Premises Security Archive

Noke brings Bluetooth Smart to the common padlock

Noke padlock controlled by a smartphone - press picture courtesy of Fuz Designs

Noke padlock controlled by a smartphone

Article

Bluetooth-powered Noke brings the padlock into the 21st century | Android Authority

This Bluetooth padlock will open for you and whomever you deem worthy | Engadget

This Bluetooth Padlock Doesn’t Need A Key | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Fuz Designs – Noke Padlock

Kickstarter Page

My Comments

The smart-lock now arrives in another form-factor. This time, it is the padlock which is seen typically as a secondary or auxiliary locking device that ends up on the gate, cupboard door or to tether a bike to a lamp post.

Locking up a bike wiht the Noke padlock - Press photo courtesy Fuz Designs

Useful on a bike here

Here, Fuz Designs have put forward an operational prototype of the Noke padlock that works in a similar vein to the Kwikset Kevo deadbolt. This is where the lock interacts with a digital “key-ring” that is kept on your smartphone to verify that it’s the correct person who is using the device. Both these devices achieve this interaction using the Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth LE technology but they also require you to directly interact with the device before they will open.

In the case of the Noke, which looks like most of the dial-type combination padlocks or some high-end key-driven padlocks, you squeeze on the shackle to release the device once it is verified using your “digital key-ring” in your smartphone. This is similar to touching the bezel on the Kwikset Kevo to unlock the door.

The Noke has the typical smart-lock expectations like the ability to create extra keyholders and share these keys to other peoples’ smartphones, including creating “one-shot” keys which are only used once. This also has logging abilities so you can know who opened the lock when.

Noke Bluetooth padlock on gate - press image courtesy Fuz Designs

This doesn’t look out of place on that gate

The app for this lock has been ported to both the iOS and Android operating systems but would work with devices that have integrated Bluetooth 4.0 abilities and run iOS 7.0, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or newer iterations of these operating systems.

The lock can run for a year on a single watch battery and has a “phone absent” failover where you press down on the shackle in a particular Morse-code sequence that you determine. As well, it can work with most hasps, padbolts and other padlock-based locking devices but Fuz Designs have also supplied a padlock-storage attachment so you can clip this to your bike when you are on your way.

The Noke Bluetooth padlock can open up a product-development path for solving problems that users may run in to when dealing with padlock-based locking systems such as a lock that was intended for a particular application ending up being used on another application. It can also allow for the much-maligned locking-device class to be integrated in to the Internet Of Everything and tie in with building-automation goals.

Fuz Designs are raising the capital to get this product in to mass production by using the Kickstarter crowdfunding method but who knows whether many will pick up on it at a price that is more expensive than the typical padlock. Here, you would have to stump up at least USD$59 to hook this unit on your shed’s hasp and staple or padbolt and effectively link it to Bluetooth..

What I see of this is that it is a highly adventurous design for bringing the smart-lock concept to another form-factor which is totally driven by price. It can also open up these devices towards an innovation pathway,

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Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 (hands-on)

Articles

Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 (hands-on)

Dropcam Pro: A Burlier Webcam To Help You Keep Watch Over Your Home | Gizmodo

My Comments

Dropcam have revised their Dropcam Pro IP-based surveillance camera and offered for US$199. But they have offered a unit that could be considered above average for a consumer-grade cloud-supported IP camera and this is brought about by a dual-band Wi-Fi network interface, the implementation of Bluetooth 4.0 technology and the use of above-average optics and audio recording techn0logy.

Most Wi-Fi-based IP cameras that connect to the home network only work to the 802.11g/n technologies that use the 2.4GHz band. But the newly-refreshed Dropcam Pro implements the dual-band Wi-Fi technology which means it can use the uncluttered 5GHz waveband.

Impressively the new Dropcam Pro implements the Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready technology to add a few capabilities to it. One is to be able to use the companion mobile-platform app to enrol the camera in to your small network’s Wi-Fi segment even if your router doesn’t support WPS one-touch setup. This is an alternative to the “own-access-point” setup routine where the device becomes its own access point during the setup phase.

Another bonus is that the Dropcam Pro can work with sensor devices that exploit the Bluetooth Smart profile. For that matter, Dropcam are working on expsing an application-programming interface to allow third parties to develop hardware and software that works with this camera to add a range of smarts to it.

One highly-obvious sensor application that will take advantage of Dropcam Pro’s Bluetooth Smart Ready feature would be a door sensor which uses a magnet and reed switch to alert if a door is open. Here, the Dropcam Pro could be set up to record for a few seconds to a minute in real-time when that door is open.

The optics and microphone are above avarage for this class of IP camera with an all-glass lens and a highly-sensitive condenser microphone. This will also be a bonus for the software-based ecosystem that will give the camera some extra intelligence. Even the software offers tricks familiar to those of us who watch crime dramas and spy movies where the camera can send coarse images in its stream but can allow zooming in on an area of the captured footage.

I would see this as a race to provide highly-capable IP-based video surveillance technology to the small business and home user as these technologies trickle down from equipment targeted at the larger installations.

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AT&T–the first telco to offer home automation as a mainstream product

Alarm system keypad

The monitored alarm system could be sold as part of your telephony, cable TV and Internet service

Article

AT&T to launch Digital Life in 15 markets, hopes to enter home automation field  | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

AT&T

Product Site

My Comments

AT&T has just become one of the first main telecommunications companies to offer the concept of home security and automation to their customers. Initially this service will appear in 15 markets after they thought of eight markets. They will then achieve a goal to have 50 US markets switched on to this service by end of 2013. This is although a handful of ISPs including a few French and British operators are running home security and automation as the “fifth play” service.

This service, known as AT&T Digital Life will feature the 24/7 monitored alarm service which will let you and the police or fire brigade know about emergencies including where they occur in your home like what most monitored alarm systems are capable of doing. As well, the service will let you manage and control home security and automation functions through the use of programs and alerts including non-time-specific events such as you opening the garage door causing lights to come on or the heating or cooling to be adjusted to the “comfort” setting.

They reckon that this will be a wireless-centric experience with a variety of sensors and controlled devices including movement, glass-break, carbon-monoxide, water-leak sensors with controlled devices including lighting and heating controllers and electromechanical door locks.

What would typically happen is that the telcos and similar firms would resell monitoring services from established alarm-monitoring companies like ADT and Chubb. Then they would integrate the control functionality through a Web dashboard that has their branding on it. This could easily be facilitated through the security monitoring firms that the telecommunications or cable-TV firm engage to protect their premises having their business relationship strengthened by being in a position to wholesale the service to the telco’s retail customers.

Similarly the wired-broadband link provided by the telco, rather than a separately-sold link could end up as the monitoring link. This can be augmented with the use of a wireless-broadband link sold to the customer as the mobile solution for an “eggs in one basket” deal serving as a fail-safe link.

I would be observing which ISPs, telcos or cable-TV providers would offer one or more home-security and automation packages as an attachment to a multiple-play ( fixed and mobile) telephony, TV and (fixed and mobile) Internet service package. Here, I would observe whether these services are broadly advertised across common media like the TV ads or large display ads in the womens’ magazines and local newspapers.

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Answering the main entry door using a video intercom based on standards-based IP telephony–that is now real

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

T24 IP Video Door Station – Mobotix Website

My comments

The Mobotix T24 video entryphone (door intercom) system piqued my interest with this site because it is a device of its kind that is primarily driven by IP connectivity with access provided through a standard IP-based network.

This has allowed you to “release that door” to a world of innovation as far as these systems are concerned because there is the ability to build out a cost-effective and flexible door intercom setup for that apartment block or gated community.

Standard IP connectivity

Here, the resident or tenant can use an IP-based SIP-compliant hardware or software videophone (or a VoIP telephone for voice only) connected to their Internet service. It can be feasible for the door intercom to be connected to its own Internet service, which may be the case for tenants who want to let in visitors using their smartphone while out at the shops for example; or for use at the entry gates of a larger property or gated community, where you can’t affordably extend the main Internet service to those gates.

What the door intercom offers

Of course, this unit has all the features necessary for a door intercom of its class that would pique the apartment-block / gated-community market. For example, it has its own access control system for the associated door or gate, which can be driven by a PIN number or an RFID (near-field communication) card.

As well, by virtue of innovation, the system has recording abilities for logging what happened as well as a feature not often associated with the door intercom setup. This is a video-mail system that allows visitors to leave “while you were out” messages for tenants.

Questions worth raising

A major reality that will affect the door intercom over its lifetime is how the unit is set up as far as the equipment installed in the resident’s or tenant’s unit is concerned. This is more so as VoIP telephony becomes mainstream with triple-play services, VoIP business telephony and cut-price long-distance VoIP telephone services coming on the scene.

There needs to be knowledge about how this unit can be provisioned in to IP telephony setups especially as different residents or tenants, with differing technology skill levels, move in to and out of the units over the development’s life. It also includes enrolling additional handsets to the intercom so that users can answer the door from the device they feel comfortable with and are near.

Similarly, there needs to be support for a “function key” setup for devices like this when they are integrated with standards-based IP telephony setups so that one can know which button to press to unlock the door for example.

As well, there should be knowledge on how the residents or tenants can get at the messages that are left on the video-mail system while visitor-resident privacy is assured. This also includes support for and integration with standards-based email or unified-communications setups.

Conclusion

The Mobotix T24 IP video door station has set the cat amongst the pigeons as far as IP-telephony is concerned. Here, it has defined a particular device and usage class that will become increasingly real especially as residents or tenants in multiple-tenancy units and gated communities welcome the arrival of IP-based telephony technology.

It also allows further innovation to take place with these devices, such as improved security and aesthetics and the potential to improve the user experience for both the resident and the visitor.

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At last, two QNAP VioStor Network Video Recorders targeted at the small business

Press Release

QNAP Security Moves into the Consumer Mainstream Security by Introducing A New Affordable Standalone Surveillance Video Recording System

Product Page

VioStor VS-2004L – 4 channels (4 caneras concurrently recorded)

VioStor VS-2008L – 8 channels (8 cameras concurrently recorded)

My Comments

I have shown interest in the QNAP VioStor VS-20xL series network video recorders because QNAP have presented the equipment as an affordable recording solution for small businesses who are taking their first steps towards IP-based video surveillance.

One reason these units earn their keep as far as I am concerned is that they permit the business to improve the video surveillance system without the need to replace more equipment than they have to replace. The only limitation with these units is that they require an external computer as the video-surveillance system’s visual display and they can only maintain two hard disks per unit, support basic single-disk operation as well as dual-disk “large-volume” (JBOD and RAID 0) and dual-disk mirrored (RAID 1) operation.

There is even the ability to support capacity and operation-mode changes in certain situations without having to shut down the NVR. Other examples of upgradeability include the ability to buy another QNAP VioStor system, especially one of the VS-200xL Series, to increase the concurrent recording capacity as you add more cameras but keep the existing unit recording away.

As well, these systems still provide the full expected functionality like alarm recording on motion detection, camera “alarm input” or URL-based alarm triggering. The latter functionality can work with software that can pass URLs on certain events like particular transactions such as voids and no-sales.

They are of a similar size to an entry-level dual-disk network-attached storage and do support connectivity to USB devices like USB storage devices and control links for uninterruptible power supplies that serve this unit. The unit can backup the video data either to a USB hard disk or to a network-attached-storage device on the same network.

These recorders can work alongside cameras that are ONVIF-compliant but this may not guarantee a true “plug and play” experience when you want to “evolve” the system yourself.

There are still a few “holes” concerning the useability, such as inability to support integration with UPnP-compliant routers when setting up remote-monitoring links. This is even though manufacturers like Draytek and AVM are supplying small-business-grade routers that have this functionality. As well, there isn’t a standaline client-side program for the common desktop operating systems that works as the system’s dashboard. This could affect system performance especially with older computers or standard operating environments that are based around competing Web browsers.

