Wireless Cameras – 5 Reasons not to get them!

Wireless Cameras

Wireless cameras are a great idea, but there is one big problem. The technology just isn’t where there yet. Maybe someday wireless cameras will be worth your hard-earned dollars, but not right now. Here’s why:

1. Wireless cameras are unreliable

You put a wireless camera up, get it powered and connected to your network/DVR. It is very likely to lose connection. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But at some point, a wireless camera will lose connection. Video footage is a tremendous amount of data that has to continuously hop wirelessly from the camera to your recording device. Also, any type of interference (example: walls) can cause disruptions in connection. Unreliable connections lead to lost video footage. What is reliable? A wired camera that has its own dedicated travel path for your video footage. And trust me, it is a terrible feeling when your video footage is not there when you need it.

2. They still require wiring

wired security is betterThe majority of wireless cameras still need a wire ran for power. Why run a wire for power but not for the video? If you can find a local power source for the camera, is it also easy for a perpetrator to find it? Digital cameras can deliver video and be powered by the same cable. There are some wireless cameras that are battery operated, which are very easy to steal. Battery operated cameras are also more prone to the next issue:

3. Poor video quality

poor video qualityRemember how I said video footage is a lot of data that has to be transmitted? One way wireless camera manufacturers try to keep their customers from sending the cameras back is limit the video quality. This helps ensure the majority of the video footage makes it back to your recording device. You can then end up with that pixelated video image that has no use to you or authorities. That sounds like a waste of money, right? Wired camera systems can deliver at least 1080p Truly High-Def video (Equivalent to 2.1MPX camera resolution) and much higher. It’s hard to find wireless cameras that can do any higher than 720p. That is equivalent to just 0.9MPX. When trying to identify an individual or vehicle, every pixel counts and wireless cameras just don’t give you many.

4. It could slow down your WiFi

Depending on the camera system, your WiFi network might become much slower. It has to do with the way WiFi works. For one, the number of devices on your WiFi network can reduce the speed for all devices. Next, the distance that those devices are relative to your router/DVR will affect the speed for all your devices.This includes your smart phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Usually a system has multiple cameras and most go on the outside of a home. That’s a recipe for decreased WiFi speeds.

5. They don’t save you money if you value your time

wireless cameras are waste of moneyMaybe you’re looking to get wireless cameras because you plan to install yourself and save a few dollars. However, they can cause you big headaches, even if you are a techie. Besides all the problems just mentioned, wireless cameras and many camera kits sold online bring a lot of problems. Check out the Wireless Camera Systems sold on Amazon. You will be hard-pressed to find any that have more than a 4 star rating (and how many companies on Amazon boost their own ratings?). Here’s a wireless camera system Amazon claims is one of their “Best Sellers”. 17% of the reviews are 1 star! You could be in for hours of wasted time and possibly money for a camera system that could easily fail to meet your needs.

What should you do?

Invest in a local security installer that can professionally install a wired camera system. There are plenty of DIY wired camera systems. But can you handle wiring, installing and programming? I have met plenty of people that tried to take it on and then called a professional. The only problem with that is many professionals do not work on DIY camera systems. So you either pay twice or you get a sour taste for video surveillance and give up. If you want a good & professionally wired camera system, call your local security installer first. Get a quote from them. Many, like FoxCrest Security, have plenty of experience in hiding camera wires and installing in a professional manner. Security camera installers are also getting pretty competitive price-wise.

Maybe some day wireless cameras will be great technology, but right now stick with wired camera systems. They are the right choice.

Honey, We need security cameras

security camera car theft

If you have no security on your property, consider an alarm system when you think you need security cameras.

Have you been vandalized and need security?

need security camerasYou’re walking out the door to get into your car & head off to work. You look at your vehicle & something’s amiss. The glove-box is open or there is a wrapper in a different place. As you get into your vehicle you realize your GPS is gone & your tote-bag with your iPad is missing. It is an awful feeling to have when somebody violates your personal property. Quite often, vehicles are a prime target. An entire neighborhood can be vandalized in one night by a single individual. The perpetrator just walks around, see which vehicles are unlocked and quickly grab whatever they can carry.

