IP Video Security: An Introduction

IP Video Security: An Introduction

Moving from the world of analog video security to ""IP"" can seem daunting at first.

What does IP really mean, what are the components of an IP video security system and what sort of benefits does IP video bring to security? If you're looking for an introduction to the world of IP video security... read on!

What is IP?

In basic terms, Internet Protocol (IP) is a communications protocol that allows devices to communicate on a computer network or on the internet. Any device you own that's connected to the internet; your computer, your phone even maybe your television, uses IP to communicate. It also uses ""IP addresses"" to give each device a unique address on that network.

IP also dictates what sort of transmission we should use - cabling, WiFi, mobile.

So you can think of IP as a set of standards that gives a universal communication language, standardised physical methods of communication and it's also an address directory.

(We could go into more detail about TCP/IP, subnets, VPNs, IPv4, IPv6... but let's leave that just now!)

What are the benefits of IP?

If you think about any device that you have connected to the internet, you can now communicate over huge distances. You can access websites that are stored thousands of miles away. Maybe your photos or CD collection are now stored on a server in another part of the world? With IP you can access that information from anywhere with the right network connection.

With IP, you can stream music, photos, video from anywhere in the world.

What is IP video?

IP video is, essentially, the ability to transmit video over an IP network - that could be a corporate local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN), or it could be over the internet.

When you're watching a film on Netflix, it's IP Video. Video that's being streamed over an IP network.

Thanks to IP, you can watch House of Cards from anywhere.

What is IP video security?

You could say this is a subset of IP video, it's the ability to transmit security video over an IP network. But with security, there's a little bit more to it than just streaming a funny cat video stored on a YouTube server...

There's three main components in IP video security. Let's take a look at each of them.

Security Cameras

With old security systems, or analog security, cameras used coax cables to transmit video, meaning the camera had a BNC connector on it. The camera didn't do very much, it just ""captured"" the video and then transmitted the raw video signal over coax.

A coax cable with BNC connector.

With the move to IP, the cameras had to do a little bit more.

First there was the data problem. Raw, uncompressed video takes up a lot of bandwidth. A LOT of bandwidth!

Uncompressed Standard Definition (SD) video needs about 20 Mbps, per camera. With the move to HD, bandwidth is even worse, uncompressed High Definition (HD) video needs between 1.5 and 3 Gbps, per camera!

How was this addressed with analog security systems? The Digital Video Recorder (DVR) would ""compress"" video using algorithms such as MPEG-2, MPEG-4 or H.264. The problem with that approach is that the video is not being compressed at the source, meaning you still have to transmit up to 3 Gbps, per camera, over the internet. Good luck with getting a cable service that delivers that bandwidth!

So with IP video security, the compression was placed in the camera itself. You're now looking instead of 3 Gbps per camera for full speed HD video, you now need only need 4 Mbps, per camera.

A lot goes on in the camera before you connect the network cable.

That makes video much more manageable over networks, meaning you can view cameras from pretty much anywhere in the world. With IP video, the video comes to you.


Another component of IP video security is the device that records and stores the video, called a Network Video Recoder (NVR). Because the video compression has been placed at the edge, in the camera, the NVR really only needs to record the video stream. And because the video stream bandwidth is much more manageable, it gives much more flexibility. You could have NVRs located near to the cameras, or you could have NVRs in a central location recording multiple sites.

You also get better system robustness. Backup, or failover, NVRs can be placed anywhere on the network. Should one NVR fail, then another can instantly take over - with no user involvement.

Management Software

The Video Management Software (VMS) is an application that allows you to view live video from the security cameras, playback recorded video from NVRs. Because it's using IP networks to communicate, you can install the VMS on any workstation computer. That means you can start giving video access to other departments, marketing, human resources, operations. The security system can benefit other areas of the organization.

An IP Video Security system - camera, NVR and VMS.

If you're interested in learning more about IP Video and what benefits IP Video can bring, such as better connectivity, performance and scalability, then why not watch our YouTube webinar.

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