One of the hottest trends in home technology today is security cameras. Many web cams today are affordable and easy to install, especially with digital and IP (Internet Protocol) technologies. But that wasn’t always the case.
In the Jan./Feb. 1994 issue of Electronic House, we wrote enthusiastically that a “TeleSite video transmission system sends CCTV camera signals to your PC or TV over standard phone lines.”
Standard (POTS) phone lines are still used in some instances, but they’ve been largely replaced by Category 5 and 6 (Ethernet) broadband cables that enable high-speed Internet connections. And video from the cameras are often recorded to commercial-grade DVRs and NVRs (network video recorders).
Some of the biggest changes in home surveillance technology, explains Artie Eaton, a 30-year-veteran of the security industry and CEO of Home Smart Home and HELP Inc., in North Attleboro, Mass., are the quality and connectivity of the cameras and recording systems. “You’ve got higher resolutions of 600 TV lines. DVRs are recording higher quality images, and it’s much easier to search and archive today,” he says.
Web cams may be the rage, though many custom installation companies still prefer to work with analog cameras. Analog cameras that use infrared technology—or “night vision”—to make out images in the dark have worked much better than web cams.
In a recent Electronic House feature on home security, Eric Thies of DSI Entertainment Systems in Los Angeles says that analog cameras are also easier to matrix and multiplex, so you can view several camera feeds on a TV or other video display at once. He’s looking forward to more high-definition outdoor cameras. “There are only a few HD camera options, and it’s a category that screams for HD,” Thies says.
HD video from cameras such as those from Dedicated Micros can also allow you to zoom in and see more detail on video from the cameras.
However, cautions Eaton and Jay Guinan of Tech Rep of Attleboro, Mass., in the case of analog cameras, when you increase resolution, you often lose fluidity in movement. And your system is dealing with a lot more information. He sets his home’s own analog cameras to about 320 x 240–pixel resolution, and that’s fine.
Affordability is driving a lot of the interest in analog surveillance systems. Not only are relatively inexpensive systems being offered by ADT, Comcast and soon others, HELP Inc’s Eaton says a 16-channel analog camera recording system that ran about $5,000 a few years ago now goes for about $1,200 to $1,500, with smartphone viewing capability.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates