Why Was Security Footage From Florida School Shooting on 26-Minute Delay?

Security experts give their take on the potential reasons security footage from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was on a 26-minute delay.

PARKLAND, Fla. — Seventeen people were killed last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire.

It is now being reported that surveillance footage at the school was on a 26-minute delay, leading police to believe the gunman was still in the building long after he had fled the crime scene.

Responding officers braced for a shootout as they entered the building, thinking the gunfire they saw on security camera footage was live.

“He went from the third floor to the second floor … They’re monitoring him on camera,” an officer said on radio transmissions recorded by Broadcastify, an audio streaming website, at 2:54 p.m., reports The Sun Sentinel.

Police Captain Brad McKeone says 20 to 25 officers were on the first, second and third floors of the building when they believed the shooter was still inside.

“Somebody would say: ‘He’s on the second floor,’ and we had guys on the second floor saying: ‘We’re on the second floor, we don’t see him.’ That’s when we figured out there’s a tape delay,” recalled Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi.

Pete Blair, a criminal justice professor and executive director of the active shooter response program at Texas State University, says the long delay is unusual.

“I’ve never heard of that problem before,” he said. “That’s going to slow you down because you think that’s good information, but it’s not good information.”

Several other deterrents hampered police communication, including the fact that police initially could not get access to the security camera footage and couldn’t immediately find someone to help them. Police were also restricted by outmoded radios that left some transmissions inaudible.

Police attempted to look for armed school resource officer Scott Peterson as he “would be the one to have access to where the cameras are,” according to a police radio broadcast. Superintendent Robert Runcie says Peterson was on the 45-acre campus at the time of the shooting but was not in the targeted building.

According to a timeline provided by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the gunman began shooting into classrooms around 2:21 p.m. He continued to fire his weapon for seven minutes before fleeing the building. Police apprehended him more than a half hour after he had left school grounds.

Pustizzi says although the video delay complicated efforts to track down the shooter, it did not delay efforts to rescue injured students, according to CNN.

“We got in so fast, we’re pulling them out. It made it harder to identify where the guy was,” he said.

In May, Broward County commissioners approved a $59.5 million budget to replace the more than 25-year-old radio system. The new system won’t be ready to use until the end of this year, officials said at the time of the approval.

During the shooting, at approximately 2:56 p.m., a dispatcher warned all units that the radios were malfunctioning.

SSI reached out to several experts for their take on the incident. Business Fitness Columnist Paul Boucherle who has been working in work place violence education, risk assessments and strategies for over 20 years says:

“My take on this is that quality and timely communications are essential to any active shooter or work place violence event. The video feed delay is puzzling and would need more details to really understand that failure of delivering real time information when it is needed the most by first responders. The radio communications issue is more troubling as funds were allotted in May last year and typical school upgrades are done during the summer so not sure what to make of that issue.

Lastly while resource officers are a valuable addition to any school safety program, the reality is one officer covering an entire campus may not be optimal based on the size of the campus without equipping them with the right tools.”

Bob Grossman, frequent SSI contributor and president of consulting firm R. Grossman and Associates, says:

“I agree with Pete Blair who is quoted in the article as saying the long delay is unusual, and I’ve also never heard of this type of problem before.

Issues with remotely monitored systems are common in terms of delays or latency, but these are usually manifested by delays of no longer than a few seconds or dropped frames which cause a choppy image but no real delays. Assuming this is an IP based system (there’s no way to do a delay on an analog, tape-based system), I would suspect this is an error in how the system software was set up, or operator error.

It is as if they were monitoring the system through a TiVo box or cable box (or similar software function) that pauses live TV, and neglected to go back to live viewing.”

SSI will update this post if an official cause is revealed.


Motorola’s Monster Deal for Avigilon Comes Into Focus

A Motorola spokesperson tells SSI the company plans to allow Avigilon to operate “business as usual,” plus hear from Motorola CEO Greg Brown and industry consultant Bob Grossman.

Motorola Solutions’ roughly $1 billion bid, including debt, to bring Avigilon’s end-to-end video surveillance solutions into its mission-critical portfolio marks the security industry’s first significant M&A event of the New Year.

The deal also represents Motorola’s full-fledged entry into the electronic security industry, and brings to an end the long-anticipated sale of Avigilon. During a fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Thursday, Motorola CEO Greg Brown cited increasing demand for video analytics solutions by public-safety and mission-critical communications companies as a key reason for purchasing Avigilon.

Brown also emphasized “channel synergies” that make Avigilon a good fit inside Motorola’s wider portfolio, including selling into the U.S. military, federal government and other enterprise verticals with the company’s considerable direct sales force.

“The thing that’s especially attractive is this is not a commodity business,” Brown said. “I’m not interested in commodity businesses, I’m not interested in commodity margins. I like the market leader with an end-to-end platform orientation and we believe this end-to-end video surveillance, suites of analytics, video management and video storage is particularly strong. … [W]e believe we will have this distinct advantage where we will have when we close this acquisition around faster deployment than comparative products.”

Brown made reference to cybersecurity concerns with Chinese video surveillance manufacturers as a potential market opportunity for Motorola. He said, as with mission-critical communications, “there is a growing aversion to having a Chinese provider doing critical video surveillance and security.”

During the call, the company said strong Q4 performance capped a record year for revenue, operating earnings, cash flow and backlog driven by continued organic growth in its land mobile radio (LMR) solutions.

Motorola’s focus on public-safety projects is likely to have been a major motivation for the acquisition, according to a prepared statement by Jon Cropley, principal analyst, video surveillance, IHS Markit.

“City surveillance is an important element of public safety. Professional video surveillance equipment revenue has been growing faster in the city surveillance sector than in the rest of the market in recent years,” Cropley said. “IHS Markit forecasts this will continue, with the city surveillance sector growing at a compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 11.1% to 2021 — and the total market growing at a CAGR of 6.8%.”

IHS Markit estimates that Avigilon was the eighth largest supplier of professional video surveillance equipment in 2016, with more than 2% of a global market worth $15.4 billion.

The deal for Avigilon follows a string of acquisitions by Motorola during the past three years. These include the United Kingdom’s terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) operator Airwave; the next-generation 911 business of Airbus DS Communications; push-to-talk provider Kodiak; and Spillman, a public-safety software provider.

“Given these deals and planned acquisition of Avigilon, it’s clear that Motorola is aiming to increase activity in the wider public safety and ‘safe city’ market, moving beyond its emergency communications focus of the past,” Copley said. “Traction of national public safety broadband networks such as ESN and FirstNet, which facilitate video integration, further support this strategic play.”

IHS Markit estimated Motorola held approximately 7% of the nearly $5 billion command and control technologies and services market in 2017, making it the largest supplier to this market.

Channel Conflict Cometh?

