Cannabis Farms and New Security Laws
Marijuana is the fastest growing market in the United States. In 2014, cannabis sales amounted to $2.7 billion. Nearly half of that was in California and a third in Colorado, meaning over 80% of those billions came from the markets of just two states. It’s a giant, giant business that’s only going to get bigger as more and more states begin to legalize.
However, one issue is that we’re seeing a fragmented form – a wave, if you will – of legalization. While some states legalize marijuana, others do not. This means that, ironically, there is a growing black market for legal marijuana. What a lot vendors and cannabis farms are seeing is that their products are prime targets for theft. Now, thievery amongst growers has always been an issue, but with the advent of legal channels it actually makes it much safer to steal. After all, who would a desperate individual prefer to steal from: a local drug lord with a penchant for biblical levels of violence, or a legitimate business that must use legal and lawful channels for self-defense?
Because there is a large potential for someone to come over state lines, steal marijuana, and then take it back over state lines to then sell it, a lot of these laws now require strict security measures. Washington’s surveillance requirements are stated as such:
(WAC 314-55-083; 3) At a minimum, a licensed premises must have a complete video surveillance system with minimum camera resolution of 640 x 470 pixels or pixel equivalent for analog. The surveillance system storage device and/or the cameras must be internet protocol (IP) compatible. All cameras must be fixed and placement shall allow for the clear and certain identification of any person and activities in controlled areas of the licensed premises. All entrances and exits to an indoor facility shall be recorded from both indoor and outdoor, or ingress and egress vantage points. All cameras must record continuously twenty-four hours per day and at a minimum of ten frames per second. The surveillance system storage device must be secured on the licensed premises in a lockbox, cabinet, closet, or secured in another manner to protect from employee tampering or criminal theft. All surveillance recordings must be kept for a minimum of forty-five days on the licensee’s recording device. All videos are subject to inspection by any liquor control board employee or law enforcement officer, and must be copied and provided to the liquor control board or law enforcement officer upon request. All recorded images must clearly and accurately display the time and date. Time is to be measured in accordance with the U.S. National Institute Standards and Technology standards.
The state of Colorado’s requirements read as such:
Prior to exercising the privileges of a Retail Marijuana Establishment, an Applicant must install a fully operational video surveillance and camera recording system. The recording system must record in digital format and meet the requirements outlined in this rule.
1. All camera views of all Limited Access Areas must be continuously recorded 24 hours a day. The use of motion detection is authorized when a Licensee can demonstrate that monitored activities are adequately recorded.
2. All surveillance recordings must be kept for a minimum of 40 days and be in a format that can be easily accessed for viewing. Video recordings must be archived in a format that ensures authentication of the recording as legitimately captured video and guarantees that no alteration of the recorded image has taken place.
Essentially, if you want to grow and sell marijuana, you must have a very strong surveillance system to keep track of it. Any room where cannabis is being grown needs to be watched needs cameras. Anywhere the cannabis is being sold needs cameras. Even the DVR/NVR that is recording all this footage needs a camera pointed at it. With so much stringency one has to wonder if the lawmakers got close to writing in an infinity loop or, at the very least, a security surveillance-Mexican standoff wherein every camera must be filmed by another camera. Forever. (Would have made for excellent business on our end, but alas, they did not go quite that far.)
Now, most businesses in general will want to keep an eye on their products, but the element here is the enforcement of it by law. It is mandated by law that that a seller use a large and robust surveillance system. Although it is mandatory, I can’t imagine many growers wouldn’t want such security in the absence of said enforcement. As mentioned, marijuana is being legalized in waves, leaving pockets of illegality that make the legal stores looking like “easy” targets for theft. The street cost of an ounce of marijuana can run into the hundreds, easily affected by what is essentially a prohibition premium. But if you can grow it legally in your state and see the cost driven down to around $50/oz, well, that’s prime pickings for the buzzards next door. Steal low, sell high!
But marijuana isn’t necessarily the only target for would-be thieves. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. While the U.S. Treasury and Justice Department green lit banks doing business in the industry, so far many are too reluctant based on risk assessments and/or stringent compliance laws. This means that very few banks will allow operations to deposit money earned from the marijuana business. It effectively forces the industry into operating on a ‘cash-only’ basis. So while marijuana has been legalized in places, the financial aspects of it have still been left to a murky aether of confusing compliance laws and uncooperative banking institutions. It’s still not clear whether or not the IRS is super chill about this ambiguity, seeing as how it leaves the finances of the industry in a prohibition-style limbo, and that very prohibition-style limbo has a very proven track record for the promotion of laundering or tax evasion.
