I’ve got my eyes on you.
Some people are born with an unshakeable sense of calm and remain unflappable in worst of circumstances. For most of us though peace of mind comes at a price.
Misplaced your keys? Let the cursing begin. Don’t remember if you turned the lights off when you left the house? Have to make a U-turn and go check it now! Can’t concentrate on work, god knows what the 7-year-old is up to back home!
Life is a roller coaster but not quite an enjoyable one. Thankfully though, there are ways to calm things down regarding certain matters, such as ensuring everything is safe and sound back home when you are away (or even when you are home). This is where security systems prove to be extremely useful.
Fine, so you are sold on them, but what next? Where to begin?
We realize that this space has exploded with innovation and choices and the technical jargon associated with it can get extremely confusing for a layperson, which is precisely why we have written this series of ultimate guides.
In the previous two guides we covered the types of home security cameras available in the American market, and a general overview of security cameras as well as traced their evolution from simple grainy feeds to highly sophisticated streams of today. (If you haven’t read the guides yet, we strongly recommend you check them out.)
In this guide we further look into specific types of security cameras—particularly the wireless and outdoor varieties.
Crime statistics and increasing number of CCTV sales are often cited as the most compelling reasons to invest in security systems. But we strongly advise you to not make panicky or rushed decisions. Our 3-part series has been written with the aim of helping you better understand the lay of the land, make better decisions and informed purchases, and of course, find that elusive peace of mind.
So without further adieu, let’s dive straight in!
Wireless security cameras
Wireless security camera systems are simply those that operate without wires.
Now for the slightly more technical and detailed answer.
A closed-circuit television system, as explained previously, involves monitoring an area via a set of a camera (or cameras), a monitor, and a video recorder. The camera records images, which are seen on the monitor in the form of live footage, and stored on the recorder from where it can be retrieved or replayed on demand.
One would think that such a set-up would require the use of wires, and one would be right in thinking that. The CCTV cameras for the most part of their existence have consisted of cables emerging out of cameras and leading all the way up to the monitor, hence the word circuit. These cameras are usually mounted in fixed places, from where they watch over their targeted area.
Where wireless camera systems differ is that they carry out the exact same function as would a standard wired system but without any wiring.
A wireless security camera system adds transmitters and receivers to the usual CCTV mix of cameras, monitors, and DVRs.
Wireless cameras come fitted with in-built transmitters, while the receivers are attached or connected to either the monitor or the recorder, depending on the system. In any case, they are away from the camera and their function is to receive the images (hence the name ‘receiver’).
The lens of the wireless camera picks up images, which the transmitter inside that camera sends in the form of video signals across radio wave frequencies to the receiver located somewhere in the central panel. This enables the receiver to then display on the monitor/television/computer live feed picked up by your security camera.
That, in short, is how a wireless security camera system works. There is also a way to transform your regular wired camera into a wireless one if you want more mobility for it. You would have to install a transmitter inside the camera and a receiver in the control panel.
The thing you need to make sure of is that you would need to keep both the transmitter and the receiver fully charged as they are power-consuming devices. This can be done in the form of batteries or a plugged-in adapter, or anything which supplies power to them on a consistent basis.
Advantages of wireless cameras
On top of all the advantages that a CCTV camera affords its users, wireless cameras in particular score in the following areas:
- They are clutter-free
No ugly video cables ruining your aesthetically laid out décor.
Say you don’t want long running wires visible here and there, what do you do? Concealing the wires inside the walls or under the floor is a good idea, except it would require you to make changes to your construction to carry out a proper installation. To put it simply, it would be a hassle.
Wireless cameras would be a better option in such a scenario as you could install them wherever you wanted without making any changes whatsoever to the existing arrangement in your house.
- No installation headaches
Anything that has intimidating looking wiring emerging out of it needs to be handled with care. Wired security systems require professional installation and once put in place need to stay there. If you want to move the camera and mount it elsewhere you would have to relocate and redo the wiring too, for which you may need to again ring your security services provider to send over men to do it for you.
Wireless cameras are extremely easy to install because there is no wiring to bother with. Many of them are effectively plug and play!
- They grant you mobility
The whole idea behind wireless cameras is for people to shove a camera in place whenever they want, and not be restricted by considerations of traditional security systems. And they do it quite well.
- They are versatile
Wireless cameras come in all sizes, because of which they are extremely nifty to use. You can even mount one on a shoe rack!
- They provide wide coverage
While wired camera systems operate only within their individual circuits, wireless cameras provide feed over impressive distances. While the exact range would depend on the model, some of the best in the industry can be operated from over several hundred feet away.
