Alarm Circuit Supervision – Why You Should Care

EOL resistors installed at panel instead of terminating device.

The wrong place for EOL resistors.

Nearly every project we work on, we recommend that alarm initiating devices, especially door contacts, are to be configured using end of line (EOL) resistors for 4-state supervisory circuits.  The actual resistance value and configuration can vary by system manufacturer, but typically it involves wiring a 1K Ohm resistor in series and another in parallel with the switch, at the terminating device itself (not in the panel or junction box above the door).   This ensures that we have circuit supervision from the alarm panel (or card reader panel) all the way down to the device termination, so we know if the device is in a normal state (1), an alarm state (2), shorted state (3), or cut state (4).   This is known as 4-state supervision, because it distinguishes between 4 possible scenarios for the supervised device.

This simple addition offers greater security to the system, yet often gets omitted by vendors in the installation because it requires extra time and expense, and even causes confusion with some installers (really).  Worse, we sometimes end up with installations like the picture above that adds the EOL resistors to the panel with Dolphin connectors.  This type of installation does not offer any real security, and potentially introduces the opportunity for spurious connections inside the panel.  Thankfully, vendors like GRI manufacture magnetic contacts that come pre-assembled with the resistor array included.  They include 1K, 2K, 3.3K, 5.6K, 10K, and 33K resistors in a variety of contact packages, and also sell resistor packs for retrofit installations.

Years ago, one of the best explanations I ever read about alarm circuit supervision was from an Andover Controls card access panel installation guide.  I had learned already about 4-state supervision and why you should do it, but the following illustration shows it more clearly than anywhere else I ever saw it.  I ran across it again the other day and decided I would put it in an article here on the site.  The illustration below shows how the first two iterations of EOL resistors do not offer any significant line supervision, and could easily be defeated.  The third configuration offers 4 unique resistance values that correspond with the 4 possible state conditions.

Credit to Schneider Electric / Andover Controls for the illustration.

 

Posted in: Security Technology, Training

Leave a Comment (0) →

Video Surveillance System Best Practices – The Right Way to Use CCTV

One of the most common questions we are asked by clients when starting a new project is if they should use Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras for video surveillance.

As we work the the programmatic stage of the project, we try to apply some industry best practices with the client on HOW the cameras will be used on the property.  Here’s a quick rundown on some of the concepts we try to apply:

  1. Identify the purpose of the system and the objective of the surveillance.  This should be a detailed statement that originates in the project’s Basis of Design document.  The objectives should be detailed and achievable.  For example, “providing a view of the entire parking lot” is not a good performance objective, while “identifying the license plates of each vehicle entering or leaving the lot, along with a digital time-date identifier” is an effective performance objective.
  2. Minimize the number of cameras in the system. While this obviously has an impact on the initial cost of installation, it also enables the owner to utilize the system more effectively with fewer personnel and technical resources.  It helps to reduce the overall operating and maintenance costs as well.  A side benefit is that it encourages the system designer to “task” the cameras.
  3. “Task” each camera. Cameras must be placed so that each camera has a dedicated field of view.  The field of view should be directly related to one of the performance objectives.  Once a field of view has been defined, a camera and lens that meet the general performance requirements for the task can be specified. As with Item #1 above, the purpose of each camera should be identified in the design documents.
  4. Avoid new or unproven technologies. Select equipment and a system topology that uses proven technologies.  The shift in video cameras from analog cameras that use coaxial cable for NTSC composite video signals to IP cameras that use Cat 5e or Cat 6 data cable is an example of a technology that was slow to be adopted, but has proven itself to be a reliable improvement.  On the other hand, owners who have adopted unusual technologies, such as 360º digital PTZ cameras that require special software to render a viewable image, sometimes find that they are locked into a platform that may not be supported long term.  A helpful analogy is to consider cameras to be similar to telephones.  A good design allows the cameras to be replaced or upgraded as required while continuing to use the same cabling and infrastructure.
  5. Invest more heavily in the cabling and infrastructure than you might otherwise. The infrastructure that serves the cameras includes cabling, power cabling, power supplies, fiber-optic conductors, adapters, and hardware.  The main components of the infrastructure should last at least 20 years or more.  Cameras, however, will last significantly less than that period.  Therefore, be sure to invest wisely in the basics, as they will outlast three camera generations or more.
  6. Maintain the system properly after installation. Ongoing maintenance after the initial installation is a critical component of an effective surveillance system.   One of the key issues in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Sumitomo, Inc., for a murder that occurred at their Research Triangle Park, NC, site in the early 1990s was whether or not certain video cameras were operational at the time of the incident.  While it is doubtful that a malfunctioning camera would have been a significant contributing factor, it was nonetheless an issue that was uncovered during the discovery phase.  The camera had been out of order for at least six months and the defendant produced work orders for the repair.  Unfortunately, some of the work orders had been delayed by a facilities manager who kept putting the repairs off until a later budget period.  An owner cannot be expected to guarantee that all parts of a system will be operational at all times, but it is expected that repairs will be made in a timely manner and that the owner exercises due care.
  7. Develop a written Appropriate Use and Retention policy for archived video. A surprising number of owners do not have any written policy regarding the appropriate use and retention of recorded video. A proper policy should be developed in conjunction with corporate counsel and should conform to the records retention policy of the organization. The policy should specify for what purposes the video images may be used and what type of authorization is necessary to access or copy them.  It should identify them as to the appropriate level of confidentiality.  It should specify what constitutes inappropriate use and what disciplinary action may be taken if personnel violate the policy.  And, as with all such policies, it should be disseminated to the personnel who have access to the video to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities.
  8. Archived video should not be retained beyond the specified retention period without proper authorization. Archived video is a company record and may be subject to discovery or subpoena.  Once the retention period, which is usually 30 days for most applications, has expired, the video should be deleted.  Corporate counsel can provide guidance on what would constitute a duty to retain specific video in connection with an incident or ongoing investigation, but video should never be retained beyond the limit specified.  We are aware of at least two instances in the past in which an owner has been asked to go through ALL videocassettes in their possession because an employee stated to an attorney that they “sometimes” kept some of the video for other purposes.  This is an expensive and time-consuming process and usually doesn’t produce anything of value.
  9. Leverage technology where it makes sense.  Using software technologies that are easily applied or even come included with the IP camera or Video Management System (VMS) can increase the overall effectiveness of your surveillance system and your security operation.   While one-off, proprietary hardware technologies might be so unique they are not supported later, software technologies are usually less painful to resolve if they don’t work as desired.  Software technologies like Axis Technologies’ “ZipStream” video compression or video analytics features such as face detection or autotracking are a more recent inclusions to camera and VMS software that can improve the effectiveness of video surveillance by making your operation more efficient and capturing and storing meaningful video clips instead of empty scenes that offer no value.
  10. Be sure you can record audio.  Many IP cameras come with audio microphones and recording capability built in.  Before you deploy these types of cameras with audio enabled, check with Corporate counsel to make sure that you are not violating any state or local statues prohibiting the recording of audio on your premises.  Some shy away completely from audio recording because of a broad interpretation of 18 U.S. Code § 2511, otherwise known as the Wiretap Act, which states that it is illegal to intentionally or purposefully intercept, disclose, or use the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication through the use of a “device”.  While video is not specifically mentioned in the statute, and a camera is not specifically mentioned as a “device”, it certainly fits a broad interpretation.  When in doubt, don’t record audio; but if permitted, audio recording can significantly enhance the evidentiary benefits of video surveillance.

There are many factors to consider when laying out a video surveillance system, but applying the above principles when considering the scope and size of your CCTV system will help avoid some of the of the more common problems and pitfalls that can arise from poor planning.

 

 

 

Posted in: Premises Liability, Security Technology

Leave a Comment (0) →

Products That Don’t Exist, But Should

While working with a client for a high end residence, he brought up the video door bell gadgets that are all over the internet and in every Lowes or Home Depot. The objective was to have a decorative camera that would recognize video motion and record video and sound for visitors at the doorstep.

There are quite a few of these products available on the market, and for the general consumer they are probably a good fit.   But for our client base, a high end residence will typically have an integrated security and access control system, including video cameras.   Products like Ring and SkyBell must be used with a contract service that stores the video in the cloud, and are typically accessed and viewed via a smartphone app and are proprietary in nature.   This means they don’t support standards like RTSP or ONVIF which would allow off the shelf network video recorders (NVR) to record the video on-site or remotely as part of a comprehensive monitoring service.

To make things worse, these cameras typically operate over WiFi, and do not have any kind of battery backup.   Unreliable wireless communications and unreliable power don’t make for good security.   But at the same time we don’t want to add some industrial looking door bell to the client’s residence.   So what residential products like this are available currently that we can connect to our own NVR?  Nothing.   Really…. nada, zip, zilch.   There are currently no low profile, decorative products commercially available that will support a hardwired video connection and operate as a standard doorbell camera.

Another option was a product with a security camera integrated into the porch light.  Kuna makes some great looking products that would fit most any residential style and decor.  Kuna Maximus Light w/Camera But again, these products lock you into a monthly cloud service contract with proprietary protocols that are not available to 3rd party NVRs.  The Kuna Maximus product almost fits the bill too, providing good looks with security lighting, 720P video and two-way voice communications, but it still requires WiFi and is proprietary.

