The Ultimate Guide to Wireless CCTV Systems

  • IP cameras are digital cameras that send signals (also via cable) to be stored in a network.
  • Many security systems today are hybrid systems that incorporate both technologies.
  • In general, HD resolution will do the job well enough, provided the cameras are set up properly, zoomed in to the correct area and have been tested to ensure that any footage captured will be useable.

A Wireless CCTV system is a smart, efficient technology, which boasts many advantages over its wired counterpart.

In addition to lowering home insurance costs and deterring would-be intruders (as any Wireless CCTV system can do), These 5 we have chosen can easily connect with your smartphone, tablet or laptop, offering superior coverage and response times should your home security be breached whilst you are away. Additionally, there are fewer cables or wires to worry about, which makes the initial installation that much easier.

Wireless CCTV offers peace of mind, increased security and affordability, all in the same package.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at the benefits of a Wireless CCTV system setup, as well as potential drawbacks, methods of installation, technical information and everything in between.

A wireless CCTV setup requires a lot of power if it is running constantly.

How Does Wireless CCTV Work?

Wireless CCTV cameras operate by transmitting any footage they take directly to a receiver. The transmission is achieved via a radio (RF) transmitter and therefore does not require cables. In simplest terms, this is why the technology is referred to as ‘wireless’.

The receiver itself is connected to either a built-in storage device or a cloud storage system. The footage may then be viewed from the receiver or a monitor set up, depending on the technology used.

A wireless CCTV setup requires a lot of power if it is running constantly. It may be run from the mains or via battery power. The camera is still considered to be ‘wireless’ even if it is plugged into the mains via a cable; this is because the term ‘wireless’ refers to the method of transmission, not the method of charging.

Of course, a battery-operated camera setup may truly be considered ‘wireless’, but this approach will gluttonously guzzle your batteries if used constantly.

Battery power is a potentially useful option if you’re setting your camera up in an area where there is no easy access to mains electricity. However, this approach will require a lot of batteries (which will need manually changing/charging regularly) in order to achieve the desired result.

As a general rule of thumb, keep in mind that battery life estimates (at least as far as video camera batteries are concerned) tend to be very optimistic.

So, if your battery claims to operate for 6 hours’ continual usage, you can reasonably expect to see it running out between around the 3 – 4 hour mark. If your 6-hour battery makes it to 5 hours, you’ve done exceptionally well.

What are the Benefits of Wireless CCTV?

A wireless CCTV setup boasts many benefits. Here are just a few. Wireless CCTV is…

  • Less vulnerable to sabotage. A wired CCTV system may be effectively disabled as soon as the cable that connects the camera to the rest of the system is cut. A wireless system, on the other hand, does not suffer from this limitation. Additionally, physical evidence such as videotapes cannot be lost or stolen, as they never existed in the first place!
  • Easier to Install. We’ll go over the actual installation methods in the next section, but for now it is definitely worth pointing out that wireless CCTV is significantly easier to install than its wired counterpart.
  • Less intrusive. Wireless CCTV is generally far less intrusive than wired options. There’s no need to safely find room for camera cables, as wireless CCTV doesn’t require any.
  • Highly Accessible. In many cases, wireless models can be easily viewed from your smartphone, tablet or other device. This increased accessibility can really boost your peace of mind as, even if you are not present in the home, you can still access the cameras remotely to check that everything is OK.
  • An effective deterrent. The biggest and most oft-cited benefit of CCTV, of any kind, is that it deters many would-be criminals simply by existing. CCTV effectively discourages burglars and intruders because they are more likely to be identified and prosecuted if caught on camera. In most cases, burglars are looking for an easy time. They want to get in, grab something valuable and get out again without being noticed. They DO NOT want to be filmed while doing this. Hence, the presence of CCTV can make your home or workspace safer without even needing to be used.
  • A great way to lower home insurance costs. Since CCTV-equipped homes are considered by insurance companies to be less at risk than homes without CCTV, the price of insurance is generally lower for homes with a CCTV system installed.
  • Great for collecting evidence. If you do find yourself the victim of vandalism or home invasion, a CCTV system, of any kind, is a great way to gather evidence that may then be submitted to the proper authorities. Such evidence has, in many cases, led directly to convictions.

DVR vs. NVR

When you buy a CCTV system, you will likely have to choose between a DVR recorder and an NVR recorder. A DVR is always a wired system, while an NVR can be both wired or wireless.

Both DVR and NVR recorders have the same function (to record video). DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder, while NVR stands for Network Video Recorder. The difference between the two boils down to the way they process video data.

A DVR system will process the data at the recorder, whilst NVR systems process their data within the camera before streaming it to the NVR recorder for viewing or storage.

NVR systems usually feature more robust cameras, the majority of which can easily record audio in addition to visual data (something that analogue cameras in wired systems can’t usually do). The better cameras can also offer useful extras such as facial recognition software.

When you buy a CCTV system, you will likely have to choose between a DVR recorder and an NVR recorder.

