It’s not all about the price tag – think about the TCO
We all have a basic need to feel safe and secure. The security cameras that surround us as we go about our everyday lives are designed to reassure us. If something bad were to happen, it could be spotted and hopefully prevented due to advanced video analytics, or at the very least evidence recorded.
We are used to seeing these security cameras in almost every environment, from the CCTV in our streets, to our offices and stores. As a result, the hardware is commonplace and sometimes even seen as a grudge purchase, like insurance, where we are spending just in case something happens. The natural temptation is to spend as little as possible to meet our needs. To scour the market for the appropriate devices and buy one of the cheaper options. Unfortunately, those choices can end up being an expensive mistake. We can end up purchasing a system that does not cover all our needs. In addition, what can appear to be initial savings can lead to additional expense and maintenance effort throughout the lifetime of the solution.
When it comes to security camera systems, not all devices are built equal. Although the specifications of many cameras may look similar at first glance, there are a number of important considerations to take into account when considering your purchase.
Is cheaper really worth it?
So, if a cheaper system fails faster and more frequently – is it really good value? CCTV cameras, especially outdoor ones, are often installed in more remote places that take effort, coordination and time to reach and repair. As a result, the first criteria when looking at surveillance cameras, should be reliability and MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) rates.
By their very nature, CCTV cameras are often targets of vandalism and regularly out in the open and exposed to the elements. This makes the level of rugged design, as well as weather and dust exposure endurance, an important factor in the ultimate reliability of the cameras.
That is why – alongside lots of other quality control measures – we carry out impact testing on our vandal proof models to make sure external shocks can be absorbed up to standards even higher than IK10. Vibration tests are also undertaken to ensure the cameras keep their focus when attacked or when installed in places where they could be rattled, such as bridges. There is not much benefit in a CCTV camera, if it does not film the area it’s intended to look at!
At the manufacturing facility, the outdoor cameras undergo water tests to ensure they can withstand extreme weather conditions and are thoroughly X-ray inspected to spot any hardware faults before shipping.
Although the devices may be out of the manufacturer’s control once they are dispatched, we even go the extra mile in testing the packaging of the cameras using a revolving hexagonal drum test to ensure they can be transported safely and arrive safe and sound onsite for use.
Time is money
But let’s take a step back to the initial setup and configuration of the security system, to look beyond the hardware requirements and also consider the support the security solution providers offer in this area.
Once the cameras arrive on site, the unpackaging, configuration and installation of the devices can be time consuming. Just imagine, you have a project of 1,000 cameras and you have to unpack and repack all of them – even if it takes you 1 minute per box (you are quick!) – that’s a lot of wasted time. Which is why we deliver all our cameras in an Easy Kitting format to make the camera set-up process as simple and time efficient as possible when they arrive at their destination – because your time is also precious! The box containing the camera has a window opening, so the technicians can plug in a cable and configure the cameras without having to unbox them before they are sent to their installation point.
On top of that, we offer a comprehensive solution for setting up multiple IP cameras simultaneously and avoid configuration errors that can occur by manual handling. The i-PRO Configuration Tool eases the set-up of the network cameras, disk recorders and video encoders by enabling batch accessibility of the devices upon initial setup or firmware upgrade, and also provides a full list of all the devices and IP address settings for easy reporting purposes.
Used together, the Easy Kitting functionality plus the i-PRO Configuration Tool (iCT), combine to deliver a lot of hours saved.
Downtime is costly time
Once installed, the costs of maintaining a security camera system can quickly far outweigh the initial purchase price, if maintaining the camera is a real time-consumer. So it’s advisable to look closely at the features the cameras offer to minimise maintenance.
For example, simply keeping the camera lens clean and free from dirt and dust can be a real time killer. We offer a special hydrophilic coating with self-purification effect - named ClearSight Coating - which is applied to the outside hemisphere of the device to provide an invisible protective layer against dust and grime. The coating, which lasts for at least 7 years, enables rain water to run straight off the surface of the camera – rather than form droplets, which dirt can attach to. And there is no need to be concerned during the setup and installation of the camera: the coating can be touched without any deterioration in effectiveness. As a result, the coating provides better surveillance visibility in the rain, even at night with IR viewing, and prevents a build-up of dirt meaning fewer maintenance visits and saving costs whilst providing clear and unobstructed high quality images.
As well as rainwater, another cause of security camera failures can be condensation from the atmosphere building up inside the cameras and obscuring the lens. Traditionally moisture crystals or gel packs are used to soak up the water droplets but even these become saturated over time. To overcome this issue, we have designed purpose-built dehumidifiers that are factory fitted to all external cameras. The device works for the life of the product, separating the hydrogen and oxygen atoms present inside the hemisphere, dispelling the hydrogen through a breathable membrane. This keeps the moisture level inside to a minimum and prevents condensation on the cover and lens. This electrolysis-based technology does not use any heaters or fans and is therefore safe and green.
Don’t make cyber slip-ups
When working with CCTV cameras, there are two unavoidable topics - cyber-attacks and the protection of personal data under GDPR. As you would imagine, we take both very seriously. As well as building physical camera systems that are built to last and minimise maintenance, we see it as our priority to make sure the integrity and actual security of the system is maintained – security is a basic need and this also needs to apply for the CCTV systems. The increasing threat of cyber-attack can take vital security systems down and the loss of personal data through such attacks can lead to significant fines in the EU under GDPR.
Panasonic continuously reviews its operations in this area to ensure its camera systems are secure and the threat of attacks and data leaks minimised. For example, we have removed all default passwords from our security products, forcing customers to create their own to keep their data safe and prevent unintended access. For example, 12345 or admin, (unsurprisingly) are not safe passwords, yet still very commonly used across the globe.
All firmware in our i-PRO cameras and recorders is securely encrypted to mitigate against unwanted criminal analysis. For this, we have developed Secure Communications, our platform and package to protect against video tampering, altering, spoofing and snooping. We work together with a leading provider of certificates and technology for detecting and analysing cyber-attacks to provide a highly secure and robust protection layer for embedded surveillance products.
The Future: From Big Brother to Big Benefit
As security cameras are predicted to reach one billion in 2021, the market trend for growth is inevitable – making it even more important to make sure your technology is future-proof. The ability to customise the cameras to different business needs is becoming more and more important. Events, such as COVID-19 have shown the value in security systems being flexible to adapt to new requirements without having to spend on new hardware costs - remember our systems are built to last!
That’s why we have designed our new i-PRO X-Series with built-in AI capabilities, able to run three different AI applications at the same time. These types of intelligent camera applications are the very basis for a new industry generation of processes being automated, monitored and controlled by AI-driven systems. With our open SDK any developers can work on their own apps to run on the cameras - capturing footage in the highest quality images and enabling a built-for-purpose security system.
As a result, rather than relying on the security cameras for evidence when things have gone wrong, we will increasingly be able to use AI and the cameras in a proactive way to prevent incidents. That could be monitoring and alerting when health and safety guidelines are being breached or spotting and flagging patterns of suspicious behaviour before incidents occur. There are opportunities for applications in transportation, for city surveillance, logistics, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, as well as more unusual ones like energy consumption, agriculture and others – the options are unlimited!
Definitely not all about the price tag – take a closer look
As we have seen, there are many factors to consider when purchasing a security camera system. It’s not just about the price tag. The build quality and reliability, ease of set-up and maintenance, cyber security approach and future-proof flexibility of the system should all be considered. When all these elements are taken into consideration, it is possible to purchase a security camera solution that will offer true value across its whole lifetime.