IP cameras are known by many different names. You would frequently find people referring to internet protocol cameras or network cameras. Therefore, whatever you choose to call them, IP cameras are devices designed to send and receive video (data) over the internet and/or local area network.
Internet protocol or IP cameras have become very popular devices for video data capture and processing. You can find these cameras in home, schools, offices, and other public places. This post has been put together to help you understand how IP cameras work and how you can consider these devices for video data capture in your home and office.
Security experts highly rate IP security cameras for the use of innovative technology and advanced in-built features. These cameras provide the highest level of security homeowners and even business personal are looking for.
Interestingly, internet protocol cameras are slowly redefining the way video surveillance is conducted. Perhaps the biggest benefit of using IP or network cameras is getting images in HD or high definition format.
Some models allow you to capture videos in High Definition video including 720p and 1080p format. If required, you can switch to more advanced models that allow 3, 4 and even 5-megapixel video to be captured.
How Do IP Cameras Work?
Now it has become incredibly easy to check in on your kids and their nanny from your office. Similarly, you can monitor what your employees are up to while sitting comfortably in your home. As stated earlier, IP cameras allow you to send and receive video via a broadband network.
Once your surveillance system is set up, you can view live video using any browser system you like. In fact, you can even view the video from multiple cameras on your smartphones or tablet and the only requirement is a stable internet connection.
Some IP cameras work with the help of a physical internet cable connection. You would also find wireless IP cameras that send and receive signals via RF or radio frequency signals. These cameras can be connected easily over your local Wi-Fi network.
You can think of IP cameras as tiny computers that come equipped with sophisticated video capturing feature. Most modern IP cameras come with their own software and you just need to configure them to a network.
Because we are talking about IP cameras installation, the network configuration for most cameras is relatively a hassle free process and it is quite similar to configuring your Wi-Fi network. Of course, some IP cameras are more sophisticated and they might require a good knowledge of internet technology, but that’s nothing to worry about.
The good news is that many internet protocol cameras these days come with their own smart apps, which make recording and viewing videos on the network even easier. Another important thing to note here is that IP cameras are versatile devices and they come in many different forms.
Some cameras are quite similar to the traditional security cameras you find installed in most workplaces. However, homeowners are now looking for products that are more discreet and the market has responded well to their concerns. Yes, you can now find IP cameras hidden in common household items such as DVD players and clock radio.
How Do IP Cameras Work – The Technical Side
Most IP cameras come with whatever software is needed to configure your camera and start using them. Some advanced models include interesting features such as multiple camera viewing and sending text and message alerts.
If the software doesn’t include all the features you want, many NVR programs allow you to add other capabilities to your camera.
Instead of sending video signals over a cable to a monitor (like traditional analog cameras), IP cameras send signals over an internet connection.
Once you connect the device to a network, it will start capturing images the same way your normal digital camera does. Remember, connecting IP cameras to a network is as simple as attaching any other device like a scanner or printer.
An internet protocol camera will capture and compress the video before transmitting it over a network. Most security cameras use one of the following three different types of networks.
How Would IP Cameras Help Me See Things When I’m Not around?
IP cameras connect to an efficient network of electronic devices, which could be your local area network or the internet. Some models are wired, i.e. they require a physical connection and some are wireless. The later however are most preferred for their flexibility and convenience.
Your IP camera will remain functional and work properly from any location as long as the device remains connected to your network. Your camera device will have a dedicated memory space to store the videos captured and sometimes, it might store the data captured while streaming it live over the Internet.
Internet protocol or network cameras are designed to capture digital videos like your regular video cameras. The captured video is then sent to other devices on the network.
Images from IP cameras can be viewed easily with the help of web browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer or Chrome. Furthermore, you can control and manage multiple cameras at the same time where network connection is available.
The Network And Camera Connection
The Internet protocol or network camera you buy mainly consists of a lens, an image sensor, a processor, a video compression system and an Ethernet chip that allows you to connect to the network and transmit data.
