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November 6, 2012

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When are MP IP cameras the right choice for HD surveillance?

Nearly everyone in security is talking about high definition (HD) surveillance video these days. “When are megapixel network cameras (MP IP cameras) the right choice for HD surveillance?” might sound like a surprising question because, until recently, the only path to HD video was to adopt MP IP cameras.

However, HDcctv cameras have arrived on the market as an alternative to MP IP cameras for HD surveillance.

The HDcctv standard was introduced by the HDcctv Alliance in 2009, and technical information about the HDcctv standard is available.

MP IP cameras offer real benefits, but are MP IP cameras the best choice for every HD surveillance application?

It turns out that MP IP cameras are often the right choice, but not always. The best kind of camera to use depends on the operational requirements, the power and signal wiring constraints presented by the physical premises, and the technical skills of the installer.

Similarities and differences between HDcctv and Ethernet

IP video has proven extremely useful for video surveillance, so much so that the question for any but the smallest systems is no longer: “Whether to use IP video?” but rather: “Where in the local site to convert to IP video?”

There are surprisingly many similarities between Ethernet and HDcctv for transporting video within a secured site.

An MP IP camera internally compresses video for Ethernet transmission and sends a stream of packets to one other device, be it an Ethernet repeater, router, switch, hub or NVR. That connected device is typically located no more than 90 metres from the MP IP camera.

Similarly, an HDcctv camera transmits uncompressed HDTV signals to another device, be it a DVR, IP encoder, HDcctv repeater, matrix or monitor. That connected device is typically located no more than 100 metres from the HDcctv camera.

HDcctv cameras are incorporated into IP video-based systems when the DVR or IP encoder transmits IP video to other Ethernet devices.

Video transport technologies

Each of the two HD video transport technologies offers distinct advantages, and a rigorous engineering analysis determines which is the best to use for a given camera location in a local site.

The stakes are high: neither type of camera is always the correct choice, and wrong choices can realise systems that are too expensive or unfit for purpose.

Here are some of the considerations for choosing a type of camera:

  • HDcctv cameras deliver the best possible live view experiences because the video signals are not compressed prior to live view
  • MP IP cameras deliver the highest possible resolution video streams, going beyond the 1080p maximum resolution of HDcctv cameras
  • HDcctv transmission is intrinsically reliable whereas Ethernet packets may be lost in transmission
  • MP IP cameras can cover very large spaces via trees of Ethernet switches, whereas implementing home runs for HDcctv cameras becomes expensive for such large spaces
  • HDcctv cameras conveniently re-use legacy CCTV power and cabling
  • MP IP cameras enable WiFi implementations which is ideal when power is available at the camera mount but there is no physical cable
  • The skill set needed to commission an HDcctv camera is the same as the CCTV skill set, whereas MP IP cameras draw on a different, IT-based skill set

Either type of camera works in enterprise systems, which implement electronic control via IP video.

The bottom line

No single technology works best in all cases: “Better” means “Better Fit.”

Choosing only MP IP cameras or only HDcctv cameras for every HD application would result in some less-than-optimum designs, leading to higher costs and possibly worse surveillance results.

Mixing HDcctv cameras and MP IP cameras on a project-by-project basis, or even within projects, enables designers to deliver the best HD surveillance results at the least overall cost.

The days when it was reasonable to consider only MP IP cameras for HD surveillance are gone. Today’s most successful video surveillance system designers are open-minded, choosing the best solution according to the customer’s specific circumstances.

Todd E Rockoff PhD is executive director of the HDcctv Alliance

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