Security Camera Software
I recommend the iSpy software to monitor your security cameras. iSpy runs under Microsoft Windows and also lets you access your cameras from your smart phone. You can even broadcast your security camera output over a web site. Or, iSpy can notify you via email or SMS when it detects activity in an area. The software supports recording of both audio and video. It also allows you to control PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras. iSpy even includes facial recognition and license plate recognition features.
Security Camera Installation
Security camera should be placed high enough to prevent easy vandalism. They should be placed deeply enough into your facility to ensure that you get good video of an attacker before your cameras are destroyed. In some environments you will want to protect your cameras behind bullet-resistant glass.
I do not recommend relying on Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras for most people, because most security cameras are unmonitored 99% of the time. PTZ security cameras are useful in retail situations where an active security officer is visually following suspected shoplifters though the store. For most environments, bullet cameras with overlapping fields of view work best.
The areas you will want to record include:
- Doorways and unsecured windows.
- Areas protected only by fence or other weak security barriers.
- Areas containing high-theft items, such as warehouses and parking garages.
The easiest way to ensure that you have a good camera setup is to add more cameras. Don’t try to force one camera to do the job of two cameras, it never works out well in the long run.