A few considerations for those looking to purchase an NVR system might include the size of the hard drive (as this will directly impact how much data can be stored by the device) and the amount of separate channels (read: cameras) that it can operate simultaneously. The number of channels will, of course, help to determine how much storage space will be needed and vice versa.

It is also important to ensure that your WiFi signal can (and does) reach the individual areas in which you plan on installing cameras. If a signal can’t be reached in, say, the attic, is there any point placing a camera there?

Those with bigger properties will need to pay particular attention to the maximum distance from the recorder that the cameras can effectively operate.

NVR systems are usually used with IP cameras, whereas DVRs tend to work with analogue cameras. This will be explained in greater detail in the next section.

Analogue or IP?

If you’ve selected a wireless NVR CCTV system, you will get an IP camera instead of an analogue one.

Analogue cameras are the traditional ‘security camera’ that we tend to picture when thinking about CCTV. These cameras work by sending video footage (via cable) to DVRs or VCRs for storage.

IP cameras are digital cameras that send signals (also via cable) to be stored in a network. Many security systems today are hybrid systems that incorporate both technologies.

Indeed, IP camera systems may be installed to work with existing cabling infrastructure, although this will require a decent level of technical ‘know how’ on your part.

IP cameras do have the advantage over their analogue cousins in a number of key areas. These include their image resolution being considerably better, as well as the FOV (field of view) being much larger and therefore enabling the camera to ‘see’ more of its surroundings.

In fact, IP camera resolution can be as much as 20 times better than its analogue counterpart. This, of course, allows for much cleaner footage and a far better chance of identifying the people caught in that footage.

IP cameras, in most cases, can also be set up and used in the same manner as an analogue camera would be, so their versatility is another plus point.

Probably the biggest single advantage IP cameras have over analogue is the fact that analogue transmissions lose clarity over an increased distance, whereas digital transmissions lose none of their initial clarity regardless of distance, even when the resultant footage is converted from one format to another.

How Important is Footage Resolution?

When it comes to CCTV, decent footage resolution is vital. After all, there’s no point capturing footage of someone committing a crime if that footage cannot be clearly seen.

This is where footage resolution comes in.

Digital video files have set dimensions, which are named according to the number of pixels that make up the image (more pixels = higher resolution).

The lowest resolution available to you will likely be 1280 x 720 pixels, commonly referred to as ‘720p’ (and usually captured via a 0.9 megapixel camera).

High Definition, or ‘HD’ is defined as consisting of 1920 x 1080 pixels (and will likely be captured by a 2.1 megapixel camera), this is often referred to as ‘1080p’.

Some systems will be listed as ‘4K’, ‘Ultra HD’ or ‘UHD’. This means that the frame is 4000 pixels wide (or greater). Ultra High Definition footage contains nearly 4 times the total number of pixels as regular HD.

4K resolution is a very good option, but even it has its drawbacks. For starters, such high quality footage can be very expensive to store (requiring as much as 8 times more hard drive space). To put this into perspective, 21 days of stored footage in HD would be little more than 2 days in 4K.

Regular security lights, when placed in strategic locations around a property, can be assets to a home security system.

In general, HD resolution will do the job well enough, provided the cameras are set up properly, zoomed in to the correct area and have been tested to ensure that any footage captured will be useable.

Broadly speaking, 4K is still better, but that should not presuppose that there’s anything at all wrong with HD, which is, in many ways, still the more practical option.

It is also worth issuing a note of caution at this point. Some of the less scrupulous manufacturers may market CCTV cameras as being “better than HD” or similar. The cameras may be listed as being 3 or even 4 megapixel cameras. While this description is factually accurate, it is also misleading, as in many cases, the system that the camera connects to will only record in HD, meaning that even if the camera is capable of capturing higher quality images, the system it’s connected to is not capable of processing/recording them.

In many cases, increasing a camera’s capacity from 2.1 megapixels to 4 megapixels isn’t as likely to improve the overall image as it is to simply require a lot more data storage and therefore cost you more money.

It definitely pays to do some research and/or seek advice if you’re unsure on any of this, as it will definitely save you money over the long term.

What is Video Compression?

Essentially, the process of video compression makes your IP camera’s files smaller and easier for the recorder to manage and store. In most cases, the files will be recorded onto either an NVR system or the camera’s MicroSD card. Almost every IP surveillance camera will come equipped with a video compression codec.

There are two main types of compression. These types are known as H.264 and MJPEG, which is short for ‘Motion JPEG’. MPEG-4, which is still sometimes used, is an older technology.

H.264, a new standard, is the first compression format to be created via collaboration between the IT and telecommunications industries.

H.264 offers a lower bitrate, which reduces bandwidth usage overall.

The term ‘bitrate’ describes the total number of bits-per-second (a ‘bit’ or ‘binary digit’ being the smallest quantification of computer data) that travel between two devices at any given point.

Bitrate is measured as kilobits per second (Kbps), megabits per second (Mbps) or Gigabits per second (Gbps). This is also called ‘transmission speed’, for fairly obvious reasons. Other terms for the same concept include ‘data rate’ and ‘transmission rate’.

For reference, 1 kilobit is equal to 1000 bits, 1 megabit equals 1000 kilobits and 1 gigabit equals 1000 megabits.

