Understanding Wide Dynamic Range

When it comes to surveillance cameras, visibility is key.  Some of the obstacles surrounding a camera’s capability to retain clear images such as lighting, camera installation, and type of camera are somewhat within our control, others are not.  Uncontrollable issues of extreme brightness, like light produced from headlights and the sun, or extreme darkness are not necessarily easily overcome.  However, as with anything, technological progression helps change these harrowing limitations.  As industry professionals our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing security system solutions, including surveillance, to organizations throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We’ve seen the impact changing technology has on the equipment we install and how it can be beneficial to our customers.

Surveillance systems are in the midst of a transition from using conventional analog equipment to IP (Internet Protocol).  Why? For one, image quality.  The tricky thing with IP cameras is not all are created equal.  There isn’t necessarily a defined industry standard that is accepted by all integrators and camera manufacturers when it comes to “best” image quality.  For example some might argue that the higher the megapixel count the better, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better image.  At least with HD (high definition) cameras there are standards manufacturers must comply with in order to be considered HD.

Aside from pixel count, an IP camera’s display threshold in extreme conditions is critical, but limited.  This limit, specifically when referring to extreme brightness or darkness, is typically known as “dynamic range.”  Wide dynamic range (WDR), “allows cameras to capture much more detail in scenes where there are varying levels of light, much like the way the human eye ‘processes’ these types of scenes.”  You know the feeling of widening your eyes in the dark to try to see clearer because you’re eyes haven’t quite adjusted yet?  It’s sort of the same idea with WDR cameras and how they adapt in both light and dark conditions.  However, their adjustments aren’t a physical strain and transitions are typically quicker than ours.

WDR footageThe images above show the difference between a parking garage being monitored by a camera with no WDR or WDR turned off on the left, and on the right the same area monitored by a camera with WDR enabled.  The difference is clear as day.  Why do they differ so much?  The camera with the WDR enabled has two internal Charge-Coupled Devices (CCD).  The two devices, or sensors, scan an image at different speeds, one low and one high, the image processor then combines the separate images producing a clearer, more balanced picture with better contrast and lighting.  This process happens quickly enough to produce a stream of clear recorded footage.  There are many different manufacturers that produce these WDR cameras in the market today, and not all of them use the same type of sensor and image processing combinations.  The best way to ensure you are getting the best camera for your specific application is to hire a licensed security systems integrator who is educated in which camera specifications will work best in variant conditions.

WDR technology, like anything else, is not perfect.  Depending on the camera manufacturer, you could end up with a camera that takes up to 15 seconds to adjust with varying light levels.  That doesn’t sound like that long, but it could mean the difference between catching a perpetrator and them getting away.  Another issue you might run into are cameras that don’t have the ability to turn WDR settings on and off automatically.  Without the automation the transition becomes the responsibility of someone on site, which can be time consuming and ineffective in a time sensitive situation.  This is why it is vital to consult a professional security systems integrator who is educated in the differences between product specifications and their appropriate applications.

The clarity of recorded video footage is crucial to the security of any organization.  As a business owner you don’t want to be left wondering why your recordings are grainy, washed out, or so dark they become unusable.  No one can control the external factors that affect an organization, but you can be prepared for them by taking the proper precautions.  Licensed system integrators are there to help.  Our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security system solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We recognize the importance of utilizing quality security products that not only perform well but perform to their intended specifications.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by IQinVision-Google-Creative Commons

What is Z-Wave Technology?

Smart home AccessIn the wake of home automation, smart home, or connected home technology you may have come across the term Z-Wave technology.  What is it?  Z-Wave technology is, “a wireless technology that makes regular household products, like lights, door locks and thermostats ‘smart’.”  It’s what allows your home devices to “talk” to each other and be controlled remotely via your mobile device.  Why is this important?  Well, if you have home automation or been considering it, it’s all about ease of integration, flexibility, and interoperability.  Home automation and its perspective devices are an integral part of a comprehensive home security system.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed integrators have been providing comprehensive home security solutions for the past 23 years.  We believe in making your life easier and more convenient by providing technologies that not only operate effectively but help provide superior protection.

