What is CCTV?

CCTV systems that use analog video surveillance cameras have been around for decades. But there have been many innovations that have changed traditional CCTV into something much more sophisticated and effective.
What is CCTV

If you’ve seen a movie with a security guard watching a bank of video monitors, you already know what CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) is. The Department of Homeland Security says, “A CCTV system serves mainly as a security force multiplier, providing surveillance for a larger area, more of the time, than would be feasible with security personnel alone.” This blog will help you understand how traditional CCTV works and what innovations have been made to improve these tools to help keep your business a little safer.

What is CCTV and How Does It Work?

Closed circuit television, or CCTV, is a network of analog video cameras, remote monitors, and recording devices that track activity on a closed, non-broadcasted loop. These security devices are designed to keep property safer and protect business assets by documenting and sometimes deterring crime.

CCTV directly links a video surveillance camera with a video monitor. Traditionally, these tools were hard wired together with cabling that ran through a building’s infrastructure. If the security system is wireless and broadcasts data through the internet, it is no longer CCTV. 

The components of a CCTV system include:

  • Hardware equipment and wiring

  • Data capture, distribution, and storage devices

  • Software for data analytics

  • Video cameras

“Analog” refers to how the signal is transmitted in real time. Analog visual images are not converted to digital binary code for the computer.

Analog CCTV cameras record images onto a DVR (digital video recorder) or, for very old systems, even a VCR (video cassette recorder). The images the analog CCTV system captures are stored on-site for viewing or archiving. Analog CCTV usually includes several cameras feeding a signal through a television monitor and into a recording device. All of these tools are connected via hardwiring.

Generally, CCTV is part of a multi-faceted security approach. CCTV has dozens of applications in use today. These cameras exist in our homes, at stoplights, in stores, outside in parking lots—and so much more. 

CCTV cameras come in a variety of styles. For example:

dome camera
Dome Camera

Dome cameras are static round surveillance monitors often hidden in the ceiling of a large building. The name of the camera comes from their shape.

bullet camera
Bullet Camera

Bullet cameras are the opposite of a discreet dome camera. These small boxy devices are usually in plain sight. They can act as a deterrent to criminals by letting them know someone is watching their activity.

pan-tilt-zoom camera
Pan/tilt/zoom Camera

Pan/tilt/zoom cameras can zoom can be controlled remotely to zoom in on fine details or pivot to provide sweeping views. These are more modern cameras that typically offer better image quality than over models.

infrared camera
Infrared Camera

Infrared or night vision cameras do exactly what the name implies. An infrared camera tracks heat signature. Night vision cameras allow you to peer into low-light environments.

CCTV systems that use analog video surveillance cameras have been around for decades. But there have been many innovations that have changed traditional CCTV into something much more sophisticated and effective. How does CCTV work today with all the changes stemming from digital technology and the internet?

What Innovations Have Changed Traditional CCTV?

Several technology innovations have changed traditional CCTV forever. This includes:

  • A shift from analog video transmission to digitally enabled Wi-Fi surveillance cameras.

  • Video storage in the cloud.

  • Data transfer and sophisticated analytics that make storing and finding the right video so much easier.

  • Smart apps that allow video feed to go to any digital device.

  • A shift to digital technology, which is is cheaper and easier to use than ever before.

For many decades, CCTV video surveillance was the go-tool tool for property and business security. But these systems increasingly belong to the past, as new digital technologies improve our security defenses. In the digital space, video surveillance can integrate well with other security devices such as door alarms and access entry tools. They can also enable a new service line called the virtual security guard, where a remote person watches your business via video surveillance when you cannot. 

Many people say “CCTV” when they’re talking about the newer Wi-Fi cameras available today, using it as a generic term similar to “Xerox” or “Kleenex.” However, strictly speaking, CCTV refers to the older analog hard-wired platforms. There are plenty of signs these systems are swimming against the tide thanks to digital innovations that have rocked the industry. Security and Safety Things says, “Forget CCTV (as you know it)—here comes smart video surveillance.”

The “smart video surveillance” the magazine is referring to are IP-enabled security cameras, sometimes just called IP security cameras. The “IP” stands for Internet Protocol, which means that these cameras capture a digital video signal in real-time and send it wirelessly via a Wi-Fi network directly into the cloud. There are many advantages that these newer digital-empowered tools offer. Let’s compare the advantages of CCTV vs IP cameras.

Which is Better: CCTV vs IP Camera?

In a head-to-head comparison, an IP camera has many advantages over the older CCTV video surveillance:

Difference Between IP and CCTV Camera image quality

  • IP cameras offer higher video quality suitable for all kinds of viewing conditions. They offer better zoom features and far greater detail over analog CCTV. Zooming with an analog camera gives you an overall grainer picture. 
  • IP cameras allow a viewing resolution that is up to 20 times higher than analog cameras. Analog cameras are limited to 720×480 pixels. IP cameras are far higher at 2560×1920, and have no upward bound. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image.

How Can I Extend the Range of a Wireless Camera?

  • IP cameras can be wired or wireless. Wireless IP cameras don’t require the coax cabling necessary for CCTV. This makes them a practical solution for sprawling areas where it’s expensive or difficult to run cable. Wireless IP cameras transmit data online via the cellphone network. Many are solar powered with a battery backup so you don’t even need electricity. 
  • IP cameras are easier to install. For example, if you’re installing CCTV you need a separate cable if you want to control the pan/tilt/zoom features. If you need audio, you also need another cable. Typically, for every analog CCTV camera, three separate cables, for voice, audio, and camera features, will need to be installed.
  • IP cameras are harder to physically disrupt since there are no cords to cut off the signal. You can’t steal a video recording device if there’s no DVR on-site because the feed is stored in the cloud. IP cameras make their online data hard to intercept because they encrypt (or scramble) the data in transmission and while it’s stored.
  • IP cameras are easy to scale up depending on your needs. If you want to add a wireless, solar powered IP camera to your network, there are no cabling requirements.

Finally, an IP camera security network is surprisingly affordable. Not only do digital technologies continue to drop in price, but you eliminate the costs associated with cabling. Even better, you can eliminate your on-site security guards and replace them with a virtual guard who can watch your business 24/7/365. This eliminates physical risks to the security guard, improves surveillance, and cuts costs.

Pro-Vigil is the nation’s leading provider of video surveillance networks. Talk to our team about whether your current CCTV network is keeping up with the criminal element.

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