The term ‘bandwidth’ describes the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over the network at any given time. If, for example, your camera usage exceeds your system’s bandwidth, you will experience technical hiccups such as breakage in live feeds and recordings. Additionally, any devices that are connected to the network will also become sluggish and possibly even unusable in this scenario.

MJPEG and MPEG-4, while both being decent options, are not nearly as efficient as H.264, with a bitrate that is 80% lower than MJPEG and between 30 and 50% lower than MPEG-4. This is why H.264 is probably the best option when it comes to video compression technology.

How Much Do Floodlights Help?

Regular security lights, when placed in strategic locations around a property, can be assets to a home security system. However, their main use is as a deterrent.

While security lighting will make it harder for a would-be intruder to hide anywhere on the property, it is also entirely reliant upon residents of the area or local security services to not only see an intruder, but also be very clear about who they saw in order to make a statement that’s detailed enough to generate an arrest and/or conviction.

Of course, by casting a wide, bright light on an open area, security lights can help a CCTV camera to capture an image of a potential intruder. Beyond this, however, the usefulness of security lights is actually rather limited.

Infrared lights are considerably better, however. The advantage of IR is simple; infrared floodlights cannot be seen with the naked eye. When exposed under a regular security light, a would-be home invader will instinctively turn his/her head and flee. When exposed under an IR security light, the invader remains blissfully unaware of the fact. This allows the security camera to capture clear and detailed images of him/her.

If your residence is properly alarmed, the would-be burglar will trigger the alarm and flee, but can still be brought to justice via the footage captured through your IR floodlight.

IR floodlights can even ‘see’ through thick fog, heavy snowfall and hard rain. The better models can have an illumination range of up to 370 metres.

PIR (or Passive Infrared Receiver) floodlights are some of the best security equipment around, and easily the most sensitive on the market right now. These floodlights work by detecting the tiny amounts of heat that are emitted under the sensor’s watchful gaze and then activating the light accordingly.

CCTV does not require floodlights to work properly, of course, but a CCTV setup that includes IR or PIR floodlights is definitely the better option to take if it is available to you.

IR floodlights can even ‘see’ through thick fog, heavy snowfall and hard rain.

How Do Motion Sensors Work?

Without motion sensors, operating a home CCTV system would be an endless (and endlessly boring!) task. You would, in effect, be forced to monitor your CCTV feed constantly and in real time, in order to have any chance of catching criminals in the act.

Thankfully, motion sensor technology exists. This means that the camera is only activated once the sensors detect movement. Here’s how it works.

Motion detection generally falls into two categories. These categories are PIR (see above) and CV (Computer Vision). As described elsewhere, PIR devices monitor the ambient heat given off by all living things, activating themselves whenever they sense a change in overall temperature. CV, on the other hand, uses the camera’s own internal software to analyse the video footage frame-by-frame and activate only when a big enough change is detected.

PIR sensors are generally better at filtering out movements made by non-living objects (such as curtains or wind chimes fluttering in the breeze). However, due to spending long periods in ‘standby’ mode, PIR systems can take slightly longer to activate than CV systems do. Accordingly. it is entirely possible for a PIR camera to miss the action that triggered its activation in the first place.

Additionally, a PIR sensor placed inside a residence will be unable to detect an intruder approaching the residence from outside, even if the camera can see them, it will not activate because, although the person is moving, the sensor cannot detect any body heat coming from them.

CV detection can be better in some ways, but is generally more expensive to run, requiring expert computer analysis beyond the capabilities of the system itself. CV is also something of a blanket term that covers many, many different algorithms, some of which are better than others. This makes choosing the right CV system a daunting prospect for the less computer literate consumer.

False alerts can be a problem with both types of sensor, as motion sensors are easily triggered by a multitude of non-threatening movements, including pets, postal carriers and inclement weather.

This is where CV has a major advantage, as it can be programmed to ignore certain geometric properties, such as those of family pets, and focus specifically upon human forms. Additionally, CV can include facial recognition software, which is another major plus point in its favour.

Waterproofing: What is an ‘IP’ Rating?

Not to be confused with an IP camera, an IP rating is a score given to most forms of technology designed for use outdoors.

Essentially, an IP rating explains how weatherproof your device is. This rating always takes the form of two combined scores from 1 – 6 (‘0’ or ‘X’ meaning that it has no score – and therefore offers no protection – at all).

Your camera’s IP rating will always be a two-digit number. The first digit in this number describes the device’s vulnerability to intrusion from dust, dirt or small objects.

An intrusion rating of 1, for example, simply means that the camera is safe from penetration by objects greater than 50mm in diameter. A rating of 6 tells you that your device is totally dust proof.

An IP rating’s second digit describes the device’s resistance to moisture, such as might be caused by rain or condensation. A rating of 1 denotes a device that can be safely used in the rain, while an 8 rating means that the device may be fully submerged in water, even at significant depths.

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working the doors

Working the Doors has always been recognised as the main UK ‘Door Supervision Organisation’ outside of the SIA and so has close links with Door Supervisors and Security Contractors/Companies.
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