Bob Grossman, founder and president of consulting firm R. Grossman and Associates, tells SSI that Motorola’s direct sales approach could spell trouble for the company going forward. Only time will tell, but channel conflict could be inevitable unless Motorola carves out market exclusions, he said, such as the company going after projects its dealers would not win anyway.

“The problem is that, while Avigilon makes good products, there are plenty of alternatives in all of the product categories that they serve. Dealers and integrators have a choice, particularly with cameras and video management systems,” said Grossman, a long-time SSI contributor. “And while they may continue to sell and install Avigilon, I don’t see them leading with a product that supports their competition. This is definitely an opportunity for Avigilon’s competition.”

Motorola Spokesperson Tama McWhinney tells SSI the acquisition is about accelerating growth and that Avigilon will continue to operate “business-as-usual to support that.”

“Avigilon has a terrific global partner program with a valuable network of resellers and systems integrators, and we plan to continue to leverage those partnerships,” McWhinney stated via an email. “We believe Avigilon’s current customers also will benefit from the accelerated innovation that will be made possible through our combined companies.”

Avigilon has long operated a contentious patent licensing business. In the transaction, which is expected to close in the second quarter, Motorola will pick up Avigilon’s collection of more than 750 U.S. and international patents. When asked how Motorola intends to leverage the patent cache, McWhinney restated the company’s “business-as-usual” goal to operate the acquired company.

“As a company focused on innovation and a holder of thousands of patents ourselves, we are excited about Avigilon’s 750-strong patent portfolio and its technology solutions,” she said.


Also published as:

Motorola’s Monster Deal for Avigilon Comes Into Focus on the Security Sales & Integration blog.

Salient RED3 Integrated Server Is Nearly Perfect

Salient Systems’ RED3 offers a compelling combo of hardware and software, allowing for simplified distributed deployment of VMSs.

We are all enticed by the promise of simplicity. Even those of us who like to adjust, configure or otherwise “tweak” things tend to embrace that practice as an option rather than a necessity.

So when Salient Systems, a well-known video management system (VMS) provider, approached us with its new line of RED3 integrated servers we were intrigued by the possibilities. Like most VMS developers, Salient offers a range of ways to purchase and deploy its software.

These include software only (you provide an industry standard Windows-based server), a range of standalone servers with different levels of performance, and now integrated servers that includes all of the hardware, software and licensing in one box, allowing for a faster and more convenient system deployment. We tested the 16-port server for this review.


OK, we make no bones about it; we love the hardware. The RED3-16 is extremely well built and carefully thought out. The credit for this goes to Razberi, the OEM provider for Salient. To Salient’s credit, the company makes no effort to hide this from you; the Razberi logo is clearly screened on the circuit boards inside.

The 1RU chassis is very sturdy and well constructed, with a total of 23 screws holding the top on. Rackmount ears are included that allow the server to be mounted from the front (face flush with the rack) or from the center (for single post, open frame racks).

A third rack mounting configuration, presumably wall mounting, is referenced but not described in the manual, and the methodology for doing that is not readily apparent, although we can’t imagine it would be difficult to do. An internal centrally located riser plate includes fans for the hard drives, acting as a baffle for managed airflow, and is also screwed to the top center riser plate, adding to the overall rigidity.

The 500W power supply utilizes screw terminals for connections, allowing for a neat appearance, simplified repair if a rail fails and flexibility in configuring internal components, if needed. The PoE network switch is really a standalone circuit board internally, connecting to the motherboard via an RJ45 patch cable.

The RED3-16 includes a 120GB mSATA solid-state drive for the operating system, located on the motherboard. This is a mobile drive and is extremely ruggedized. Data drives are Western Digital Purple models, specifically designed and rated for surveillance use in a 24/7 environment.

Salient RED3 Integrated Server


  • Compelling combo of hardware & software allowing for simplified distributed deployment of VMSs


  • Well designed and solidly built
  • Includes one of the best PoE switches we've seen
  • Feature rich and easy to deploy


  • We’d prefer to see more RAM
  • Does not come with carrier trays in open HDD bays
  • Be careful removing front bezel

There are four front accessible drive bays that utilize trays for easy drive replacement. A variety of data storage configurations are available, ranging from 2TB to 32TB, although 40TB may be available by the time you read this as 10TB WD Purple drives are now readily available.

Please note this is raw storage capacity; more on that later. The unit’s front panel includes two USB 2.0 ports, indicator lights for power and hard drive activity, and 16 LEDs (on the RED3-16) described as “port activity indicators.” This is a misnomer, as they don’t show port activity. Rather, they light up when a PoE device is connected to and powered from the respective port.

In our test we tried connecting cameras into ports utilizing an external PoE injector; the cameras (and ports) worked fine but there was no activity indicated. In actual practice this is unlikely to be an issue, however, as any externally powered cameras would likely be connected through one of the uplink ports.

The rear apron is where the action is. The internal network switch has 16 10/100 ports (24 on the RED3-24) for cameras and a 1Gbps combo Ethernet/SFP uplink port for adding external cameras as needed, or connecting viewing workstations.

We prefer to keep cameras and workstations on separate networks to eliminate a connection between cameras and the outside world other than through the server, and the RED3 allows for this with a second 1Gbps combo Ethernet/SFP uplink port.

There’s also an eSATA connection for external drives (not tested), two more USB ports (these are 3.0, which would also accommodate external hard drives), and both VGA and HDMI monitor connections, the latter of which supports 4K resolution monitors. A standard IEC power socket rounds out the connections, and the RED3, like almost all computers, is rated for 120-240VAC, 50-60Hz.


While the packaging and marketing of this product lend comparison to simple plug-and-play DVRs, it is really a full-featured server and the feature set bears that out. The RED3-16 includes an Intel i3 processer, 4GB of RAM, and runs the Windows 7 Embedded operating system.

While the RAM seems a little light in our opinion, given the low cost and high benefit of adding RAM, we did not experience any performance issues that we could attribute to lack of memory in our testing. Most notable, however, is the integrated PoE switch.

It has Class 3 PoE on each port, up to 32W per port but limited to a total of 288W. This is more than most 16-port standalone PoE switches and should be more than enough for most configurations.

The switch is managed through a built-in web server that can be accessed through the RED3 server or any other computer on the network using the same IP schema. While extremely intuitive and easy to use, this switch management software really adds to the usefulness of the RED3.

With it, you can enable or disable PoE on a port-by-port basis, or disable a port entirely. MAC binding on each port allows you to bind a port to a specific device using the MAC address, allowing you to limit access to the network.

This allows you to connect cameras to ports, bind them, and turn off any unused ports. By doing this you have essentially “hardened” the box; unplugging a camera will deactivate the port for any device other than the one that is bound to it.

A simple overview screen shows the link state, speed, transmit rate, receive rate, power draw, on a camera-by-camera basis and could prove invaluable for troubleshooting. The RED3 also has a tremendous amount of flexibility in drive configurations.

Using the included Intel Rapid Storage Technology software, the four internal data drive bays can be configured as RAID 0 (data striped across multiple drives for speed), RAID 1 (mirrored drives for redundancy), RAID 5 (utilizing one drive for parity allowing redundancy while maximizing storage capacity), or RAID 10 (a combination of striping and mirroring).

Windows also allows drives to be expanded, striping data across all drives installed without a loss of capacity but risking catastrophic data loss if a single drive fails.


Our preference for data storage on servers of this type is RAID 5. Our test unit included a single 6TB hard drive but we wanted to see how the thermals worked on such a small box and asked Salient for three more drive carrier plates and added three more 6TB drives. The carrier plates are not included for any empty slots, so if you don’t order your RED3 server fully loaded, we recommend you order extra carrier plates for any empty slots.

One minor quibble; to remove the front panel, you have to unscrew three screws, one each on the left, center and right. If you are even slightly above the RED3, the middle screw is almost invisible; if you don’t remove it, you will snap the panel in half. We didn’t, but we could see a technician in a hurry easily damaging the panel. Be careful!

Once we had added the data drives, we configured the S-lient CompleteView software, added seven test cameras of various types and resolution, through the included PoE ports, an external PoE injector and a wireless link to another building. We also set up the client software on another computer to access the server remotely, performing our tests on the external client for the most part.

While the RED3 box can be used on a desktop and serve as the client as well, we don’t see that happening much.

(top) The RED3 has 16 10/100 ports for cameras and a 1Gbps combo Ethernet/SFP uplink port for external cameras or viewing workstations. Four accessible HDD bays (bottom) provide a variety of data storage options.

(top) The RED3 has 16 10/100 ports for cameras and a 1Gbps combo Ethernet/SFP uplink port for external cameras or viewing workstations. Four accessible HDD bays (bottom) provide a variety of data storage options.


There isn’t sufficient space to give a full featured VMS its due, so we’re not going to try. Suffice it to say that the 64-bit Complete-View Pro software included on the RED3 server will check all of the feature requirements for most applications; whether the user interface, look, and feel are sufficient for your application should be determined by careful evaluation.

We encourage clients to have “beauty contests” to compare software and make sure it meets their expectations. That being said, the CompleteView software did everything we wanted during our testing period. We configured cameras to record continuously, on alarm, and on motion.

We utilized quick review (right clicking on a camera image brings up a menu that allows you to go back 30 seconds or one, two, five and 10 minutes). Thumbnail search allows you to drill down through a long time period using a series of small cameo images and looking for changes between adjacent images.

There is a “StartUp Wizard” designed to get a system up and running quickly, but it is really only a starting point. This is full-featured, commercial-grade software and an integrator seriously contemplating any VMS would be well advised to complete the manufacturer training to allow for fine tuning and customization.

While we were familiar with the CompleteView software, we put the RED3 server through several months of testing to satisfy our curiosity. We have since deployed some of these servers on projects we have specified, and part of our testing was for our own consulting practice; we wanted to be sure these units would hold up in the field.

We did not test the server beyond the rated temperature ratings (32°-104° F) and were impressed with how cool it ran. The internal fans are thermostatically controlled and only kick on as needed, so the server is remarkably quiet most of the time.

This is temperature dependent, but we’d have no issue installing these in climate-controlled rooms where people worked; their occasional fan noise is no worse than many office copiers or laser printers.


It was difficult to wrap our heads around this product until we actually saw it and started working with it. On the one hand, it is a mash-up, and all of the components — software, licensing, server, network switch — are available separately.

You don’t need to buy the RED3 from Salient as you can very easily configure a similarly functioning system on your own, either using separate boxes or the identical hardware from Razberi. But, on the other hand, the Salient RED3 is a compelling solution that is truly plug and play for the professional integrator.

In fact, after testing, we began to think the “3” in RED3 stood for the third bear in the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” fairy tale. It’s not too simplified. It’s not too complicated. It’s just right …

Salient RED3 Integrated Server

  • Features 1 2 3 4 5
  • Construction 1 2 3 4 5
  • Setup 1 2 3 4 5
  • Performance 1 2 3 4 5
  • Overall 1 2 3 4 5

TRENDnet Surveillance Kit Has Basics Covered

There seems to be no end of small, pre-packaged camera systems available to the general public these days. People like Mr. Joe Citizen see video on social media of some lowlife making off with a package from a front porch and decides that he could use that same level of protection.

So, the next time Joe is in his favorite shopping emporium, a camera display catches his eye and he plays with the mouse on the demo system and reads the marketing info on the package and says, “I can do that!”

Well, yes and no and sometimes, maybe. Recently, we were requested to review the TV-DVR208 system from TRENDnet, the folks you probably know from their networking product line but they also offer a line of surveillance camera items.

The TV-DVR208 is an analog camera system and is one of those systems-in-a-box that has everything you need to keep an eye on your property, except for a video monitor. Since this system is available on the retail market, we’re going to assume that it is intended for the likes of Joe Citizen because any mildly competent security dealer could install this unit with little difficulty.

The system arrived and was very well packaged. In the box was a DVR with a preinstalled, formatted 1TB Western Digital Purple Surveillance hard drive. Also included was a corded mouse, eight TV-A100 cameras with fixed 3.6mm lenses for a viewing angle of 82.2°.

You also get eight Siamese video/power cables (60 feet), two wall-wart style camera power supplies, a power supply for the DVR, a 78-inch HDMI cable and some documentation. Power supplies are all 100-240VAC, 50-60Hz.


The DVR is compact (approx. 8 X 8 X 2 inches) and can be installed just about anywhere small electronics can be placed, remembering that it does have a hard drive and does generate a little bit of heat. I measured one spot on the bottom of the unit’s chassis that indicated 121° F so some air flow around it is necessary.

There is a provision on the chassis to allow the unit to be wall mounted if desired. If you’re installing this system in a small business (convenience store or small office) the 60-foot cables might be sufficient for the job. If it’s going in a home, 60 feet sometimes might not be long enough for all the cameras.

There is nothing in the literature that offers additional cable assemblies in the event of a longer run so hopefully Joe knows where to turn for help and what he needs to purchase. One bit of advice: if you’re going to spend a day in the attic or ceiling installing these cables, make sure that you pull the correct cable end to the camera location because the power connectors are different from end to end.

The camera housings are attractive and unobtrusive, but I generally prefer metal housings for durability and heat dissipation. The TV-A100 cameras have dark bronze plastic housings that have an IP66 rating for outdoor use and are both CE and FCC certified. They only weigh a bit over 10 ounces each so there’s no need to torque them down severely. The locking screws on the mount don’t lend themselves to overtightening so be careful there when aiming the units.

There are eight BNC camera and VGA and HDMI output ports, a network and two USB ports, two RCA jacks for Mic In/Speaker Out, power connector and chassis ground point.

