Archive for the ‘ CCTV Articles’ Category



Different Security Camera “Night Vision” Options

Written By:
Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Did you ever wish you could see at night? Well believe it or not, it’s more common than you might think.

Several security cameras have the ability to see at night or even in complete darkness with the assistance of Infrared. Actually there are a few different types of infrared CCTV cameras. Two of the most popular options are FLIR Cameras, that stands for “Forward Looking Infrared Radiometer” and the more common standard infrared technology used in the majority of today’s consumer based security cameras.

predator-shoulder-cannon

Thermal Imaging & Night Vision
Forward Looking Infrared cameras, sometimes known as thermal cameras, use an array of sensors that can pick up infrared (IR) emissions or detect heat. This is because heat emits IR light. The hotter something is, the more IR it emits. The FLIR camera displays the different levels of heat that it detects as different colors or shades of color.

Anyone who has seen the movie “Predator” might associate FLIR images with the way the predator sees his enemies or prey via his high tech helmet.

FLIR cameras are used for a variety of applications and industries including, but not limited to, law enforcement, military, building & home Inspections, leak detection, commercial & personal security, and hunting & survival.

When it comes to seeing in the dark, FLIR Imaging has many benefits over traditional night vision. Night Vision devices simply magnify the available natural or manmade light in a specific area to brighten an image and help you see in very low light. In many situations there’s still not enough light for the human to see contrast between objects. Everything gives off heat and because thermal cameras see heat instead of light, you can see a lot more contrast between objects.

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Environmental conditions such as rain, fog or smoke can also displace natural light making it hard to see or completely mask your target when using traditional night vision. This is not the case with thermal imaging.

Here is a great video “Night Vision versus Thermal Imaging” that shows visual examples of these differences.

The Spectrum
As I mentioned before FLIR and the more common types of CCTV cameras use IR or Infrared to see at night.

Take a look at the chart below. Notice the area marked “”Visible Light”, this is the part of the spectrum that is visible to the human eye.

spec

Just to the left of the visible Violet light is Ultra-Violet and to the right of visible red is Infra-RED. Like ultraviolet, infrared is light that is not visible to the human eye. CCTV cameras have a special chip inside that acts as the camera’s eye, but it can see infrared light. That’s why even though we can’t see in the dark, security cameras can.
There are actually different intensities of infrared: near, mid and far infrared. Near-Infrared is just outside the spectrum of red that humans can see. Most commercial security cameras see near-infrared, and like the human eye they can see the light that reflects off of objects. Thermal imaging uses the far-infrared part of the spectrum and can actually see the IR that is produced by heat, not the reflective light. The hotter the object is the more IR it emits.

A Discovery
Infrared light also known as infrared radiation was discovered in the 1800’s by William Herschel. He wanted to measure the temperature for each color of light in the spectrum.

He hung a prism in a window and projected the light spectrum onto a desk. He used a thermometer to measure the temperature of each color. He tested Violet, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red light. He realized that the temperature increased from violet to red. Then he decided to measure the temperature just outside of the red area where no light was visible. Surprisingly this area was even hotter than the areas were colors could be seen. It proved that there were types of light not visible by the human eye.

temp

A Question
Question: How do we know that Infra-red light is actually RED? In the light spectrum yellow light has green next to it, so how do we know the color next to red is red? Could it be a color we don’t even have a name for?

Infrared CCTV Camera LED’s
Most security cameras on the market these days use infrared LED’s to produce infrared light. The amount of light produced as well as the distance the camera can see at night depends on the intensity, size, and number of LED’s used for each individual camera.

IR88

The security cameras also have a built-in photo cell that detects light. When the sounding light levels get too low, the infrared IR’s will turn on automatically.

On some cameras you can actually see the LED’s emitting a slight red glow when the IR’s turn on. Many CCTV installers will test whether or not a camera is getting power by cupping the front of the lens with their hands. By doing this it blocks the light and turns on the IR’s. If you peek into your hands while the IR’s are on and can see the red glow, that lets you know that the camera is getting sufficient power.

