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 which you can operate yourselves after we complete the setup and depart, if you prefer.
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, such as using an app on your mobile phone
- Discouraging staff from being lax in their work
- Peace of mind that you have such a system in place
There are many cameras and systems on the market which may look impressive in their outward appearance and marketing, such as the demo grid of camera views on a screen, and a list of lots of claimed features on the box or in the literature, but do the claimed features really work well or are they problematic, and do they really provide all the features you need or want? There are many important considerations, which we can discuss in advance.
Rather than wasting a lot of time, and money, on a system which in the end may be insufficient, disappointing, and frustrating, whether for home or work, it may be well worth spending the time and effort to make a better decision, and get a high quality system with the features you need or could use. If the security system is for an industrial site, then considering the value of throughput at the industrial site and the costs of theft.
We have bought and tested a variety of systems, and helped other people with different cameras and systems they had already bought on their own, whereby we can tell you from our experience that many cameras haven't worked up to many peoples' and companies' expectations and needs. It's important to understand some of the basic issues of cameras. 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, but you should consider some of the useful features and issues:
- Intruder alert: If you are away from home and somebody enters an area, you may want to be notified immediately, such as by a message and image on an app, or in Line, or in an email group. This requires not only a claimed feature in the software, but also one which actually works well. We've seen popular cheap cameras which send so many false alarms that people just turn off the feature or start ignoring alarms, and other camera systems which miss motion. It's easy for a manufacturer to advertise the feature of motion detection yet have such a poor quality implementation that it's an annoyance and hardly useful.
We have cameras and software which are of high quality and reliable. Notably, we offer systems where you can set and adjust the level of sensitivity of the trigger, sends video from the start rather than just fragments or missing it altogether, can specify a smaller area to monitor for motion within the wider field of view of the camera, and specify what information to send when motion triggers a report (photos or video, how many, for how long, etc.).
- Selective recording: If you find out that an area was entered and something was stolen, do you really want somebody to sit and watch many hours of video recordings waiting to see action? What if something was stolen and you didn't notice it gone for days or weeks? Similarly, what if you just want to see all visitors for that day? A camera system with good hardware and good software can be set up to record only times of motion, or else to always record but flag dates and times of motion such as in a log file, so that you can review things in a very time efficient manner.
- Hardware base station(s) -- PC vs. proprietary hardware box, vendor dependency, obsolescence, and options: Many systems offer simplicity in that they just give you essentially a proprietary small box, a monitor, and cameras. For comparison, we prefer to instead install the system on one of your existing PCs (which in many instances can be a relatively old PC or one not used for other things) or else provide a PC, not a proprietary box. The proprietary box systems tend to offer limited options, are more difficult to troubleshoot if/when things don't work, you are locked into their system for the future, and maybe after some time they end support of their hardware (and maybe offer you an upgrade, schedule obsolescence and forced repeat business). If anything goes wrong with a proprietary box, then you must go back to that vendor, hope they are still around, available, and willing, hope they still have hardware stock, and hope they don't just tell you that support has ended on your version, so time to buy a new system from them. After warranty, you might need to pay for an upgrade. However, with a PC based system, any troubleshooting is usually quick and easy, you're not locked into a hardware vendor, and you may get quite a lot more flexibility and options for your money. Also, with PCs, you can have multiple base stations in different locations to access the same cameras, including instant backup PCs if there's a hardware or operating system failure.
- Hardware of cameras: Proprietary vs. Standards Compliant: Some cameras work with only the vendor's hardware and software, whereby you get the cameras and base station in a set, and cannot mix different cameras from different vendors. You may be stuck using only their software. Instead, we prefer to use cameras which conform well with open standards, so that we can mix camera vendors either now or in the future. More on this later on this page ...
- Software -- proprietary vs. open standard: Many cameras work only with the vendor's software (or work well with only the vendor's software), so again, you are locked in to their software, and had better hope it works well at all the features you need. However, some cameras also comply to an industry standard, to various extents, so that you have the option of using better third party software. Don't like the vendor's software because it's missing important features, or the features don't work as well, or it just has bugs, or poor support? Did its app later disappear from Google Play and/or the Apple App Store, leaving you unable to access your camera(s) with your new phone? Then use our software -- an option if your hardware is compliant to certain open standards. More on this later on this page ...
Many agencies, such as the FBI, have addressed the issues of mixing different cameras from various vendors, over time, into a larger operation, and standardizing on software. Private companies such as ours have done likewise. Some companies with good security management have been careful to not be locked into one vendor's proprietary system and thereby overly dependent.
We have third party software which works best for us with a variety of camera brands and models, far better in features and user friendliness than the software which comes from many camera hardware manufacturers. However, it doesn't work at all, or doesn't work well, with many cameras on the market which are too proprietary. There are certain cameras we buy for this, based on experience in testing and using.
A key to this is conformance to an open standard, called ONVIF®.
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.
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, it is not as simple as just being "ONVIF® conformant" because there are multiple ONVIF standards. Some manufacturers claim their camera is ONVIF conformant, but actually, they may have minimum ONVIF conformance just so they can make that claim, and don't meet our minimum requirements for being very useful for our needs.
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 that is ONVIF comformant.
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 who fraudulently add that to their packaging and advertising, so buyer beware. Many vendors may understand that not many buyers will go to the trouble of finding the ONVIF website and searching for their camera brand and model on the ONVIF list, especially if their English is not good, and if they're not very perseverant. 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."
Some of the cameras may actually be conformant with ONVIF® to some extent, such as ONVIF® Q, so maybe the vendor could argue that their camera is ONVIF conformant, but that might not be conformant to the particular ONVIF® standards you need.
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.
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 Cards on Cameras -- MicroSD / TF
Many cameras on the market now take a MicroSD / TF card socket for recording inside the camera, for (A) in case the network connection is broken going to the base station, so that the camera itself has a backup, or else (B) simple users who just want to connect to a camera using their mobile phone, with no base station, only a camera, using the camera and MicroSD as the primary storage location of surveillance video archives. If you don't have a base station, and have more than one camera, then video archives of different cameras can be kept inside the memories of each camera, instead of in one central location, and accessed separately by mobile phone or PC remotely.
Of course, if you choose option B, and a thief steals your camera, too, then they also stole the video evidence. They might even steal only the camera as their prize. Therefore, it is safer to have a base station in a secured location, or save to the cloud if your internet speed is fast enough and if you have deep enough pockets to pay for all the cloud storage.
However, option B is okay for some people who just want to have an alarm on their phone if somebody walks into an area, or wants to take a look at what's going on from time to time, or review recent activity in an area. We can set this up, using a camera and a MicroSD card.
Usually, homes and companies connect cameras to a base station to record video to a hard disk. The MicroSD / TF card is optional, and provides a backup in case the network or base station fails for some reason. You can have video saved to both the base station and the camera's internal MicroSD so you have 2 copies -- a backup. Also, you have the best of both worlds of scenarios A and B. Also, even if somebody destroys or steals an outside camera, any video of them approaching the camera should still be on the base station.
You can also enjoy the option of either the manufacturer's software or our third party software, and switch between them.
We prefer to use both a base station and a MicroSD inside the camera. We recommend cameras that can take a MicroSD / TF card inside.
The main three issues we run into, as regards MicroSD cards, are:
- The speed rating should be high. We have fixed many other peoples' camera problems by just replacing the MicroSD card. Sometimes, just looking at the rating of the MicroSD card, you may think it should work, but our experience has varied by manufacturer and particular card type.
We have seen some counterfeit MicroSD cards, and some available for ordering online look questionable. However, some name brands have failed to perform well at lower specs.
- MicroSD cards are known to degrade with usage. Some last much longer than others. We have our own favorite brands and card types.
We are not impressed by manufacturers' websites, nor their professionally appearing Caucasian figureheads and overconfident salespeople. We are impressed by actual testing and experience over the years.
- The storage capacity should be large enough for your needs.
For example, many car dashcams in 2021 can handle MicroSD cards only up to 32 GB. For many dashcams, that 32 GB gets you up to approximately 5 hours of recording, when the memory card fills up and the oldest videos start to be overwritten by newer ones. Many security cameras produce smaller sizes of recordings per minute or hour, such as by recording only when they detect motion, or compressing the video better, so that they can record much more video for a given memory size. However, in general, as of 2020 we usually suggest a minimum of 128 GB for an on board MicroSD card in a company setting. 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. If you also have a base station with a large hard disk, then it's not such a big issue. However, if you have no base station, then larger memory capacity can make a difference.
Normally, we record video onto a hard disk in a central base station area. We depend on MicroSD / TF card storage only as a backup in case the link to the base station is broken for some reason, such as if a thief cuts a cable, or some operator error. In insider theft cases, sometimes it just so happens that the video surveillance system wasn't working at the time of the theft. However, somebody tampering with the camera's internal MicroSD, too, may be more difficult to explain away.
We have third party software which can alert you immediately if/when a camera or its connection fails, to detect the abovementioned inside job attempt. You should be notified so you can investigate as soon as feasible. This can thwart some kinds of insider jobs. Also, failures should be logged and investigated.
You can 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. For example, you may want to size your hard disk to store everything for 2 weeks. When the disk becomes nearly full, then the newest video file overwrites the oldest video file. You can have hard disk capacity for months if you want. The option is yours, whether to record ALL video or whether to rely on motion detection for recording times. (You can also set schedules...)