There are eight BNC camera and VGA and HDMI output ports, a network and two USB ports, two RCA jacks for Mic In/Speaker Out, power connector and chassis ground point.


The documentation included is minimal; a Block Diagram, Quick Installation Guide, a note about Remote Access, a Safety Booklet and a CD containing a camera utility, and also the User Guide. My “installation” consisted of connecting all components together on a workbench in my shop.

For a monitor, I used a 24-inch, 1080p TV using the HDMI connection. I connected the system to the network and applied power. After a quick boot sequence, the Initial Setup screen appears and, following the instructions on screen, you make a few selections (password, set an Unlock Pattern and language).

Then the Setup Wizard appears for time, time zone and, if using DHCP, your assigned IP address appears. Now, the next page is where you’ll need some networking knowledge because you are going to set your ports and DNS settings.

The Quick Installation Guide merely states that, “If you don’t have or know what DNS settings are, you can click Next and skip this step.” Of course, skipping this step also skips your remote access to the system. This may be a point where Joe needs to phone a friend.

A few more simple pages and the Wizard is complete. When the Wizard screen closes, you should now be looking at your camera video. Having worked with analog cameras since the days when they all used vidicon tubes, I was really surprised at the clarity and sharpness of the video.

Right-clicking the mouse brings up menu selections and other options. There are multiple options for programming the various features that may intimidate someone new to the surveillance world but can be worked out with some perseverance and common sense.

Motion detection recording is available as opposed to continuous mode that uses more HDD storage. I set up four cameras to record continuously and the DVR calculated that I would get six days of recording on my 1TB drive with the cameras set for a resolution of 1920 X 1080 (2MP) at 12fps. Eight cameras would reduce that to three days but, obviously, motion recording would extend those times.


Assuming that during the setup of the DVR you managed to assign an IP address and configure the ports on your router, there is a free app available, TRENDnet IPVIEW, to view the DVR from a smart-phone. It is an app, and it is free, but that’s about all I can say about it. It allows the viewing of your cameras but only one at a time.

To use the 2 X 2 viewing mode, you need the upgrade app version ($3.99). To view Playback, again, you need the upgrade version. With the basic app, you can save a snapshot to your phone but local recording can only be done with the upgrade. One of my criteria for evaluating recording systems is the ease of locating recorded video. After all, if you can’t find it, what’s the point of recording it?

With the help of some supplemental lighting, the DVR208’s low-light coverage can be very good to about 125 feet.

With the help of some supplemental lighting, the DVR208’s low-light coverage can be very good to about 125 feet.

On the side of the system’s packaging, there is a statement that you can “Playback from the DVR Console — No PC required.” True statement and I could save video direct from the DVR. A feature that I did appreciate in the Playback mode was the fact that you can select playback speeds of up to 128x. A very handy feature if you don’t have an approximate time when looking for a particular incident.

Using a browser-based app was a different matter, however. I could search for recorded video but couldn’t save it because of some software issue so I contacted TRENDnet’s Tech Support. After explaining my problem, the technician jumped right into the issue. After 30 minutes of gyrations, he got me to the point where the program would save the downloaded file to a folder.

Unfortunately, after hanging up I found that I could no longer view Playback video. One step sort of forward, one step back. Not willing to invest more time, I abandoned looking for a solution. The browser software could definitely stand some QC. Camera night-vision is advertised as 30 meters. Approximately 6-10 meters would be a more realistic usable distance estimate but then, I find this with most cameras in this class.

With some help, like the streetlight at the end of my 130-foot driveway, I had pretty good coverage along the entire length. Indoor video at night is pretty good for home or office use.


The TRENDnet TV-DVR208 records good video and plays back a quality product as did the other small video systems with which I have experience. The big difference was that with the other system, I (or Joe) didn’t really need much networking knowledge, if any, and didn’t have to do any port configuration on the router as it was done automatically by the software.

I don’t believe that the documentation accompanying this system provides the retail consumer enough information to be able to take advantage of the many features available. It needs to be informative without being overwhelmingly technical. If TRENDnet is distributing in retail chains to the general population, it would be well advised to adjust to the specific market.

The company is in the networking business so it should be fairly simple to devise and include a method of helping non-technical customers buy, install and operate a system that’s not going to disappoint. Would I install one of these in my house? Yes, and I would pop for the upgraded app if I did. But I would use it as a standalone system and skip the web browser access.


  • Features 1 2 3 4 5
  • Construction 1 2 3 4 5
  • Setup 1 2 3 4 5
  • Performance 1 2 3 4 5
  • Overall 1 2 3 4 5

First published in the October 2017 Security Sales & Integration magazine.

Would Extra Security Cameras Have Helped Stop the Las Vegas Shooter?

A video surveillance expert explains how a convergence of the right security technology and properly trained personnel could more effectively stop active shooters.

A terrible tragedy occurred in Las Vegas on the night of Oct. 1 when a gunman opened fire from his hotel room on a country music festival across the street.

Since the event, many outlets have written about what could have been done to prevent the the shooting, or how the shooter could have been stopped sooner. A Los Angeles Times article titled, “In Las Vegas, the casino is always watching — and yet it missed Steven Paddock,” makes sure to point out that the hotel does not have cameras in its hallways.

While the article is more about hotel/casino security in general and focuses on other aspects of security in addition to video surveillance, the basic premise is that there was a failure on the part of security personnel during the well-reported shooting.

Now I don’t pretend to know what went on at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino during this horrific event, but I do know something about video surveillance in casino resorts and in public spaces in general.

And while I am in the business of helping businesses install or expand their video surveillance systems, I’m not sure that adding more cameras in this situation is the answer.

CCTV, like many aspects of security, is known as a “grudge purchase.” You don’t spend that kind of money unless you have to. You may have to because it is a regulatory requirement, like a casino. You may wish to protect your property, like in cases of vandalism or property damage. There may be liability reasons, like the article points out.

Or it may serve as a deterrent, to keep honest people honest. But, lacking a specific threat, there’s really no reason to cover all the corridors in a hotel with video coverage.

And, if you were to add the thousands of cameras that are required to provide this kind of coverage, you create another problem; information overload. While there is some nifty video analytics software, what are you specifically looking for? The fallen security guard? His radio should have told you where he was.

Searching thousands of cameras for “suspicious” activity in real-time is a fool’s errand. Sure, from a forensics perspective it will make it easier to pinpoint what happened after the fact. But it won’t save lives or significantly speed up the process of locating and apprehending the shooter.

If we want to point to technology to solve this problem, let’s point to things that can be effective. Gunshot detection devices located strategically around the property would let law enforcement triangulate on a specific position in seconds.

Glass break detectors in each guest room would tell us if a window had been broken out, with the side benefit of informing us that a party had gotten out of hand. And magnetometer screenings at entrances and elevator banks would keep people from bringing weapons up to their rooms.