Not only that, a good quality receiver will also pick up signals despite solid obstructions, like furniture and walls, in the way.
- They are cheaper
Compared to wired security systems, the wireless ones are cheaper because of a lack of cables and the sheer range of sizes in which they are available. Not only do you save on their installation costs, but also on their replacement, repairs, and upgrades. All of this adds up to substantial savings over wired analog systems.
- They let you spy!
Spy cameras are usually wireless (to state the obvious, as wires would alert anybody!). Hidden cameras are used within business establishments to spy on the employees and any potential mischief mongers. Some people install covert systems within their homes to keep an eye on errant spouses or new nannies. Monitoring someone without their knowledge can land you in legal trouble though, so check the laws of your state before opting to spy with hidden cameras.
Since the video is transmitted via a wireless signal, there is much legitimate concern about the signal being intercepted by others who have hacked into your wireless network.
Without dismissing the validity of such fears, we would like to point out that things are not as black and white as they are sometimes made out to be.
Some people are spooked by the mere idea of somebody being able to intercept their wireless signals, while others are immensely turned off by ugly wires running into and around walls.
Wired and wireless are both very reliable systems and with a proper understanding of how to make them work for you, you will be able to extract the most out of your systems.
Can my wireless security system be hacked into?
Wireless systems seem to be a rage these days because of the sheer convenience of the set-up. The wi-fi generation is already aware of and comfortable with how wireless connections function. Whether you are accessing a wireless network via your laptop or a smartphone in a public space, you know that you are accessing a free network and the chances of others intercepting it are always present.
What is the likelihood of it actually happening with a security system though?
Bear in mind that with a wireless security camera you are not facing a public wi-fi threat. You will be accessing wireless Internet within your own premises, the one that you have paid for, so you will be able to directly control it. To ensure safety during wireless video transmission and remote monitoring via your cameras, put in place network transfer protocols.
So the answer to the question whether other people would be able to view your security feed by intercepting your wireless network, and also listen to the audio (if any), is: “Not very likely.”
Can signals from other devices clash with wireless c am signals?
This is a more realistic concern. Waves emitted by the radio, your mobile and cordless phones, even the microwave may interfere with the transmission of your wireless security camera’s video signals, thus affecting the picture resolution of the feed. Because of the absence of signals (much less signal disturbances), wired systems remain immune to outside disturbances and provide consistently good picture quality.
Both the wired and wireless security systems have their pros and cons, and the ultimate decision which one to buy depends on your own specific needs.
If you want something put in place permanently, which means you are very sure you won’t need to change it, and are willing to make any accompanying changes that the installation would require, a wired system is what you should invest in. If, on the other hand, you aren’t sure where you want your security camera to train, don’t want the hassle of wiring, or you want to install a security camera on a temporary basis, go wireless.
If someone is hard selling wired security cameras over wireless ones without taking into account the overall context, then they may actually be doing just that. i.e. selling you their company’s wired camera systems. A knowledgeable and unbiased person will simply lay in front of you the details and the positives and potential negatives of each system, and let you make the choice.
Security cameras that are mounted outside buildings to keep an eye on those entering, leaving, or loitering around the premises are referred to as outdoor cameras.
Forewarned is forearmed
Outdoor cameras are meant to be a deterrent against vandalism and theft, and to ensure the overall security of your property. They stand as your trusted sentries by the door, guarding your entrance, and protecting you from the unknown on the other side.
The biggest advantage for home owners lies in knowing who is on the other side of the door. People with kids and elderly citizens living with them would be very well served by an outdoor security camera trained on their porch and/or the backyard.
These cameras are also a huge hit with small business owners, who have found in them a very important layer of security for themselves. A multi-camera system can effectively be all the security a business may need. Install multiple security cameras around the building – covering the vicinity concerning you and all the directions from where your shop can be approached. You watch the footage on your monitor, next to your main desk.
Not only is it a fantastic way for you to catch miscreants red-handed, but also allows you to trace patterns of suspicious behavior and take pre-emptive action.
Investing in a high quality security system will allow you to identify and nab culprits should something happen in your absence. Well-guarded and secured properties also see a dip in their insurance premiums.
The main difference between indoor and outdoor security cameras lies in the fact that outdoor cameras pan a much wider area than indoor cameras. Due to the nature of their function, outdoor cameras possess certain features that are distinct from those of indoor cameras.
The features that make outdoor cameras very useful are:
- Their sturdiness.
