Monitor your CCTV system with PRTG
Using a CCTV system usually means that a vital part of your security status depends on this CCTV system.
Failures in your CCTV system cause massive security issues.
PRTG can help to prevent downtime, while ensuring performance, clarity and ease of use.
A camera doesn’t make it a CCTV system
To ensure good (physical) security, your CCTV systems must constantly function. But only having your cameras running doesn’t mean that your CCTV system is working. Storage problems, failures in data transmission or power supply issues can affect your video surveillance more than the loss of a few cameras. A video surveillance system includes multiple components, each of them essential for the the entire system to function:
One monitoring system for everything
To assure functionality of the entire CCTV system, every single component must be monitored for availability and performance – 24/7. Many subsystems have their own monitoring functionality, but using multiple solutions for monitoring leads to significantly more effort for your daily work than one central solution. On top of that, a multitude of monitoring tools increases the risk of missed warnings. Ideally, there is one central monitoring solution that can include classic IT (storage, network, IT infrastructure) as well as cameras and video systems and a power supply.
Want to know in detail, what CCTV is? Read on!
What is CCTV?
CCTV stands for closed-circuit television and is commonly known as video surveillance. “Closed-circuit” means broadcasts are usually transmitted to a limited (closed) number of monitors, unlike “regular” TV, which is broadcast to the public at large. CCTV networks are commonly used to detect and deter criminal activities, and record traffic infractions, but they have other uses.
CCTV technology was first developed in 1942 by German scientists to monitor the launch of V2 rockets. It was later used by American scientists during the testing of the atomic bomb.
CCTV surveillance can deter potential criminals. When a crime does occur, video footage can help law enforcement to investigate and later provide evidence for prosecution in a law court. Used in conjunction with CCTV, audio, thermal and other types of sensors can alert officials to occurrences that are out of the ordinary, e.g. a fire or gun shots at a location. For businesses, CCTV cameras can detect and monitor in-house criminal activities. Prisons may use video surveillance to prevent drones from delivering drugs and other contraband to prisoners. Security cameras are able to monitor areas that are not easily accessible, e.g. rooftops.
Using CCTV cameras, emergency services and rescue workers are able to assess and monitor events in real time to relay a “situation” via video to disaster management teams, e.g. from inside a burning building, from a cave or from a helicopter flying over a scene.
City and community street monitoring
Cameras at traffic lights and elsewhere in cities monitor people to gather traffic statistics as well as evidentiary footage for speeding. An heir to the IoT, the AoT is a Chicago initiative to collect real-time data, primarily weather and environment, about the city. Some sensory nodes include security cameras that analyze the images they record but, in order to protect individuals’ privacy, do not transmit or store these images. In the main, a limited number are stored for use by senior researchers in order to “develop the computer vision software”. The project has met with some resistance from privacy watchdogs.
Medical monitoring and diagnosis
There are about 43 facial muscles that express people’s thoughts and feelings. Smart software can identify these expressions, e.g. pain or anxiety, from images more easily that people can. CCTV cameras can also monitor patients – for instance children or the elderly – to identify potential medical crises, e.g. a stroke, or an epileptic or asthma attack.
CCTV used to research suicide found that 83 percent of people attempting to throw themselves in front of a train showed specific behaviors. These were later analyzed from CCTV footage and are now used to alert monitor watchers to potential suicides. Surveillance networks are also used by researchers to record crowd activities in public places and prevent anti-social behaviors. For instance, cameras have been used at schools for security, and to record bullying or playground incidents on video.
Market intelligence garnered from video surveillance of customers is being used to analyze buying trends and enable enhanced strategizing, e.g. how do people shop, which aisles do they traverse the most, how likely are they to respond to calls to action within different store layouts. Heat maps can show the highs and lows of shopper traffic at specific locations in a store, helping stores to identify peak buying times, preferred promotion types, and staffing requirements for peak shopping periods.
How does CCTV work?
Analog and digital systems work quite differently but modern CCTV networks use conversion software and hardware to convert analog to digital. This process is called retrofitting.
A traditional CCTV system comprises:
- One or more cameras (analog or digital), each with a lens equipped with an image sensor
- A recorder – Either a standard video tape recorder for analog systems, or a Direct Video Recorder (DVR) or Network Video Recorder (NVR) for digital systems
- Cables – Either RJ45 for digital or coaxial for analog
- One or more monitors to which the images are transmitted
- A camera records images through the lens using image sensors.
- These images (and often audio too) are transmitted to the recorder or tape, either wirelessly or by cable. Recorders may use analytical software and other smart technologies to scan the data and send automated alerts to either humans, or other systems and devices. This Video Management Software (VMS) records, stores and analyzes video feeds. The software is often self-learning, using machine learning (ML) algorithms that utilize functionality like motion detection, face recognition, people counting, etc.
- Monitor(s) can be passively (through software) or actively (by people) monitored. CCTV networks can, and should, themselves be monitored.