These units, especially the VS-2004L,  could become the heart of an “analogue-upgrade” kit which has one of these units and a 4-channel video encoder which allows a small business to add network functionality to their existing analogue-camera-based CCTV system. As well, the VS-2004L, when worked along with four capable network video cameras, could be what is needed to provide video surveillance for something like a small shop.

At least this is a step towards fulfilling a challenge of providing an affordable IP-based video-surveillance system for the small business that doesn’t skimp on quality or functionality.

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Faxing and machine-to-machine communications in the IP-based telephony age

The new direction for telephony

There is a new direction for telephony that will be affecting faxing and machine-to-machine communications over the next few years. It is Voice-over-IP which is regular voice telephony carried over an Internet-standard network.

This has been used primarily in large-business telephony but is now becoming a reality with consumers and small organisations. Initially, this technology was being pitched as a way of saving money on long-distance calls but is now becoming part of regular landline telephony.

The main drivers for this direction are the arrival of “naked DSL” Internet services where the telephone wires are used for DSL Internet connection and the customer doesn’t pay the incumbent telephone company for landline telephone service; cable-TV providers stepping to the fore for providing competitive local telephony service; and and the arrival of “single-pipe triple-play” services with multi-channel TV, Internet service and landline telephony delivered over one physical connection as one service package. These services are using the VoIP telephony technology to provide the local landline telephone service.

The next driver that will affect all customers is the national landline telephone system being moved away from the traditional circuit-driven setup to a packet-driven Internet-technology setup. Examples of this are the 21CN project in the United Kingdom and the National Broadband Network project in Australia. The advantage of these projects is to reduce the cost of providing regular voice telephony over short or long distances and to prepare for improved telephony setups like HD wideband voice telephony and video telephony. 

The effect on machine-to-machine applications

This will place a negative effect on machine-to-machine applications like faxing and monitored-alarm setups which are the two main applications that are facing consumers and small organisations. These setups are based on modem-based protocols that are designed for circuit-switched telephone networks like the “plain old telephone service”.

The main effect of this is that the packet-based telephony setups will cause the protocols used in these applications to go “out of step” and lead to communication failure. In the case of a fax machine, the document will either take a long time to go through to the correspondent or the fax transmission won’t succeed. In a monitored-alarm setup, the alarm event that is initiated by the premises-based alarm system will take a long time to register with the monitoring station or at worst won’t register there at all, which is a threat to security and safety – the main reason for these systems in the first place.

Bringing these applications to the IP age

Faxing

The T.37 Fax-over-email solution

Most high-end business-market fax machines are equipped to work according to the T.37 “fax-over-email” protocol. This is a “store-and-forward” method that uses regular SMTP and POP3 Internet email protocols to send hardcopy faxes as TIFF-F (fax-optimised TIFF) image files attached to emails.

This solution requires that the recipient has a T.37-compliant fax machine or computer which is running an email client and software for reading TIFF-F files to receive the files. This may be no mean feat for a general-purpose desktop or laptop computer hut most smartphones and similar devices won’t have software that can read TIFF-F files.  As well, a person can use a scanner attached to a general-purpose computer that has software that can turn out TIFF-F files from the scanner as well as the regular email client to send hardcopy documents to a T.37 fax machine.

Some T.37-compliant fax machines can be set up to work as a T.37 – G3 gateway to forward faxes to regular fax machines. But this requires the sender to send email to an address formatted as “fax-mailbox@service-domail(FAX#fax_number)”, which can be difficult with many popular email clients. Here, these clients may not handle the phone-number data that is held in parenthesis properly or require the user to “go through hoops” to support this function when they manage their address book. It may be easier if the gateway uses a “international-format-fax-number@fax-gateway.service-domain” address format.

As well, the technology could support colour or greyscale photographic images through the use of JPEG or a colour variant of TIFF-F. This point is raised because of most fax-enabled inkjet and colour-laser multi-function printers being equipped with the ability to send and receive colour faxes using the “Super G3” protocol.

