Surveillance System

Security Expert: Former Secret Service Agent, Presidential Protection

Case Study

Surveillance System

Surveillance cameras come in all shapes and sizes; Joe selected an IP-based system and emphasized image quality over frame rate.

July 21, 2008 — With the spring of a new workday in his step, Joe passes through the front doors (after some prodding from the marketing department, he refrained from installing a mantrap at the main entrance) and greets the receptionist in the lobby.

His arrival is captured by IP-based surveillance cameras. Most surveillance cameras in use today remain analog—about 85 percent, estimates Fredrik Nilsson, General Manager, North America, of Axis Communications, which sells both analog and digital cameras. However, Joe’s office was already wired with Cat-5 cabling, so an IP system made sense and, of course, offers Joe’s company the possibility of using full-featured video analytics should Joe desire it at some point down the road. Analog cameras can also feed into IP networks but require the use of additional equipment: encoders and decoders.


Joe needs to protect his proprietary research. You’re looking at just one of his defenses. Click HERE to see a diagram of the office or click on any of Joe’s other security measures.

The building features a variety of cameras, some overt—to deter illicit acts as much as to record them—and others more discreet. On the discreet side, a camera the size of a Phillips-head screw can go for less than $80. Cameras dummied up to look like utility boxes start at about $315. Prices for more high-powered pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras can run upwards of $2,000. And as a practical consideration, unlike a low-voltage still camera, a PTZ camera needs more power than it can get through the Cat-5 cable.

Happily, Joe isn’t running a casino; he doesn’t want to record and replay fine details to try to detect sleight of hand. His main interest is to be able to get a look at the face of anyone who’s in the wrong part of the building at the wrong time. So his cameras capture images of decent resolution but not a high frame rate, which reduces his bandwidth and storage requirements. He also decided to skip the miniature and concealed cameras as he wants the deterrent effect of larger, more obvious models.