An IP camera is a type of camera used mainly in surveillance security systems that is able to send videos and receive control data via the Internet. These cameras are also referred to as “network cameras” or as “IP CCTV cameras”.
Unlike analog (HD or not) CCTV cameras, they don’t need a local recording device, all they need is a local network to be connected to. So, an analog HD camera needs to be plugged into a recorder in order for the camera to show a picture. That’s not the case for the IP cameras, you can plug the camera on the network and you can see the picture on multiple devices (even if you don’t want the camera to record).
What is an IP camera?
You should consider the IP camera exactly the same way as any other network device such as a printer, tablet, laptop, scanner, desktop computer, etc. An IP camera is a type of computer, has a motherboard, processor, graphics card, etc., however it has a specific purpose which is to transmit live images to a receiver via network.
Take a look at the illustration below. That’s an IP wireless camera that contains a motherboard where the processor is located, the lens bloc, the IR LEDs for night vision, etc., and all of them are enclosed inside a weatherproof metal housing. The shape of the IP camera can be dome-style, bullet-style, hidden style, etc. More samples of IP cameras can be found here.
Like any other network device, the IP camera can be accessed via the web browser where you can get the live feed and see all the settings that the camera comes with.
They also come with their own software and need to be configured to a network in order to function. Most of the IP cameras now come with their own apps, which make recording and viewing video on the web even easier.
How does the IP camera work?
The IP camera is connected directly to the network, just like any other network device. The network camera captures images the same way any digital camera does. What makes it different is its ability to compress the files and transmit them over a network.
Depending on what type of camera it is, it may save the video to an attached memory card, connect to a network recorder, or stream directly to the phone or tablet. When installing multiple IP cameras it’s recommended to use a centralized infrastructure, which requires a network video recorder (NVR).
An NVR is a program that can store video from IP cameras and allow for the viewing of multiple cameras at once. It is similar to a DVR, but while a traditional DVR is responsible for encoding and processing video from component cameras, an NVR depends on the cameras to encode their video, simply storing it and allowing for centralized remote viewing.
The benefits of an IP Camera
Picture Quality. IP cameras have superior image quality to analog CCTV cameras. This is definitive. Nowadays IP cameras offer 4K resolution that displays a crystal clear image.
The analog HD cameras can’t compete with that. Additionally, IP cameras capture a much wider field of view than comparable analog cameras, meaning a single IP camera is potentially able to capture way more scenes than a regular CCTV camera.
Intelligent Analytics. IP cameras are basically small computers that compress and store video, also they can be programmed to provide all sorts of analytics.
They can detect motion or smoke, count people, build heat maps, track objects, provide anti-tampering, sense when something disappears, set off various alarms, provide face recognition.
Instead of poring over hours of footage, your network can tell you exactly when these events occurred and point you right to them. Also, there are third-party software that get deeply analyze CCTV footage and provide certain types of information.
Flexibility. In traditional CCTV setups, each camera must be connected directly to the recorder (DVR). IP cameras can circumvent this through the use of switches, which allow cameras in close proximity to each other to be connected to a single switch, which then runs a single wire to the NVR.
This reduces the number of cabling runs, which makes it ultimately less labor-intensive, and also allows you to connect more cameras because you’re no longer limited by the number of ports on your DVR.
Ease of installation. While an analog camera takes two wires, an IP camera only uses one network cable for both data and power. This feature saves a tremendous amount of time and money when installing multiple cameras. All you need is one cable for each camera using the PoE function.
The analog CCTV cameras have made a comeback with their HD over coaxial images, however, the future belongs to the IP cameras. With these types of cameras, the possibilities are endless. They can be deployed along with various AI software that can intelligently analyze the recorded or live videos and provide useful security data.