IP Security Cameras and Video Surveillance Systems
We provide assistance in setting up security camera and video surveillance systems in Thailand. It can range from just consulting and developing specifications, to a full service of procurement, setup, training, and after sales service. We don't seek to make you dependent upon us. We look at your particular needs and recommend an appropriate solution.
Below is an introduction to security cameras for surveillance of company and industrial areas as well as for home security.
Reasons for setting up a security camera system include:
- Deterring crime by prominent display of cameras
- Solving problems which do arise, such as theft and accidents
- Keeping aware of what's going on in your office, industrial area, or home, by viewing areas on demand
- Discouraging staff from being lax in their work
- Peace of mind that you have such a system in place
Even if you have a good security camera system, it can be insufficient if, for example, a camera just happens to not be working when a theft occurred. You might even know who did it, but if you don't have proof, then there may be little you can do. Fire the employee and pay them severance pay, too? There are countless cases where the video cameras just happened to not be working. It can be as simple as cutting or unplugging a network cable or hub, or negligence to monitor a server being up, or other things.
It is worth paying a bit more for a high quality system with the features you need, rather than risk wasting money on a system which in the end may be insufficient. If the security system is for an industrial site, then considering the value of throughput at the industrial site, it is relatively easy to justify.
First of all, you should get an IP based digital camera system. Analog systems are less expensive, but the cost difference is not much. Even though there are now analog systems with high resolution cameras, they are still more limited in functionality and more vulnerable to failures. For example, analog systems have their cables going back to a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) which converts the analog signal to a digital signal, but that means if there is a problem with the DVR then a whole network of security cameras can be out of service. Digital cameras can be monitored independently, and in a decentralized way if you prefer. Digital cameras also take an internal memory card which can continue to record even if there is a complete loss of network connection. There is a lot of third party software available for digital cameras.
You should be aware of the important features of a thorough security system. Many people buy into a video surveillance system based on being impressed with a salesman's display of a monitor showing a grid of many cameras. Additional features you may require:
- ONVIF® conformance: ONVIF® is a non-proprietary, open industry standard for interoperability between manufacturers, software developers, and system integrators. ONVIF® is an acronym for Open Network Video Interface Forum. ONVIF® was started by Sony, Bosch, and Axis, incorporated in 2008 as a nonprofit organization, and now has a long list of industry members.
What we find most important is that the software which comes with many cameras is not nearly as good as third party software on the market, but if the camera is ONVIF® conformant, then it should work with third party software.
Secondly, you can buy cameras from different manufacturers over time and put them onto the same network, if they are all ONVIF® conformant, especially if using third party software. You are not locked into one manufacturer's hardware. You have choice and flexibility.
For example, ONVIF® has conferences which they call "plugfests".
However, just being "ONVIF® conformant" is not so simple.
ONVIF® has 6 standards or "profiles", called A, C, G, Q, S, and T.
ONVIF® Profile A = includes access control into places by user credentials and schedules
ONVIF® Profile C = includes door control, event management, alarms, site info
ONVIF® Profile Q = includes quick setup, autodetection, configuration
ONVIF® Profile G = for video systems, includes recording control
ONVIF® Profile S = for video systems, includes video and audio streaming, and PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) control
ONVIF® Profile T = for video systems, includes advanced video streaming, https (web) streaming, image settings, MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding (a most commonly used video format), alarm for motion and tampering, bidirectional audio
Many cameras on the market do not claim ONVIF® conformance. They may show high resolution videos with the manufacturer's own software but not work well (if at all) with third party software.
Some cameras I have seen on the market advertise "ONVIF® conformant" but actually they might conform to only one ONVIF® specification, such as only ONVIF® S. They may display high resolution with the manufacturer's own software, but display only low resolution with third party software.
Some cameras I have seen on the market in Thailand state that they are ONVIF® conformant but going to the ONVIF® website, which lists all cameras tested, the brand's name does not even come up on the list, nor of course the particular model!! (ONVIF® is a not for profit organization, whereby maybe they are not chasing down and prosecuting vendors in Asia, so buyer beware. Also, some of the cameras may actually be conformant with ONVIF® to some extent, such as ONVIF® Q, so maybe the vendor could argue. However, on the ONVIF® website home page, they warn that "Please be aware that there are companies improperly claiming ONVIF conformance for their products. To avoid being misled, users are encouraged to verify conformance using the ONVIF Conformant Products search page, which is the only authoritative source for confirming if a product is officially ONVIF conformant.")
The vast majority of devices on the ONVIF® list of tested devices are conformant to only one or a few of the above specifications A, C, G, Q, S and/or T.
We want the cameras we pay for have at least ONVIF® T and G conformance. Truly.
So, in summary, the cameras should be ONVIF® conformant at the minimum, but just ONVIF® conformance is not enough, they should be conformant to the particular ONVIF® specification(s) you need.