A Little Help
Most CCTV cameras have a maximum IR distance. This is basically the distance that the camera can see at night. The more powerful the IRs are the greater the distance the camera can see.

The infrared light source does not have to come from the camera itself. Many security cameras will detect any available infrared light in the surrounding area.

Whitelight

If you have a camera that does not have Infrared IR’s built-in or IR’s that do not have enough power to see the distance you desire, you can use an IR Illuminator. IR Illuminators are basically like big IR flood lights that can be mounted next to the camera, or in any location within the cameras field of view that you want illuminated. Similar to built-in camera IR’s they have a photo cell and will turn the IR’s on and off automatically.

Who’s There?
Some cameras use a more simple approach to be able to see at night.They use a built motion detector. When the camera detects motion a “White Light” or “LED” turns on and illuminates the surrounding area, similar to turning on a very bright flashlight.

Some Interesting Facts
Fact: Some Snakes have special organs that allow them to see Infrared. This enables them to strike their pray precisely regardless of the light conditions.

Pop Culture: In 2002 the video game “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell” was released. It featured Sam Fisher, a special agent for the NSA as the main character. It was one of the first video games to encourage the player stay in the shadows, sneak up on their enemies and take them out silently, instead of running out in the open with guns blazing. Ironically 2 of his most powerful weapons were night vision & thermal vision.

snake

In Conclusion
The next time you find yourself stumbling around in the dark, just remember that how many different types of “Night Vision” there are. Humans have come up with a verity of methods to achieve artificial night vision. Some animals are equipped with biological night vision and it is prevalent in areas such as the military, home security and even in video games.

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The Importance of Police Cameras

Written By:
Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Should Law Enforcement Personnel use Police Cameras?

The answer is coming forth as an overwhelming, “Yes!” especially since the recent turmoil in Ferguson, MO. In Ferguson a white police officer shot a black teen and since there is no real evidence, there is no way to say if the cop was over-excessive in his use of force or if the perpetrator had it coming. If the officer had been wearing some kind of body camera, the evidence would have been clear. As of today, the Ferguson Police Department has adopted the use of Police Cameras to document events.

In other areas of the country, police cameras have been adopted and some have had great success in initial statistic for crime reduction. In a cited study from USA Today, it seems that the Rialto Police Department in California adopted police cameras in 2012 and so far has seen an “88% decrease in citizen complaints and a 60% reduction in use-of-force incidents.” The author of the article wasn’t sure if that was due to the cameras or the fact that the officers were now being watched themselves, and therefor were behaving like police officers should be.

What is a Police Camera?

A police camera is a device that can be worn by the police officer to record surveillance footage when he is engaged in his duties, whether it is responding to a call, pursuing someone on foot, on a stakeout and many other scenarios. In the past, these cameras were mounted on the police car dashboards and have been made famous by the TV Show “Cops”, where it will show the actions as the officers are driving. The one drawback to this however is that as soon as the police get out of the car and pursue the perpetrator, there is no more surveillance footage except if there is a helicopter with a camera following the chase. Even then, though, there is no close-up or audio and if the chase goes into the woods, there is no recording.

Because it is getting increasing important for these chases and arrests to be documented, especially in the court of law, police officers are now starting to wear body cameras.

Body Police Camera

There are many police cameras on the market, and this AXON body camera is just an example of what some law enforcement agencies are using. What I like about this camera is its wide field of view. Just like our CCTV cameras at SecurityCameraKing.com the AXON camera can see more than most cameras on the market as you can see from the picture below.

Camera Field Of View

Field of View is very important for a police camera because it shows more on the left and right then the typical police cameras out there. When recording, for the sake of evidence, you want to see as much as possible which brings me to my next point, recording time.

Another great feature about this camera is the video buffer. Just like how our DVRs and NVRs can record prior to a motion event, this body police camera will show in the recording 30 seconds prior to the officer pushing the record button. This is due to the camera always recording and deleting even when the record button is not pushed.

A third feature of this camera is the ability to record in low light which allows more to be seen at night when all the officer has is his flashlight. Other police cameras cannot record in low light so all that will be shown in court would be a dark image with sound.

