CCTV Explained

Home security is becoming an increasing priority for a variety of reasons, with affordable DIY solutions to professional high end systems, there is something to suit everyone.  However, not all cameras are the same.  So how would you navigate through all the options and find a suitable product for your needs?

Which CCTV system is best for you?

Most importantly, you should start with a clear idea of what you want the system to achieve.  What your neighbours and friends have may not be right for you.  Making an informed decision with all the available options, will ensure you have a system that is best suited for your needs.  Our guide will help you in this process.

What do all these Megapixels mean?

This is one of the most common questions, to put it simply, it’s the resolution of the camera lens and the level of detail it can capture.  The higher the resolution, the greater the detail of the image.  The logic is the same as the camera in your smartphone, newer smartphones have a higher megapixel rating than the previous model.  Before the days of megapixels, everything used to be measured using TVL ” TV Lines”.  Today, there are analogue and digital cameras, however both use the same megapixel reference for ease of use.  Below is an image demonstrating the difference between some of the different camera resolutions.

You can see, there is a huge difference between the 2MP image and 5MP image. It helps when you need to zoom in to detail, lower resolution cameras just produce a blurry result.  Just like HD and 4K TV’s in homes, cameras are virtually the same.  An 8MP camera will provide a 4K image, whilst a 2MP camera provides a HD (1080p) image.  However, the higher megapixel cameras do get affected at night, especially when they go in to night mode.  They have a much larger image to capture and a larger area to illuminate using IR (Infra Red) or EXIR (Enhanced Infra Red) technology.

Digital and Analogue – What’s the difference?

Analogue CCTV has been around for decades and relies on traditional coax cabling, which provides video transmission on one cable and power on another, commonly referred to as shotgun cable.  Digital systems always use Cat5e or better, which is capable of sending both video and power over a single cable.  Recent advancements in analogue systems have now allowed to them to send power over coax (PoC).  Allowing for a single cable installation and without the need for additional power supply units to power the cameras.  Digital systems also offer a much higher resolution and advanced features such as trip wire detection, facial and automatic number plate recognition, whilst analogue systems just simply record video.  Many people still choose to install analogue systems today, simply on price, without realising all the features they are missing out on, if they spend a little bit extra.

DIY vs Professional

There has been a sharp rise in recent years of DIY CCTV offerings, fuelled by  the growth of IoT (Internet of Things).  Devices from manufacturers such as Ring, Nest, Arlo, Y-Cam and others have become a popular alternative DIY solution, many of these cameras use WiFi, meaning installation is minimal and only a power cable is needed.  They are super simple to setup, plug it in, download an app, scan a QR code and you’re good to go.  These products are designed as DIY point solutions and they do exactly that.  However, these products would never be used in a commercial or professional environment, maybe we should ask ourselves why?

Whilst many of these systems seem attractive at first with little outlay, the costs soon start to stack up if you want full functionality.  A typical camera from Nest costs upwards of £159, but that’s all you get a 2MP (HD) wireless camera, if you want to record then you have to pay a monthly fee for it to be stored in the cloud.  In comparison a professional 8MP (4K) IP camera will cost you around the same and you could buy an SD card for storage for the monthly price plan of a cloud based camera. Or you could go down the NVR / DVR route, allowing local recording with cloud backup for a professional camera, whereas no local recording is available for cloud based consumer products.  They rely on monthly subscriptions which stack up over time, increasing the total cost of ownership, the more cameras you have the more it will cost to store your video in the cloud.

Professional systems almost always rely on cabling, which deliver power and video transmission, this is a secure closed circuit, hence where we get the term CCTV from, “Closed Circuit Television”.  Firstly this guarantees the video transmission by not having to rely on WiFi, which can be flaky at times.  These professional systems also delivery higher quality images than the DIY models as they have dedicated cabling for video bandwidth, a typical WiFi camera is usually only 1080p and whilst that sounds good, it’s pretty dated in terms of CCTV quality.  1080p is Full HD equating to a 2 megapixel resolution, whilst a professional camera starts at 3MP and goes right up to 16MP (5K).  Just to give you an idea, we used to install 2MP cameras over 5 years ago, fast forward to today and that’s what the standard DIY offering is today.

Should I choose fixed or moving cameras?

All cameras come in a variety of housings, the most popular are fixed cameras which is what most people have installed.  Or there are PTZ (Pan, Tilt & Zoom) cameras, these can rotate 360 degrees, zoom in on objects with an optical lens and set to patrol areas.  The more premium PTZ cameras contain features such as smart tracking, which will follow moving objects as they move around the area.  Depending on the application and requirements, it’s usually best to have a mix of PTZ and fixed cameras which are able to cover multiple zones with fewer cameras.

How well do the cameras work at night?

Newer cameras use enhanced infra red to illuminate larger areas, as the camera megapixel’s just keep increasing over time. Older cameras use IR, infra red and you may have noticed those red LED’s glowing at night time on some cameras.  That’s what allows the camera to see at night, although the image is in black and white, its careful to specify the correct camera for the correct placement to avoid over or under exposure, as not all cameras can auto adjust.  Certain cameras now can work in ultra low light conditions and provide a colour image instead of the standard black and white. Ranges such as StarVis and DarkFighter cameras work much better at night time, when most crime occurs.

How can I monitor my system?

All professional CCTV systems have a variety of monitoring options, from a locally installed monitor, displaying all the cameras.  A HDMI connection to your TV, along with an app that can be put on to smartphones and tablets for every household member, allowing access from anywhere.  All decent systems also support push notifications to mobile devices, so alert you when motion has been detected or a trip line crossed.  K i use a secure P2P technology, which eliminates the need to open ports on your local firewall creating security risks.  Open ports are how hackers can gain access to your system, K I Systems do not use port forwarding at all, instead we utilise secure cloud servers that initiate the connections to and from the devices.  DIY solutions rarely offer the option of a local display as they mostly rely on a WiFi connection and a smartphone app to be able to monitor what’s going on.

Can my CCTV be integrated in to other systems?

The main benefit of choosing K I Systems is that we are a systems integrator, essentially a one stop shop for all security and automation.  We can integrate door stations and your alarm with the CCTV, or even your entire home.  It can be set so that when someone rings your front door, all the TV’s and music pause, the TV switches to the CCTV input showing all or just the front door camera.  If you are not at home it can ring your smartphone or Apple Watch from where you could speak with the person.  Or the when the alarm is set, the CCTV goes in to high enforcement mode, monitoring invisible trip lines and sending snapshots or alerts to you when you are away from your property.

Do I need to display any CCTV warning signs or inform my neighbours?

Generally on private residential properties, no warning signs are necessary, whist on commercial / business premises it is required by law.  It’s always a good idea to speak to neighbours to inform them about your CCTV intentions.  Generally your cameras should not be pointing at their property or covering their private spaces, they can object to this and most systems have the ability to blank out certain parts of the image.

Under the new GDPR rules, any business CCTV must have a Data Controller that can handle data subject requests.  There are quite a few guidelines surrounding CCTV in the commercial space, so it’s always advisable to speak with a professional.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your requirements. K i Systems are an approved HIkvision Silver VASP partner, offering enhanced service and warranty on all our CCTV systems.