What Is a CCTV Security System?
Ah, CCTV. The humble closed-circuit television system. What is CCTV, and where did it come from?
(For the full story, check out our article on the history of surveillance cameras.)
Invented by Walter Bruch of Germany in 1942—or Léon Theremin of the USSR in 1927, depending on whom you ask—CCTV was initially developed for military applications. The first CCTV security system appeared a few years later, in 1949. These early systems had no way to record what they were seeing and required constant monitoring in order to be useful. The arrival of videocassettes in 1969 brought CCTV systems with the ability to record to the masses.
Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband patented the first video home security system that same year. Digital video recorders (DVR) replaced VCRs in the early 90s. The creation of multiplexers soon after allowed a single DVR to record from multiple cameras. CCTV systems ruled the roost for decades, but that all started to change with the arrival of the world’s first IP (internet protocol) camera—the Axis NetEye 200—in 1996.
Far from being a relic of the past, CCTV surveillance systems still have a place in this world. But let’s start at the beginning.
What is CCTV?
A closed-circuit television system is just that: closed. It is virtually impossible to access it outside of the system. You need to physically sit in front of the monitor to watch it.
At its simplest, a CCTV system includes a camera connected to a television monitor. The analog footage is sent to the monitor via a coaxial cable. It may include a VCR or DVR, but either way, it is a closed loop. Footage can only be viewed at the source.
CCTV is primarily used for security and surveillance, but not all surveillance systems are CCTV. The two terms are not interchangeable. You’ll often come across security packages labeled as closed-circuit for a system that is anything but.
How Is CCTV Footage Saved?
In order to record video footage for later retrieval, a CCTV system must include either an outdated VCR or a more modern DVR. VCRs were cutting-edge technology in their heyday, but the industry has moved past them for a number of reasons:
- Videocassette tapes are antiquated and difficult to source
- Tapes deteriorate with each use
- Storage of tapes takes up too much space
- Tapes can be damaged or destroyed if the conditions are not perfect
- Low video quality, especially on modern television monitors
Perhaps counterintuitively, DVRs still receive analog footage from the camera by way of a cable. That raw data is then processed into a digital format in the recorder itself. The security industry favors DVRs over VCRs because:
- There is no deterioration from multiple viewings
- Hundreds of hours of footage can be stored on a single DVR or portable hard drive
- Superior video quality
- Easier to find replacement parts
- Hard drives are more substantial and stronger than videocassette tapes
You’ll likely only encounter CCTV systems equipped with a VCR at pawn shops, flea markets, and yard sales. They’re better than nothing, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by investing time and money into them.
But CCTV isn’t your only option.
CCTV vs. IP Cameras
CCTV cameras must be connected to a monitor or recorder via a physical cable. At the opposite end of that spectrum, internet protocol (IP) cameras transfer the video footage wirelessly via a Wi-Fi signal. That can be a blessing and a curse, but that’s the fundamental difference between a CCTV and an IP camera.
Now, let’s look a little closer.
IP Cameras in a Nutshell
An internet protocol camera is a video camera that captures footage and converts it into digital format within the camera itself. The digital footage is then sent to a network video recorder (NVR) either wirelessly via a Wi-Fi signal or by ethernet cable.
Wireless IP cameras need their own power source, either a battery or a nearby electrical outlet. Those connected to an NVR by ethernet cable receive power that way. This is called power-over-ethernet (PoE).
CCTV Cameras in a Nutshell
As mentioned above, a CCTV camera is part of a closed circuit that includes a camera, television monitor, and possibly either a VCR or DVR for recording and storage.
Each camera needs its own power source—battery or outlet—and must be connected to the monitor and/or recorder by a physical coaxial cable.
The video footage captured is analog and typically lacks audio. It is only converted if it’s sent to a digital video recorder.
A Side-By-Side Comparison
While the systems serve the same function—surveillance of strategic areas—they are different in some key ways.
|CCTV Cameras||IP Cameras|
|Cheaper, but outdated||Tend to be more expensive|
|Analog footage to a monitor or recorder via coaxial cable||Digital footage to an NVR via wifi or ethernet cable|
|Requires a separate power source||PoE cameras do not need a separate power source|
|Typically offers lower resolution||Standard resolution tends to be 1080p or higher|
|Limit to how many cameras a DVR can handle||Virtually limitless expansion capabilities|
|No encryption of footage||Footage is encrypted and authenticated|
|Frame rate tops out at 15 fps||Frame rate of 20 fps and higher|
|Must be within 300 feet—although the closer the better—of DVR||Wider coverage area possible|
|Usually have fewer advanced features||Advanced features like PTZ, analytics, motion detection|
|Simple installation||Can be complicated and may require professional installation|
And finally, the captured footage is available only at the source for a CCTV system, but available online for a system using IP cameras. Depending on your needs and wants, that’s a major differentiator.
You may not need high detail and remote accessibility, in which case a CCTV system may be the perfect solution. You may have a legacy CCTV system already in place that provides adequate coverage, in which case you may not want to upgrade.
But if you want to watch your feeds and events from anywhere, you need an IP system.
Why Is Remote Accessibility Important?
As previously mentioned, a CCTV security system requires eyes on the monitors at all times and a connected DVR for those moments when they are not. The recorder will capture a theft, break-in, or vandalism, but that’s only useful after the fact.
An IP camera, on the other hand, can share what it’s seeing with you wherever you are via Wi-Fi or cellular network. Remote live streaming, if you will.
And that means you can intervene and engage via 2-way audio while the crime is still taking place. It provides the opportunity to prevent it before it happens, regardless of whether you’re at home, at work, on the road, out to dinner, or spending time with friends. And it still provides footage of the event afterward to assist with any police or insurance investigation.
CCTV is reactive. IP is proactive.
Wireless and PoE IP Cameras with Deep Sentinel
But what if you can’t respond to an alert or alarm for whatever reason? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone else watching over your system on your behalf?
Deep Sentinel combines next-gen IP security cameras with proprietary AI and human guards to protect residential buildings, homes, and businesses of every sort. Unlike some other providers, Deep Sentinel offers active monitoring that responds instantaneously. Real guards have eyes and ears on the suspect in real time. The AI predicts, LiveSentinel surveillance guards prevent, and if necessary, protect by notifying the authorities of a verified crime in progress.
Seconds, not minutes. Verified, not false alarms. True protection, not a false sense of security.
Because the reality is that—without verification—police departments treat most security alarms as false alarms and can’t or won’t prioritize them. Not so with Deep Sentinel. When we notify police, it’s with eyes on the suspect, and live security camera footage of the crime taking place. And the authorities respond accordingly.
When it comes to security, CCTV systems are possibly “good enough” for some, but IP systems are “more than enough” for all.
And IP cameras with Deep Sentinel? That’s real peace of mind.