Carl Hayesmore looks at upgrading from analogue to IP CCTV systems.

12 December 2012

The benefits of IP CCTV are irrefutable. Image quality, reduced interference, greater functionality, almost infinite scalability and a range of remote access, set-up and maintenance options are but a few. Many IP CCTV installations are upgrades to existing analogue systems, and require unique installation considerations. We asked Carl Hayesmore, technical manager at CCTV Center, the Panasonic System Networks Distributor, to explain why upgrading to IP is worth doing and outline some of the considerations that need to be made.

Why upgrade to IP?

IP cameras have higher resolutions than analogue cameras, so provide far superior live and recorded images. High resolution analogue cameras have 720 x 576 pixels, D1 resolution, whereas a HD, Megapixel, IP cameras have 1280 x 960 pixels, providing four times the detail.

Data is transmitted in a digital format in IP systems, making them less susceptible to interference. Image faults like noise and flicker, experienced with analogue systems, are significantly reduced.

A number of new technologies, which increase system intelligence, can be incorporated into IP cameras. Facial detection, adaptive compression and variable resolution (where different parts of the same image can be recorded at different resolutions) are generally only available on IP cameras.

IP control systems are usually PC-based. They are accessible to multiple users and offer a high degree of flexibility for system add-ons and upgrades. They offer a multitude of remote management, maintenance and storage options, increasing operational efficiency.

The control software and installation processes IP systems have, allow extra cameras to be easily added to a system, making upgrades and expansion simple. System flexibility and scalability are excellent.

Legacy cameras, cabling and data aggregation

Choosing when and where to upgrade to IP requires consideration. If the CCTV system is a new-build, I would always recommend using IP throughout, to take full advantage of its benefits. In reality, many applications are upgrades to existing systems, with budget limitations. Re-using some parts of the existing analogue system can significantly reduce upgrade costs.

In order to transmit data digitally, an analogue camera requires an Encoder to convert the analogue video signal into digital. The cost difference between an Encoder and a new, fixed dome or “brick” camera is very little. I would, therefore, recommend replacing these types of cameras with an IP alternative. However, for more expensive PTZ domes and cameras, converting them to IP using an Encoder will usually be the most cost-effective option.

Ethernet (CAT5) cable is used to create a network IP system. Data transmission distances are limited to 100m, so I would advocate using fibre optic cable for longer distances. Fibre is no longer expensive or difficult to install and enables transmission distances of many kilometres.

The new technologies allow digital data to be aggregated. This is where the digital signals from more than one camera can be combined and transmitted as one. Analogue systems, by comparison, use one cable (usually coaxial) per camera, running from the camera to the DVR. Aggregating data can often make efficient use of legacy cables.

Coax-to-Ethernet converters enable digital signals to run over existing Coaxial cables. Legacy coaxial cables from an analogue system can be used in the new IP network. When the coaxial cable is converted to Ethernet, data can again be aggregated, transmitting multiple video signals simultaneously over coax. Transmission distances range from 250 and 500m, depending on the quality of coaxial cable (RG59 or RG11 respectively).

Installing new cables can also be avoided by using the existing structured cables commonly found in most buildings. These cables are usually used for phone lines and appear as the phone sockets or “patch-points” on office walls. Structured cables are CAT5, so are immediately suitable for use in an IP network.

Power over Ethernet (PoE), where the power and data for cameras are transmitted along the same cable, can also save costs for installers in an IP upgrade. We offer a product that aggregates data from 4 IP cameras, transmits it over a single coaxial cable, while delivering Power over Ethernet (PoE) for each camera.

Installing an IP system monitor

The monitors used within an analogue system are simply connected to the DVR. Camera split screens are selected and any additional monitors, including spot monitors, can easily be added.

Installing monitors within an IP systems is quite different. The monitor can either, connect to an NVR and operate like a PC monitor, or connect to a Decoder on the network and operate as a “device”. We often find ourselves explaining to installers that monitors on digital networks must have Decoders. Our NLSS Decoder allows the monitor to play digital media channels, such as digital TV, alongside the CCTV images, making digital signage applications a bolt-on opportunity for security installers.

More recent designs of NVR, such as the Panasonic NV200, do have HDMI connections so the monitors connect in a similar way to traditional DVRs, making life simpler for installers.

Virtual Private Networks

Connecting a security system to a public, wide area network (WAN), such as the internet, brings multiple advantages. It enables a huge amount of IP functionality; allows remote access; and opens up a multitude of remotely managed, “cloud” services. Products like the KBC Thrulink make linking and controlling security systems between sites, on a public network, as secure as possible, by creating a secure VPN (virtual private network).

Some companies, like CCTV Center, offer pre-configuration services, whereby the IP products used on a system are pre-configured before delivery to site, helping many installers simplify the network set-up aspect of IP installation. We also offer Panasonic accredited training to help installers with this aspect of IP CCTV.

Many of the limitations of traditional analogue CCTV systems can be overcome by installing or up-grading to IP. It is possible to offer cost-effective solutions utilising legacy equipment and cabling, whilst providing the end-user with outstanding functionality. There is also plenty of help available to installers who do not feel confident with the IT aspects of IP.