Of course, the real issue of being cash-only is that of security itself. If a multi-billion dollar bank can be routinely robbed for cash, it isn’t a huge stretch to imagine that a cash-only grower or dispenser would be similarly targeted. While the states are quite keen on protecting the plants being grown, the actual security of the individuals selling or buying the product is left in the air. Growers and sellers should absolutely be interested in personal security, regardless of whether it’s a surveillance system in their place of business, or if it’s just heightened awareness about who is around them as they walk down a street. It is all important!
One of the specifications camera purchasers often see are the IP and IK protection ratings. These are indicators of how ‘protected’ the camera is from various elements. Most often, you will see these technicalities presented as “weatherproof” or “vandalproof.” But what do the actual numbers mean?
IP is actually constituted by two conjoined numbers – the first and second digits actually represent two very different things. The first number shows how protected it is against solid objects. This would include things like your hand bumping the box, your fingers touching the box, or you for whatever reason laying some cable atop of the box. At the highest levels – 5 and 6 – it is an indication of how protected the box would be from dust. Being dustproof is important, for tiny particles can easily weasel their way into boxes and begin making a mess of the inner-workings.
The second digit of the IP number indicates how resistant the camera is to liquids. At 1, the box is protected from a light sprinkling, as though you’d passed the box beneath the spritzing vegetable section of your local grocery. At 5, the box is protected from low-pressure jets of water from any direction. The most common IP protection is 66 – with the second 6 indicating protection from strong jets of water. For example, the camera could be on a ship, getting battered and sprayed by sea waves. IP protections do go further – 7 and 8 – at which point you will have to work progressively harder to drown your camera into invalidity. Your general surveillance cameras, obviously, don’t have nor need these levels of protection. If you want a camera that can withstand an apocalyptic flooding scenario, you can be rest assured that a camera of IP 67/68 standards will survive, though you’re being there to see what footage it captures is not guaranteed.
IK indicates how resistant the box would be to impacts as measured by joules.
Ah, so that’s what a joule is. I get it now…
Historically, the IK number used to be attached to the end of the IP. For example, you’d get an IP rating of 66(9), with the 9 representing the impact resistance. This changed in the mid-90s as more uniform and international codes went into effect. This international standard is known as IEC62262 (adapted 2002). This standard specifies the ways in which an enclosure should be tested – undergoing a variety of atmospheric conditions and impacts. Unlike the IP number, the IK number is singular and sequential.
IK00 is no protection. If you got that, you got nothing.
IK01-05 will protect against tiny impacts of less than one joule.
Then the big boy numbers break down like this:
IK06 –> 1 joule
IK07 –> 2 joules
IK08 –> 5 joules
IK09 –> 10 joules
IK10 –> 20 joules
So what do all these numbers actually represent?
One joule can be described as dropping an apple from about three feet up.
Five joules can be described as dropping a 3.75lbs steel ball from 12 inches.
Twenty joules can be described as dropping an 11lbs steel ball from 16 inches.
Some of these numbers might not sound like much at first glance, but these protection standards are very much intended to resist vandals with ill-intent. If a criminal is trying to break into a car, a house, or a place of business, one of the things he or she might do first is try and knock out any cameras. These higher IK numbers are intended to thwart their efforts. Not only does this mean protecting the camera from hammers, rocks, and other kinetic energies, but also from more persistent efforts, like trying to screw open the casing or tear it open with their hands. Many cameras, particularly those of the dome variety, can be easily opened with just your hands if they are not IK protected. IK protection, then, isn’t just resistance to brute force. They often come requiring specific tools – usually in the form of screwheads – that must be used to open them up.
Not all impacts come from criminal intentions. Flying debris can also present problems for cameras.
If a falling tree branch hits a camera then you’ll be wanting those higher IK-numbers. Storms tend to toss around all manner of objects. This is where both the IP and IK numbers come into play, as you want a camera that will survive surging water, but also anything picked up by the winds. Mischievous children can also present some issues for cameras. A surveillance camera left unprotected inside a school is just asking to be destroyed in due time.
Ultimately, IP/IK is just intended to help you understand the overall durability of the camera you’re purchasing. If you just have a camera set up in a bush to watch your entry hallway, you probably don’t need some IP/IK protections. However, if you got something outside hanging from a mount, looking awfully vulnerable to the vandal’s eye, then you’ll want those IP/IK standards.
Video compression technology tends to see leaps and bounds in advancements. MPEG-2 video encoding standard (H.262) carried us through the 1990s, Advanced Video Coding (AVC, H.264) arrived in the mid-2000s, and now we are seeing High Efficiency Video Coding (HVEC), more commonly known as its codec H.265.
Thus far, testing has shown “substantial coding efficiency improvements.” In 92.5% of the test cases, HVEC produced even or superior quality at half the bit rate of AVC/H.264. Testing was done on a subjective and objective level, subjectively using test individuals to watch images and videos, and objectively by measuring things such as PSNR – peak signal-to-noise ratio. For tests on 4K UHD, H.265 showed improvements at up to 64%! This means that if a H.264 1080p video @ 30fps needed 4Mb/s, the H.265 video with the exact same specs would only need 2Mb/s!
Other technological advancements of H.265 are things like CTUs and parallel decoding. CTUs, coding tree units, are essentially much larger ‘macroblocks’ that extend to 64×64 pixels while having the flexibility to go down to 4×4. These are basically encoding blocks necessarily large enough to handle the 4k of today and the, presumably, ubiquitous nature of 8k of tomorrow. Parallel coding simply means that two separate parts of the image can be processed at the same time. Obviously, two is better than one, and finally the encoding process can also take further advantage of multi-core processors.
Where H.264 has been used for Full HD, H.265 is now being used to help compress 4K content. Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and other video services use H.265 for their highest quality videos because most broadband channels are not suited for the newer, high HD forms of video streaming. As more movies and shows pick up using 4K resolutions, the need for better compression is going to be as undeniable as it would be necessarily ubiquitous.
Of course, it’s not just about entertainment. Security solutions have been pressing for higher quality videos as well, slowly pushing their way onto the 4K resolution market. There are many security situations that have always called for higher resolutions. Situations that have always been rather difficult to solve. Parking lots, for example. Old cameras might be able to see a crime take place, but typically the camera would be so high up a light pole or at the edge of a building that intricate details important to ‘solving the crime’ might be missed. As high-definition arrived in the camera market, the next issue was storage space. Constantly recording and storing a scene at high-def requires a great deal of space, even when compressed by the H.264 codec.
H.265, then, is essentially the solution to these problems. You can find our selection of H.265 cameras here.
Glossary of Terms
Analog refers to CCTV – in common parlance this is the older technology in cameras where as digital refers to the new technology.
In reference to CCTV, this refers to systems and components that use the standard NTSC/PAL composite video formats. Digital refers to devices that use pixel formats. The definitions become blurred when you consider that DVRs convert the analog signal into digital form to process the images internally, they convert back to analog to output to other devices. Details aside, many people refer to analog as old technology and digital as the new technology.
Automatic iris (Auto Iris):
This is a lens that auto-adjusts for changing lighting conditions. A built-in motor and amplifier receive signals in lighting changes. Adjustments maintain a consistent video level.
Auto-tracking is when a PTZ camera can automatically detect and follow movement. What constitutes that “movement” can often be adjusted within the internal programming of the camera.
Back focus is a mechanical correction of the sensor relative to the lens used whenever the focal length is adjusted. Basically, it focuses the picture when zooming in and out.
Balun: (Video balun):
A device that lets video travel over twisted paired wire.
This is a device that allows video to travel over twisted pair wire (rather than coax RJ59 cable). This device matches the impedances of the different signals. Balun stands for balanced-unbalanced. A balun is required at the camera and at the receiving device (DVR, monitor, etc.). Baluns can be passive or active (with amplification). Passive distance can be up to 1,000 ft. Active can be up to 3,000 or more. Count on less than half that distance with a DVR.
Standard connector type used by analog (CCTV) for coaxial cable.
This is the standard connector type used in CCTV. It provides an easy snap-on connection for a coax cable. What BNC stands for is less clear. Some say it means British Naval Connector. Others attribute it to the type and the inventor; Bayonet Neil Councilman.
A monitor connected directly to a DVR or NVR, sometimes referred to as a ‘spot monitor.’
This is a secondary monitor connected to a DVR, Multiplexer, etc. This is also called a Spot Monitor. The video displayed is typically a single image. Some units provide multiple outputs. Cameo: Refers to an individual video image in a multi-screen display.
C-Mount /CS-Mount Lenses:
C-Mount/CS-Mounts are used to directly screw lenses onto the camera. They have a fiange focal distance of 12.5 to 22.5mm (spread out in gaps of 5mm using a C-ring spacer). Typically, CS-mounts are designed for smaller formats, 1/2” and down.
Literally, a ‘category-five cable.’ This is the cable used to connect network cameras and their relevant systems. RJ-45 end connectors. Whenever you see “Power over Ethernet” (PoE) being used as a descriptor, this is what they are referring to.
Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor. It’s a computer chip that stores the startup information. You might know it as the information your BIOS uses when you start your computer. The CMOS in the camera industry is usually referred to as the “CMOS Sensor” – a phrase used to separate it from a technology known as CCD (which has mostly been passed-up by this point).
Central Management Software. Remote software packages provided by the DVR/NVR’s manufacturer. Typically, it allows users to view their recorded/recording footage on various platforms. Every manufacturer will have a different name for their proprietary software.
Compression technology. The codec – such as the very ubiquitous H.264 – compresses the video footage into far more manageable file sizes.
A one-channel, low resolution analog video transmission without audio. You might better know it as the ‘yellow’ cable of the red, white, and yellow cabling setup most T.V.’s used until HDMI became prominent.
See: CODEC. The compression is the management of file sizes to make them smaller and easily stored. M-JPEG and H.264 are the most common and known forms of compression.
Covert Cameras and/or Microphones:
The name implies its action – a covert camera is a discreet camera that is intended to be concealed. Microphones can similarly be hidden (e.g., inside of fire detectors). For example, many boardrooms might utilize both technologies.
CVI & TVI:
Composite Video Interface and Transport Video Interface. These are technologies recently developed to bring analog CCTV cameras into the HD world. Please see this article for more information. [attachment]
Day/Night functionality is the camera’s ability to operate in a night-time setting. This is usually done by an IR Cut Filter or IR LEDs.
DNS (Domain Name System):
The Domain Name System is used for IP cameras, also known as network cameras. The DNS puts user-friendly names in place of IP addresses (e.g., an URL).
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. This function serves to automatically assign IP addresses to a computer whenever a user logs on. Because all devices on a network require IP addresses, the DHCP is basically the quick and easy way to do it for you. (Alternatively, you can turn it off and do it manually.)
Digital is the corollary to analog – instead of using analog signals, it uses encoded digital data. This is most often in reference to network/IP cameras, although many CCTV systems can be converted to digital mediums and back again. As far as the quality of the picture goes, digital is almost always superior to analog.
Digital zoom is zooming into a recorded image, instead of physically changing the lens. This feat is accomplished by cropping an image, then expanding it to the original resolution size and using interpolation to handle the new pixel dimensions. Technically, it’s not a real zoom, but a simulacrum of a zoom. The best cameras for this function tend to have very high mega-pixel counts. The more pixels, the easier it is to digitally zoom in.
Digital Signal Processor. The DSP compresses continuous video footage. This function frees the processor to handle other tasks.
Dual stream means the camera can output two video streams simultaneously. This is useful for recording footage while at the same time sending the images over a network.
Digital Video Recorder, the corollary to the NVR (Network Video Recorder. The main purpose of the recorder is to be the ‘brains’ of your system. It is what will (typically) compress and store the footage and give you a point from which you can review the tapes.
Digital Video Disk. Fun fact: the first movie ever released on DVD was Twister.
Dynamic IP Address:
This refers to IP addresses that are automatically assigned to a network device when the user logs on to the system. See DHCP. This is different from a static IP address which does not change.
This is a manufacturer designed hardware platform for a DVR. It may share many functions with a traditional PC platform but it is a proprietary design that is unique to an individual manufacturer.
Default settings on a DVR/NVR/camera’s menu settings. What’s important about the factory defaults is that they are there as a foundation or base point. This gives you the user the ability to tinker around with the menu settings without fear that you’ll screw something up and have a point of no return.
Field of View:
The visible area available to a camera typically via its lens. If you have a smaller lens (e.g., 2.8mm), you will see a much wider field of view. Conversely, a 12mm lens will be far more focused in and technically carry a smaller/more narrow field of view.