With no type of security whatsoever, many people instantly think they need security cameras on their home. Security cameras are great investment for the following reasons:

  • They can help deter a theft or break-in, if they are easily seen
  • You have a chance to record the act and perpetrator
  • You can monitor what is going on around your property, even when you’re not there

But here’s what they have a hard time doing:security camera car theft

  • It is extremely hard to catch a thief in the act and stop them
    • Sorry, you can’t really rely on motion detection to alert you. The camera system would send you a notification for every leaf that blows by the camera. A heavy rain can send hundreds of notifications.
  • A wrong camera angle, weak night vision or a smart thief can prevent identification
  • A camera won’t call the authorities if you’re in trouble

Alarm System are Proactive, Camera Systems are Reactive

While I don’t think a camera investment is a bad idea at all, I try to make sure clients at least consider an alarm system when they have nothing at all. An alarm system is a much more effective defense, at least for the home. Its job is to deter potential thieves. Plus, be sure to add fire detection too.

Still worried about your vehicle? Yes, your vehicle is still sitting there vulnerable in the driveway/street but please take these lessons and apply them today:car security

  • Always keep your vehicles locked
    • No matter how quiet and peaceful your neighborhood is, there is always the potential for break-ins.
  • Don’t leave valuable items in your vehicle, especially within sight of a passerby
    • Car insurance does not cover items stolen from your vehicle. Homeowners/Renter insurance can but you’ll have to pay your deductible. Ready to shell out $500 in deductible to cover the theft?
  • Install motion lights to keep your vehicles well lit at night and if you have a garage, please use it.

Be proactive yourself, Take the next step to protect your property

Talk to your local alarm installer, ask to get a quote on an intrusion system. Maybe you can even do both an alarm system and a camera system if the money is there. There is a monthly fee for most alarm systems, but some alarm installers (FoxCrest Security) keep their monthly fees within reason. My clients typically go for the $25/month option. While video cameras do not have a monthly fee (or at least the ones I install do not), please keep in mind an alarm system can help deter or stop theft, break-ins and prevent fires. Video surveillance has only a small deterrence factor and does not help stop the theft. Every situation is different and its all about what takes priority. Do you place priority on your home/family/pets or a few low $ items in your vehicle (now that you’re not keeping valuable items in there). Call FoxCrest Security @ (240) 422-8369 if you want free quotes on both an alarm system and camera system.

Proprietary Security Equipment – 3 Reasons to Love It – 3 Reasons to Hate It

Alarm System Equipment

Proprietary Security System Equipment

Proprietary sounds like a dirty scheme, doesn’t it? Basically, the equipment manufacturer took measures to limit what parts work on their system and/or the people that can service their product. Vehicles are a great example. You’re not going to put a Ford F150’s headlight bulb in a Subaru Forrester. Proprietary equipment is also prevalent in the security system industry.

Low Proprietary vs. High Proprietary

There are diverse levels of proprietary in the security world. There is some equipment out there with relatively low proprietary. An example is analog cameras. If you have an analog camera system, you can connect just about any brand’s analog camera to an analog DVR. This has gotten a bit trickier with recent developments in analog cameras (Learn about HD Cameras). You could call up any security installer in the area and they would at least be able to replace an analog camera.

Then there is equipment with extremely high proprietary in both the product and those that can work on it. A good example is most Simplex fire alarm systems. If you elected to have a Simplex fire system installed or inherited one, you can only call Simplex to service their equipment. Likely there will not be a fire or security professional in the area that can service the equipment.

Proprietary security system equipment has advantages and disadvantages to the end-user. It does have more advantages to the security installer and manufacturer, the biggest being it helps them stay in business. It is not fun when you find out your security professional is going out of business. All end-users should be looking at the brands & equipment the security professionals offer. Choose what works best for you, and your security installer should be helping you with that. Here are some things to consider with proprietary security equipment:

Advantages:

  1. Better support & service

    Security System Training
    A trained professional is likely to be a better installer.

