The Role of IP Technology within the UK’s Surveillance Network
With between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras in the UK alone, the CCTV industry, both in the UK and globally, is one of the largest sectors within the security landscape. The application of CCTV is wide-ranging and, as such, is constantly changing and improving in order to keep up with the requirements of modern day society. One particular advancement in recent years has been the gradual move from analog video surveillance to Internet Protocol (IP) technology. Here, James Kelly, Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) takes a look at some of the benefits of IP video surveillance within the UK.
Making the transition
Integrating video surveillance with IP networks means that CCTV cameras can be plugged into the same Ethernet network utilised by an organisation's IT system, whether it be a Local Area Network (LAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN) or even a Virtual Private Network (VPN). While analog video surveillance has proved itself to be a worthy form of security over the years, there are some clear benefits in transferring analog camera systems over to IP networks. For one, IP surveillance offers a wider distribution and use of video images along with potentially cheaper and easier installation and maintenance of cameras. For example, additional cameras can be more easily added to a network without the requirement of hardwired cabling or a fibre optic transmission link; instead, the cameras are able to essentially 'piggy back' the existing IT network, consequently utilising space bandwidth capacity.
IP networks also provide the ability for a specific area to be externally monitored whilst out of hours - for example, a school's LAN could be linked to a local authority's control room so that the establishment's cameras can be carefully monitored after hours. In fact, the ability to check on a property from a remote location can provide peace of mind for an estate manager in any sector. By using secure internet and Ethernet connections, managers can use their own laptops in order to monitor a property should they have to leave it for any significant length of time, thus eliminating the cost of having to employ someone to monitor the cameras at the property at all times.
Another major benefit of IP cameras over analog recordings is the significant difference in which IP cameras can deal with difficult lighting conditions. Where some video solutions may struggle, advances in IP technology have made way for clearer, crisper images by combining normal shutter speeds in dark areas with high shutter speeds in light areas into a single high quality image, avoiding any under or over exposure. On the topic of quality images, the introduction of High Definition (HD) megapixel IP CCTV cameras and subsequent HD recordings and display solutions have also grown in popularity and importance. The quality of such HD recordings have proven useful within high risk environments and can be hugely helpful in identifying intruders and securing convictions in the cases of crime.
While IP HD cameras have found their place in high risk sectors such as banks, military bases and corporate headquarters, IP enabled dome cameras have become commonplace in more public areas such as town centres and business parks. IP dome cameras carry various benefits over traditional boxed cameras. For one, they are less obvious and give the impression of a wide range of surveillance, making them suited to covert monitoring as observers cannot easily identify which way the camera is pointing at any given time. Dome cameras are also more robust, with vandal resistant and waterproof options - ideal in areas where they could potentially be attacked.
The application of IP cameras has consistently been growing over time. By running information over an Ethernet, manufacturers have also been given the opportunity to develop new generations of equipment that can be remotely monitored and controlled over these networks, ranging from control panel, door controllers and CCTV cameras to fully integrated intelligent security management systems that have the ability to combine fire, access control, CCTV and intruder alert systems.
While it is clear to see that IP video surveillance carries a multitude of benefits, it can be even more beneficial to integrate IP systems with existing analog surveillance in order to take a 'hybrid' approach, creating a comprehensive system that utilises the positive aspects of both solutions.
The Importance of Quality In an Ever-changing Landscape
While CCTV systems are constantly changing, there is one thing that remains steadfast over time - and that is the importance of quality. If a business does decide to change their system, the most important aspect is that they are choosing their security solution from a reputable supplier that meets with the correct standards for their products and services. This is especially important within the CCTV sector, where the standards landscape is always improving.
Last year saw the UK Government launch their CCTV Code of Practice, providing 12 principles laid out by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner in order to regulate the quality of CCTV cameras - whether they are IP or analog - under public sector ownership. However, research published by the BSIA last year found that only 1 in 70 CCTV cameras in the UK actually exist under public sector ownership. As such, the BSIA revised its own Code of Practice in order to reflect the latest changes in surveillance camera installation standards, including newly-created IEC and Cenelec standards.
Mark Wherrett, Chairman of the BSIA's CCTV Technical Group explains: "The BSIA's Code of Practice remains the go-to document for all CCTV installers, so we wanted to update it to provide users with a cohesive overview of all of the standards and regulations to which they are required to adhere. The landscape of CCTV standards is complex and can be difficult to navigate, so this Code of Practice, with associated guidance is intended to provide a single point of information for installers wishing to provide a quality service compliant to legislative requirements."
The British Security Industry Association is the trade association for the private security industry in the UK. Our members provide over 70% of UK security products and services and adhere to strict quality standards.