Someone Please Build This:

Here’s a product idea for high end residential and ornate commercial environments that want additional security.   Take a product like the Kuna Maximus where you have a decorative security light with a built in camera, but instead make it with the following features:

  • Motion Triggered Lighting (two-level lighting for soft accent lighting and full power security lighting when motion is detected).
  • 2 Megapixel IP Camera with Night Vision, H.264 video codec.
  • Two way audio communications with built-in microphone and speaker.
  • Support for HTTP, ONVIF, RTSP, FTP, SMTP, DHCP, DDNS, and SNMP protocols.
  • 10/100 Ethernet via built in powerline adapter, plus 802.11ac Dual Band 2.4G/5G Wireless support

So here’s the thinking behind this.  Almost every residence has a porch light at the front door.  This device would replace the existing wall mounted porch light, using the exact same 2-wire 12o VAC power that already exists.  It operates as any other motion security light, either “off until motion sensed”, or “1/2 brightness until motion sensed and then full brightness”.  It takes any standard Edison bulb.   The good part comes in where we add the camera that can use WiFi (if you must) or the built-in powerline Ethernet interface, allowing you to connect it to your own home network using a powerline module plugged into the wall near your router and then via CAT5 to your router.   From there it can behave as any other network camera on your NVR, or it can operate standalone with video motion detection and send emails when triggered, or upload via FTP to a web server, or whatever.  The powerline Ethernet adapters allow us to avoid WiFi where we can, and use the existing power wiring, eliminating the need for additional CAT5 cabling to the light.  If video is centrally monitored, the remote operator could communicate via IP audio to the person in front of the camera using a video management server.

This product should already exist, and quite frankly I can’t believe it doesn’t.  It would probably cost less than $300 retail, and I’d not only be using them on every executive residence that I was responsible for, I’d have one on my own home too.   And if you really want to have some contract service to store video in the cloud, fine… just don’t make it the only option.

 

Posted in: Reviews

Leave a Comment (0) →

Kile Unterzuber Receives NCESA President’s Award

We are proud to announce Kile Unterzuber has received the 2017 President’s Award by the North Carolina Electronic Security Association.

“The recipient of the 2017 President’s Award has been an outstanding leader to the NCESA for many years.  His exceptional ability to lead the industry in educational advancement has been respected and admired for many years.  His leadership passion has provided direction and pathways for the organizations through top level education.    The never-ending work of this volunteer has earned him the reputation of an unselfish and highly accountable industry advocate.  With many years of industry experience, Kile has proven through his honorable and ethical character that community and industry service is essential. He has always dedicated himself to better the world around him and the industries he serves.” — Chris Lohr, President NCESA

Posted in: Company News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Cat 6a cabling, do you really need it for IP Video?

In security, modern IP video CCTV camera systems inevitably involve support from the IT/Data Communications departments now, and we often get asked about “how much” bandwidth is needed and what cabling types we need for the cameras, switches, and servers.  Often our advice is in conflict with the IT corporate standards, and we end up explaining the practical use for video in security.  This article attempts to discuss in layman’s terms the differences in the cabling types, and how they relate to IP video security.  The actual physics behind the IEEE 802-series specifications are complicated and beyond the scope of this document (fair warning: that rabbit hole goes deep).

In order to understand the basic question, some explanation is needed on the different types Ethernet cabling, and their capabilities and limitations. It’s mostly about increasing the frequency capabilities of the cable.  Cat 5e is built to meet the specification requirements of up to 100 MHz, Cat 6 takes the spec to 250 MHz, and Cat 6a takes it all the way up to 500 MHz. The main difference between these cabling standards is the amount of insulation for the conductors and the rate of twist, although there is also a slight increase in the gauge size for Cat 6 also.   The net effect of these modifications is to reduce crosstalk, attenuation, and EMI.  This can also have the effect of reducing propagation delay and delay skew, which can be measured in millisecond increases in transmission times in some cases.  Delay is known in all types of transmission media, even fiber optics, and is the amount of time that passes between the transmission of a signal and when it is received at the other end of the data link.  In collision based networks like Ethernet using TCP/IP, minimizing propagation delay and skew can have an increased effect on the efficiency of the network and the net amount of data that can be transmitted upon any given network.  Dropped packets mean re-transmission, and bandwidth gets eaten up by repeating data information that’s already been sent (at least) once before.

Cabling Standard Limitations

Cable Type Max Distance Max Data Rate
Cat 5e 100 Meters 1 Gbps
Cat 6 50 Meters 10 Gbps
Cat 6a 100 Meters 10 Gpbs

 

Cat 6 was the first entry into copper based 10Gpbs data transmission at a commercial scale. The problem with Cat 6 is that after 50 meters the data rate is essentially 1Gpbs, or no better than Cat 5e.   Cat 6a was later introduced and will do the full data rate of 10Gbps for the full rated distance for Ethernet (100 meters).  However, Cat 6a cabling is significantly larger in diameter than Cat 5e and has a stiffer jacket, making cable installation more difficult.  It’s also more expensive, about 33% more expensive than Cat 5e.

But do you really need 10Gbps at the edge device?  Probably not for most applications.  Even current high resolution cameras would not be able to fully utilize a 10Gpbs network, never mind that the server hardware on the other end processing a couple dozen full rate video streams would be overwhelmed.  Currently, high resolution 3 megapixel (MP) cameras are widely available on the commercial market.  At 30 frames per second (fps) and at full resolution, it would consume a maximum data rate of 15,000 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 15 Mbps, and more likely it would consume quite less.  In most security applications, resolution and data rates are throttled not because of bandwidth limitations as much as for storage limitations on the server.  Exceptions to that would be the gaming industry and congested high speed traffic areas such as toll booths.  But for most of our applications, we typically find 2MP cameras at 10fps a reasonable compromise that consumes less bandwidth (and disk space) while still providing adequate video information for surveillance, response, and investigation.

Common Camera Resolution and Bitrates

Resolution (MP)
Pixels Frame Rate (fps)
Bitrate (Mbps)
1.0 1280 x 720 30 6
2.0 1920 x 1080 30 10
3.0 2048 x 1536 30 15

 

Even at full resolution and frame rate, you could theoretically put eighty-three (83) 3MP cameras (1250 Mbps/15 Mbps) on one 10GBase-T network cable. Of course in reality it would be considerably less, but you get the idea.

So where is 10Gpbs Ethernet really needed?  For now, backbones.  Those connections from network switch to network switch that are relaying end device connectivity to other devices, clients, or servers.  Often these are fiber optic links, but more and more they are being made available as copper links and using Cat 6a.

So what do we recommend?  Given the additional cost and current technical capabilities of IP cameras, we typically recommend Cat 5e cabling as sufficient for all IP video cameras where the 100m distance limitation is held and special conditions that require fiber optic cable or special media converters don’t apply.  There are also some technical concerns on the terminations and number of cycles for insertion/reinsertion that can come into play due to the cable’s rigidity.  Cat 5e is readily available, inexpensive, reliable, easy to work with, and more than capable of the task at hand.

Still, if the objective is to “future proof” your installation, Cat 6a is among the latest and greatest and should ensure that even 100 MP cameras of the future would be handled without re-cabling.

 

Posted in: Security Technology

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Impact of Closed Circuit Television

Almost 30 years ago when I was first entering the security industry, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras weren’t terribly different from the cameras that were being used to for movie and television production.  They were smaller, typically had less resolution and no audio, but the basic principles were the same.   Charged Coupled Device (CCD) cameras were fairly new, and if you wanted low light performance, you were resigned to use tube cameras.  Yes, tubes.  As in vacuum tubes.  Tube cameras actually used a vacuum tube for the imager, and the tradeoff for low light sensitivity was a shorter life span, higher power requirements, and reduced reliability.   Later, Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) cameras came into play and helped overcome some of the limitations of both tube and CCD technologies.

Vidicon Imaging Tube for Old Style CCTV Camera

Since then, digital Internet Protocol (IP) cameras have come into play.    These newer cameras offer increased light sensitivity, much higher resolution, and new enhancements like video analytics and flexible communications options.

While all of these advancements make for better security, the most important enhancements are the video analytics and IP communications.   These two technology advances increase the likelihood of detecting activity and being able to monitor and record that activity from almost any location.

For most small and medium sized businesses or municipalities, the thought of a comprehensive video management system seems not only unnecessary, but impractical from a monitoring and timely intervention standpoint.  “Video cameras don’t stop crimes, all they do is record it”, we often hear.  This is not necessarily true.  CCTV video serves three important roles in security:

  1. Deterrence – Sometimes just the sight of a video camera will deter criminal activity from ever happening in the first place. Because being watched means being held accountable, this is a strong enticement for on premises security cameras.  No, this doesn’t mean adding “dummy cameras” is a good idea.  In fact, installing dummy cameras can make matters worse in premises liability cases for incidents occurring on your property.
  1. Detection – Having all of the campus CCTV cameras monitored in a single location allows for an operator to spot potential negative events during or even prior to them actually happening. IP enabled cameras offer increased detection capability in two ways; first they allow for cameras to be placed anywhere within the corporate network infrastructure (or even further away via hybrid cabling or wireless networking), and second they permit remote monitoring from anywhere there is network or internet access, including smart phones and tablets.  This allows for remote monitoring and recording at an off-site or contract monitoring facility, and also allows the ability to feed recorded or live events to first responders almost in real-time.    It also means that cameras can be located just about anywhere in your corporate footprint, including on-board vehicles.
  1. Assessment – Being able to discern what, where, and when something is happening on camera is critical to determining how to respond to a particular event, and also aids in evidentiary requirements for later prosecution. With the advent of video analytics, that can now be taken a step further with things like video motion detection, face detection, traffic movement, object removal, and facial recognition.   These tools increase the reliability of the observer (or recording device) to actually capture useful video information for use in timely intervention or for evidence in prosecution.   For example, with the right software, imagine a disgruntled employee situation where the former employee’s photo is setup to trigger an alert if the video system “recognizes” his face when he tried to re-enter the campus.  The authorities can be notified and other emergency precautions can be taken much sooner than previously possible.

