Introduction
The security camera market has always been a rapidly changing market from a technological perspective, and one the most significant changes in recent years has been the introduction of digital or “IP” cameras (the IP standing for Internet Protocol). This move naturally reflects the larger cultural and global business shift from analog to digital technology.

Because many companies still have an investment in legacy systems that employ the traditional technology, analog-based (or Closed Circuit TV) based systems that utilize DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) are still in wide use. In addition, the more expensive IP solution may be cost prohibitive for smaller companies (although IP cameras prices have fallen and will continue to fall as use widens). Even given that, because of the advantages that IP-based solutions offer, there is little doubt among industry experts that eventually IP security solutions will be the standard.

Overview
With the traditional CCTV or analog setup, security cameras take an analog video signal and pass the signal over a coax cable to a DVR. The DVR will then convert the analog signal to digital, and then store it on a hard drive where it can be retrieved at a later time. The digital signal is compressed for more efficient use of space on the hard drive. In order to allow for use with analog TVs, the camera’s signal complies with TV broadcast standards. For viewing, monitors are connected to the DVR, which can be broadcast over the Internet to computers, mobile phones, and other devices that can accept the images.

In the IP-based scenario, the camera captures images as analog, but then converts them to digital. The digital images are then broadcast over a LAN (Local Area Network). The camera itself is powered by POE (Power-Over-Ethernet) adapters, which have the benefit of needing only one Ethernet cable, and provide the ability to locate a camera anywhere without the need for an AC outlet. The digital camera sends its signal to an NVR (Network Video Recorder), which functions like the DVR in the analog setup—capturing the camera signal, compressing it, and recording it.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages
So which camera option is best? Let’s examine the pros and cons of each:

Analog camera PROS
At this point in time, the primary advantage that analog cameras have over digital is their cost. Although IP camera prices are coming down, they can be as much as 50% more expensive than their analog counterparts. In addition, because analog camera systems transmit over coax cable and not a LAN, they do not use as much bandwidth, and the DVRs they transmit to can broadcast video very efficiently. In the analog setup, the DVR will only use bandwidth if the camera is in use. Analog cameras also come with useful features like pan/tilt/zoom and varifocal lenses, and putting these kinds of features together in an IP camera could prove to be more difficult and costly.

Analog Camera CONS
The major disadvantage of analog cameras comes down to one simple thing—image quality. These cameras cannot provide resolution above TV standards, which can be problematic with applications that demand high security, such as law enforcement. The primary limitation is not only the technology itself, but the fact that is has to comply with analog TV standards. These standards can produce decoding errors as the camera attempts to resolve the image, resulting in blurring and inaccurate rendering of colors. Even in a wireless mode, analog cameras have their limitations, because of interference from other wireless devices that can cause camera images to be distorted.

IP/Digital camera PROS
Where analog cameras are lacking, IP cameras shine—namely, resolution. An IP camera can provide up to 25% more resolution than analog and is much better at capturing objects that are moving, even at high speed. IP cameras also make more efficient use of cabling—where a single analog camera will need three cables to provide video, audio, and power, an IP configuration can get the job done with just one.

Flexibility is another key advantage of IP cameras. They can be moved anywhere on an IP network, and can be monitored real time from any computer anywhere, and also on numerous portable devices (i.e. laptops, tablets, smartphones).

IP/Digital camera CONS
Because IP cameras use a LAN to broadcast images (via the NVR) with megapixel resolution, a significant amount of bandwidth can be consumed in this type of application. This contributes to the primary drawback of digital cameras—they can be very expensive. Enhanced image quality and speed come at a price, so companies, particularly smaller ones, must assess the cost/benefit for their application.

Although IP cameras provide greater image quality, unlike the analog world, real world standards do exist for video capture and display. IP cameras, depending on how they are made, can encode video in different ways and utilize various programming interfaces, making compatibility a potential issue. Additionally, because they use more sophisticated technology, IP cameras can be harder to install, requiring knowledge of how to input proper settings such as IP addresses, DDNS, router settings, and the like.

Choosing the Right Solution
Clearly, advances in technology can have a significant impact in the world of security and surveillance, and choosing the right application comes down to matching your objectives and needs with the capabilities provided by both types of cameras. IP cameras have proven their worth in the marketplace, but analog cameras, configured properly and in the right setting can also meet the needs of businesses large and small.

If you have questions or have a need for a security camera solution for your business, please contact us at 770-808-0931, or email us at info@nkwcommunications.com. Also, be sure to visit us at our website at www.nkwcommo.com. We’d love to hear from you!