Posts Tagged IP Cameras

The use of shielded category Ethernet cable for IP Video

It comes up from time to time from customers and vendors when and where to use shielded category twisted pair cable for Ethernet.   Most vendors hate it.  It’s hard to terminate, doesn’t flex well and nobody ever seems to agree on how it should be grounded.    For the most part, it wasn’t much of a problem for CAT3 or even CAT5 cable.  But with higher and higher bandwidth (and thus frequency) demands on the cable, using CAT6A cable in certain environments for network applications becomes important.   And while there’s a decent argument for why you may not need CAT6A cable for IP video (see this article for more information), many of our clients are using it as a corporate standard, regardless of the application.

Although CAT6 cables have improved the cable twist to handle gigabit Ethernet and reject noise, this by itself is not enough for environments that have high electromagnetic interference (EMI).  What is EMI?  Think of EMI as gremlins that are trying to attack the signal of your network cable.  EMI is generated as electromagnetic waves in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, and can come from many sources.  The most logical is an RF transmitter, like a radio station tower or even HAM radio antenna; but other sources can be harder to spot, such as a nearby computer, high voltage power lines, a leaky transformer, or fluorescent light fixture that’s going bad.   Running network cables in your ceiling or plenum space could potentially put these cables near those kinds of sources, and thus introducing the gremlins to degrade or even interrupt communications over the Ethernet network cable.   Since Ethernet is a collision based network strategy, this usually looks like a slow connection, as the network repeatedly keeps re-transmitting packets that were found to be in error.  Result, poor network performance and potentially bad video.

Most people are familiar with UTP cable (Unshielded Twisted Pair), versus STP (Shielded Twisted Pair), and UTP is commonly used in CAT5e cabling that is predominant for gigabit Ethernet networking in most commercial and residential applications.  STP cables have an additional metallic braid that forms a sort of shield (google “Faraday shield” for how it works) around the conductors, and reduces the amount of interference that can be injected into the cable.   Still, both types of conductors (STP and UTP) have one thing in common, the twisted pair, that by itself reduces interference by its inherent design.

Photo courtesy of Axis Communications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drawback of STP cables is that they increase the total cost of the installation. STP cables are more expensive due to the shielding (and usually are higher quality), which is an additional material that goes into every foot of the cable.  The shielding also makes the cable heavier and stiffer. Thus, it is more difficult to handle during installation (pulling cable over long distances through a conduit is hard enough with flexible cable).

While most installations can be done effectively using UTP cable, we recommend using STP cable for high EMI environments like manufacturing, laboratory, or research facilities where other high energy or RF generating devices may be in use.  Also, if you’re forced to run category cable in a cable tray that’s shared with power conductors (low or medium voltage), use STP cable even though the cable tray is separated and may have it’s own shielding for the power conductors.   It is also highly recommended to use an STP cable where the camera is installed outdoors or where the network cable is routed outdoors.

Oh, and what to do with that drain wire?  Our suggestion is to use some of the pre-fabricated shielded keystone jacks like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: IP Video

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Analog to IP Camera Technology Migration

In a recent project, PR was contracted to assist a client in the migration of a multi-campus, traditional analog closed circuit TV system to a modern IP digital network based camera and recording system. This is a growing trend in the industry as clients realize the benefits not only increased camera resolution and recording capabilities, but also leveraging corporate infrastructure costs to reduce the overall total cost of ownership for their company.

It goes like this:

Traditional CCTV systems use analog NTSC (or PAL in some countries) cameras which connect via coaxial cable or fiber optic cable to an analog recording device, matrix switcher, and/or monitor. Sometimes the recorders are digital video recorders, but there are still alot of VCRs out there recording to plain old VHS tape. All of the equipment is still using or manipulating an analog video signal in some way.

The conversion requires new field devices, new infrastructure, new recording equipment, and new monitoring equipment. It can be expensive to install. However, the paybacks are big. With the advent of megapixel IP cameras, it is now possible to get very high resolution images that can be recorded and monitored anywhere your corporate network can go, and beyond. Factor in digital PTZ technology that allows for continuous monitoring of 360° from a single camera in high resolution, and you can now replace multiple cameras with only one. There are some limitations however, as outdoor PTZ cameras in parking lots or on poles aren’t necessarily good applications for IP PTZ cameras just yet. But eventually technology will catch up.

Hybrid compromises are available too, where analog cameras can be converted to IP encoded H.264 streams and sent to network video recorders (NVR) which record network video streams. The resolution is only as good as the analog camera (usually no more than about 500 lines, or 704 x 480 resolution). This pales in comparison to 1080p cameras or even higher resolution megapixel cameras on the market today, but it is a good way to leverage some legacy hardware with new recording and transmission technology.

The biggest advantage of digital IP video is the flexibility it affords. Need to move a video stream to a different recorder? Just change the IP settings. Need to monitor the video in multiple locations? Just pull down multiple streams from different PC workstations. Need to move the monitoring to a remote location or disaster recovery site? No problem, just connected to the video servers from the alternate location. All of these features were MUCH more difficult with legacy analog video.

In short, digital IP camera technology affords a suite of new and enhanced features that give security operations response and investigation tools that previously were nonexistent or too expensive to implement. There is a cost to this technology, but the power and flexibility is well worth the price.

Posted in: Security Technology

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