Ensconced within sturdy camera housing and protected from the elements they last for years. Their casing is made of metal and is weatherproof, as opposed to the plastic casing some indoor cameras possess. The lens of an outdoor camera is protected by a glass barrier and sealed with industrial rubber to keep the moisture out. These cameras also have in-built thermostatic controls which prevent the lenses inside the camera form fogging up.
- The pan-tilt-zoom feature.
With the help of a joystick located in the security system’s central panel, an outdoor camera with the above feature can be moved to pan a wider area, tilt to a particular angle for a better view, and zoom in for an in-depth view to identify targets/people.
This is of particular use to commercial and government establishments.
- Night vision.
Almost any good outdoor camera will contain the infrared vision feature. It allows you to see well in low-light conditions. The feature comes on when the light outside is compromised and turns off when a certain level of brightness is restored.
- Remote accessibility and motion detection.
Like any other security camera, an outdoor camera can also be accessed remotely via the Internet and smartphone apps. They can also be integrated with motion detectors to alert you to any trespassing on your property.
Refer to our previous guide to read in detail about these and other features that outdoor cameras possess.
What to keep in mind when choosing an outdoor camera
Choices in the marketplace are overwhelming and technicalities have no end. The CCTV technology will only keep getting more sophisticated so expect an even bigger influx of options (and confusion!) in the future. That said, the following points may help you make the best decision regarding which type of outdoor camera to choose for your property.
- Will a single camera suffice for your needs?
The idea behind installing an outdoor security camera is for it to secure your premises. So you start with considering the ratio of the camera lens’s field of view vis a vis the area you want the camera to pan. If one camera is not going to be enough, invest in a multiple-camera system, especially if you own a big residence or a commercial establishment.
- Where is your property facing the highest threat? If you have a house/store that does not share its walls with any other building, you will need to secure your premises from all sides. That will require you to install security cameras in various places to give your property a proper ringed defense.
- PTZ cameras are a great choice for commercial establishments. Their all-round sweeping gaze means they scan and make note of more things than any other type of camera, which is of a great value to people who run businesses and are therefore always at a security risk. The footage captured on such a camera can be zoomed in to a great detail, which is a great help in facial recognition.
On the other hand, if you are a home owner who only wants to mount a camera and forget all about it, the PTZ function may not be of additional value to you. Stick with a fixed camera of a varifocal lens and equipped for night vision.
- Determine the place from where the camera can give you the best view.
The strength of the lens you buy, and other camera features such as infrared vision, motion detection, etc. will be determined by the area you are going to train the camera on.
- What kind of a lens would serve you the best?
If you live in a busy and congested neighborhood, you perhaps don’t need a lens that can see or zoom into distances far away. If, however, you live in a spacious locality with the next house or store tens of meters away from you, you’d need long-distance and sweeping views of the surrounding area. Choose a varifocal lens over a fixed one; that will allow you to adjust the field of view even after your camera is installed.
- Do you particularly care about the looks of the camera? Does it matter if it’s a bullet or a dome?
- Would a dummy camera serve your purpose?
Dummies, or fakes, were popular when they were first launched, spurred by the argument that the mere presence of a security camera acts as a deterrent against people with crime on their mind. It’s true that you will save money as dummy cameras cost a lot less than full-fledged outdoor camera security systems. If you think that is enough, it’s your choice. For best results though, the real deal is always better than a fake one.
- Pop into your nearby stores that sell surveillance equipment and check out a few options before you zero in on a purchase. Locate the ideal deal on the Internet.
- Check with your insurer if this new additional security will help your monthly insurance premiums.
- Check the CCTV surveillance laws in your state so as not to accidentally violate any privacy stipulations.
- Put up proper signage where it is clearly visible stating that your property is under surveillance (so that others know they are being watched).
Feeling helpless or out of control is the worst thing for many of us, particularly those who have families dependant on them and businesses to run. We tend to err on the side of caution. It’s a boon for us then that we have such excellent and highly evolved technology available to us that takes complete care of all the things important to us without burning a hole in our pocket.
It’s right here for us, literally at our fingertips. Whether we make use of it or not is up to us.
The usefulness of CCTV cameras has already led to a tremendous surge in their annual sales. As the popularity of this technology further spreads, it would start looking increasingly odd not to invest in one, especially for businesses, and may even give out a direct signal to thieves that you are lax with your security. That may even make you a ‘no-brainer’ of a target.
This is not to scare you, but simply to alert you to the risks present in not properly securing your premises.
We hope our guides have simplified the CCTV technology for you and answered your questions regarding its usefulness. If you found this guide helpful, do leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Thank you for reading.