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Integrating CCTV Systems with Home Networks (5/11/2007)
By Tom Wright, Prestige CCTV
Due to the high cost of installing and running an effective system, CCTV within the home has traditionally been seen as the preserve of the very rich. In recent years, the cost has fallen dramatically, making CCTV a sensible option for any homeowner concerned about the security of their property.
One of the main factors behind the growing popularity of CCTV in UK domestic settings has been the ACPO Policy on Police Response to Security Systems (April 2006), which states that alarms will only receive a police response if they have been confirmed visually, audibly or sequentially. CCTV is the one technology that can obviously provide the answer to all three. The second main factor has been the rise in availability of broadband, which has allowed easy remote access to the system. Even given this background, CCTV is still often looked at as a standalone technology, at best linked only to the alarm system. However the technology now exists to integrate CCTV into the home automation system easily and cost effectively for increased interactivity and ease of use for the property owner.
Analogue and IP based systems
Increasingly, IP-based CCTV systems are replacing analogue, especially in cases where the property is new-build or being totally renovated. There are several reasons for this development:
* Networking - everything needed to stream live video over networks is already included in the IP camera. By simply connecting the camera to a network you can view, record or administer from a networked PC anywhere in the world.
* Cost - if a property is having an AV system installed, an IP-based network infrastructure will already be in place, which means the cost is reduced. Power over Ethernet can also reduce installation costs and provides the benefit of power back up.
* Installation - adding cameras to the system is as easy as connecting a camera to the nearest network connection and assigning an IP address.
By its very nature, an IP system is easily and quickly integrated into any local or remote network and we would therefore recommend the use of IP systems except in certain circumstances that I will deal with shortly. The same level of integration can be achieved with an analogue system, however it does require a bit more thought and planning. This may well be necessary if you are extending or replacing an existing CCTV system.
Integrating an analogue CCTV system
A typical analogue system is composed of three main parts, namely the cameras, the recording and transmission device, and the user interface. In fact in a standalone non-networked installation, the recorder and interface are often contained in one unit. The cameras are set up in a star topology and feed directly into one recording/camera management device, either a DVR such as the Adpro Fasttrace system or the Dedicated Micros Netvu DS2, or a dedicated PC with specialist software such as the Avermedia system.
In a non-networked system this device will be the only means of interacting with the CCTV, and the system is used only as a means of recording and accessing stored video. This fulfils the most basic requirements of a CCTV system. However it could so easily be integrated in several ways to provide vastly-improved functionality. Additions that many clients will ask for might include third party monitoring by an approved alarm receiving centre (particularly useful in larger properties with external cameras), and streaming video to mobile devices, either on alarm or simple remote access.
If you are using an IP-based camera, this most basic form of integration automatically takes place as soon as the camera is allocated its IP address on the network. The same result can be easily achieved with an analogue system by connecting the recording device to a wired or wireless network within the property, which will enable the owner to view live and recorded video from any PC within the property. Most DVRs are also TCP/IP enabled, so video can also be accessed from anywhere in the world via the Internet, provided the recorder is allocated a unique IP address on the network.
A more advanced addition to analogue-based camera systems is the Microforum CastSentinel system, which adds further functionality to the DVR, allowing streaming of video direct to mobile phones. It will also allow access to live and pre-recorded video as well control/pan/tilt cameras. The system can be set to activate live video on designated mobile phones whenever an alert is triggered. As said before, these functions can be easily accessed using an IP system.
By integrating with the alarm system, the homeowner will be able to arm and disarm both the CCTV and alarm systems with one command. Additionally the alarm system can be used as a trigger to activate the cameras and automatically send video to the alarm monitoring company, thereby fulfilling the confirmation requirement of the ACPO policy mentioned earlier. However, there is a drawback for this set up when it comes to remote properties, in that alarm systems are generally used internally and therefore the cameras will not be activated until the intruder is either in or very near the property. The most effective solution is to reverse the roles and use the CCTV system as the trigger for the alarm.
By using external video motion detection software the intruder can be detected long before they enter the property. Any alert can be automatically forwarded to a video monitoring centre (VMC) which can take the appropriate action, and the alert can also be sent by email or MMS direct to the owner. If speakers have also been installed, the intruder can then be warned away from the property either by the VMC or by mobile telephone. In such a situation we would recommend using analogue due to the more advanced capabilities of a system such as the Adpro Presidium, which is not compatible with IP. However, it is also worth considering IP-based Mobotix cameras which provide a very elegant, fully-digital solution, although they are likely to produce a higher number of false alerts.
Home automation systems
By using the existing network the above functions can also be integrated directly into the home automation system using Cat5 cabling or IR. Home automation system providers, such as AMX and Invision, make software patches freely available that allow seamless integration from both IP and analogue systems, although in the case of a Crestron system, this will entail a certain amount of hard coding.
By integrating the systems, the property owner will be able to view video via their TV or tablets. For example the system can be programmed to automatically show video on the TV or tablet in the bedroom if an alert is triggered at night, allowing the homeowner to make an informed decision on the appropriate response without leaving the safety of their room. Additionally, the CCTV can also be integrated into the lighting systems, whether internal or external, and used as a trigger if there is any unauthorised movement in or around the property. One other function that often appeals to clients, who may not necessarily want everything that happens on their property recorded, is the ability to use the home automation system to override the CCTV system with an automatic reminder after a pre-set amount of time to switch the system back on using the tablet.
We would generally recommend an IP-based system as the preferred option due to its superior ease of installation, ease of use, scalability and networkability, except where external video motion detection provides a large part of the functionality of the security cover for the property. Although CCTV is not a guarantee against intruders, by integrating any or all of the above options, any owner should be able to increase the security of their property. To get the best advice on the options for CCTV property owners should either talk to their AV installer, who may well have experience with CCTV, or to a specialist CCTV company, especially if the system is complicated. For the easiest and most efficient installation, CCTV should be considered at the same time as home automation.
Tom Wright is a director of Prestige CCTV Ltd, a specialist in the design and installation of bespoke CCTV solutions.
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