Sure, these would frighten guests away — magnetometers would cause TSA style lines like we routinely see at airports, and gunshot and glass break detectors are essentially microphones which no one would want in their hotel rooms. But the few guests that remained would almost certainly be more secure.

No, the best answer continues to be the people manning the technology. Experienced professionals who know what to do in these kinds of circumstances can use the tools they already have effectively. Giving them additional tools will improve things, but only if they know how to utilize them and manage the flow of information in stressful situations. Training security officers for only a month, and focusing on lawsuit avoidance does not prepare them for situations like this. Experience does.

And I hope, as I am sure you do as well, that these security officers in Las Vegas or anywhere, do not get too much of this kind of experience.


Hikvision Network Camera’s Image Lives Up to Its Value

Once upon a time in the far off past (well, 15 years ago) you really didn’t have much of a choice when you wanted an IP-based camera. At that time there were just a couple of manufacturers providing cameras to the U.S. market and as we all remember the selections were mighty pricey! Fast-forward to today where IP cameras are cheaper than an analog camera — my, what a difference a few years makes. Just ahead, we’ll look at a new camera from one of the big players in today’s market, the Hikvision DS-2CD4656F-IZH 2.812MM network camera.

I first discovered the Hikvision brand several years ago when I needed an emergency replacement for a customer’s system that had a critical camera down. A local supplier had a Hikvision IP camera that was cheaper than the analog camera I was replacing. I bought the unit (a 1.3MP mini-dome), brought it back to the site, programmed and installed the unit and was blown away with the view I had versus the old analog camera. Right then and there I started paying attention to the Hikvision brand. The DS-2CD4656F-IZH is another solid unit in Hikvision’s lineup (with a minor hiccup thrown in the mix).


The DS-2CD4656F-IZH is a substantial camera assembly; removing the unit from its box revealed a camera that weighs in at 41⁄2 pounds. The base and external housing are cast metal with a powder coat cream finish and a heavy-duty polycarbonate clear dome. The unit is impact rated IK10 on the international scale, giving it top marks for vandal resistance. The housing is also rated IP66 for its resistance to moisture, dust and debris — you could mount it in the carwash if you had to!

The device has two threaded 3⁄4-inch openings for the installation of conduit, one on the side and one on the bottom. When I first looked at the plugs that were installed I thought to myself, “huh, plastic.” But upon further consideration, it really doesn’t make a difference when you’re just going to discard the plug anyway. As long as it seals up and keeps the water out, that’s all I care about. The
camera body and external shell have a rubber seal that provides protection from outside elements when the two are mated. The seal has several side tabs that help hold it in place during the installation process to prevent the “droop” you can sometimes get when assembling a housing — nice to see.

Once inside the camera assembly I was pleasantly surprised to find a “straight-in” RJ45 jack installed in the camera base. This makes me happy from an installer’s perspective; it’s a real pain to have to contort the network cable into one of those sideways jacks, especially if you’re on top of a 24-foot ladder in the wind. There are two push-in connectors on the side of the camera base to allow you to make alarm and audio connections as well as power the camera from a 24VAC power source. This is handy if you are retrofitting the DS-2CD4656F-IZH in a location formerly occupied by an analog camera. Install an Ethernet/coax media converter and you’re good to go. The camera also has built-in IR illuminators to provide illumination in low to zero light situations (a little more on this later).


The DS-2CD4656F-IZH is equipped with a 2.8 to 12MM power zoom lens that gives the unit some versatility over others that rely on straight digital zoom technology. The use of a true optical zoom gives the user a clear image when zoomed in on a distant object. The camera is also equipped with a micro-SD slot to allow for file backups on the camera should there be a network hiccup or a need for local storage as a precaution. The product also comes with a flying lead attachment to let an installer use a handheld monitor to set up the general field of view during installation. This is nice and saves from trying to balance a laptop on top of that 24-foot ladder in the wind again.

The camera’s system menu is quite extensive and is broken into eight separate groups. The primary areas for most users (Network, Video/Audio & Image) are easy to work through and allow the user to set up the camera with relative ease.

The image settings, which will most likely be the area most installers will use, provide for just about every adjustment one could need for the camera. You can even personalize the view with your own superimposed logo on the camera itself; however, you need to keep the bitmap file size small — trying to load one too big gets you rejected.

As mentioned, the camera has an extensive menu. There are two sections, the Event and Counting menus, that could come in handy for locations requiring some video analytics or people counting if the VMS doesn’t have those capabilities.

The Basic Event menu has settings for motion detection and video tampering, while the Smart Event tab gives you an extensive listing of detection settings from audio to unattended baggage.

This sub-menu has more detection settings than some full-suite VMS programs. One in particular that caught my eye was the Audio Exception detection setting; this would be great for a location with a siren or alarm or possibly a gunshot detection setting.

Setup and Testing

Out of the box and connected to the camera took about 15 seconds — just long enough for the PoE switch to power the camera up and allow me to login to, Hikvision’s default IP address on all its cameras. If you have a large group of cameras you are bringing online you can use the SADP software to facilitate assigning static IPs to the cameras in the field without having to do so ahead of time.

I set the camera up viewing a rural, outdoor setting (see photo, above right top). The images from the DS-2CD4656F-IZH were sharp and by using the on-screen GUI I was able to zoom the lens in and out. When I did so the camera automatically adjusted the lens for the optimal picture. When I set the camera up in my VMS I was unable to fully configure it since it is a new model and not yet in the drop-down menu. I was able to use the VMS’ digital settings and obtained a respectable zoomedin image, especially with the camera set to 6MP.

My nighttime experience with the DS-2CD4656F-IZH was a bit disappointing, however. As noted, the camera was set up in a rural area — the only ambient light was from two low voltage
landscape lights. Because of this low light level I was interested in how the IR illuminators would perform. The IRs inside the dome reflected on the bubble and caused the image to ghost out, leaving me with a nighttime image that was really unusable (see photo, above right bottom). I read through the manual to see if I was missing something and found there was a setting in the day/ night switch that allows the IRs to be set to automatically adjust to the intensity necessary. I reset the IR output power but alas, the image wasn’t any better with my adjustments. As with many cameras I have tested with internal IR emitters the reflectivity within the polycarbonate dome material is just not acceptable when using the IR function. All of my other menu changes and setting adjustments performed as planned with the picture improving or degrading as I moved through the various changes.


The DS-2CD4656F-IZH is an exceptional camera with a wide array of menu options. The IR reflectivity on the dome was a bit disappointing and didn’t allow for a higher performance rating from me. SSI



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First published in the September 2017 Security Sales & Integration magazine.

Video Search Function Need Not Intimidate Your End Customers

A large municipal client learns that VMS search functionality allays concerns about having to locate a “needle in the haystack” in large amounts of video data.