    You should get better support & service with an installer that had to be trained on installing the equipment. Also, the more time a manufacturer took to develop, build, & train on their products can help ensure a positive experience for the end-user. They are in the business of selling and making money. They do have to keep dealers and end-users happy.

  2. Stronger security

    All security dealers should be “locking” the programming of the alarm & fire panels. Locking the panel keeps out those who know “default” programming codes getting in and changing programming on your system. Now if your dealer didn’t “lock” the panel, that doesn’t mean somebody can disarm your security system with programming codes. But there is a way to get you, especially a business. They could come in during a time you are disarmed. Then, enter into programming with the default code and delete that back-door zone. It is unlikely you would notice it was deleted. Then they have a free pass into your property that night after you armed.

  3. Less headaches finding a good installer

    If you already like the security equipment brand but haven’t found an installer, you shouldn’t have much problems finding one. And depending on the level of proprietary, you could find multiple installers and have them bid against each other. Pricing should be very similar, but you can then determine who will serve you best. There are also less headaches for architects and corporate purchasers. They can spec in proprietary equipment which prevent every single security installer and Joe Shmo trying to bid the job.

Disadvantages:

Security System Price
Proprietary Systems often cost more – Is it worth paying for something that took time to develop?
  1. Likely higher costs the higher the proprietary

    End-users must choose if a brand that is proprietary is worth it. Like mentioned earlier, proprietary equipment typically comes with better trained installers. Be wary of the very high proprietary systems, especially if their bid is very low. There are companies with proprietary equipment that will bid low to entice you in, then after installed they can charge however they like.

  2. Fewer installers to choose from

    Depending on the area you are in, you could be limited to how many installers are authorized to work on the equipment. Some proprietary manufacturers will make exclusive guarantees to certain installers that they will not authorize other dealers in the area. Be sure to do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask if other dealers in the area can work on the equipment.

  3. You’re stuck with a certain manufacturer

    Just like buying a car, you don’t want a “lemon” security system. Maybe it just doesn’t fit your needs or is too complicated for you. The higher the proprietary, the harder your exit strategy might be.

Just like buying a vehicle, take your time and find the right security professional and the equipment they use. Ask questions and do some of your own research on the brands they are offering. Security systems might be complex but due diligence often leads to better decisions. Lastly, many security systems are meant to last, so make sure you find something that fits your needs. FoxCrest Security can help you make this important decision. Call us at (240) 422-8369 or Contact Us

Security Cameras: Analog vs Digital

Analog Security Camera

Home & Business Security

Analog vs Digital: What type of camera system should you have?

Let me note first that this is a time sensitive article written in June of 2017. As early as 2018, this article may not be relevant. Security cameras are rapidly advancing in technology.

Not going into brands & models, let’s just stick to the basics. First what is analog and what is digital? They both use a bunch of tiny image sensors to make one cohesive image electronically. The difference is what they do with that image after, mostly in the transmission of the images.

Analog Camera Systems

Analog Security Camera
3MPX Hikvision Analog Camera

Analog security cameras take that image and essentially “broadcast” the image out. They rely on something else to receive the image, like a DVR. The DVR (Digital Video Recorder) can then record the video. In the past, video from an analog camera could be received by a TV, but new developments are changing that. It’s called HD-TVI* technology and has dramatically improved the image quality an analog camera can “broadcast”.

Analog Camera Pros:

Lower Cost. Right now, analog camera systems are less expensive than digital. I find that they are usually around 10-15% less expensive than digital camera systems.

5MPX Resolution. There are analog security cameras that can go up to 5MPX resolution. They will be released in the 3rd Quarter of 2017. That’s incredibly good resolution. This was a huge jump from the 1MPX cap just a few years ago. I have been told by a Hikvision manufacturing rep that 8MPX cameras are being developed.