The light passing through the lens to the sensor is then converted to digital signals. These signals are then processed by the built-in data sensor and compressed to a smaller size for easier transmission.
Finally, the compressed video is sent to the back end device using the internet connection for viewing and even storage. Generally, network cameras come equipped with a power socket and an Ethernet connection socket. You would also find models that have audio and digital I/O ports.
Video Compression And Image Resolution
The clearer and more detailed the image, the more space it will take on hard disk and the more bandwidth it will consume. IP cameras compress data before sending to avoid consuming too much bandwidth. The most common compression technique used is AVC or advanced video coding.
The Different Types Of Network Cameras
A network camera, also called an IP camera is a camera with a network connection. Simply put, these cameras allow you to transmit captured video over a specific IP network with the help of network switches.
The idea of installing internet protocol cameras for your home sounds simple, but you would notice the many different types of cameras you have when you are choosing the right IP camera. You are likely to come across:
This list isn’t comprehensive and can be further broken down. Well, sometimes it can be overwhelming to narrow down the available choices. However, if you want to find the best IP camera for your home or office, there’s a strong reason you should explore all the options before making a final decision.
Analog Vs. IP Cameras
IP cameras interestingly are much better than their analog cousins thanks to advanced features such as video motion detection, audio monitoring and ease of access.
Analog CCTV cameras gained popularity after numerous box office hits started featuring them. A bunch of cops would gather around the video footage and suddenly ask for the video to zoom in on a particular guy. And then instantly, the blurry footage would reveal a crystal, clear image of the culprit.
Well, this is all made up stuff in movies because the analog footage is only going to get blurrier when you try to zoom in for a closer look. However, you don’t need to lose hope. IP cameras do not transfer poor quality videos we’re used to seeing. In fact, even the best analog cameras don’t even come close to the image resolution of the worst IP cameras.
The best analog cameras in the market can only manage to capture less than half a megapixel and this is nothing compared to far better quality videos that can be captured with an IP camera.
Furthermore, IP cameras are able to capture a much wider video field than traditional analog cameras. This means installing a high quality IP camera can do the job of 3 or even 4 CCTV analog devices.
Generally, Analog cameras run on a traditional DVR (digital video recorder) setup, which means each device must be connected directly to the DVR. In case of network cameras, you can connect multiple devices using switch and eliminate the number of cables.
As you can guess, installing IP cameras is much less troublesome than connecting analog cameras because you are no longer limited by the number of available ports on your DVR.
From a technical point of view, the main difference between IP cameras and analog cameras is how video signals are processed. In case of analog cameras, the digital video recorder is responsible for processing video signals.
Because IP cameras are more advanced, video signals are streamed into a Network Video recorder or NVR, which is more like a specialized software program. This is the main reason why there’s a drastic difference in the quality of images produced.
Remember that the higher the resolution of your internet protocol camera, the more bandwidth it requires. The performance of your NVR is measured in megabits per second.
Indoor And Outdoor IP Cameras
You can find network cameras that are designed for indoor use only or can be used both indoors and outdoors. Cameras that are exclusively designed to be used outside feature a protective housing to control the amount of light entering the lens.
Indoor and outdoor IP cameras allow the lens to be manually pointed in the desired direction. Some outdoor cameras feature IR filter that kicks in when it is completely dark and during low-light situations.
Do IP Cameras Offer Day And Night Functionality?
The presence of IR filters can increase the light sensitivity of IP cameras and allow them to capture high quality images even when it’s dark. Some network cameras use special IP illuminators along with IR sensitive filters to further enhance image quality during night time or when there’s not enough light.
You would come across thermal internet protocol cameras. These devices use the innovative thermal imaging technology to detect objects, and people in complete darkness. Thermal cameras are better suited if you want to capture videos in complete darkness as well as difficult conditions. Most people prefer to use thermal devices for video surveillance in conditions such as dust, fog and smoke.
Wired Vs. Wireless Internet Protocol Cameras
Wired IP cameras can be connected to the local network or the internet using Ethernet cables. If you install wired IP cameras, you are less likely to face an interruption because wired connections offer the fastest speed and bandwidth allocation.
Most people also prefer wired IP cameras for the fact that they produce high quality images and you can even zoom in on the person or the object up to 1000X.
Because network cameras are used for security, the last thing you want to experience is your surveillance system being hacked by an intruder. Wired IP cameras are more secure and more importantly, they cannot be hacked by a third party.
Wireless security or network cameras can cover a much wider area than wired IP cameras and they are easier to install. However, wireless cameras are connected to the network by Wi-Fi or even Bluetooth and this increases their chances of being hacked.
You would also notice that the image quality produced by wireless cameras is not as crisp and clear as that produced by wired IP cameras. Moreover, managing a wireless system requires more patience because you will be handling a number of components including broadcasters, routers and receivers.
Remember that if any of the components fail, you will end up with a complete blackout. You also need to understand that wireless signals cannot be received in buildings made of brick or concrete.
Fixed And PTZ Cameras
Point, Tilt – Zoom or PTZ cameras offer pretty much everything you want in your surveillance cameras. As the name suggests, these cameras can be easily be moved in any direction needed. You can control PTZ cameras using your hands – some models can also be controlled automatically.
Fixed cameras can only monitor the same area every day. If required, you can upgrade their functionality with the use of different lenses. Fixed cameras are ideal for viewing the same spot.
Box And Dome IP Cameras
Both fixed and PTZ cameras come in box forms. However, you can buy dome IP cameras to further enhance the look and feel of your security system. Box IP cameras are clearly visible to the public, which means people can notice it from all angles and even break or steal them.
Dome IP cameras remain hidden from the public eye, yet you can get the video footages of all activities. This feature dome cameras an ideal candidate for monitoring outdoor activity. In order to protect box cameras, you have to build an enclosure. On the other hand, dome shaped cameras come equipped with a built-in protective casing to keep the lens safe.
Perhaps the biggest difference between dome shaped and box cameras is the viewing angle. Box IP cameras have limited viewing angles. Dome shaped cameras can be easily moved around so you can get better viewing angles. Dome cameras also feature interchangeable lens and IR feature - both of which are difficult to find in a traditional box internet protocol camera.
Day And Night Network Cameras
Day IP cameras can be used to monitor the desired area when there’s sufficient light. If you want efficient nighttime surveillance as well, you can invest in night IP cameras that can give you clear images of objects and even people at night and in low-light situations.
Both day and night IP cameras provide color videos during the day. Night cameras use IR filters to produce high definition black and white images when light is low and during nighttime.
Which IP Camera Ahould I Choose – A Comparison Of Different Camera Types
There are many different types of IP cameras and here’s a quick breakdown of the features to help you determine which camera would work best in your case.
Fixed IP Cameras
Dome IP Cameras
Fixed dome type IP cameras are mostly suited for indoor surveillance. This is mainly because the design of a fixed dome network camera can easily fit in with your existing home décor. You can enhance fixed dome IP cameras with weatherproof casing and start using them outdoors.
Non-mechanical PTZ cameras or digital PTZ cameras have a wide viewing angle and zooming in requires no mechanical movement. These types of cameras are ideal for discreet installation.
Perhaps the best thing about non-mechanical PTZ cameras is that the camera viewing and zooming angle is not visible. You can use PTZ type cameras to achieve a wide field of view in spacious areas such as lobbies and parking lots.
You would also find PTZ dome cameras. These models provide the greatest zoom, tilt and pan flexibility and can be used with drop ceilings. PTZ dome cameras can be used both indoors and outdoors. Some cameras are integrated with incredible zoom capacity and can be used to provide close up images of distant objects and even people.
Day And Night IP Cameras
A megapixel internet protocol camera has at least three times larger resolution than analog cameras.
It is now safe to claim that internet protocol cameras have changed the way video surveillance is done. With all these high quality products trickling out of top manufacturers, you can take your time to review the best products and then pick one that best suits your needs.
Remember, if you are looking to set up an effective security system, IP cameras are the way to go.