To keep an eye on your home 24X7, throughout the year, may be your wish, but it may not be practically possible. Even if you hire guards, who knows what they are up to when you are away on holiday? Or take the case of your office. Is your staff pilfering stationary? Or misusing office facilities? Or just being plain lazy — in office hours?
In these high tech times, it is not so difficult to find a solution: closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Till even a few months ago, this was an expensive proposition. No longer. Purchase is easy, you can buy them off the shelf or even online. Global companies such as Alba, Axis and Bosch offer good professional options, and now there are domestic brands such as Zicom and Godrej as well.
But where do you install them? How do you go about the process? Here are some easy tips:
You may want to cover every possible square inch of your home, but remember, not every location really NEEDS a camera. And there are private spaces you should avoid! A camera door phone for your front door, and one or two indoors for, say, your child’s play area are sufficient. For the first, Alba Urmet is an example. For the latter, a network camera from IT companies such as DLink, Foscam or Axis may be your solution. Speak to an expert to install this camera.
Fixed or moving
Once you have zeroed in on the areas, the next big question is, what type of camera do you want? Broadly there are two types of cameras: fixed, and pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ). There are sub-categories as well.
Fixed cameras can only face one direction – the one in which it is set up. If you want to change direction, it means having a go at it with some tools. If you want to change the location altogether, that means calling in the professional.
PTZ cameras come with a motorised base, which can be programmed to ‘sweep’ an area. This it does by turning left and right alternately, like a table fan. It can also be remotely controlled to look somewhere specific and then zoom in.
Fixed cameras are a good option for indoor use when you want to monitor specific sections. PTZ cameras are good for places like your building’s driveway, where you want to put just one camera but want a wider coverage.
Wired or wireless?
For basic monitoring, wireless cameras work well, but if you are looking at a security solution for an entire building, wired may be the better alternative.
Most wireless CCTV cameras work on the 2.4GHz WiFi frequency, but since this band is getting congested, we recommend you choose a camera that works on a 5GHz frequency.
On the wired front, you get two types of cameras, the legacy analog type that takes a co-axial cable (the same cable that is used to connect your satellite dish to your set top box) or an ethernet cable. Ethernet-based cameras are slightly more expensive than co-axial ones, but you can control and access them directly using your smartphone. Also, ethernet cabling is easier installed.
Early morning or late evening, when ambient light is low, CCTV cameras may not give a clear picture. And at nights, lights are likely to be off. So choose a camera with an infra red LED built-in. The infra red LED lets the camera capture black and white images when it is dark or light is low.
Storage and access
Analog cameras can connect to an analog digital video recorder (DVR), which uses a hard disk to record the videos. DVRs come with an ethernet port, so you can access the videos using your computer or smartphone.
Ethernet-based cameras can store information on any network attached storage (NAS), so they can stream images directly to your computer — which means the computer must be running all the time. You can also store videos and snapshots on a local NAS device, or on the cloud.
But watch out for…
Make sure to change default passwords on the cameras and DVRs when you set them up. And do not share these with the technician installing them.
In case you are installing a camera outdoors, make sure it has a weather-proof housing. The same goes for the cabling.