Video analytics. You can now use video analytics for things like people counting, motion alerts, and easy video retrieval.

Transmission Distance. Can transmit video over 1500 feet of wire, enough said!

Analog Camera Cons:

Less “smart”. Although analog cameras are getting more video analytic capabilities, they are typically less capable than digital cameras to analyze an image. Also, analog requires the use of a DVR to record images. The analog camera cannot record the images itself.

Security Risk. Remember, analog cameras “broadcast” their image for anything that can receive it. There are ways for somebody to also receive that image besides your DVR. The risk is very low, but can happen.

May or may not be future-oriented. A few years ago, we thought analog was dead. I stopped selling it when digital cameras finally came down in price. Then analog cameras made the jump to HD-TVI with 5MPX resolution, while remaining very inexpensive. The question is, how long will analog continue to get better? In my opinion it will continue to develop. In 4 years, will you want 20MPX digital cameras and be stuck adapting an analog infrastructure? Don’t laugh at 4 years, that’s a common cycle for upgrading many technology systems out there. Especially for security-conscious businesses.

Digital Security Cameras

Digital Security Camera
8MPX Digital Hikvision Camera

Digital cameras, also commonly referred to as IP cameras, do not “broadcast” the image for anybody. You must hold the correct credentials to receive the IP camera’s video. Essentially the DVR was moved into the camera (you can even record in the camera itself using an SD card). Many people use an NVR (Network Video Recorder) that sits on the same network as the digital camera(s). It has the credentials to record the video of multiple cameras. This makes the system simple to manage. Digital cameras have been continuously improving in quality and price for years.

Digital Camera Pros:

Very high image resolution. I will say that the 2,3,4 & 5MPX digital cameras out there right now are in affordability range for many end-users. 8MPX cameras are moving into the main stream. Within a very short time, 12MPX will likely be next. There are digital cameras that are 20+MPX. Of course, they are very expensive as I write this article.

Future-oriented. Unless something dramatic happens and we get a 3rd type of security camera, digital will be around for a very long time.

Higher security. If your installer follows best practices (like changing the default password), you have little to worry about with somebody looking in at your video footage.

Slightly better analytics. Security camera manufacturers typically put better analytics in their digital cameras. One analytic to keep an eye on is object recognition, which allows the camera to identify objects (ex. Trash cans, cats, humans and so on).

Digital Camera Cons:

More expensive. Yes, the price comes down on digital cameras all the time. The problem is they keep coming out with the next best camera. I know, it’s terrible. Just like the iPhone, they drop last year model’s price as the bring out the new iPhone that has more bells & whistles you want.

Transmission distance. Most cameras are limited to 330 feet on network cable. This problem can be avoided by using different methods (IP over Coax) but is more expensive.

Compatibility. You are often stuck with proprietary issues using digital camera equipment. The camera manufacturers do try to integrate some other camera brands in, but they have to focus their R&D to making the next best camera.

Which camera system is right for you?

The vanilla answer is what works best for your situation. If you are a very security-conscious business, I do recommend using digital security cameras if it fits the budget. They are more secure, have higher video resolution peaks and may have analytics that can help you. If you’re a small business or homeowner, go ahead and use analog cameras. I think analog is going to be around for a long time, but I could be completely wrong. Nobody knows whether it will or not. The biggest caveat is the development of wireless digital cameras, which could eliminate having to run wires that analog must depend on. Right now, I do not recommend them because the technology is not there yet. Too much data to transfer, too susceptible to interference, lost connections, a drain on your WiFi and there still has to be a wire for power!

There are also hybrid systems out there that can handle both analog & digital. I have put many of them in, especially for those that had analog and are trying to migrate to digital. A professional camera installer should be able to help you design the right system for your unique situation. Call FoxCrest Security, we can help you get the video solution you need. Contact Us or call (240) 422-8369

*Security experts will be quick to point out that HD-TVI is not the only new technology for analog, there is also HD-SDI. HD-TVI is by far winning the battle, much like how Blu-Ray beat HD DVD.