Typically, a USB memory device sometimes referred to as a thumb drive. These handy tools allow users to store data on a portable drive which they can then plug into other computers. For DVR/NVR’s, these are frequently used to import firmware updates.
The distance between the secondary principal point in the lens and the plane of the imaging device. The longer the focal length, the narrower is the angle of view (e.g., 12mm lens will be very narrow and focused, but with a longer field of view; a 2.8mm lens will be very wide, but with a shorter field of view).
The combination of two interlaced fields. The frame frequency is half the field frequency.
(File Transfer Protocol): Transfer documents between different types of computers.
This video compression method is an improvement over earlier formats (JPEG, MPEG-4) providing smaller average usable file sizes. See M-JPEG, MPEG-4 and H.264.
The current tip of the spear when it comes to video compression. H.265 will potentially be up to 50% more efficient in handling file sizes and thus storage space. See this article for more information. [attachment]
High Definition Closed Circuit Television. This is CCTV’s answer to network cameras’ high quality imagery. The biggest benefit of HD-CCTV’s arrival is that it did not require any sort of infrastructural update like a transition to IP cameras would. HD-CCTV still runs over the cables that were already running the rest of the analog cameras. The main update needed is a new DVR to handle the higher resolutions – and even then, the newer DVR’s still operate just fine with older analog cameras.
High Definition Multimedia Interface. This is a single cable that provides excellent video quality images.
The initial preset position of a PTZ camera.
DVR/NVR’s which can connect both analog and IP cameras. They are useful when you do not wish to do a total overhaul of your surveillance infrastructure.
A wavelength of light invisible to the human eye. Humans can’t see this light, but cameras can. IR cameras use infrared LEDs to provide excellent night time vision.
IP Protection Standard:
Ingress Protection. The IP protection standard is used to measure how resistant to dust and water a camera is. It is a measure of the ability of an enclosure to resist dust and water. The rating is always listed as two numbers – for example, one of the more common ratings is IP66. Such a camera can withstand inclement weather conditions.
This is the individual address of the computer. IP addresses are 32-bit binary numbers (all ones and zeros). This is fine for computers. Humans need an easier way to express the address. Each binary octet is expressed as a number between zero and 255. An example of an IP address is 192.168.001.001.
These are IP based video cameras using IP networking as their basis rather than the traditional video signal used in broadcast and closed circuit systems. These cameras are both powered by and send data over Ethernet cables.
Refers to cameras that have IR LEDs installed that turn on in low light, providing a usable image in even total darkness. The effectiveness and distance varies widely based on the number of LEDs and overall quality of the camera. In this day and age most cameras come with at least some basic IR or day/night functionality.
IR Cut Filter:
The IR Cut Filter is designed to reflect or block mid-infrared wavelengths while letting visible light pass through. At night, the filter is removed, letting its light sensitivity drop to lower lux levels.
Internet Service Provider. ISPs provide your connection to the Internet.
Keyboard, Video and Mouse. It is a simple switch device that allows a user to operate multiple computers (PCs, DVRs, NVRs, etc.) from a single monitor.
Local Area Network. A LAN is a group of computers that share a common link to a server.
Liquid Crystal Display. An LCD is a flat-screen slim profile video display.
A LED is a Light Emitting Diode. These are used for producing infrared in cameras.
Live video basically is what it says – it is a live display of what the cameras are showing. This can be done through a video recorder, video management software, or through the internet.
Loop Out is an additional BNC connector attached for the purpose of incoming video being connected to additional devices.
Megapixel is a term used to demonstrate how many actual pixels can fit within a resolution. The actual word “megapixel” means 1-million pixels, though this number is used rather loosely. For better and more demonstrative purposes, MP is often related to a camera’s potential resolution. A camera with 1MP will have around 1-million pixels within the image, but a better way to say it is: the camera has a resolution of 1280×720. Conversely, a camera that has 3,145,728 pixels in its image might be better presented as simply having a resolution of 2048×1536, or 3.2MP. The higher the MP, the higher the resolution.
Motion alarms are triggered by changes in the footage, usually measured by settings the user can tinker with.
The device used to simultaneously project multiple camera inputs, e.g., displaying sixteen videos on your screen at once.
Also known as an “IP” camera. These cameras are recorded through NVR’s and/or Video Management Software. Power over Ethernet (PoE) simplifies the installation of these cameras as you only need one Ethernet cable to plug and play. Both data and then power is sent through the Ethernet line.
