Closed circuit television, or CCTV, is a television transmission system that is applied with the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific, limited set of monitors. As the name implies, it is a system in which the circuit is closed and all the elements are directly connected. Signals are sent to a specific group of receivers, either using coaxial cable or scrambled radio waves that are unscrambled at the point of reception. This is unlike broadcast television where any receiver that is correctly tuned can pick up the signal from the airwaves.
Closed circuit security cameras may operate continuously or only as required to monitor a particular event. When used properly, such devices provide a valuable weapon in deterring theft and other undesirable activities, and can serve as a primary source of evidence and information when managing both internal and external cases.
Today, most CCTV systems use small, high-definition digital camera systems. Advances in digital technology have made video surveillance more user-friendly than ever before. Digital surveillance is now coupled with computer technology, compressing images into a format that allows the images to be stored on a computer hard drive. Images can be stored in computers, transferred to DVD equipment, or transmitted to a computer monitor thousands of miles away. Choosing the right surveillance system then becomes the challenge, finding the equipment and technology that best fits the needs of the retail environment and the specific circumstances.
There are countless systems available utilizing different schemes and different technologies. The variety of cameras that can be used and the recording options that are available are growing almost daily. Systems can be remote accessed. Systems can be directly interfaced with our POS systems. As the end-user of much of this technology, it is always in your best interests to stay on top of the technologies that are available and the benefits of each system that is used in your stores.
Covert vs. Overt
Selection of closed circuit security cameras is based on specific needs, and finding the best and most viable solutions in fulfilling those particular needs. Product choices will be based on the desired outcome.
Overt security camera systems are intended to be openly visible, and are designed with the intent of providing general surveillance and to deter theft and other undesirable activities. By utilizing exposed cameras and lenses (and occasionally monitors, such as with public view monitor systems) all potential thieves, intruders or others with mal-intended purposes to include customers, employees and others will be openly aware that the premises is under continuous video surveillance. Overt camera systems are typically large, cumbersome and permanently installed at a particular location.
Covert surveillance systems are devised with the intent to hide the camera from view and monitor activities where apprehension is a primary objective. Most equipment today is typically small and intended to be hidden, often designed utilizing wireless signal transmission so that it can be easily moved and installed without being detected.
Internet Protocol Systems
Internet protocol (IP) surveillance systems utilize the transmission of video across open Internet protocols for the purpose of monitoring and recording. “Internet protocol” is the method by which data is sent from one computer to another over the Internet. Each computer (or host) that is using the Internet has at least one IP address that uniquely distinguishes it from all other computers on the Internet. IP camera systems take advantage of this technology to forward video surveillance to remote sites, whether in the next room or thousands of miles away.
As with any product, there are advantages and disadvantages to using Internet protocol systems. IP cameras tend to have a higher initial cost (yet in many cases have a lower implementation cost) and higher network bandwidth requirements than typical CCTV systems. However, these systems allow for the routing of our surveillance over long distances to any instruments that allow us to view images over the Internet. They require less space in large CCTV setups because switching and routing is done through the computer and do not require large and expensive video switchers. IP systems offer higher video resolution, and allow still images to be removed with better quality. Cameras can also be easily added to the system. IP technology is allowing us to take video surveillance to a new level, and is an important tool throughout the retail loss prevention industry.
By capitalizing on opportunities to enhance our knowledge and education, we are making an investment in our own future. To learn more about closed circuit television and the certification process, visit losspreventionfoundation.org.
This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated September 19, 2017.