The T.38 real-time-fax solution

The T.38 protocol has been introduced as a method of providing “there-and-then” fax transmission over an IP network. At the moment, it requires a gateway device to be connected to a regular fax machine at each end of the link. This could be achieved by the use of a properly-designed VoIP “analogue telephone adaptor” terminal that becomes a T.38 gateway when it is connected to a regular fax machine.

The standard also requires the use of SIP and other call-setup protocols that are used in VoIP to establish the call. The destination information would have to be understood by the gateway picking up the DTMF “touch-tones” from the connected fax machine.

You can use a single ATA for VoIP and T.38 service, with use of distinctive ring + CNG fax tone to “wake up” client fax for incoming calls and use of the CNG fax tone generated by the connected fax machine to enter T.38 mode. But this would require separate T.38 service with separate number to be provisioned for smooth operation.

Another question is whether a network-enabled fax machine can become a T.38 fax endpoint machine or not? As well, would the T.38 protocol support enhanced fax modes like “photo” resolution or colour faxing.

What can be done

Improved provisioning experience

At the moment, most mid-tier consumer and all business multifunction printers have regular fax functionality and network connectivity. As well, some small-business units, especially the units sold by Brother, have T.37 “fax-over-email” functionality as part of the function set.

Typically these features are difficult to provision and use for most home and small-business users. What could be done is to implement a “wizard-based” user experience for the provisioning routine and / or, there could be the ability to download an XML provisioning file from the Internet provider whenever one wants to set up Internet fax.

As well, the industry could adopt a qualification program for Internet-fax equipment that requires a unit to achieve certain requirements such as compliance with known standards before being able to receive the right to display a particular logo of compatibility. This could also extend to the use of service-information files provided by carriers and service providers so that there is little effort required on the behalf of the home or small-business customer to set up their Internet fax service.

Internet fax service as part of a communication service provider’s arsenal

As far as addresses for T.37 fax services go, there could be the ability for a subscriber to be provided with a “virtual fax number” as well as an email address for their T.37 service. This is a telephone number that a person can dial to send faxes to the T.37 mailbox from the regular fax machine. Similarly, there could be support for an SMTP fax-gateway setup that uses a simplified addressing scheme as I have outlined earlier but uses address and password protection to authenticate customers and these would then be related to the “virtual fax number” which is to show on a regular fax machine’s display and  in the fax transmission reports.

The T.38 real-time-fax service could simply be provided by a VoIP or triple-play communications provider as a secondary fax-only number which works with T.38-compliant fax gateways or endpoints. This could be provided with a T.37-compliant Internet fax mailbox that can lead to such services as controlled transmission or reception setups such as “receive all faxes when you start business” or “transmit international faxes I send on local morning time”.

Equipment and software design considerations

A network-enabled fax terminal should support both the T.37 and T.38 network-fax protocols as well as the Super G3 protocols for circuit-based communications. As well, the setup experience for these machines should be simplified, preferably wizard-driven and with service-host interaction, so that people who don’t have much computer experience can get these machines going for Internet fax. This can be augmented by support for standardised XML-based service-manifest files that are downloaded from the service host.

The same machines could also support the storage of fax addresses as regular numbers or Internet-format email addresses and could simplify the construction of Internet-based fax addresses for regular number-based addresses based on however the T.37 fax server expects such addresses to be formed. This should then simplify the management of the one-touch or speed-dial address book that is part of the typical fax machine’s feature set. As well, email software should support the ability to send and view T.37 fax-over-email messages and support “sub-addressing” and address construction for T.37 fax gateway servers.

Monitored alarms

The main method that is being used for adapting an existing  monitored alarm infrastructure to an IP-based environment is to use a VoIP analogue-telephony-adaptor terminal that is programmed to be a “virtual modem” endpoint. Here, the alarm uses the standard modem protocol to signal the event to the ATA and this device forwards the event message to the control centre using an industry-standard message packet.

On the other hand, a network-enabled alarm system could be connected to the network and sends the event message via its network interface. This also includes existing systems that are designed to be future-proof by allowing a network interface kit to be installed at a later date.

There will also be the desire to provide this kind of network integration to this class of device in order to support enhanced monitoring functionality or building automation. The latter application would bode well with the “green impetus” in order to provide functionality such as synchronised control of lighting and heating / air-conditioning.

Another benefit is that a monitored alarm setup can be upgraded with new firmware without the need for a technician to visit the installation. This is in the same way that computers and mobile phones can be “patched” with software fixes by them connecting to a server to get the necessary software.

What needs to happen

Customers need to know what to do concerning evolving their monitored security or safety services to the Internet-driven world and view it as being important for all such services, not just for high-perceived-risk installations. As well, any monitored-alarm equipment that is pitched at the residential or small-business user has to have inherent IP-based monitoring or have support for the feature at a later date.

Equipment design considerations

The alarm-system industry needs to provide panels that either have inherent support for IP-based  signalling or can be upgraded to this function at a minimal cost through its service life. This is understanding that a typical alarm installation is seen by its users as a “backbone” device in the same context as a central-heating boiler or furnace and is therefore expected to have a service life of at least 10 or more years.

This should mean that a hardware upgrade should be in the form of a card being installed in to the existing alarm panel or a software upgrade is provisioned by, at the most, one visit from a technician.

Conclusion

As telephony systems move towards the packet-driven IP telephony space, the traditional machine-to-machine applications that face most users need to be evolved to support the Internet-based networks. This includes improved in the way these services are set up so that most people can provision them in a competitive manner rather than being tied to a particular carrier or operator.

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Feature Article – Moving your closed-circuit TV surveillance to IP technology

WARNING THESE PREMISES ARE PROTECTED BY VIDEO-SURVEILLANCE

The typical video-surveillance system

You have established a video-surveillance system in your business premises and have had it going well for many years. It would be based on four to nine analogue cameras located through the business premises and all of these cameras are connected to a multiplexer, commonly known as a “quad”. This device, which presents video images from the cameras in a sequence and / or as a matrix of four images on the one screen, is then connected to a VHS time-lapse video recorder that is recording whatever is going on in the premises. You are able to see the output of the cameras through one or two monitors, whether dedicated video monitors or a spare TV that is pressed in to service as a monitor.

If you are lucky enough to do so, you may have used a dedicated digital video recorder instead of the VHS time-lapse video recorder as the system’s video recorder. These units would have a built-in hard disk and may copy images or video segments that are needed for reference to a DVD using an integrated DVD burner. There is also an increased likelihood of these units being able to work with multiple cameras without the need to use a “quad”.

But now you have heard talk from people in the IT or security industry, such as your system’s installer, about the concept of network-based video surveillance and perhaps seen other businesses and government sites being equipped with this technology. What with the ability to have the increased expandability and flexibility that it provides at all points of the equation.

What benefits does the new IP technology provide?

For example, you could have the recording functionality located away from the premises so employees can’t handle the recording media or to permit security firms to offer offsite video monitoring as another service. In some cases, an IP-based video-surveillance system can make it easier for business partner groups such as police officers or your landlord’s security team to easily “patch in” to your cameras as needed and upon you agreeing without upsetting your existing system’s setup.  As well, you may want to benefit from advanced handling of the video feed which can lead to functions like video motion detection, automatic vehicle number-plate (license-plate) recognition or people-counting being part of your system, whether integrated in to the cameras or as part of extra software in other system devices. These systems may also offer the ability to use high-resolution cameras which may appeal to you in certain security scenarios like fraud detection.

The technology is becoming available at a cost that most small business users can afford. One of the reasons is because most of the infrastructure may already exist due to the data network being laid down for Internet access and computer networking. Similarly, you may benefit from your network-attached storage device or business server being able to work as a DVR device simply by you adding cheap or free software to that device. On the other hand, there are some DVR devices that work with network cameras and offer a lot more video-surveillance functionality and integration in the long run, with some of them offering a Web-based system dashboard available over the network. As well, your regular desktop or laptop PCs can work as cost-effective system-control and monitoring terminals through the addition of cheap or free software or the computers’ Web browsers being pointed to the cameras’ Web sites. This may then make you think that your closed-circuit TV system is simply “too old” for today’s requirements. How should you go about moving towards the technology?

