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How to select the best video surveillance camera

How to select the best video surveillance camera
Selecting the best video surveillance camera requires careful consideration of several factors. Here's a close look at some of them.
Selecting the best video surveillance camera is not always an easy task because of the number of camera makers in the market and the solutions they offer. You will need to consider several factors, including budget, purpose, location, technology, and interoperability. Even with massive amounts of information online, a question that users often search in Google is "how do I choose a surveillance camera?" 
 
"The use of video surveillance is so ubiquitous that it has been projected that there will be one billion cameras in use worldwide by the end of 2021," explains Andrea Sorri, Segment Development Manager for Smart Cities in EMEA at Axis Communications. "There's a good reason for this pervasiveness – video surveillance helps improve safety, security and with increasingly sophisticated analytics can be a valuable planning tool. But the choice of surveillance camera can seem bewildering."
 
When a business decides to invest in a surveillance system, there are several things to consider. It's not a straightforward decision and will depend on many factors, such as the specific use case, size of premises, location (internal or external, exposure to severe weather conditions or sheltered, etc.), skills and knowledge, available budget, and many more.

Identify the purpose of the camera

The most critical factor in selecting the best video surveillance camera is to understand its ultimate purpose — the problems it's required to solve and what it's expected to provide in the way of detection, identification, and data-mining capability. Pain points such as 24/7 monitoring of the premises and compliance requirements set by the enterprise business policies all need to be considered during the selection process.
 
"The first step is to define the objectives of the surveillance solution – what is the business trying to achieve by investing in a network camera system?" Sorri said. "Is it to monitor for intrusions, deter vandalism, keep employees safe, monitor traffic or to detect unwanted behavior, or a combination of these and others? Among other factors, the surveillance goal will determine the field of view and quality required, placement of the camera and, therefore, the type of camera needed."

Also read: how to select the best outdoor security camera

Define the area of interest and requirements

Determining the number of areas of interest, how much of them to cover, and how close they are to each other is the next step. These parameters will determine the types of cameras required and how many. For example, you can achieve adequate coverage of an area using multiple fixed cameras or with just a few pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras.
 
"Once the position has been agreed, businesses should analyze the area where they require surveillance – day and night, in all weather conditions - to assess the lighting requirements," Sorri said. "This has a direct effect on the ability of the camera to capture functional images. For example, is the area indoors or predominantly outdoors? Is there natural or supplementary light available? In any case, the lighting will affect the choice of the network camera, and this should be considered when choosing the right model."

Consider the industry to select the best video surveillance camera

Another critical factor to consider is the industry that the camera is servicing. Different industries require different camera features - so understanding the end user's priorities and desired operational requirement is the first step.
 
Mark Openshaw, Global Product Manager at Honeywell Building Technologies, points out that the needs of a critical infrastructure building — a data center, for example — are much different than those of a small retail store. Typically, camera selection involves three criteria: what the camera needs to detect, what it needs to identify, and the size of the area that needs to be covered.
 
"Take a small retail store - such businesses commonly look for budget-friendly, high-resolution cameras that can be accessed easily on a mobile phone," Openshaw explains. "The end-user may have other needs to address as well, such as a notification that alerts them when a customer enters the store through a designated exit door.
 
Sorri also agreed that the industry segment would also affect the choice of camera, adding that in some situations, overt rather than covert surveillance is preferable (and, indeed, vice-versa). This will, of course, affect the choice of mount, housing, and position of the cameras.

Camera features - analytics

Features like receiving alerts when someone enters a store require video analytics and motion detection, which can eliminate the need for a control room with a security team member monitoring the video feed. When video analytics is set up properly, it can monitor at a higher level of accuracy than humans can provide.
 
"Advanced analytics offers businesses and public sector organizations another level of value from network surveillance cameras," Sorri said. "The most advanced cameras, including analytics at the edge of the network within the cameras themselves, deliver real-time analytics that is invaluable in certain situations but isn't needed in every installation."
 
It's important to remember that the image quality and ability to recognize or identify a person or object will depend on different factors, including object motion, video compression, lighting conditions, camera focus, and lens distortion. 

Also read: Two AI solutions that revolutionize retail

Camera Features - hardware

While the above is an example of a specific building with more advanced video analytics needs, the camera itself is the critical catalyst that drives video surveillance. According to Openshaw, color and high resolution take precedence during daylight or typical business hours. However, the real test of a good camera is its low-light or no-light performance — the camera's ability to see at night beyond the visual image frequencies. To select the best video surveillance camera for your requirements, checking the hardware performance is essential. 
 
"High-quality, low-light video typically ends up being a key element that prompts an end user to choose one camera over the next best alternative," Openshaw said. "When a camera pairs this functionality with infrared imaging, which provides clear night vision in total darkness even at extended range, it becomes that much more effective — especially when enabled with advanced video analytics."
 
In addition to low- or no-light imagery, another popular camera feature is the wide dynamic range, which provides clarity against high-contrast backgrounds. There are also multi-sensor cameras that offer a 180-degree panorama and fisheye cameras for those who prefer a 360-degree view.
 
When a single camera is pointed in one direction, it can miss an activity that might display critical evidential footage. These cameras offer the ability to see further and more accurately with a single camera lens, providing significant benefits to end users.
 
Other popular models include thermal cameras, which can provide intruder detection in all-weather conditions, and drone-mounted cameras that offer valuable solutions for transportation monitoring and similar applications.

Consider the budget

Budget is another factor to consider. Small business owners often have to make budget their primary concern and want a quality camera that is easy to install, accessible on mobile, and hassle-free. Quite often selecting the best video surveillance camera is all about the best option within a limited budget. 
 
End-users should look at the total cost of ownership, including warranties and cybersecurity protection. To achieve more cost efficiencies, end users will want an intelligent system, and again, this requires video analytics.

Check cybersecurity protection

Cybersecurity, encryption, and infrared imagery are also growing trends that are currently driving the selection of video surveillance cameras, especially for government and other critical infrastructure customers.
 
These facilities often prioritize cybersecurity, so procurement officers look for a system that meets regulatory requirements, is secure, and highly reliable — one that protects the data from the camera to monitoring.

Consider the location

Location and threat type factor into the decision as well. Even the best outdoor security camera system won't be effective if installed indoors. Thermal cameras can detect potential intruders at a distance of up to 15 miles, providing an extra margin of response time. Explosion-proof cameras, commonly used in hazardous industries, are hardened with protective housing. 
 
Another factor end users need to consider is installing a completely new system or adding to an existing one. With a new build, they have a blank canvas to work with that can be customized to match the end user's needs rather than retrofit new equipment to an existing system.
 

Factors beyond camera for the best video surveillance system

There are also numerous considerations beyond the camera itself, such as switches, recorders, and video analytics for the best video surveillance system. It's important to consider all these factors to best address the end user's unique use case and select the best solution. The factors mentioned above provide a key guide to selecting the best video surveillance camera that suits your requirements. 
 
"My closing advice would be to have a crystal-clear view of your objective from the surveillance solution and to work with an expert partner with the knowledge, skills, and tools to design it," Sorri said.
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