Each one of these roles is an important piece to the overall security strategy for a business or government entity, and when used with common sense security practices like Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) and other industry best practices, CCTV video becomes a powerful tool to both deter, detect, and defend both persons and property in a timely and effective manner.

 

Posted in: CPTED, Premises Liability, Security Consulting, Security Technology

Leave a Comment (0) →

A Theory on the Yahoo Security Breach and Your Instant Messenger Service

In September of 2016, at least 500 million Yahooatb_yahoo_messenger accounts have been affected in one of the largest data breaches in history.  My Yahoo account was one of them, although I only used it as a personal dump account for registering on non-essential websites.  Luckily I kept no personal or financial information in any of the emails there.

Most people, including the media, seem to be concerned with how this will affect the Verizon deal acquiring Yahoo.  Indeed, I’m certain Verizon is VERY concerned with it.   But that’s not the interested thing.  The interesting thing is that Yahoo isn’t talking about HOW the data breach occurred, or if it’s connected with the prior data breach in August that stole 200 million accounts.  Or that the data breach seems to simultaneously occurred with a rather hastily put together service migration of the well used Yahoo Instant Messenger (IM) platform.

More importantly and much less publicized, in August of this year Yahoo completely abandoned the venerable and well documented Yahoo Instant Messenger service, instead offering a dumbed down, less feature-rich service by the same name.  Most transitions of this scale and magnitude would take months or years for the migration, but this happened very quickly, leaving 3rd party vendors (Pidgin comes to mind) without much recourse for their offerings.  After August 5th, anyone that was still using the legacy Messenger app (or the API) was no longer be able to log in or send messages.  You couldn’t even log in…

Yahoo IM is well known to have some security concerns, including the ability to “see” anonymously and remotely if someone is online using it, even in invisible mode.  It also had a very well liked and well used archival feature that recorded the entire text conversation for audit purposes.  Many brokers and traders used this platform to buy/sell products and put together deals very quickly.   They loved it.  But the new version does not support this feature (among others), and brokers have been forced to migrate to other platforms like ICE.

So what does all this tell us?  It tells me that there was likely a very serious security flaw in the Yahoo IM protocol, and that it likely had been exploited to gain access to millions of accounts without the users’ knowledge.   Any time a Fortune 500 company abruptly switches out a venerable product and substitutes it with a hastily deployed, inferior product, you can bet your hat that there was something significantly wrong with it.

Meanwhile, Yahoo is hush hush about it, not even mentioning the curious and spontaneous change to their IM platform that so many have relied upon for years.

Posted in: Security Technology

Leave a Comment (0) →

LED Street Lighting for Security Purposes

Drive down any US city street these days, and the led-lightsold, yellow street lights now shine bright white and bright with the latest in modern street lights, LEDs.  LED lights are popular because of their tremendous energy savings, about 80-90% energy efficiency, when compared to a traditional incandescent light bulb. This means the LED lamp has about 80% of the energy used to illuminate actually goes into making the light, with the remaining 20% given off as thermal energy.   Compared with the highly inefficient incandescent bulb, which is about 25% converted to light, and 75% given off as heat.   So for any business, residence, or municipality, a huge savings in operating costs can be found by switching to LED lighting, and with federal subsidies for energy savings, the capital costs are partially offset as well.

But a small wrinkle has developed as the American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted guidance for communities on selecting among LED lighting options to minimize potential harmful human and environmental effects.   People are complaining about driving under the blue-white lights, or trying to sleep with one newly installed on the street outside their bedroom window.  According to the AMA:  “High-intensity LED lighting designs emit a large amount of blue light that appears white to the naked eye and create worse nighttime glare than conventional lighting. Discomfort and disability from intense, blue-rich LED lighting can decrease visual acuity and safety, resulting in concerns and creating a road hazard.  In addition to its impact on drivers, blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night. It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.”   So the AMA is recommending that LED street lamps that are installed turn the color temperature down from 5000K or 4000K to at least 3000K, or a “warm-white” color that more mimics natural sunlight.

For the last 30 or 40 years, most street lamps have been high pressure sodium or mercury vapor lamps.  These are high intensity gas discharge (HID) lamps that operate by forcing an electric arc through vaporized mercury or sodium to produce light. The arc discharge is generally confined to a small fused quartz arc tube mounted within a larger borosilicate glass bulb.   The color is the big difference:  mercury vapor lamps usually produce a bluish/purple color when operating, and sodium lamps produce a yellowish/brown color.   Sodium is the most common type lamp until just recently because it was more efficient than mercury.

So what difference does this make from a security standpoint?  The color mostly…  Oddly from a security standpoint the color can make a difference from a psychological and electronic security perspective.   In the past we have generally recommended Metal Halide HID lamps instead of mercury or sodium, even though they operate similarly, because the color is a much more true white and allows for proper color identification in low light situations.  Mercury and Sodium lamps can make greens and reds look like different colors, and navy and black almost impossible to differentiate.  Enter LED lamps.  They look very similar to metal halide from a color perspective, and allow better color rendition for both human eyes and electronic eyes such as video surveillance cameras, most of which see in color these days even at night (if the lighting is good enough).  Below you can see the major difference between an older style sodium vapor lamp and a newer LED.

Old and New

Both lamps give off ample light, but there is an obvious color difference.  And while it’s not terribly easy to see from this photo, true accurate color renderings are harder with the yellow sodium lamps.   The LED lamp here is a hotter color temperature, around 4000K and has that bluish tint that is being complained about.   Lowering the temperature to 3000K would make it slightly more amber, but not anywhere near the color of the sodium lamp.

So if your business, facility, or municipality has LED lamps being planned, it may be prudent to push for a 3000K color temperature not only for security camera color rendering accuracy, but also from a psychological and health perspective, and you have the AMA helping make your case for you.

 

 

Posted in: Company News, CPTED

Leave a Comment (0) →

Review – Samsung SND-7084 3MP Minidome IP Camera

SND-6084R_PD1

The Samsung SND-7084R is part of the WiseNetIII family of cameras from Samsung with 3 megapixel 1080p high definition images. It’s high level of functionalities includes 120dB Wide Dynamic Range which delivers 30fps at 3MP (60fps at 2 MP), low light performance down to 0.1 lux (F1.2, 50IRE, color) creating clear images in low light conditions, and has a built-in 2.8x motorized varifocal lens for easy focus  control.  The (R) designation in the model number is for IR illumination, allowing for 0 Lux B&W viewing.  The unit is designed primarily for ceiling mounts, but a variety of mounting options are available from the manufacturer for alternative mounting options.   Average Retail Price: under $600.00.

Notable features: 3MP @ 30FPS, Motorized zoom (3 ~ 8.5mm, no motorized pan/tilt but can be adjusted manually), Micro SD/SDHC slot, True Day/Night vision, IR LEDs for 0 Lux operation, Bi-directional audio capability, analog video out, intelligent video analytics (Tampering, Virtual line, Enter/Exit, (Dis)Appear, Audio detection, Face detection with metadata), defog, vide stabilization, and IPV4/IPV6 network connectivity with SSL, 802.1X, and QOS and full SNMP support.

Upon unboxing, the camera looks very well built, and includes all the connectors, mounting screws, and torx bits to install and service the camera.  The included documentation was sparse, but the full online document manual is on disk and also available online here.  The installation hardware includes both an “L” shaped torx wrench and a torx bit for a drill for easier installation.  The camera housing is aluminum metal, with a tough lexan material dome suitable for vandal resistant applications.  The dimensions are Ø132.1 x 107.6mm (Ø5.2″ x 4.24″), weight is 575g (1.27Lbs).  Electrical requirements are 24VAC/12VDC @ 10W or PoE (802.3af Class 3) @ 11W maximum.  Operating temperature range is -10°C ~ +55°C (+14°F ~ +131°F) / Less than 90% RH.

SND-7084R

The camera has some nice additions that aren’t found on competing models, such as a dedicated analog video output connector, a built in SD/SDHC slot for video storage, audio in/out, zoom/focus switches on camera, defog fan, and phoenix connectors for power connections.

The CAT5 connection includes power and connectivity lights, but the orientation inside the case makes it such that connectors with long strain reliefs may be hard to fit inside the case.  In most cases the cable will be field terminated anyway, so it’s probably not a big problem.  Waterproof grommets are included to ensure a water tight seal for exterior installations.  If you elect to use the additional connectors, note that they have fairly long leads on them, so be sure to include additional room in your mounting configuration.  Although for most installations, a single CAT-5E cable is all that should be needed.  There is some indication in the Samsung documentation that audio is available via a built-in microphone, but we could not locate a microphone anywhere on the unit, and were unable to hear any audio without the addition of a discrete microphone added to the audio input.  We did not test the talk-back audio output feature.  The connector to the left of the CAT5 connector is a multi-feature connector which has the audio in/out and alarm in/out harness.  The alarm input/outputs were not tested.