Normally Open and Normally Closed. These are the input/outputs and sometimes alarm devices. It’s just a question of whether or not the circuits are already closed and then opened, or already opened and then closed to set off triggers.
National Television Systems Committee is the Americas analog televisions system. This format carries standards of 525 scan lines, a field frequency of 60 Hz, a broadcast bandwidth of 4 MHz, line frequency of 15.75 KHz, frame frequency of 1/30 of a second, and a color subcarrier frequency of 3.58 MHz.
Phase Alternation Line. This is the European standard television system. PAL’s image format is 4:3, 625 lines, 50 Hz and 4 MHz video bandwidth with a total 8 MHz of video channel width.
Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ):
A functionality in cameras that give the equipment the ability to literally pan around, tilt up and down, and zoom. Most of these devices are controlled by joysticks. As image quality has skyrocketed, the ability to use PTZ has come to be used digitally. Digital PTZ is the ability to pan-tilt-zoom on the image itself, using the pixels to navigate around. This isn’t nearly as high quality as the physical PTZ of moving camera parts around, but as resolutions and megapixels go higher it’s a very solid substitute.
Network Video Recorder. An NVR is a server hardware platform with the manufacturer’s proprietary video recording software installed. Some NVR’s come with switches installed while others simply connect to an external one.
Open Network Video Interface Forum. This is a growing standard for IP camera interface. A non-profit, ONVIF seeks to have interoperability between all network products regardless of manufacturer.
The physical zoom capability of the actual camera’s lens (typically a varifocal lens). This is contrary to digital zoom which simply enlarges the already recorded footage.
On Screen Display. Text and functions that are often tinkered with through the NVR/DVR.
OSI (Open Systems Interconnection), are the rules for network communication that the TCP/IP protocol carries out.
PC based DVR:
Using a PC desktop to be your video recorder. It has all the components of an ordinary PC, including hard-drives and DVD-writers (to burn security footage). PC based DVR’s are flexible because you can easily add and remove hardware as needed. They also work with both analog and network cameras. Problems typically associated with PC based DVR’s are that the units are typically too big and PC’s are quite a bit more vulnerable to hacks and other ways that bring slowdowns (especially if the PC DVR is also being used for other functions).
Software used to review exported DVR video in a standard PC. These are often proprietary to DVR/NVR manufacturers and will need to be installed or will already be pre-installed onto the recorder. Said software’s firmware will typically need to be kept up-to-date. Such updates are often done by inserting thumb/flash drives or simply downloading it if your recorder is PC-based.
Power over Ethernet, literally the use of an Ethernet cable to power a camera.
Point of Sale. This usually refers to data captured from an exchange at a cash register. Point of Sale data is useful for surveillance over a cash register to catch employee theft.
DVR’s can be set to record only when an alarm is triggered. However, footage can often be recovered just prior to the alarm recording being set off. This footage is often referred to as “pre-alarm” footage.
Similar to the pre-alarm setting, the post-alarm setting is how much time is spent actually recording after the alarm has been triggered.
Usually used in reference to PTZ cameras – the preset is a predetermined position that the camera can be swung to aim at. Presets are useful for when you want to quickly attain footage of a number of areas.
Digital shields placed over viewed areas to prevent the camera operator from seeing them.
The command set used to control one device from another. When you see a lot of options for camera controls, the protocol is the software element of that design. The cables or wires, such as RS-422, would be the hardware element.
Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras are cameras that can, in essence, pan, tilt, and zoom. They are typically controlled with an actual joystick system.
Redundant Array of Independent Drives. There are a few different RAID setups, some increasing the speed of the hard drive while others utilize drives to protect you from hard drive failure
How many hours of footage a DVR/NVR can take before beginning to overwrite previous data.
Camera resolution is measured by its megapixel count.
This is the hardware device that provides a gateway to the Internet.
Scene illumination and Lux:
Lux is a measurement of illumination. You will most often see this in reference to what lux levels a camera can still draw night vision from. For comparison, 120,000 lux would be like standing outside on a bright, cloudless day. 1,000 lux would be your typical overcast day. Sub-1 lux is extremely dark storm clouds. 0.25 lux is a full moon, and 0.01 would be a quarter. For best results, the ratio of the lightest to the darkest areas should not be more than a factor of two.
Viewing multiple cameras on a single monitor screen. Typical formats are full variations of 16×9 or 4×3. Lesser known ones would be 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 and any number of multiple screen divisions.