- Memory storage on the camera: Many cameras on the market now take a MicroSD card for recording in case the network connection is broken. The storage capacity should be large, and competitive in the market.
(For example, many car dashcams in 2019 can handle only up to 32 GB, whereas security cameras should have a minimum of 128 GB, and higher is better. For a car in an accident or some other observation you wish to save, you can retrieve a video shortly thereafter, or you can manually lock the video file. For a theft or some other anomaly, you might not know for days, or you might need time to transit to the location to retrieve the memory card, so the bigger the better.)
- Notifications: When a camera or its connection fail, you should be notified so you can investigate as soon as feasible.
- Motion detection: This deserves some discussion regarding what's practical and what may work for you.
First of all, you should record ALL video from the cameras at a central computer to a very large hard disk, including all video when nothing is happening within view, i.e., motion or no motion. The camera's video feed should always be recorded to a hard disk somewhere.
Many cameras advertise motion detection built into the camera, so that it can send you an alarm if something moves within the field of the camera. From experience, there are many cameras which issue lots and lots false alarms. The manufacturer's software for motion detection is in many cases terrible. The manufacturer advertises the feature to help sell the camera, but it's a total waste of time.
Third party software on a central server can handle this role of sending you an alarm, and there is some good third party software out there.
For a large facility having dozens of security cameras, saving ALL video can add up to a lot of storage. Normally, when the hard disk becomes nearly full, the oldest video is overwritten by the newest video. For example, you may have capacity for only about 2 weeks of video. You can decide how long you want to go back in time, and buy hard disk capacity accordingly. (You may also want to have a backup, in case a hard disk fails.)
If you find out, for example, that something was stolen sometime within the last 10 days, you don't want to sit there and watch 10 days of video. The solution is software which will read your video files and write out another video file only for the time segments when there is sufficient motion in the field of view, e.g., skipping the hours when nobody walks in and nothing moves, and recording only when something new comes into the camera's field of view.
This is useful not only for catching thieves, but also for just reviewing activity at a later time to see only action, and if you wish keeping an archival copy of only video in which there is motion, which can be a fraction the size of the raw video input.
If you want to keep archival copies of video before it is overwritten, then you can copy it to Blu-ray (or DVD) disks.
- Good software: Maybe the vendor's software is good enough, but if it's not, then get third party software for your ONVIF® conformant cameras. You have options of local storage (on the local LAN, to a computer locked away), offsite cloud storage (with a sufficiently fast internet connection), and mobile apps to watch live and retrieve past video.
- Good installation:
Usually, a vendor will come out and install a security system for a company, but it is not too difficult to do it yourself, especially if you know how to do proper ethernet network cabling. (For example, for ethernet wiring, you need to get the order of the twisted pair wires the correct way, e.g., #3 and #6 crossing. I have seen cable installers just make sure they are consistent in having the wires in the right order, and who say they were taught that way ... and I have seen cheap cable and connectors ...) You can buy long lengths of cable already with the connectors on both ends, but I normally just come out with a box of cable, install the cable, then crimp the two ends on. Notably, I have seen some really cheap cable (such as when I cut somebody else's troublesome cable which was too long so I tried to shorten it and add a new end, and discovered the wire inside was tiny). It's best to buy quality cable. It's a lot of work putting in cable, and it can cost you a lot of time and wasted money troubleshooting a system which just has poor cabling.
- Good documentation.
Realistically, security cameras are usually used to review past events. Most places don't have their security guards watch the monitor all day. Even then, the security guard may miss events.
When a past event needs to be reviewed, there should be documentation on exactly how to retrieve video from a particular camera at a particular time. Preferably, at least one staff member should be trained, preferably an individual with a technical knack and who is likely to not depart for another job in the near future. Nevertheless, if the system is sufficiently well documented, then anybody should be able to walk in and figure out how to get what they need fairly quickly.
Many vendors will set up a working system and walk away, but when an emergency happens some time later, it presents delays and difficulties in getting answers.
We are happy to train you. We don't seek to make you dependent upon us. Most security camera systems run automatically very well. For example, my wife is not technical, but she runs our home and office security camera systems.
You have options, and we are happy to survey your location, make recommendations, organize specifications, and either line you up with a good local vendor or else install the cameras and system ourselves.
In a survey, it is important to choose the locations of the cameras very carefully, for maximum coverage, cost efficiency, and to minimize the risk of easy tampering by anybody.
We usually set up the central server on a Windows computer, but we also do Linux servers (which look and operate very similarly). We don't do MacIntoshes, as regards the big computers.
We can also set you up with apps on phones and tablets -- Android or Apple. (For example, my wife uses her iPhone whereas I use my Android for checking into our security cameras, especially when out of town or overseas.)
We are happy to visit new sites, get to know you, and try to help you come up with an appropriate system of security cameras for easy to use and effective video surveillance. Our office is based in Bangkok but we travel all over Thailand.
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