Having strong communication between devices is crucial to the efficacy of your system.  It seems Z-Wave technology has the majority grip on the market as it stand today, one of the main reasons being it boasts communication capabilities for more than 1,100 products from over 300 different manufacturers.  This is beneficial to integrators and end-users alike.  The quantity of smart products that operate on Z-Wave technology opens the door to highly flexible smart home applications.  This means you can outfit your entire house with automation devices that can be controlled from your central control panel or a single application on your mobile device versus having to control devices piecemeal because they don’t operate on the same technology.

According to Mark Walters, chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance, “…greater than 80 percent of the North American security company-based lifestyle solutions are powered by Z-Wave.”  The wide breadth of automation product availability within the Z-Wave family provides immense system scalability for homeowners and integrators.  Meaning your initial product installations are not finite.  Security and automation devices can be added on an as needed basis.  For example, you may start with automated door locks, lighting, and garage door control but you may find that with time your needs expand to temperature management, skylight controls, and/or guarding against potential water damage; it’s always nice to only have to go through the installation process once, but it’s comforting to know you have options after the fact.  While most homeowners rely on the experts to properly install devices in their home, the range of Z-Wave technology products does open the door to a more DIY approach.  However, it is important to note that it is always wise to consult a licensed security system integrator to ensure proper product installation and operation.  This technology also provides an open platform for integrators and consumers who prefer products from a specific manufacturer, making it easier to get exactly what you want.

What about existing household technologies, will they be affected by Z-Wave home automation devices?  Today our lives are inundated with technology, your home probably has a slew of devices that operate on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.  The potential issue with a house full of devices operating simultaneously is the communication disruption they can incur on one another.  Luckily with Z-Wave technology you don’t have to worry about interference with or from other household devices.  Its operational capabilities were designed specifically for home control.  It’s a low energy consumption, bandwidth efficient technology that won’t inhibit other home devices.  Z-Wave technology also has a vast international presence throughout Europe further expanding their territory for consistency, device compatibility, and home automation integration.

Home automation is a facet of comprehensive security systems that improves a homeowners posture in security.  It is meant to improve lives through convenience and seamless integration.  With home automation you can turn lights on and off remotely with the tap of your finger on your mobile device.  You can arm or disarm your alarm system while on vacation.  You can monitor an aging loved one who wants to maintain a level of independence by tracking their activity on your smartphone.  Or you can use it to receive instant notifications of real time events like your kids arrival home from school.  Like any system, home automation is only as good as the sum of its parts and the technology it operates on.

Z-Wave technology is the means by which many automation devices communicate with each other and the system as a whole.  The strong hold it has on the market today seems to prove it’s effectiveness and dependability.  It creates flexibility in product selection and system integration without interfering with existing household devices.  Chances are if you already have home automation as part of your security system your devices operate on Z-Wave technology.  This technology and the devices it encompasses show no signs of slowing down in our age of technological progression.

Our licensed integrators at Perfect Connections, Inc. have been providing custom and comprehensive security system solutions to homes throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We believe in providing technologies that enhance your home’s security and home automation devices do just that.  Home automation is part of a comprehensive security system which should include fire and burglar alarms, video surveillance, access control, and a monitoring service.  We help your home security stay relevant and provide technology that improves your quality of life.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Domoalert Smart Life Quality’s photostream-Flickr-Creative Commons

What Does Wide Dynamic Range Mean in Surveillance?

When it comes to surveillance cameras, visibility is key.  Some of the obstacles surrounding a camera’s capability to retain clear images such as lighting, camera installation, and type of camera are somewhat within our control, others are not.  Uncontrollable issues of extreme brightness, like light produced from headlights and the sun, or extreme darkness are not necessarily easily overcome.  However, as with anything, technological progression helps change these harrowing limitations.  As industry professionals our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing security system solutions, including surveillance, to organizations throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We’ve seen the impact changing technology has on the equipment we install and how it can be beneficial to our customers.

Surveillance systems are in the midst of a transition from using conventional analog equipment to IP (Internet Protocol).  Why? For one, image quality.  The tricky thing with IP cameras is not all are created equal.  There isn’t necessarily a defined industry standard that is accepted by all integrators and camera manufacturers when it comes to “best” image quality.  For example some might argue that the higher the megapixel count the better, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better image.  At least with HD (high definition) cameras there are standards manufacturers must comply with in order to be considered HD.