 

DSCN1019DSCN1015DSCN1016DSCN1017

 

Setup

We connected the camera both with 12VDC power and a standard 100BaseT Ethernet connection, and also with a PoE Ethernet connection.  The camera booted up and connected via DHCP quickly under both configurations.   We used the MAC address to find the IP assigned, and connected to the camera using Firefox on a Windows 10 computer.   Note that like most IP cameras, you will need to first download and install their specific codec in order to view any video.  This necessary step is a hassle because it requires a browser restart, but it only needs to be done once.

Samsung-Setup-Screen

When first connecting to configure,  you must set a password…  a really, long, complex password.  For testing, I just set it to “Admin1223!”.  Username default is “admin”.  The setup configuration menus are intuitive and fairly common among other IP cameras, and the menus were very responsive and quick to acknowledge configuration changes.   We first connected to verify we had video, and then began looking at default configuration settings and features.  Since nobody likes upgrading firmware, we pleasantly noted this unit shipped with the latest version of firmware, which as of this writing is 3.00_140915.  Notable features on the configuration defaults are that SNMP V2 is on by default with public read/write, DHCP is enabled by default (this is a good thing), and UPnP and Bonjour discovery services are enabled by default (this is not a good thing).

Date/Time – The camera also supports timezones and NTP time synchronization, with support for up to 5 NTP servers (why, we’re not sure, but okay).  TCP ports are also fully configurable for HTTP, HTTPS, RTSP, and the Device Port.  IPV6 is disabled by default.

Users – Multiple users are supported, and we recommend setting up an NVR user/password and then  making the default admin password really complex (it should already be anyway).   It does not appear possible to rename the admin user or delete it.   You can also have RTSP connections without authentication, but we would not recommend it.

Events – The events tab configures how the camera senses activity/events and responds to them.  Notable features are face detection (which worked rather well), and motion detection/video analytics which also worked well and was easy to configure.  However, the event triggers seemed to be limited to the camera only, meaning you could trip an alarm output (DO), record to SD/SDHC, or send video via email or FTP.  There did not appear to be any methods to send logical alarm event outputs to the NVR or VMS, leaving most of these features best residing on the head end software platform for most applications.   We should also note however, that while we are aware an SDK from Samsung that would likely allow for passing logical video alarm events exists, we also have not asked the manufacturer for relevant information about it and have not verified integration with other NVR manufacturers about compatibility.   We also noted that NAS support is available, and alarm events can trigger automatic recording to the NAS device, although this feature was not tested.

Camera Setup – Multiple profiles are supported, with backlight compensation, WDR, AWB, and day/night modes all worked well in our testing under different lighting conditions.  We were unable to find a way to export/import camera profile settings however, and feel that for an enterprise installation, a shared profile among cameras that could be imported during installation would make installations easier and more uniform.

Focus Setup – Focus/Zoom was configurable by a joystick switch on the camera body itself, and via software in the configuration menu.  It was less than intuitive however, and the “Simple Focus” feature really didn’t seem to help set a specific field of view as we’d hoped.  For a varifocal camera, we expected to be able to set the view and autofocus would take care of itself.  We also were unable to remotely zoom via our NVR software, even though it detected OXML PTZ control via ONVIF.

Setup for NVRs

Note the URL for RTSP viewing from your NVR, if not automatically configured via ONVIF, would be “/profile2/media.smp”.  At least that’s what worked in our testing.  Our VMS software did not correctly identify the ONVIF RTSP URL, and we had to input the string manually.  The correct URL was not documented in the setup instructions as best we could determine.

Also on the camera setup page under “Video Profile”, the ‘profile’ setting may need to be changed from “High” to “Baseline” for some NVRs, in order to work properly.  Other settings, FPS, resolution, codec, bitrate, etc. should be changed as suitable.

Summary

Overall the build quality and features of the Samsung SND-7084R are very good.  We found most of the built in software features easy to use and effective, and image quality and stability was excellent.  Warranty for the camera is 3 years.  We feel this camera is suitable for commercial and government installations, and depending upon the video management system, could be suitable for enterprise installations that could take advantage of it’s embedded video analytics.

DSCN1018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Reviews

Leave a Comment (0) →

Product Review – Wansview NCM-623W Wireless IP Camera

One of the things we do as a service to our customers here at Protective Resources is product reviews.   We even have manufacturers request that we test and review their product for bugs or suitability to a given mission profile.  Mostly this is fun for us.  We get to see new toys and try to break them, often learning something ourselves along the way.  In this case we were testing Network Video Recorder (NVR) platforms and I needed several IP cameras to serve as video feeds for the NVRs.

