IP Cameras in CCTV Networks: Issues You Need to Know

The technology associated with video surveillance has evolved from analog video to digital video systems running on Internet Protocol (IP) carried over broadband or wireless networks.

In this article, we will explore common issues with the use of digital camera networks, ranging from installation, placement, picture quality, monitoring and security.

First, let’s clear up terminology.

CCTV. This term means closed-circuit television. Surveillance cameras transmit video signals to a monitor or video recorder across a coaxial cable, or a broadband or a wireless network. It distinguishes the private use of television from broadcast television.

IP camera. This unit sends and receives data via the Internet or a local area network. It has a processor that handles image processing and video analysis, and firmware for network functionality. The IP camera is the digitized version of CCTV.

Components include a network server, memory storage and video management software. These are all components of standard IT equipment.

Issues and concerns with IP camera networks

Picture quality may be the first issue to consider. Surveillance for crime prevention requires low-light operation. Also consider temote control of camera motion, zoom, and focus

The surveillance area determines the camera placement and power distribution to the camera. Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology can solve this problem.

The CCTV system carries data over coaxial cable, a private local area network (LAN), or via a broadband or wireless Internet connection. Coaxial cable is only practical if the end point of the transmission is within reasonable proximity to the camera.

A local area network with dedicated servers provides security and protects the network from intrusion by hackers. Transmission over the Internet introduces the same problems faced by all online users. Viruses and malware can compromise and damaged the network. Unauthorised intrusion is another threat. Safety precautions include anti-virus and malware software, firewall configuration, and close monitoring.

The surveillance purpose determines the method for monitoring activities:

  • For time critical applications like crime prevention, the surveillance is best handled  by a security firm whose staff observe video monitors.
  • Unattended digital networks can  transmit alerts via email or phone. Alerts are triggered by motion, sound, or equipment tampering.

Users can also install a mobile phone application and monitor surveillance wherever they go.

Commercial or industrial process surveillance is less time critical. Recorded data is stored on a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and played back as required.

Technical Issues

IP based cameras and associated network structure offer several advantages compared with analog CCTV.

  • Higher image quality without degradation during storage.
  • IP cameras come with sophisticated features like pan, tilt, remote zoom and focus.
  • Users can record and play back data simultaneously.
  • Data compression saves storage space.

Digital network infrastructure offers additional benefits.

  • The system can transmit surveillance alerts via email or phone. Crime suspect video images are relayed to authorities without delay.
  • The storage of surveillance data is not dependent on location but can be stored in any geographic location.
  • Personnel can access the network to view camera output from any camera connected to the network, regardless of its geographical location.
  • Networks offer motion detection, audio detection, and equipment tampering detection.

However, there are particular security issues with wireless networks.

Security risks with Wireless IP networks

Cheap and low-quality wireless IP cameras have flooded the market, particularly the home surveillance niche. Most of these cameras do not support the latest wireless standard.

Even in networks that require a user-assigned password, hackers can gain “admin” access because these cameras have vulnerable firmware that allows hackers to penetrate the network using sophisticated methods.

A hacker can hijack the camera and transmit voice messages into the surveillance area.

A hacker who gains access to the wireless network can use the camera to view the area it surveys. This reverses the camera’s prime surveillance function. Hackers can also place malware on the network and steal email, FTP and Wi-Fi access credentials.

Such security flaws make it essential to buy a high-quality wireless IP camera that supports the latest wireless standard.

Issues with the wireless network itself can also cause degradation.

      • Proper configuration must prevent interference from other Wi-Fi networks operating on the same frequency.
      • Wi-Fi networks are often crowded.
      • Distance between cameras and the router may be a problem as some routers require “line of sight” connections.
      • Transmission faults can cause degraded video quality.

Advantages of wireless IP cameras

      • They are useful in places where it is difficult to lay cables.
      • Wireless networks are cost effective compared to wired networks.
      • Camera redeployment to a new location is easy.