In the video surveillance industry, the topic of high-definition (HD) analog cameras can spark some debate.
Many security businesses ardently promote the benefits of IP cameras and the enhanced image quality they offer, and for this reason, they may have stopped offering analog devices. If IP is the way of the future, some argue, customers should be encouraged to only buy IP devices. On the other hand, there are security integrators who have kept analog cameras in their product portfolios, and who have added HD analog cameras, to offer customers additional choice, regardless of where the industry as a whole is headed.
No matter where you stand – whether you sell HD analog cameras or not – it’s hard to ignore the growing interest in these devices.
IHS Markit forecasted that almost 29 million HD CCTV surveillance cameras would be shipped in 2017 alone. This is a significant jump from five years ago.
While I personally continue to believe that all-IP solutions are the ideal, given the scalability and advanced functionality they offer, the reality is that not everyone wants to rip and replace their coax cable. Many organizations want to extend the life of their analog infrastructure for as long as possible, and HD analog cameras allow them to do that while still improving image quality.
And with recent advances in HD analog technology, it’s now possible to enjoy many of the same benefits as IP video, all while using existing analog infrastructure. You can now buy HD analog multi-sensor panoramic cameras, and those with PTZ capabilities, so customers aren’t limited to just the basic analog domes.
If you’re not familiar with HD analog cameras, or even if you’re just a bit skeptical about offering them to customers, here’s some information to help you determine when they might fit your customer’s application. Let’s take a quick look at how HD analog cameras compare with IP cameras:
IP cameras continue to advance in this department with 4K and 8K cameras. HD analog cameras, however, are progressing as well. Many manufacturers are now offering 2MP and 4MP analog cameras, leaving the more traditional NTSC and PAL standards behind.
As noted, HD analog cameras use coaxial cabling, making them a popular choice for customers that don’t want to replace their existing analog infrastructure. Coax cabling has a very long reach, and can actually be run over 500 meters during an install.
IP cameras, on the other hand, run on CAT 5/6 cabling and are limited to approximately 100 meters maximum. After that, you’ll start to experience signal loss, which can compromise your video.
HD analog cameras are essentially plug-and-play devices – they don’t require any of the network configurations or setting adjustments that IP cameras do. From this perspective, they are easier to set up than IP cameras.
Depending on the camera you use, some basic image adjustments can be achieved on HD analog cameras through Up the Coax (UTC) controls, or an On Screen Display (OSD) accessed directly on the camera body. With OSD, essentially, you just press a button on the camera and get a menu where you can toggle and do some basic adjustments. With UTC, camera settings can be accessed from your computer, with systems supporting this feature.
Analytics like people counting, dwell time and queue length measurement can be embedded on IP cameras for customers that want to gather business intelligence. Customers using HD analog cameras face limited choices when it comes to analytics at the edge, but they should be able to use basic analytics like motion detection and camera tampering as long as those analytics are supported on their network video recorder (NVR). This, however, could easily evolve and we could start to see more advanced analytics become available in HD analog encoders and recorders.
Currently, in an HD analog deployment, all the processing power you would normally find in an IP camera resides at the NVR or encoder side, so alarms and events must all be managed and controlled by the recorder or encoder. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure your customers invest in a very reliable, high-quality recorder if they are proceeding with an HD analog deployment.
Generally speaking, HD analog cameras are less expensive than IP cameras. This, of course, depends on the type of camera you choose and its features. As mentioned above, many newer HD analog cameras are offering more advanced features, so the price will climb depending on what you purchase.
Most IP cameras offer onboard storage through SD cards for added redundancy in the event of a network outage. Video storage is not available at the camera level with HD analog cameras.
Maintenance and Security
Cybersecurity is a major concern for businesses today, particularly when they’re choosing a new security system.
It could be argued that HD analog cameras are more secure, since they run on a closed circuit and don’t have an IP address. IP cameras, on the other hand, can be accessed directly via the Internet so they are more susceptible to security vulnerabilities.
While there will always be some level of risk when using IP cameras, there are steps you can take to harden your IP devices against attacks. I always recommend using strong passwords, firewalls, and keeping camera firmware up to date.
HD analog cameras don’t require firmware updates since there is no software on the camera itself. From that perspective, they are easier to maintain than IP cameras, especially if you have a very large deployment.
The above information will hopefully help you to decide when it makes sense to offer an HD analog camera, and when an IP camera may instead be a better fit. Both cameras have advantages, and either can be a suitable choice depending on your customer’s needs.
Regardless of what you choose, your customers will need a high-quality network video recorder that can scale to accommodate their future needs. Hybrid and even tribrid recorders – supporting HD analog, traditional analog and IP cameras – give your customers choice and flexibility, so they can ultimately transition to IP video when the time is right for their business.