These are all great features, but what good is having amazing recordings without being able to have the footage readily available for the lawyers that are going to use these in a trial?

Police Camera Surveillance Evidence

In CCTV, recorded footage is on the DVR Hard Drive, and that footage can be transferred to a storage device such as a thumb drive easily for the authorities to use. For the police camera, it is not as easy as that, but there is a solution created by evidence.com and the makers of the AXON camera, Taser. When the officer gets off duty, all he needs to do is dock the camera in the charger and it will automatically upload all the footage to edvidence.com, provided his agency subscribes to that service. Otherwise, if the law enforcement agency has their own way of keeping footage on their computers that option is available. Keeping digital evidence and maintaining it can be very costly and that is why evidence.com is a great solution. The officers can do simple searches by date, location, text and other ways to find the exact footage needed. This is especially helpful if a citizen has a complaint over how he was arrested or if the court has summoned for the evidence. Either way, the officers are assured that their footage is in tact.

Conclusion

In conclusion it is very important for our day to day lives to be recorded. With CCTV recording our homes, businesses and schools, there has to be documented footage on what police officers are doing. Police cameras can not only record what criminals are doing and their actions, but they are also keeping an eye on the police officers as well. The officers that use excessive force for no reason will not be able to get away with it, and also if a criminal is acting out of conduct, that will be documented as well and a clear arrest will be made.

One thing I could not find out about is if there is a penalty to the police officer that does not turn his camera on. In my opinion I believe that if the officer “forgets” to push the record button and then something controversial happens like in Ferguson MO, then the officer should be penalized.

It is my hope that police cameras will bring down the crime rate since criminals know they are being watchd, and it is also my hope that police brutality will decrease as it has done in Rialto, California.

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Alarm System vs. Camera System

Written By:
Monday, September 15th, 2014

alarm panelNVR System

I often get asked by my clients if they should get a camera system or an alarm system?  The answer to that question can be complex because of the differences.  Are you looking for a system that is monitored?  Are you looking for a system that can actually catch the criminal?  Do you want the police to respond blindly and not in a timely fashion?  Do you want to have video of the criminal to be able to prosecute them?  Either way you go your property will have protection.  I am going to go over the pros and cons of both.

Alarm System

With an alarm system you have several different ways you can go.  If you have a home that has existing wiring of all of the contacts, all you will need to do is find a company that will monitor the system for you.  If this is a new installation most companies have gone to the new wireless systems, which are nice because the technician does not have to be skilled with running wires or proper circuitry.  One major drawback with this type of a system is that the initial price you will be quoted is for a motion detector and a couple of door sensors and once you add all the sensors and detectors you are going to need for proper coverage the price skyrockets.  Then you add the cost of monthly monitoring and it can get very costly.  Now having a home that is pre-wired with the sensors on all the doors as well as the windows or at least smash sensors on the windows is the way to go.

This is because you know every entry point is covered and you are not reliant on batteries or a centralized motion detector to try and pick up when someone entered your home.

Some people are concerned with their alarm system needing a landline phone for the system to connect to for communication.  This is not as big of a deal anymore, due to GSM systems on both hard wired and wireless solutions.  This is nice because in this day and age people have shied away from the home phone, as well it offers another layer of protection by preventing someone from just cutting the phone line.   There are also systems available that use an IP style communication device.  The GSM and IP style devices offer home and business owners an alternative to the standard phone line communication, giving greater security when you need it.  Whether you shell out the big bucks for a wireless system or have a hard wired system in your location, you will have a greater sense of security knowing that your property is being monitored by someone.  One thing to be aware of with any alarm system is local requirements for alarm permits.  I say this out of experience, if your municipality has codes in place that require you to have a permit registered with them, make sure whatever company you go with files the proper paperwork.  I had a break in at a property and the alarm company did not have all the paperwork filed correctly and the police would not respond to the location.  I feel that this is a way that some cities and municipalities to have extra revenue, but nonetheless make sure you check your local requirements so you don’t waste your money on your alarm monitoring service.