Alternatively, if you want to depend on the motion detection software or camera hardware, then you may want to record only those times in which motion is detected, which can tremendously extend the history archives. You had just make sure that your camera has high quality motion detection, and/or your base station's software is high quality in this regard. Our third party base station software is very high quality. We also have some reasonably high quality cameras as regards their built in capabilities for a MicroSD card. However, I much prefer the base station with third party software as my primary source to rely on.
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. You may be able to quickly find video of the theft if you used motion detection as a trigger for recording. Otherwise, with only a continuous recording, you could check a log of when motion was detected and check the videos at those times. Another solution is software which will read your continuous 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 came 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 inside your workplace or home, 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.
We can set up a system where you just press one button and it starts playing the motion-triggered recording segments in sequence, and you can quickly skip thru the timeline to jump to particular times of more interest.
If you want to keep archival copies of video before it is overwritten, then you can copy it to Blu-ray (or DVD) disks. We use Blu-ray disks, usually the 22 GB ("25 GB") disks, instead of 4.7 GB DVDs.
You can record video to "the cloud" instead of a local base station. This has the main advantage of offsite storage, in case somebody wants to steal the base station and cameras (and nobody was notified of the intrusion, or notified that the system went offline if an insider job). For cloud storage, you may want to save only videos where there is motion detected. Otherwise, for a large installation with many cameras, it can create a very large quantity of network traffic and might prove significantly less reliable than recording to a base station.
Cameras usually offer either a WiFi connection of a wired ethernet connection. (Some also offer an analog wired connection, but we prefer not to use those.) WiFi is quick and easy, but we recommend wired ethernet cables if you have many cameras or if the WiFi signal is not strong in some places.
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 same wrong 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 high quality cable, install the right length of cable, then crimp the two quality 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 is also important to have. I find the documentation provided by many vendors to be very poor. This is even moreso for mobile apps. We have written our own quick start and reference documentation, both in good English and also for ordinary managers and lower skilled technical people.
My experience is that there are ideosyncracies in practically all cameras and the camera manufacturer's software. This is why I much prefer ONVIF cameras to a high specification and my favorite third party software. However, I usually use it all interchangeably to some extent, though rely primarily on my third party software which has been far better than anything I've ever seen come out from a camera manufacturer.
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.
(My wife/manager is different. She likes to view things realtime to see what's going on and just check up on things, from time to time, on her mobile phone. Some people just love surveillance cameras.)
When a past event needs to be reviewed, in your company there should be custom documentation on exactly how to retrieve video from a particular camera at a particular time, written to be very simple, step by step, easy to understand way for your particular setup. 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 without sufficient training of local staff, 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. She loves the camera systems. I've made it easy and fun for her.
We can also help out to try to protect you from potential insider theft jobs.
You can have both internal company staff and also an outside contractor as part of a check and balances system. Or, if you want, you can run the whole system yourself and block all outside access. We can show you how to do that, and how to manage and check things. However, you should have at least one staff member who enjoys technical systems and is trustworthy.
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 workstations which look and operate very similarly as regards the client app. I much prefer Linux. Like Windows, on Linux you boot onto a graphical desktop that's nice and pretty, and either you can just click on an icon or else we can set up the computer to automatically run our third party software. It looks nearly the same on both Windows and Linux. Linux is free. No reboots due to Windows Update. Much faster to boot up. You avoid a lot of delays and hassles and headaches by running a security system on Linux instead of Windows. You can run Linux on older and lower specification computers than you can Windows. Linux has high security. Most of the world's most secure servers are Linux, because they are high performance, highly secure, stable, and fewer problems and hassles.
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. Android is descended from Linux, and Apple phones and computers from a similar unix-like operating system, quite unlike Microsoft Windows. Windows Phone died years ago, unable to compete in the modern world.)
We have software which can notify you if a camera goes down. 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, such as an inside job. 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, if no evidence? What was the value of the theft? There are countless cases of places where we didn't set up the camera system (somebody else did), where the video cameras just happened to not be working when a theft occured. It can be as simple as cutting or unplugging a network cable or hub or WiFi router, or negligence to monitor a server being up, or other things, some of which I'd rather not mention on the internet. Maybe they test in advance whether or not anybody notices any camera network down time. The human species has a lot of greedy people, addicts, and crooks.
We usually recommend people 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, and the DVR is typically proprietary. Unlike analog cameras, digital cameras can be monitored independently, and in a decentralized way if you prefer. For example, if you have a PC base station, then just switch to another PC base station. You don't need to make any changes to the wiring or anything. Simply run the app on another PC already on your network. 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.
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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