Many people contemplating adding security cameras or upgrading their CCTV systems are intimidated by video search. Case in point: we are working with a municipal client on a large enterprise video surveillance system and a question regarding video searching methodology came up from one of the stakeholders.

This person had CCTV experience but with an older and less sophisticated system and was concerned with the amount of time that would be required to search for incidents. This was perfectly understandable, given that many people haven’t experienced search technology beyond watching endless hours of footage at 2x or 4x real-time.

To allay his concerns, I was asked to quantify the effort required to search recorded video for incidents. I thought I would share it here in case others had run in to similar questions or concerns. Essentially, I explained, there are three commonly used search methods, and two different types of sites.


The first search method looks for the appearance or disappearance of something. This would include vandalism (graffiti, break-in), an object left behind (trash dumping) or an object removed (theft). In these cases, the most common search method would be using the thumbnail search feature of the video management system (VMS).

With thumbnail search, the operator picks a time frame for the incident and is presented with a series of small, still images (often called “cameos”) on their screen. Each image is representative of a snapshot in time, so if the search window is 12 hours there might be 12 images taken an hour apart.

As an example, let’s say we are looking for a person who dumped trash over the fence at a remote building. In that case, looking at the cameos would show a series without the trash, with a change between two adjacent images where the trash suddenly appeared. Clicking on the image just before the trash appeared would give us a new set of images perhaps 6 minutes apart, and drilling down further might take us to a series 45 seconds apart.

In this manner, the operator can quickly drill down to when the incident occurred, reviewing only the video footage needed for the time window required. The total time for such a search is typically just a few minutes for an experienced operator.

The second type of incident represents a subtler change in the scene, perhaps someone loitering in an area or doing something that is done repeatedly by many people, like putting something in a trash can. In these cases, motion search is commonly used.

For motion search, an area (or multiple areas) of an image are highlighted and “trigger” parameters are entered into the VMS. If we were looking for someone who was reported to be loitering in a doorway and looked suspicious, for example, we would highlight the doorway and tell the system to ignore anything that wasn’t in that area for more than 5 seconds so people just passing by did not create false alarms.

The VMS would then present the operator with a list of incidents that fit the parameters and the operator would then click on each one to review the associated video clip. This can be more time consuming than thumbnail search, but there are several parameters that can be programmed to refine the searches and it is far more efficient than searching through hours of footage even at 2x or 4x real time speeds. Estimated time for a typical motion based search is about 10-15 minutes, although this can vary dramatically.

The third search method is a variation on the extremely time-consuming method of playing back video to look for something or someone that can’t be defined by an area of the image. Even if playing back video at 2x or 4x speed (allowing an hour of video to be reviewed in 15 minutes), the VMS provides short cuts.

There is a slide bar at the bottom of the screen that can be used to skip past spans of time where nothing is happening, speeding up the review considerable in cases were activity is intermittent. Also, multiple cameras can be reviewed simultaneously, with all of them jumping forward together when the slide bar is used.

Complicating things somewhat is that not all locations are always online and available for search from the comfort of an office. While the search methods do not change, in some cases it is necessary to travel to the site with a laptop to pull video off the server. In those cases, the search methodology is the same, but the travel and setup time must be added to the time required.

While video search is often like searching for a needle in a haystack, newer technology often presents us with more efficient ways to burn down the haystack in hopes of finding the needle.


Yale Keypad Lock Is One to Keep in Stock

WE HAVE TESTED AND REVIEWED keypad access locks in the past, including models from Schlage and Kwikset, most recently the Kwikset SmartCode 916 Touchscreen Deadbolt ( kwikset_deadbolt_locks_reliable), and are big fans. After looking at promotional material for the Yale nexTouch keypad access lock, we asked for a test model but were really expecting a product that was functionally similar to the Kwikset 916. Well, they both have touchscreens (and are available with pushbutton keypads as well) and unlock doors, but they are otherwise pretty different. The question of which would work best for you really depends on your application.

The nexTouch lock is available in three versions: standalone, Data-on-Card and Z-Wave/ ZigBee. The standalone version is the base model, and while any version can be ordered from Yale, Data-on-Card, Zig- Bee or Z-Wave functionality can be added by installing a color-coded plug-in module. This allows the lock to be upgraded as the user’s application and needs change. We tested the Z-Wave version and cannot comment on the Data-on-Card version for this review as we did not test it.


The nexTouch is a solidly built, as befits its ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 certification. This grading system, developed for the American Nation Standards Institute (ANSI) by the Builder’s Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) ranges from 1 (the highest grade) to 3, factoring in longevity and durability. Grade 1 is usually used for commercial applications and is tested to 1 million opening and closing cycles. It is also able to withstand five strikes of 75 pounds of force. Clearly solidly built, the nexTouch is intended for commercial applications, and it shows.

There are a number of configurations available, including the aforementioned choice of touchscreen or pushbutton as well as the underlying technology. There are three different lever designs, including a flat lever and two types of curved levers. A lock cylinder override is available, and a number of Yale interchangeable cores can be used. There are also four finishes available, including bright brass, satin bronze, satin chrome-plated (our test model) and flat black powder coat. There are even kits to adapt other manufacturers’ cores to fit this lock; it is hard to imagine more flexibility in construction. We did not install the lock on a door, as it came on a “mock door” for testing purposes. Interestingly, it was installed in the test rig with the latchbolt backwards; perhaps this was a test to see if we’d notice. We did take the unit apart and put it back together again, and the operation was constant with our experiences installing other brand locks.


The nexTouch is really an access control system for smaller facilities, and is designed for a large number of users and a “jack of all trades” maintenance person. Think apartment building or multifamily residences, small businesses or small office buildings. The standalone unit handles 500 user codes and each code can be four-eight digits. There are a number of features that support these applications, and we tested as many of them as we could.

The first feature that really jumps out is the voice guidance. It walks you through all of the programming in your choice of three languages, confirms operations and allows a maintenance person or administrator to easily change settings without referring to the manual (which is really just a poster). A pleasant chime confirms operations, letting you know when the door is locked and unlocked. Certain modes are annunciated, like “Privacy Mode,” which allows you to lock out the keypad from the inside. To do this you need to install the optional door position switch and associated magnet, which allows the lock to know when the door is closed. Opening the door automatically disables the privacy mode.

You can also set the lock to unlock at the first valid keypad entry and relock either manually or after a preset period (configurable from 1-180 seconds). Relocking manually can require a valid PIN code or one-touch locking can be enabled that allows a simple touch of the keypad to relock the door. There’s also a keypad lockout feature that deters tampering by disabling the keypad for a default period of 180 seconds after five successive wrong code entries.

Powering the lock is also carefully thought out. The unit is battery powered with the four included AA batteries, or can be outfitted with a remote power source through an electronic pass-through hinge. If the internal batteries are used and they fail, two contacts on the front of the lock allow you to press a 9V battery up to the lock that will provide enough power to enter an access code and open the door to change the batteries. A belt and suspenders, indeed!


