CCTV Surveillance System

10 Jun

cctvBefore joining Siemens Enterprise Communications, I was with Panorama Electronics Pvt. Ltd. – one of the leading system integrators in the field of electronic security solutions in Eastern India.

Panorama is more popular in this region as a consumer electronics company. It took a strategic decision to foray into other sectors like real estate, steel and electronic security solutions some time back.

It was fun to be part of the dynamic group of guys at the Electronic Security division at Panorama. By the time I left Panorama after one and half years, I had begun to enjoy the field – the technologies involved, the people and the work.

It was interesting know from Wikipedia that “the first CCTV system was installed by Siemens AG at Test Stand VII in Peenemünde, Germany in 1942, for observing the launch of V2-rockets. The noted German engineer Walter Bruch was responsible for the design and installation of the system.”

During my Panorama days, when I met clients, they were often confused about the camera to choose. With the influx of the  “Chinese” low quality cheap cameras, most people were confused.

So, here comes the role of the consultants or the sales guys of the reputed brands to educate the customers of the different types of cameras available, their difference, customise the solution as per the client’s requirement and budget. Value addition also helps as that is what differentiates from a solution provider to a supplier of cctv cameras.

Most clients go for the cheapest solution proposed by the sales guy from the company that he has heard about without going too deep into the solutions offered.

Here are a few basic factors to keep in mind when going choosing a CCTV System.

Choosing the right system integrator is important.

Check the experience of the system integrator in handling similar jobs – similar environment, if huge lengths of cabling is involved then experience of handling similar projects. Do not choose by the client list of the system integrator.

– ABC company may have installed two cameras at Wipro Office and DEF may have installed twenty at a small hotel in Orissa. Look at the solution offered by DEF for the hotel where they may have had a budget constraint.

Ask both the companies for a few reference clients where you can call and check out about the time taken for the job, after-sales service, etc.

One important factor to consider is what sort of service team the vendor has. Ultimately, the system integrator will be your contact for this job and not the manufacturer of the camera or the DVR. Talking with one of the service team guys might also help.

Shortlist three to four of the most experienced system integrators (preferably one of them a bigshot with loads of experience like Zicom, Siemens Building Technologies (SBT), Honeywell Building Solutions (HBS), Godrej, etc.).

Allow time to study the location. A site survey is a crucial phase of implementation of the CCTV Surveillance System and should be conducted at the very start.  Explain the vendors your objective behind considering CCTV – whether just surveillance is required, face identification is required or not, etc. There are quite a few other factors to consider and you will understand that after a round of discussion with the representatives of these companies.

The vendor who tries the best to customize the solution as per the requirement keeping the budget in mind deserves some advantage.

Decide early on whether to go for IP based surveillance or analog CCTV system. In case of video surveillance, IP does not always mean it is better than analog. The decision is based on whether youn want to use your exisiting IP infrastructure and integrate the CCTV syetm with it or you want a dedicated system running separately. Anyways, most DVRs today come with ethernet port which allow viewing over the network.

The cameras form the core of any cctv surveillance system.

There are different types of cameras available today – fixed box cameras, dome cameras, Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras. There are even specialized cameras like explosion proof cameras available.

While choosing the camera, carefully consider all parts involved – the camera itself, lenses, housing provided.

Basic factors while choosing camera:

  • The purpose of the video system (detection, assessment, identification etc…)
  • The overall sensitivity of the camera needed based upon the actual application.
  • The amount of varying levels of light available at the scene
  • The environment in which the camera will operate (indoors/outdoors)
  • The field of view (FOV) required by the application
  • The lens
  • Cost

I will post a separate article on what to look for while choosing CCTV cameras and lenses as choosing the right lenses involves a lot of factors like focal range, apperture range, etc.

Housings can be of different types as per requirement – vandal resistant, weather resistant, concealed, even bullet resistant. Although many clients look for concealed cameras, it usually makes more sense to have CCTV cameras visible as it also acts a deterrent.

When choosing the Digital Video Recorder (DVR), I will prefer to stick with the same brand as the camera if possible. It is not always essential to have a real-time DVR. Ultimately, quality of the images matter than the number of images per second. Ultimately, one image identifying the intruder will be enough that thirty where identification is not possible.

If the location is a high security zone and the budget allocated for CCTV and other electronic security systems is a sizable investment, it is always suggested to take help of a security consultant.

Video Analytics is gradually becoming an important part of the CCTV Surveillance System with features like intrusion detection, loitering detection, object removal detection, camera tampering detection making life of a security chief easier. However, please discuss what features of video analytics will be suitable and feasible to implement in your location. For example, it hardly makes sense to use baggage detection in Indian railway stations.

If the location is vulnerable and if CCTV Surveillance is a critical part of the overall security model of the location, only choose reputed CCTV manufactuers like the big four in the Indian market – Bosch, Sony, Honeywell and Samsung. All of these four have a healthy presence across the country with a good service network.

There is also other major players like DVTel, Vicon, Infinova, Lenel, Axis, ACTi, Dedicated Mircros, American Dynamics, Sanyo, Verint, Merit Lilin, GE, Pelco, CBC, IndigoVision etc. (This includes both IP and analog CCTV manufactuers). I think I covered most of them. Now Cisco, D-Link has also entered this market. ]

Also it pays to pay attention to check what sort of cabling is proposed by the vendors. Cables used may make or break a CCTV system and this is a considerable part of the cost involved. Insist on RG-6 cables for short runs, RG-11 cabling for long runs of over 1200 feet. For outdoor locations, armored RG-11 cable may be used. ISI marked cables from reputed manufacturers like Polycab, Finolex, Havell’s, Delton, etc.

You may also consider using video baluns and UTP cable for longer runs. Check out Muxlab video baluns.

Take an informed decision after studying the solutions provided. Please remember, just deploying technology wont solve your security issues. Knowing how to make best use of the technology is essential.

Also note, that CCTV is just one part of the security setup. It should also include access control systems, fences, metal detectors, intrusion detection systems, alarms, communication systems and human guards. CCTV is best used for delaying intrusion for assessment of situation and for providing confirmation of positive alarm.

This covered most of the factors involved. I will post articles on individual factors like lenses, Digital Video Recorders, video analytics, CCTV housings in future.

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