Caught In The Act! Security Camera Systems Explained

By Steve Marchessault

Cameras are everywhere, or at least it seems that way. Local and network news stations run clips from individuals taking videos on smartphones or businesses recording a hold up to government satellite videos. TV dramas that focus on crime are constantly accessing and extracting pictures and video from all those cameras strategically placed near the crime scene in order to catch the perpetrator. The reality of the situation is camera systems may be numerous and growing at an exponential rate but the types of systems and their use vary dramatically. This article will focus on some of the various types of camera systems available to the general public and how they should be used.

When selecting a camera system the first questions that should be asked are: What do you want to see? and When do you want to see it? The answers to these two questions will ensure you receive the appropriate camera to capture the images you want. Cameras range dramatically from an indoor camera that needs light to provide a picture 10 feet away, to an outdoor camera that can see a person on the deck of a boat five miles at sea in the middle of the night, and as you can imagine the prices are dramatically different.

There are two main types of cameras on the market, digital cameras and analog cameras. In simplistic terms digital cameras can be viewed over the internet without the use of a gateway device, and their video can be transmitted and stored remotely. These cameras are also referred to as IP cameras or internet protocol cameras. Some manufacturers have Apps for their IP cameras to make it even easier to remotely access and view via a smart phone.

Once you’ve determined the cameras you need for your particular purpose, you’ll need to decide what, where, and how long you want to record the video from your cameras.  If you’re not interested in recording any video, then you really don’t need a camera system. Assuming you want to record, you need to define what you want to record. Most cameras with their associated software can be set up to record after detecting motion, this is highly recommended, otherwise you’ll record a lot of extremely uninteresting video.

Next is where you want to record. This decision can also affect the type of camera. If you want to record locally, at your home or business, you will need a digital video recorder, or DVR. If you want to record remotely, you will need a high speed internet connection, digital or IP cameras and a storage service provider. There are advantages and disadvantages to both storage methods that you can discuss with your security provided.

Finally you’ll need to know how long you want to record. Some camera systems will take a ten second clip once motion is detected, then wait a minute before taking another clip. This reduces the storage space required, but may cause you to miss something very important. This type of system is not recommended for a business, but is very useful for a homeowner. Businesses need to capture the entire event, so a system that continues to record as long as motion is detected is very important.

I realize I’ve only briefly touched on the many aspects of a camera system, so for additional help and guidance in determining your specific needs, please contact your local security professional.

About the Author:  Steve Marchessault, General Manager at Sonitrol New England, has over 26 years of business experience, including over 16 years working exclusively in the electronic security industry.