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Video Surveillance Systems Overview and Resources

It's estimated that American companies lose $20 billion to $40 billion a year due to employee theft, resulting in expenses up to $400 annually that come out of the pockets of each and every employee. These figures, originating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, further estimate that an employee is 15 times more likely than a nonemployee to steal from their employer, 75 percent of which goes completely unnoticed… until now.

Internal security, and in particular video monitoring, has exploded in popularity among businesses both large and small for its ability to keep an eye on those who would reduce your bottom line and place the financial burden for it on their fellow employees.

First up, it's important to realize that all forms of theft don't necessarily involve stealing merchandise or taking cash from a register. More popular forms of employee theft are often found in unauthorized discounts, surfing the web or playing games online during work hours and, yes, even sleeping on the job – literally (sucking up payroll hours that could be spent more productively or, better yet, on someone else).

Video Security Terms and Technology

The list of wasteful work behaviors mentioned above is extremely limited. In its full scope, it extends to a wide variety of other actions that often constitute criminal activity. As a result, video cameras have popped up everywhere from fast food restaurants to law firms, sometimes in plain sight – acting as a deterrent – and other times hidden for a more subtle approach.

If you're considering video security to improve the profitability of your company or organization, there are a few primary components and popular terms to be aware of before talking to a service provider, including the latest developments in technology. With an informed grasp of what's available, you can easily narrow down the assortment of options and select the video security system that will provide the best combination of appearance and functionality. These terms include:

  • Video Cameras – There are three main types of video security cameras: overt, covert, and discreet. Overt cameras are those you'll typically find in convenience stores, banks, or other locations that are concerned with robbery. Although they perform the same function as the other two types, they are also designed to be conspicuous and intended to be seen. Covert video cameras are similar to spy cameras, designed to catch criminal activity and reduce shrink, hidden in places like smoke detectors, light fixtures, and other structural components of a room. Similar to these, discreet cameras are also hidden from view but are somewhat more noticeable as they are usually housed behind a smoked or clear dome. This construction also enables discreet cameras to be used indoors or out and allows them to be fitted with a wide range of lenses to capture wide angles in locations that often include parking lots and loading docks. All three cameras feature a wide range of potential resolutions, available through digital- or analog-based image capture (see IP-based digital vs. standard CCTV for more information). WEB RESOURCE: here's a comprehensive PDF produced by an industry leader that offers detailed specifications on modern cameras and some great tips on selecting the best one.
  • DVRs and Storage – Digital video recorders (DVRs) and digital video servers (DVS) are the systems used to store video. Replacing the long-lost days of videotape, DVR and DVS equipment captures analog video signals from multiple surveillance cameras and stores them either on an internal hard drive (as is the case with DVR) or on a dedicated storage drive (if you're using DVS on a larger security network). Often including 4, 8 or 16 input channels, these solutions can be expanded to channel-counts that include 32 and 64 for larger systems that are installed throughout a building or expansive campus. Video is often saved in formats that include JPEG or MPEG-4 as well as proprietary codecs on costlier systems. These formats facilitate the use of video management software (covered below) and also allow for the economic storage and transmission of data.
  • Video Management Systems and Software – Providing the ability to recall and manage live and recorded video data, video management software maximizes the potential of video equipment through functionalities that include pan, tilt and zoom, object identification, facial recognition and motion detection. In addition, there are an extensive range of other alerts that monitor wrong-way motion, items left abandoned or unattended, asset movement, clear liquid spill, and fraudulent behavior. Most quality solutions are designed to be scalable and with an open architecture that enables you to not only create customized features but also expand the system as your security needs grow.
  • E-solutions for Mobile Monitoring – Many quality security providers now offer specialized apps that work with the iPhone and similar smartphones. Created for business owners on the go as well as homeowners, these upgrades enable you to instantly be notified via email or text message for things like motion activity on your property, unauthorized access and similar alerts. Many of these apps will even allow you to watch live video feeds and view stored video clips from your security cameras.

Wireless vs. Hardwired Connection

Choosing between wireless solutions and a hardwired video security system with cables that run through the ceiling or walls will depend largely on your personal situation. However, it's worth noting that one type of installation is far more popular in comparison to the other.

Unlike other developments with wireless technology, video cameras have not progressed at the same rate. According to a number of industry professionals, wired installations are the predominant choice for most businesses and even homeowners, currently accounting for 90 percent of all installations. This preference is largely driven by the reliability of cable over wireless components, which can easily be disrupted by a sign, light fixture, or similar obstruction as well as a cordless phone or other devices that emit a signal.

The current standard for hardwired installation is coaxial cable, the same cable used to connect video equipment in your home, with runs that can range up to 1,500 feet. Some security providers prefer to use a combination of coaxial and unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables, like the CAT5 cable used in many computer networks, in locations where it's necessary to reduce interference caused by electrical currents. In comparison, wireless cameras can transmit up to 300 feet (under perfect conditions) but still require a connection to power, which actually prevents them from being truly "wireless."

All that said, wireless solutions do have benefits for some. They're popular in locations where wired infrastructure doesn't exist or is cost-prohibitive such as neighborhoods and other exterior and remote locations. They can also be set up, reconfigured, expanded, and disassembled quickly – features that make them well-suited to special events. Finally, they provide cost savings by eliminating the necessity of having to lay wire or cable while providing cheap data transfer through a secure Internet connection or private IP network.