Types of CCTV systems
- Analog - Use Bayonet Neill-Concelman (BNC) connectors on coaxial cables to transmit continuous video signals. They are relatively low resolution but cheap and effective. There are more peripherals in an analog system, e.g. standard coaxial cables don’t usually transmit audio. Analog signals can be digitized, making it more cost-effective to go digital even with older equipment. The images require a video capture card and can be stored on a PC or tape recorder. A step up, analog HD enables increased resolution over traditional systems (1080 pixels) and are backwards compatible with analog cameras and BNC.
- Digital – Digitalize signals at camera level. These systems don’t require a video capture card as images are stored directly to a computer but require a (relatively) large amount of space to store recordings, so they are usually heavily compressed.
- Network or IP – Used with analog or digital cameras, these systems utilize a video server to stream footage over the internet. The advantages are the possibility of WiFi and audio, Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) for analyzing image footage, remote access, Power Over Ethernet (POE), and better resolution. Furthermore, IP cameras have the ability to contain more cameras in one, which can cover a wide angle that may normally take multiple cameras or camera systems to cover.
All three options are still equally in use, with a high tendency to IP camera systems and digital video cameras.
You can view a comparison table of cable categories here.
Key CCTV tech terms
Video encoders allows for the migration of analog CCTV systems to some network systems, enabling users to take advantage of cheaper hardware and modern features. The software allows a wired connection and then digitalizes video signals, sending them to a wired or wireless IP-based system.
Cameras use different types of image sensors, which convert light into electronic signals. A sensor comprises multiple photodiodes, or pixels, which register the amount of exposed light and converts it to electrons. The two most popular formats are CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) and CCD (charged coupled device).
- CMOS – These are more cost-effective than CCD sensors. Megapixel (utilizing millions of pixels) CMOS sensors may even rival the quality of CCD sensors.
- CCD – These are more costly with a higher power consumption. CCD scanners are generally the best option for inclement light conditions (they have higher light sensitivity) and they are quieter than CMOS. (While the signal itself is analog, it is converted for transmission by an analog-to-digital converter, which turns the pixels’ values into numeric values.)
For digital CCTV, CCD sensors generally use an interlaced scanning method (instant exposure) while CMOS and CCD can use either progressive or interlaced scanning. Analog cameras only use interlaced scanning.
- Interlaced (popular for CCD applications) – This technique involves the transmission of odd and even TVLs (l stands for lines) from an image. Cameras with more than 400 lines provide good resolution and more than 700 lines is considered high resolution. These transmissions are repeatedly refreshed, reducing bandwidth and fooling the human brain into believing they are seeing a single, complete picture. That is as long as an interlaced recording is viewed on an interlaced monitor; on a progressive scan monitor, an interlaced image may look jagged. Modern video software will first de-interlace interlaced scans to convert them to progressive scans that can be viewed on analog and progressive scan monitors.
- Progressive (popular for CMOS applications) – This method does not divide the image into fields (odd and even lines). Instead, the image is scanned and each line (field) is exposed on a monitor sequentially.
DVRs are usually part of the CCTV system, connecting to various internal components, not to external networks. DVRs are generally used with analog cameras. In a DVR system, every camera must be connected directly to the recorder.
While DVR systems process footage themselves, NVR systems encode and process data at the camera level, and then stream it to the recorder, which, in turn, is used for storage and remote monitoring. NVR systems usually use IP cameras. In an NVR system, each IP camera connects to the same network.
Network CCTV pros and cons
Pros – Enable remote monitoring, don’t require network cabling, highly mobile and enable the automation of surveillance processes
Cons – Can be expensive to buy out of the box, entail a higher learning curve and are at risk from hackers
Read about some common IP CCTV myths and misconceptions here.
Analog CCTV pros and cons
Pros – Cheaper and easier installation than network CCTV with more vendor support available
Cons – Lower resolution, more cabling required and don’t facilitate data encryption
Read more about the history of CCTV and how analog has evolved here.
Some studies have shown that active surveillance in any CCTV system is hampered by ineffective system configurations, poor quality video recordings, faulty or old equipment, inadequate communication between stakeholders, inefficient management policies, ineffective workplace setup (e.g. lack of space), background noise (typical in security environments), inclement weather and lack of familiarity by operators with particular areas they are observing.
The main criticism against CCTV is its potential to intrude on individuals’ privacy, employees (or customers) feeling that Big Brother is watching, and potential privacy breaches. Many of these issues can be mitigated by network monitoring software like PRTG.
The future of CCTV
According to Wesley G. Skogan, in the future other digital technologies shall complement CCTV to create a simultaneously more autonomous and proactive surveillance process. These technologies include facial recognition, linked cameras, intelligent hardware, license plate readers, drones, police body cameras, and the IoT. These technologies will increase passive surveillance, the ability of systems, rather than people, raise alerts. Mass surveillance and a greater presence of security cameras, as we are already seeing in China, could spread to other countries.
Monitoring CCTV networks
One of the fastest growing trends in CCTV security, network monitoring software ensures CCTV systems stay up and running, and can provide 24/7 monitoring of an area and reliable notifications. Monitoring systems can alert staff when there is a power failure (and automatically switch to a backup power supply), constantly check for unusual activity on the network, and be configured for different types of usage, risks, and requirements (e.g. medical or retail).