As with other locks we have seen, the installation and operation manual is a poster and it has everything you need. Once installed, inserting the batteries provides you with a voice prompt (“Welcome to Yale”) and touching the screen prompts you through entering the master PIN code and subsequent user codes. Visual and audible prompts confirm almost all actions, and the programming is very simple.


We went through the poster and tested each feature with no issues. We liked the door position switch and privacy mode and wish other locks had that feature. The keypad is extremely sensitive and responsive, shows up well in direct sunlight, and the audible confirmation was a nice touch. There are two volume settings for audio, and it can be disabled as well if you find it annoying over time.

We also tested Z-Wave functionality using a SmartThings hub. We had to try a few times; that isn’t uncommon with Z-Wave devices and the nature of home automation networks. Once set up, the lock worked flawlessly, locking and unlocking with about 3 seconds’ latency. We have other Z-Wave locks in our test setup, and the speed in which the Yale lock responded was consistent with our experiences. We did notice that the SmartThings application showed the lock as locked about 5 seconds before it had relocked itself, so there may be some software or integration issues. This did not impact operation, and reporting on home automation applications is not universally instantaneous. We did not test the ZigBee version, although we can’t imagine that it would be different than the Z-Wave functionality and performance.


If you are looking for an attractive lock for home use, this may not be it. It is definitely a commercial design and may be out of place in residential applications. That being said, for the intended applications, it is hard to imagine a better implementation and feature set. We gave a perfect rating to the similar Kwikset product, and we give the Yale lock the same high marks.

That is not to say the products are the same; each has different strengths and we did not take off points because of differentiating features. However, we think it is safe to say that, no matter what the application, there’s a perfect fit for you.


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First published in the March 2017 Security Sales & Integration magazine.

TRENDnet Industrial Network Switch

The TRENDnet TI-PG1284i network switch is an attractive solution for locations that are less than ideal.

TRENDnet has introduced a new industrial-grade hardened network switch that promises to become a “go-to” component for installers when they have network locations that don’t have the best environmental conditions.

TRENDnet has been involved in the electronics world since 1990 and was founded in Torrance, Calif. The company has been building network solutions for the consumer, commercial and industrial markets, and today supplies many different solutions for its markets.

Today’s electronic networks whether they are designed and utilized for CCTV, access control, voice over Internet or some other network function, rely on several key components to complete their system designs.

Increasingly the network switch is installed in locations that can best be described as “less than friendly” to electronics. This review covers a switch that is designed to roll with the punches.


The TI-PG1284i network switch is constructed with a hardened metal casing and about the size of a hardback novel. The unit has a solid feel to it, shows good construction and has an IP30-rated enclosure that protects the internal components from external dirt and dust intrusion.

The unit is not immune to liquids so mounting it exposed outdoors is out of the question! The switch is designed for harsh environments and can withstand temperatures from -40° to 75° C / -40° to 167° F.

The switch has 12 network ports and one RS-232 port on the front panel. Of those 12 network ports eight are gigabit RJ-45 connections and four are GB SFP ports. The top of the unit has connections for the external power supplies (both primary and redundant) and the external alarm.

There are also addressable DIP switches that allow the end user to customize the notification alarms from the switch for every port and power connection. There is also a grounding terminal on the top of the case to provide greater protection from static shocks.

The TI-PG1284i relies on an external power source of 48VDC; the input voltage has a range of 48 to 57VDC with a rating of 240+ watts. This voltage can be supplied from a master power source or from a standalone unit.

For our testing, we were provided a complementary component power supply, Model TI-S24048, to provide the required input voltage. This unit, just like the switch, is designed to mount to a DIN rail to provide a secured installation.

The electrical wiring for the power unit connects to a Phoenix connector that allows the unit to be easily disconnected from its 120VAC power source should servicing be required.


The TI-PG1284i can supply up to 30W of PoE/PoE+ power for its network ports. The power to each of these ports can be turned on and off via the web-based graphical user interface; this allows the user to remotely reset a device, which can be very effective for troubleshooting or refreshing field devices.

The inclusion of four SFP ports allows the switch to be connected to different devices via fiber-optic connections. This can allow the switch to be used as a hub or repeater for a fiber network; this can be very handy when there are different connection requirements for a network’s construction.

The inclusion of alarm outputs for each network port (as well as the power supply) provides an alert to the user that there is a system problem that requires immediate attention.

The switch is constructed to resist shock and vibration damage and has been rated for durability by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It also has a freefall rating which is one I have a hard time understanding since the unit is designed to be firmly mounted to a DIN rail!

The TI-PG1284i is also rated by the IEC to resist electrostatic discharges and electromagnetic interference. This makes the unit a perfect fit for installation in a congested environment where there might be heavy electrical interferences.

DIP switch configuration of the TI-PG1284i’s alarm outputs (left) makes setting up failure notification a breeze. The separate power supply (right) allows for redundant power where needed.

DIP switch configuration of the TI-PG1284i’s alarm outputs (left) makes setting up failure notification a breeze. The separate power supply (right) allows for redundant power where needed.

Setup and Testing

Upon unpacking the contents from the box, I found the unit is supplied with a six-foot RJ-45 to RS-232 cable, a quick installation guide, and a CD containing the full product manual and the quick reference guide.

For my examination and testing I performed a basic installation utilizing the switch, power supply, computer and PoE network camera. I used a fixed dome IP camera to test the PoE port switching that allowed me to switch the camera on and off as needed.

As noted, having the ability to reset a device remotely is a wonderful thing — think of the time and effort that can be saved by being able to remote in to the switch and perform this reset.

Compare this to grabbing your eight-foot ladder, slugging it through a back hallway and climbing up to a field node just to unplug a camera or other network device. This feature is worth its weight in gold to me.

The embedded GUI of the TI-PG1284i allows for many system settings within the network. While my networking experience is fairly extensive and has been put to the test many times, I must confess that I was not completely familiar with all of the arcane system settings of which this device is capable, according to the manual.

In addition to the web-based GUI for programming and control of the TI-PG1284i, the unit can be controlled via RS-232 commands from your computer for those “old-school” system administrators.

While I am not one who is well versed in command line interface (CLI) commands, I understand its usefulness for network professionals. Again, this switch provides the user with a plethora of options and protections.


The TI-PG1284i is a robust switch that will perform well in any system’s network. Its size, design and durability makes it a great unit for installation in varied environments, from a small field node in a hazardous location to a network closet with many switches configured together.

The TI-PFG1284i will make a welcome addition to any installer’s repertoire.


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First published in the March 2017 issue of Security Sales & Integration magazine.

11 Common Types of Security Cameras

Bullet, dome, covert, outdoor, varifocal and night vision are just some of the common types of surveillance cameras. Here’s a quick reference list.