The IP network infrastructure

The network infrastructure that is part of your IP-based video surveillance system should be based on Cat5 Ethernet cable, which can be used as your business’s wired data network. This can provide for a reliable system and permit you to move towards “Power Over Ethernet”, which allows a single Cat5 Ethernet cable to carry power to the cameras as well as the data back from the cameras. This is infact a scenario you should look towards deploying, with a multi-port “power midspan” or “powered switch” providing the power-supply needs for the cameras and obtaining its power via a good-quality uninterruptible power supply that has adequate power capacity.

You could use other network media like Wi-Fi or HomePlug powerline for supplementary camera installations such as additional event-specific cameras or test-run cameras that you may use as part of building out your system.

Standards and setup issues

When you choose your equipment, make sure that your equipment works to common standards such as video codecs that are commonly in use or Internet-standard protocols. You may also want to make sure that each camera is accessible by either a known IP address or host name through the logical network at all times so as to make it easy to set up or revise your system.

If you are thinking of remote access, it may be worth using a dynamic-DNS service or fixed IP service; and establish port mapping so you can navigate to the cameras from outside of the network. This is to allow you to use a known IP address or fully-qualified domain name to refer to your system from outside.

The main objective with a proper IP upgrade is that you don’t lose any functionality that your existing system has provided you. Rather, you gain more in the way of functionality, expandability and security from the new setup because of the new features that the IP-based equipment and software will provide.

The upgrade path

Check your DVR for additional network functionality

If your system uses a DVR rather than the VHS time-lapse recorder as its recording device, find out if the DVR offers access to stored footage or live camera streams via industry-standard network setups. It also includes the possibility of the DVR sending images or footage to nominated people by e-mail or MMS in response to an alarm event. As well, the extra functionality could also include the ability to record images or footage from network cameras.

This functionality may be available through hardware and/or software that you may be able to retrofit, whether done by yourself or a competent computer or security technician. The software may be available for a very low price or, in some cases, for free from the manufacturer’s site or a respected third-party developer.

Network video encoders

These devices are used to connect the existing system to your network. They come in one-channel or multi-channel versions. The one-channel version can service one existing camera or the “MONITOR” output of an analogue system’s multiplexer, whereas a multi-channel version can service multiple cameras. The latter solution can come in handy if you want individual access to your legacy system’s camera outputs via your network.

It is also worth noting that some of the high-end network video encoders come in the form of an expandable infrastructure where there are many encoder “blades” that are installed in a rack-mount “master chassis”. This could allow a user to increase the number of channels in the encoder simply by replacing the “blade” which has fewer channels with one that has more channels. These units may appeal more to installations where there are many serviceable analogue cameras.

If any of the cameras in your system use “pan-tilt-zoom” functionality, the network video encoder that you use for these cameras should have a compatible “PTZ” interface so that you don’t lose this functionality. Similarly, if your system uses alarm connectivity for changing how it records the video information, the network video encoder should support this same alarm connectivity.

Recording

The IP-based video-surveillance system has increased recording flexibility compared to the legacy systems. Here, you could have the images captured on a network-attached storage unit that exists within the logical reach of your business network. For example, you could have one of QNAP’s multi-disk “muscle-NAS” units located in your premises AND a D-Link two-disk NAS at home or in another premises under your control set up to record images from the same lot of cameras  You also benefit from the fact that most of these NAS units can be upgraded to higher capacity in the field through the purchase of larger capacity OEM hard disks from independent computer stores.

In some cases, you can set up some of the NAS units like most of the QNAP range to work as network video recorders by installing software applications in these units. This usually allows the cameras and the recordings to be viewed from the NAS’s management Web page.

It may be worth knowing that there are some special NAS units that are optimised for IP-based video-surveillance setups. These will usually have functions like a Web-based dashboard, improved user interface for indexing and, in some cases, video-analysis functionality not available in the cameras. These are worth considering for larger video-surveillance systems.

Alarm integration and POS Exception Monitoring

Your system may be set up so that your video recorder works in real time if, for example, the building’s alarm is triggered or a staff member presses the duress-alarm button during a hold-up. You can make sure you don’t lose this functionality when your system is network-enabled. As well, you may benefit further from this through network cameras sending through pictures to specified e-mail addresses or MMS-enabled phone numbers upon alarm events.

To achieve this, you need to make sure that your cameras that are in the alarm’s scope have alarm-input terminals and that the signalling devices are properly wired to these terminals as specified in the documentation. In some cases, you may need to use a relay or optocoupler as a way of achieving a compatible connection that operates properly. An alarm installer or electronics technician can do this kind of work easily.

If you are a retailer who integrates POS Exception monitoring where certain normal or abnormal transactions cause your closed-circuit TV system to register them as alarm events or overlay transaction data on the video information, you should make sure you can integrate this functionality in your network-enabled system. The network-based system may allow for transaction-searching or exposure of transaction data independent of the video and could work with network-based POS systems.

Scenarios

These scenarios avoid the need to replace any equipment that is in good working order ahead of its time and prefer that the IP-based technology be “bolted on” to a video-surveillance system in a manner to enhance the system without losing any of its functionality.

Simple network enablement

You may simply start out by connecting the monitor output of your existing system to a single-channel network video encoder. This may be of use if your current-term objective is to view the system’s output on your network-connected PC or your mobile phone.

On the other hand, you may use a multi-channel network video encoder to network-enable all the cameras in a small 4-camera system or, for a larger system, a few cameras that you consider important as well as the monitor output. Then you add another multi-channel network video encoder to network-enable more cameras. You then run a video-surveillance manager program on your general-purpose PC so you can easily view the cameras and set up your network-based recording options.

You will still keep your “quad” and VHS time-lapse recorder or DVR going as a “failover recording setup” until that hardware breaks down irreparably.

Additional or replacement cameras

When you “build out” your video-surveillance system with extra cameras or replace any of the existing cameras, the newer cameras that you deploy in this scenario should be network-capable units. As mentioned before, you run a video-surveillance program on your PC to set up the recording and viewing options.  If you have enough room on your existing system’s multiplexer for extra channels or are replacing existing cameras, you have the option to connect these cameras to the multiplexer because they will have video outputs as well as network outputs. This setup will then appeal to those of us who have plenty of mileage left on the older equipment and still want to use that equipment to record the footage; or haven’t yet run Ethernet wiring out to the new cameras.

Moving away from tape or proprietary DVR

Your VHS time-lapse recorder may be just at the end of its service life and you may be thinking of where to go next. Similarly, you may have had enough of that proprietary DVR that cannot be expanded easily and want to look for something better. This could be a time to network-enable your existing video-surveillance system. Here, you could deploy a multi-channel network video encoder and a network-attached storage like a QNAP unit on your network dedicated for the video surveillance system. Then you use video-management software on your PC to direct the cameras to record to the NAS and to make DVDs of footage that you need to provide.

Complete system upgrades

You may be in a position to upgrade your video-surveillance system, such as through new premises, renovations, newer security requirements placed by government, insurance or company needs; or a large number of the components coming to the end of their useful life. Sometimes, the government may financially assist you in improving your system whether through a grant, loan or tax break towards the cost of the equipment as part of a compliance or “safer cities” program.

This upgrade may give you the break to move towards an “all-IP” system with IP-based cameras, one or more recording devices being network-attached storage devices, computers running video management software; and all of them interconnected using the business’s Cat5 Ethernet cabling.

Conclusion

Any business who has the premises protected by a video-surveillance system should be aware of the IP-based video-surveillance setups. As well, they should know when to evolve to the IP-based technology and how to do it without unnecessarily replacing existing equipment.

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