For the first product review of this particular blog, I thought I’d do a simple one for a really cheap, but powerful IP camera that I’ve used for testing and demonstrations.  This camera is a Chinese import product that is most likely NOT on the approved manufacturer’s list for most commercial grade NVRs.   That’s where this product comes in.

The Wansview NCM-623W Wireless IP Camera is not, in my opinion, a robust commercial grade IP camera that I would recommend to a client for use in an administration or R&D type facility.  The product looks like it is more suited for home or retail use, as it’s on the lower end for resolution (1MP) for an IP camera.  It is however, a very solid built and reliable camera with some pretty nice features for the price.  For a camera that I paid $138.00 each for, I really can’t be upset about any of the the “cons” that I’ve discovered with this camera.   It’s been over a year or so now, and there may be other products on the market that are comparable, but for the price and ease of configuration, I’m satisfied with my purchase of these cameras for demonstrations and evaluations.

Some Specs:

wansview NCB-546W

Wansview NCM-623W Wireless IP Camera

  • 1280 x 720 Max Resolution (1 Megapixel) at up to 30fps and 4mbps bitrate.
  • Lens f=3.6mm, F=2.0
  • VGA/QVGA/QQVGA three video resolutions optional.
  • RTSP and ONVIF compatible
  • Motion detection can detect environmental situation.
  • Built-in Microphone, supports two-way intercom function. (G.711/G.726 Codecs)
  • 10/100 10baseT, or 802.11b/g/n wireless protocol.
  • Supports UPNP, Motion detection, Infrared LED for night vision (up to 5M)
  • Support for mobile phone
  • Supports TF Card for on camera recording (event or continuous)

 

We successfully connected this camera to several NVR software platforms using RTSP at full resolution and bitrate.  It performs well, but it is definitely strained.  It has a built in webserver, and connecting to it while it’s streaming at that rate is, well, sluggish.  The default user “admin” and password “123456” are  used to login (and connect via the RTSP stream if you don’t change it, which you did, right?).  There are actually three users by default, “admin”, “user” and “guest”, all with default passwords that should be changed.  As far as I know, these can only be changed by the web interface, and there is no enterprise type remote configuration tool.

Once connected as admin you can configure the camera settings, users, recording features, alarm features, wireless features, and network settings like FTP, DDNS, and email upon alarm events.  It has a pretty rich feature set for the price.  The audio worked well using either codec to an Internet Explorer browser (not Firefox or Chrome), but only when connected via hardwire ethernet.  When using wireless ethernet the audio is choppy, and changing codecs, bit rates, or wireless network protocols did not solve the  problem.  The camera supports G.711 and G.726 audio encoding format. The sound of the G.711 is better, but it takes up more bandwidth.  Using the G.726 codec didn’t make any difference over WiFi.  An email to Wansview tech support has never been answered.

Since it supports both MJPEG and RTSP streams, you can connect to it with most any IP Camera NVR software or even a desktop media player like VLC.  The syntax for the RTSP stream is a little cryptic, but the high resolution stream I found best was something like this:  “rtsp://admin:123456@camera251.myip.com/11”, but each of the streams may be connected to as follows:

  1. rtsp://user:pass@ip:port/11 (View the first video stream – 1280×720)
  2. rtsp://user:pass@ip:port/12 (View the second video stream – 640×360)
  3. rtsp://user:pass@ip:port/13 (View the third video stream – 320×180)

Video quality and picture resolution was quite good, as you can see from the test image.   The video is 1280X720 @ 512kbps data rate and 15 fps.

Wansview Demo Picture

Overall we are pleased with this camera.  If you have sufficient experience with network IP cameras and NVR software, and understand the jargon and technical issues, this camera is worth the money and will do the job.  It’s not going to replace a $500 Axis IP camera, but then it only costs 1/4 the price too.  For our purposes, this camera performs well, is cheap enough we can buy enough to fully test an evaluation NVR, and supports enough modern features that we can put a demo through its paces and see how it performs without having to worry about the field hardware.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • 1.3 Megapixel @ 30 FPS and 4mbps Data Rate
  • IR LED Illuminator
  • Two way Audio Hardwire
  • Ethernet or 802.11 G/N Wifi
  • RTSP or MJPEG Streams
  • Web Interface or Smartphone Client
  • Email / FTP / Local Recording

Cons

  • Audio Over WiFi Unreliable
  • Some Software Features a Little Buggy
  • “Shutter” click sound audible when ambient light changes
  • Web Interface Slow
  • Documentation Lacking

 

 

Posted in: Reviews

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 2 of 3 123