A device that can take two cameras and combine their views onto a single screen.
Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, a cable that connects hard drives to the motherboard. Usually used in reference to how many hard drives a DVR or NVR can hold.
Search is for finding data in a recorded database. There are a number of ways to search including by time/date, alarm triggers, and even by movement or abandoned object detections.
Dual cable of RG-59 and an 18 gauge wire suitable for providing 12VDC or 24VAC power. With this setup, there is no need for a locally installed AC outlet at the camera location. Power is usually provided from a power distribution box at the control end.
Static IP Address:
A manually entered IP address. In large networks, IP addresses are usually automatically assigned by DHCP.
Thermal cameras detect heat. Light signatures are contrasted against a black and white background, making any moving objects with heat very easy to spot.
Another name for a USB drive. Useful for transporting data around, but also installing firmware onto DVRs and NVRs.
A ‘tour’ of either a number of cameras, or of a PTZ’s swinging from preset to preset. Think of it as like a guard touring around, but instead of the guard physically being there he’s just watching the screens.
See thumb drive. Useful for transporting data around and installing firmware onto DVRs and NVRs.
Up-The-Coax. A new analog technology that allows users to remotely set the camera’s OSD (On-Screen Display).
A lens that can have its focal length manually or automatically adjusted. The advantage of a lens like this is that it gives you the flexibility to zoom in or out to your heart’s content.
Use of changes in the footage to provide data or reactions out of the camera. For example, auto tracking, motion detection, missing objects, people count, etc.
This term refers to cameras that were once an active part of the system (connected to a DVR) and the video signal has been lost. This provides an alarm to alert the operator to the video lost situation. This loss could be due to vandalism or to a component failure. Most likely it is due to a bad cable connection.
Video Management Software. Software used to manage your camera’s recorded footage. Sometimes comes through a manufacturer’s proprietary software or through an external software company.
Video Motion Detection:
A camera’s ability to detect motion. PTZ’s can often go a step further and track the motion. Motion detection can also be connected to alarm settings.
Wide Dynamic Range. This technology solves the issue of strongly contrasted lighting conditions, such as natural sunlight cutting into an indoor office-lit setting. Often, this contrast will wash out a camera’s image, but wide dynamic range evens out the conditions to make for a much clearer picture.
A camera set up that does not use wires, sometimes referred to as “wi-fi.”
Try to say these ten times fast: HD-CCTV, HD-SDI, HD-CVI, HD-TVI, HD-AHD!
Not easy, right?
HD-CCTV (High Definition-Closed Circuit Television) is CCTV’s answer to the IP camera’s high definition image quality. This technology can transmit uncompressed high-definition video over point-to-point coaxial cables. The biggest benefit we saw at the advent of HD-CCTV was the fact that newer HD-CCTV cameras did not need cabling upgrades. The original coaxial cables from the CCTV era had enough unused data spectrums that they could be used for the new HD-CCTV cameras. This made it easy to install brand new cameras while not needing to overhaul your entire cabling system. When you consider how much time and money some have invested into their CCTV systems, this was a huge deal!
The race to produce HD-CCTV standards first gave us HD-SDI. It is an important development, but we are going to focus on HD-CVI, HD-TVI, and HD-AHD as these are the strongest technologies currently and going into the future.
HD-CVI (Composite Video Interface) was developed by Dahua in 2012 and began to saw wide-release in 2014. This technology was a breakthrough for CCTV cameras as it brought HD images and allowed for high-definition analog images to travel well over four hundred and even five hundred meters of cable. (Once an image is traveling far enough, it begins to need boosts to help it get through.) HD-SDI, a digital technology that got its first footing in the late 80s, could only send these same images up to 100m. With composite video transmission technology, all information including video, audio, and serial data could be sent down just one line of cable.
(Note: image quality tends to weaken as it travels over longer distances. The first thing that a user will usually notice is a warped contrast, usually by the way of fading. Black lines and shadowing will soon follow suit. This is why it is a good idea to choose the right cable for the job. RG59 Siamese cables are most recommended, while the standard RG59’s will pull their weight up until around 250-300ft. Cat5e and Cat6e are serviceable up to 50-100ft. After that, image quality will continue to decline. Also, cables should be kept away from high voltage sources as they may cause distortions or rainbow colors to appear.)