Camera System

With a camera system you also have several ways that you can go.  You can choose to stay with analog cameras and a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or you can step up to HD (High Definition) IP cameras (Internet Protocol) and an NVR (Network Video Recorder).  These systems come  in both wired and wireless configurations.  I only suggest a wired system due to it’s hardiness.  If you want a further explanation of why I feel this way you can read my article Wired vs. Wireless Cameras.

If you choose to stay with the analog transmission camera system there are several levels of cameras and recorders to choose from on the market.  I personally go with TechPro Security Products’ Ultimate Mini series DVRs, because they offer a great bang for the buck.  They give you realtime D1 recording on all channels, audio inputs, and the possibility for alarm integration.  If you go with an analog transmission system, do yourself a favor and step up to 700tvl cameras to maximize the images you get out of your recorder.  Be careful, not all 700tvl cameras are created equal, with Techpro cameras you are getting true 700tvl cameras that have high end Sony chips inside.  I have found many of times that there are companies out there that claim to have the same specifications as Techpro cameras, but when I have ordered and disassembled them they are far from the same.

Now if you are looking for the absolute best resolution in your camera system, I would go with a Techpro NVR.  I really like the mini NVRs for most applications, because they give you the same recording specifications as the full size units with a significantly smaller footprint while still offering the possibility of alarm integration.  My personal setup preference with my IP cameras is to utilize 2MP (megapixel) cameras on the outside of my structure with 1.3MP cameras on the inside.  This may sound weird to some, but I have found in the outdoor application you will be able to utilize the additional resolution for digital zoom on the recorded image.  You generally have larger areas to cover in the outdoor realm than you do in the indoor realm.

With a camera system ideally you will want to have cameras that crisscross on the front and rear of the property.  You will also want at least one camera shooting down each side of the property, depending on how long of a shot it will be.  Now remember not all structures are created equally, so if there are areas that jut out on the building you will need more cameras to get the coverage that you need.  For the types of cameras that I suggest you may want to read my article Hidden Security Cameras vs Visible Security Cameras.

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The Joining of Forces

Now any properly trained security professional will tell you that a layered defense is the best defense.  While a single layer can get the job done, having more layers will ensure your safety.  I say this because as I have talked about with the camera systems having alarm integration, this helps to build a layered defense.  Now there are several ways that you can go about integrating an alarm system with a camera system.  I am going to talk about the basics, but remember you can get as complex as you want.

One of the main reasons that I like a hard wired alarm system is the fact that it makes integration into a camera system that much easier.  For example, with every contact from an alarm system there is a signal wire coming from the contact to the alarm panel.  With this you can tie into this cable and bring it into one of the alarm inputs of the camera system, allowing you to tell the camera system how to respond with the information it is given.  What I have done at my own home is correlate each contact for specific sections of my house to the cameras that watch those areas.

When one of these contacts is triggered, my DVR takes that signal, emails me the pictures from the cameras I have designated, and the application TechproSS Plus on my phone pushes me the video instantaneously.  This is extremely nice and efficient because even if the perpetrator happens to get my DVR, I still have photographic and video evidence.

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Why Are Security Cameras Better Than Security Guards?

Written By:
Friday, September 12th, 2014

HDCVI Bullet Security camera

Hiring security guards was the best way to protect your property or loved ones for a very long time, but that is no longer the case. For millennia, guards were the best option available when you needed protection but as security cameras and the recording devices (DVRs and NVRs) that they are connected to continue to improve, they have become the better choice by an ever growing margin.

The primary way that security guards help to protect these valuable things is by acting as a crime deterrent. The idea behind this is that if an individual is considering committing a criminal act and sees that the security guards are patrolling the area, they will either move on to a different location to perpetrate their nefarious deeds or reconsider committing the crime at all. Over the last decade there has been several studies that show that overtly installed security cameras also act to deter crime in the same way. The results of some of these studies show that the surveillance cameras can actually be an even more effective deterrent since there can be more of them, they can be in multiple locations all of the time, and it’s not always easy to discern the camera’s field of vision. These obvious surveillance cameras can also be supported by other cameras that are less noticeable and therefore making it more difficult to commit a crime without having video of the act taken.