Monitoring these networks professionally is essential to ensure compliance with international privacy and security regulations, to protect personal data, and to efficiently process large amounts of image data.
Identify the right monitoring solution
A monitoring solution for your CCTV systems must also meet all standard requirements like:
Feature set, usability, price performance ratio, licensing, implementation effort, technical support.
But, in this case you should pay special attention to the following aspects:
CCTV cameras, DVRs, and also power supply are not standard IT devices. While most IT monitoring solutions can handle standards like IT networks, storage systems or IT infrastructure, only a few can easily integrate devices beyond IT. This requires comprehensive options to easily generate individual monitoring.
Monitoring of distributed sites
All CCTV components are not always located within one closed network. Especially cameras can be spread over multiple sites or even countries. This requires that the monitoring solution offers a simple and affordable option for monitoring distributed locations.
Especially when it has to do with security, it’s vital that the monitoring solution supports mobile alerting via SMS or push notification beyond standard methods like email or desktop notification to make sure that the person in charge can be reached at any time, in any place. In most cases, CCTV systems have to be online and working smoothly 24/7.
CCTV monitoring with PRTG Network Monitor
With PRTG Network Monitor, Paessler offers a monitoring solution that is a perfect fit for monitoring CCTV systems.
PRTG is one of the world's leading IT monitoring solutions,
thanks in particular to its ease of use, comprehensive IT monitoring functionality and simple,
customer-friendly price and license model.
With PRTG, you can create maps in HTML format within minutes via drag & drop. Add floor plans as background images to your maps and include your cameras’ video streams together with status and performance data of cameras and relevant CCTV components. By adding your cameras' geo or address data, you can show them automatically in the PRTG geo maps.
Using so-called remote probes, PRTG allows the monitoring of any number of locations in a particularly lean manner with each license. You simply install a PRTG remote probe (a Windows service) on a Windows server at the location to be monitored. This remote probe collects all relevant data there and sends it TLS-encrypted to the central instance.
Monitoring beyond the standard
Thanks to its well-documented interface and numerous templates for the simple creation of individual queries, PRTG allows the simple and uncomplicated integration of almost all devices. For many manufacturers, PRTG provides ready-made device templates so that the integration can be automated.
Email, SMS, push...
PRTG supports all common methods of alerting, from email to SMS to push notifications. In addition, PRTG can also trigger an action and, for example, initiate a device’s restart if necessary. In this way, first measures can be automated, and response times can be significantly reduced.
Paessler named Gartner Peer Insights Customers' Choice in the category IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tools.
“Excellent tool for detailed monitoring. Alarms and notifications work greatly. Equipment addition is straight forward and server initial setup is very easy. ...feel safe to purchase it if you intend to monitor a large networking landscape.”
Infrastructure and Operations Engineer in the Communications Industry, firm size 10B - 30B USD
Create innovative solutions with Paessler’s IT partners
Partnering with innovative IT vendors, Paessler unleashes synergies to create
new and additional benefits for joined customers.
With the combination of PRTG and Insys, the monitoring specialist Paessler and the industrial gateway manufacturer INSYS icom offer a practical possibility to merge IT and OT.
With the combination of PRTG and Insys, the monitoring specialist Paessler and the industrial gateway manufacturer INSYS icom offer a practical possibility to merge IT and OT.
Success stories from our customers
Companies around the world trust PRTG Network Monitor when it comes to ensuring that their IT systems run smoothly.
CDT LATAM Group monitors its facial recognition cameras with Paessler PRTG
CDT LATAM is Herta Security distributor for Latin America and the Caribbean. It has more than 20 years of experience in the installations and maintenance of technological integrations in various areas. CDT LATAM Group uses facial recognition cameras in crowds to help stop violence in Uruguayan football stadiums and monitors their proper functioning with Paessler PRTG.
The Ritz London benefits from clearer visibility 24 hours a day with Paessler PRTG
The five-star Ritz London hotel is situated in the heart of Piccadilly overlooking Green Park. Over the last 115 years, it has earned a reputation as one of the finest hotels in the UK. The Ritz London’s in-house IT team chose Paessler PRTG to maintain visibility of the health of the hotel’s core network, IT systems, building, and cameras 24-hours a day.
SE3 offers Paessler PRTG as a solution to monitor wastewater treatment
Sistemas Eléctricos y Electrónicos Especializados SE3 was established in 2007 to provide structured industrial maintenance and automation services in Yucatán and Quintana Roo, Mexico. SE3 has included Paessler PRTG in its portfolio of solutions for remote monitoring, viewing and alerts of programmable control systems and operating components located in wastewater treatment plants.
“Easy to implement and configure with good technical support.”
R. v. S., ICT Manager at Heinen & Hopman Eng BV
Get more deep-dive information here!
Would you like to discover more about CCTV monitoring?
Then be sure to check out our inspirational blog posts and webinars.
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