– 300-500m coax cable distance
– 720p up to 60fps, 1080p up to 30fps
– PTZ control signals transmitted over coaxial
– No transmission delay
It wasn’t long for other forms of HD-CCTV to begin popping up on the market. HD-TVI (Transport Video Interface) was developed by Techpoint and adopted by many manufacturers, most notably Hikvision – Dahua’s primary competitor. Hikvision is the largest manufacturer of HD-TVI in the world. LTS Security is the biggest reseller of their products.
– 300-500m coax cable distance
– 720p up to 60fps, 1080p up to 30fps
– PTZ control signals transmitted over coaxial
– No transmission delay
Then came AHD (Analog High Definition) developed by NextChip, a Korean manufacturer. AHD is interesting because most of its distribution has come in the form of no name brands. However, it was recently adopted by Samsung, making the technology considerably more legitimate as far as mainstream markets and long-term sustainability go. HD-AHD cameras are very cheap and are intended to occupy the low-end market.
– 300-500m coax cable distance
– 720p up to 60fps, 1080p up to 30fps
– PTZ control signals transmitted over coaxial
– No transmission delay
Summary of the Three
So what are the primary differences between these technologies? You may have noticed that none of the technical specs really differentiate from each other. There are minute differences in what chips or image sensors they’re using, but ultimately for the end user there’s not enough to make a point of it. Now if you were to ask the individual vendors and manufacturers they’d probably have enough to fill your ear for days (sometimes splicing in enough animosity to give the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a run for its money!). But what if you’re just an end user looking for a solution to your security camera problems? Well, by 2015 and heading into 2016, you can be reliably assured that most analog HD cameras will offer up to 1080p image quality and can transmit data over 500m+ of distance. These resolutions are only going to get better as time goes on, too!
What concerns you as a customer is the split in how these technologies encode their videos or, to be more specific, in their DVRs (Digital Video Recorder). While IP cameras can encode from the camera itself, as IP cameras are essentially tiny computers, HD-CCTV’s send their data to DVRs for encoding. The problem is that each technology must use its own DVR. You cannot cross an HD-CVI camera with an HD-TVI DVR, for example. This is important as it means the consumer will be sticking with the technology they purchase first.
(Note: Initially, even old CCTV cameras did not work with newer DVR’s, but some newer DVRs have amended this. For example, HD-CVI’s Tribrid DVR, which supports analog, HD analog, and IP channels. Having such a DVR allows one to slowly upgrade their camera system instead of being forced to do a total system replacement just because of a bottleneck at the DVR. However, no new DVR has yet to allow these three HD-CCTV technologies to communicate with one another. If you buy an HD-DVR for HD-CVI technology, then you best stick with HD-CVI cameras or otherwise you will need to buy a new HD-DVR!)
Another large difference is just who, exactly, is manufacturing these technologies. HD-CVI products are both developed and manufactured by Dahua. Based out of China, Dahua surprisingly does very little marketing, although their HD-CVI technology can at times be found masked by behind other names like HD-AVS or HD-MPX.
Conversely, HD-TVI was developed by Techpoint, but Techpoint is a chipset manufacturer. HD-TVI products are instead sold through other manufacturers, most notably Hikvision which, as mentioned, is the largest camera manufacturer in the world, and LTS Security, which stands as the largest reseller. HD-TVI was also made to be open source, so there are a lot of smaller manufacturers moving HD-TVI products around the market. HD-AHD is the most notorious for being distributed by no name brands, which means its price point is also considerably lower than its two competitors. However, as mentioned before, HD-AHD was also recently picked up by Samsung which makes it much more formidable on the market today and especially going forward.
So what’s with the boring manufacturing talk? Generally speaking, while these cameras have little technical differences, you are likely to see quality issues depending on who you are buying them from. A no-name cheapo brand is definitely going to be more interested in cutting costs to ship out a low-cost product. You don’t just magically cut manufacturing costs, quality is going to be taking a hit somewhere. For you, the customer, you just need to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If you’re seeing giant gaps in pricing between similar products then you also need to be looking at who is manufacturing the product.
Ultimately, these technologies are not that different from one another. You can really drive it down to the overly detailed technical levels, if you want, and debate about the differences between PO3100K+DH9801 and OV9712+NVP2431H sensors, but it’s just not that important to the average camera consumer. What most needs to be understood are these two factors:
- DVR’s cannot communicate across technologies.
- Manufacturer reputation is crucial to purchasing a reliable product.
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