The second reason that a security camera system is a more effective way to protect the items and people that are valuable to you is the costs that are involved with the surveillance equipment versus the payroll for security guards. Although it’s hard to put a price tag on this type of protection and the peace of mind it brings, many people and businesses today have limited budgets, so it’s a good idea to get as much protection as you can with the budget available to you. The price tag of security camera equipment has significantly dropped over the last few years; this is true even for much of the high quality merchandise that is currently available. Even though good quality security camera equipment still isn’t cheap, neither is hiring a team of security guards. There have been many studies that have been conducted in recent years that show that a good security camera system can be up to 30% cheaper per year than a team of security guards.

The third reason that surveillance cameras are better at protecting what you value most is the consistency of the protection offered by them versus security guards. Surveillance cameras provide a watchful eye to help provide protection around the clock, every day of the week. Unlike security guards, security cameras don’t ever take a vacation, take a break, have health related absences from work, become distracted, or fall asleep on the job. They don’t even blink. Security cameras will constantly monitor an area and provide an unbiased account of an event that usually stands up in a court of law better than a lot of eye witness testimony. It’s a well documented fact that a witness’s memory of an event can be inaccurate and it can often be clouded by the stress of the moment. There has been many crimes that have been committed where there were several witnesses who saw the same event but they still ended up giving law enforcement officials completely different accounts of the crime and descriptions of the suspects.

The fourth reason that security cameras provide superior protection is that they can provide blanket coverage where they are installed. Unlike a security guard, which can only be at one place at a time, surveillance cameras can easily be installed in such a way that they offer complete visual coverage of a property all the time. This will allow you to capture video of more than one event that is happening at the same time. You can even install the security cameras in such a way that they have overlapping fields of view, which will give you multiple angles of a particular event. The advantage of being able to see the same event from multiple angles is that it will give the viewer a more complete understanding of what happened.

The fifth reason that many people feel more comfortable trusting the safety of their loved ones or property to security camera is that the cameras take the human element of misconduct out of the equation. There have been several instances of security guards, prison guards or even law enforcement officers behaving badly on the job and getting caught in the act by security cameras. In these cases the security cameras provided an unprejudiced account of the events.

Even if the victim was in the wrong and later convicted of a crime the video of footage of this type of misconduct usually led to disciplinary action, the loss of employment, or legal consequences for these people who had been caught abusing their position of power.

Today many people who have the budget and desire to hire a team of security guards often still get a good surveillance camera system to provide an extra layer of support. This combined type of protection has proven to be very effective if the budget can support both. Because a lot of people or business simply can’t afford both these days, they are being forced to choose one or the other and they are choosing security cameras more and more often all the time.

The bottom line is that security cameras offer a better, more thorough, more reliable level of protection for the things that are most valuable to people and the general public has started to become increasingly aware of it. The fact that all of this is offered for less money than the price tag of a security guard force is another big reason why many people are going the route of security cameras more commonly all the time, making security guards the second consideration, if at all.

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Where Should I Place My Security Cameras In My Business?

Written By:
Monday, September 8th, 2014

2 Megapixel Bullet Camera

Where Should I Place My Security Cameras In My Business? It would seem a rather simple question. Exactly what did you want to see? However yet, there are some elements to consider when designing your camera plan that you may not have considered. I have listed some of the things you might want to cover in a section by section breakdown that you can peruse on a “by application” basis.

Exterior Building Parking Lots: Clearly one of the most popular placements for cameras, parking lots can also be difficult to secure. They are often large areas where targets are undetermined to enter, exit, or travel. Additionally, you are often working with a number of unknowns and variables. This enormous unknown factor means you have to be prepared for something to occur anywhere within this large area. The use of pan tilt zoom, multiple varifocal, and megapixel cameras are common, and combining them is an even more effective way to cover your lots.