Selecting a type of security camera is simple, right? If you want a camera that follows people as they move, you want a pan/tilt/zoom or PTZ camera. Otherwise you want a fixed camera. Right?

Well, yes and no. PTZ and fixed cameras used to be the only types of cameras out there, but today it can get a lot more complicated. There’s a difference between the type of security camera and the type of housing or extra features you can add to it.

Types of Security Cameras:

  • Fixed
  • Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ)
  • Virtual PTZ or 360-Degree

Types of Security Camera Housing:

  • Outdoor
  • Dome
  • Bullet
  • Discreet

Extra Features:

  • Resolution
  • Day/Night
  • Infrared
  • Varifocal
  • Remote Zoom
  • Auto-focus
  • Wireless
  • Thermal Imaging

I often say we’re in the “golden age of cameras.” Cameras are uniformly good at the basics, but by over-simplifying things you may not be making the best choice for your application.

This guide will outline some of the variations on those two themes, and suggest some enhancements that you might want to consider for your application. The chart below shows some common, popular features of security cameras compared to the three camera types to consider.

Choosing the Right Security Camera

Fixed Camera

At the heart of the matter is the fixed camera. It is positioned to capture an image and can be optimized for the application with different housings and features as we’ll cover later.

With few moving parts, fixed cameras are inherently more reliable than PTZ cameras and they are always pointing in the intended direction.

PTZ Camera

Remotely positionable cameras are typically called PTZ cameras for their ability to pan, tilt and zoom in on a subject. This is a specially designed fixed camera wrapped in a cocoon of motors and gears which allow an operator to remotely move it.

Higher end cameras may have a greater zoom range, with 32X being fairly common. A higher zoom range is helpful when you are covering a large area, but isn’t always needed.

While a PTZ camera will follow a person or object through an area, they do have a few disadvantages. A PTZ camera may be set to automatically patrol an area, but they are oftentimes most effective when manually controlled.

If a CCTV system is used for forensics, determining what happened after the fact, Murphy’s Law pretty much guarantees that a PTZ camera will invariably be looking in the wrong direction when something happens. The greater the magnification being used, the smaller the area being covered, and this type of camera can only be facing one direction at a time.

360-degree Camera

This has led to a third type of camera, the virtual PTZ or 360-degree camera. This is several high resolution fixed cameras in a single (usually dome) housing. The images are stitched together and you can zoom in after the fact, up to the limits of the cameras being used.

Since all the images are being recorded, it can face in all directions and can be a great forensic tool. The biggest challenge facing 360-degree camera acceptance is that they are often oversold as a universal solution. Few rooms allow an unobstructed field of view in all directions, so you are generally not utilizing the full field of view.

A standard fixed camera can easily be paired with a lens to give it a 120-degree to 140-degree view, and many rooms are better served with cameras in corners which only require a 90-degree field of view. Still, in the applications where this type of camera is needed, it can really shine.


Choosing the Right Housing

After selecting the type of camera, the next level of choice is the type of housing. With a PTZ camera you are pretty much limited to indoor or outdoor, as they are mostly dome cameras except for a limited number of specialty applications.


Outdoor cameras will be more weather resistant and include heaters and blowers to allow for environmental variances.


Dome housings are designed to conceal the orientation of the camera, with some doing a better job than others. This is a high priority in most applications, and is our default selection as it is generally the best deterrent.

When someone can’t tell which way the camera is pointing, they often assume it is pointing in all directions. So, a fixed dome camera covering a door at the end of a hallway is assumed to be covering the entire hallway.


We’ll call the cameras that resemble a box on a post bullet cameras, named for the sleek cylindrical shape that many of them have. Whether a small unitized design or a camera/housing combination, these clearly show the direction of orientation and generally provide a better picture.

The front of the housing is close to the camera lens, cutting down on reflections and making it easier to keep clean. They are a deterrent as well, although not as effective as housings that mask the orientation.


Sometimes you want to hide the entire camera using covert or discreet housings. These can be designed to look like something else (smoke detector, motion sensor) or nothing at all, with pinhole lenses or flush mount lenses mounted on a wall or ceiling.

These are not designed to be deterrents but are often preferred by architects seeking to achieve a certain aesthetic within a space.

All types of housings can be made to be vandal resistant, a step up from weather resistant. These types of housings (most commonly the dome type) are designed to withstand unfriendly environments while still providing a usable image.


Choosing the Right Features

Once you’ve selected the camera type and form factor, you might want to consider tweaking the feature set for the application.


The possibilities are varied, with resolution being the most common upsell. Resolution is measured in millions of pixels, or megapixels. The higher the resolution, the more space required to store the images and processing power to manipulate it.

For perspective, an old analog camera is about 1/4 megapixel, your giant HDTV screen is a little over 2 megapixels, and the highest resolution projected image in your local movie theater is called 4K and has 8.8 megapixels.

Higher resolution cameras do not respond as well to low light situations as lower resolution cameras, so, it is possible to buy more resolution than you need and needlessly drive storage costs up and performance down.

Low Light Performance

Beyond resolution, low light performance is often a requirement.

Cameras with day/night capabilities switch into a different mode in low light situations, with various technologies allowing usable images in near total darkness.

Cameras with infrared illuminators provide their own light source, allowing better images in dark areas as well. As previously mentioned, be prepared to sacrifice some resolution to get better low light performance.

Lens Features

We are seeing more fixed cameras with advanced lens features as well.

While varifocal lenses have always been popular, allowing the installer to manually adjust the image magnification when installing the camera, many fixed cameras now come with remote zoom and focus. This allows the user to adjust the camera without physically going to the camera site, a big cost savings in many applications.

At the ISC West security show in 2017, several manufacturers were showing fixed cameras with auto-focus as well.

Advanced Options

Beyond features and functionality, there are other considerations such as wireless signal transition, ultra-high resolution, thermal imaging, explosion proof housings and more.

While the proliferation of available options can make the selection process more difficult, the good news is that no matter what your application is there’s likely the perfect tool for the job — for far less money than you might have thought possible just a few years ago.

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First published on the CEPro website.

Robert Grossman has spent more than 20 years in the industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! He is president of R. Grossman and Associates Inc., a consulting group specializing in electronic security products and projects. Bob has spent time as an end user, responsible for security, surveillance and low-voltage electronics at Bally’s Park Place, a major Atlantic City casino. As a senior project manager for Sensormatic Electronics’ Enterprise Accounts group, he learned first-hand the difficulty in translating ideas into reality while staying on schedule and under budget. He has worked for both Vicon Industries (as vice president of Customer and Technical Services) and American Dynamics/Tyco Safety Products (as director of Product Line Management), with responsibilities that included pre- and post-sales support, project design, product line management, customer service and sales. Bob is a frequent contributor to CE Pro and sister publication Security Sales & Integration. For more information, visit Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Bob at

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