Exterior Building Yards: Yard areas are often where a company keeps some of their most expensive assets. Machinery, inventory, and other large and bulk items are kept in these yards. This can be a perplexing situation for security. Ideally cameras focused on specific areas, megapixel cameras, or auto-tracking cameras are excellent options, and of course, combinations of these are even better.

Exterior Building Perimeter: Covering the exterior entrances of a building can be tricky, and if possible shouldn’t be combined with cameras being used to cover yards or lots. The wider the angle of picture used to capture an area, the smaller the objects in that picture appear (and therefore yielding less detail). Therefore, for the sake of detail, you should use separate cameras for these purposes. Obtaining the largest, clearest pictures of persons entering and leaving a building or area is absolutely critical in many situations.

Exterior Building Zone Management and Security: No access and sensitive areas can be managed easily and cost-effective with the right cameras and recorder. Many recorders can be set to send you a text, email, or push notification if there is motion within a certain area of a camera’s field of view. Additionally, Pan Tilt Zoom cameras can be trained to change direction and zoom in and out if there is a motion activation in a certain area.

Exterior Building Vehicle Registration: Capturing vehicle information can be accomplished very easily. The key to this task is more a matter of camera proximity than type. Capturing vehicle information can be very useful to authorities in the event that something occurs on your property.

Interior Building Security: When considering interior camera locations, there are many considerations. Certainly you will want overviews of any area of interest, but there is more than just that to consider. You will want to cover your major entry points. In the case of your home, doing this with a covert camera may give you critical information identifying potential intruders unaware of the camera’s existence. In your business, a super high quality varifocal camera will give you a record of all who enter. You will also want to cover high importance areas with their own camera. Cash registers and counting areas, gun and cash safes, jewelry boxes, and theater rooms can all be perfect situations to place an additional covert or high end camera.

Interior Building Inventory Control: Clearly one of the most important purposes for cameras is to protect the valuables contained within a building. Placing cameras at high traffic areas creates a registry of people entering and leaving the area with inventory. Additional cameras placed in areas of particularly valuable or important items is always suggested as an additional way to account for those items. Another philosophy is to place a camera at the exits to monitor persons as they exit the building.

Interior Building Time Theft Prevention: Keeping watch of your time clock can be far more important than you realize. Its becoming more and more common to find that another employee has been punching the time clock on the behalf of their friend, or employees punching themselves back in from break and then returning to the break room. These are just a few forms of a new crime known as “time theft”. Essentially, its fraud. You could easily lose thousands of dollars at your time clock.

Interior Building Supervisory: Large area overview cameras are gaining popularity these days as well. These cameras assist the business owner in keeping tabs on their employees and the activities they are performing. They can be used to enforce and ensure safety policies are being adhered to, observing and training employees on the job, observing customers/clients for research on behaviors, and enforcement of rules, regulations and standards of your business. Lastly, interior cameras give you piece of mind by giving you the power to simply look and see what exactly is going on while you are away yourself.

Interior Building Monetary Assets Control: In any business there are precious investments that need to be secured. Everything from expensive machines or computers, to safes and registers, to raw inventory, to the very people in the business (customers and employees alike) has/have potential to be stolen or damaged. Keeping an eye on valuable assets is an obvious use for cameras.

Interior Building Entrant Registration: Even though this is the last entry in my camera locations blog, it may actually be the most important. A registry of entries and exits and a detail of the people of the persons coming and going could prove critical in the cases of many events. Placing a camera at each entrance that only views literally the space required to enter or exit the building, and raised to the optimal zone the people’s heads travel through should give you a nice big detailed picture of their face. When paired with an overview camera of the area, you can now track that person based on a) their apparel and look and b) simply going from camera to camera and tracing their movements. If that person is caught on recording stealing, vandalizing, or any other action of interest; you can now simply reverse through the footage until you get to the point where they had entered the building. At that point, you have that nice large image of their face. If there are other confined entry points (like other doorways) that allow access into areas of interest or importance or value, you could place other facial capture cameras as a way to make certain the person is the same, and to get more details about them.

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