Aside from pixel count, an IP camera’s display threshold in extreme conditions is critical, but limited.  This limit, specifically when referring to extreme brightness or darkness, is typically known as “dynamic range.”  Wide dynamic range (WDR), “allows cameras to capture much more detail in scenes where there are varying levels of light, much like the way the human eye ‘processes’ these types of scenes.”  You know the feeling of widening your eyes in the dark to try to see clearer because you’re eyes haven’t quite adjusted yet?  It’s sort of the same idea with WDR cameras and how they adapt in both light and dark conditions.  However, their adjustments aren’t a physical strain and transitions are typically quicker than ours.

WDR footageThe images above show the difference between a parking garage being monitored by a camera with no WDR or WDR turned off on the left, and on the right the same area monitored by a camera with WDR enabled.  The difference is clear as day.  Why do they differ so much?  The camera with the WDR enabled has two internal Charge-Coupled Devices (CCD).  The two devices, or sensors, scan an image at different speeds, one low and one high, the image processor then combines the separate images producing a clearer, more balanced picture with better contrast and lighting.  This process happens quickly enough to produce a stream of clear recorded footage.  There are many different manufacturers that produce these WDR cameras in the market today, and not all of them use the same type of sensor and image processing combinations.  The best way to ensure you are getting the best camera for your specific application is to hire a licensed security systems integrator who is educated in which camera specifications will work best in variant conditions.

WDR technology, like anything else, is not perfect.  Depending on the camera manufacturer, you could end up with a camera that takes up to 15 seconds to adjust with varying light levels.  That doesn’t sound like that long, but it could mean the difference between catching a perpetrator and them getting away.  Another issue you might run into are cameras that don’t have the ability to turn WDR settings on and off automatically.  Without the automation the transition becomes the responsibility of someone on site, which can be time consuming and ineffective in a time sensitive situation.  This is why it is vital to consult a professional security systems integrator who is educated in the differences between product specifications and their appropriate applications.

The clarity of recorded video footage is crucial to the security of any organization.  As a business owner you don’t want to be left wondering why your recordings are grainy, washed out, or so dark they become unusable.  No one can control the external factors that affect an organization, but you can be prepared for them by taking the proper precautions.  Licensed system integrators are there to help.  Our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security system solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We recognize the importance of utilizing quality security products that not only perform well but perform to their intended specifications.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by IQinVision-Google-Creative Commons

How Does Home Automation Affect Home Security?

Smartphone-Phil CampbellAs the technology driven world continues to evolve, our lives are becoming more and more connected.  Virtual distances are shrinking.  This has been happening since the inception of the internet.  You no longer have to fly across the world to have a meeting, you simply login to a virtual meeting where you can talk “in-person” via video chat.  Although it may be imperfect, technology has certainly had an impact on all of our lives in one way or another.

Our lives are saturated in advanced technological gadgets, everything from our cars to our smartphones, why should our homes be any different?  It used to be enough having a home security system that would alert the authorities in an emergency, but why stop there?  Home automation, or the “connected home,” is quickly becoming an integral part of a comprehensive home security system.  It’s a driving force that is changing the way homeowners and system integrators perceive “home security.”

As a licensed security system provider, our professionals at Perfect Connections, Inc. are always looking for the best ways to protect your home.  We have been providing comprehensive security system solutions to residences throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  Technological advancement means we are constantly learning and adapting our solutions to best suit client needs.  That’s not to say just because something is new that it should be implemented, we do our due diligence before installation of any product including home automation devices.

Home automation products aren’t exclusively linked to home security.  In fact there is a plethora of automation devices that can be installed separate from a security system, often requiring a DIY (do it yourself) approach.  For example there are devices that can be attached to kitchen appliances that can be controlled by logging into apps on your smartphone.  However, rather than complicating our daily lives by having to download separate apps for everything in our homes, we have steadily been adopting technology in an effort to streamline and simplify.  When it comes to home security, with DIY solutions you’re likely not getting full coverage while simultaneously complicating processes.  Plus they often lack continuity and one of the most important aspects of a security system, monitoring.  Rather than separating the functions of a home security system and home automation, integrators and homeowners are combining the two creating more efficient and effective life safety and lifestyle systems.

One of the top benefits of home automation is convenience.  Capabilities include remote interaction with home devices and your security system.  Imagine being able to know the exact moment your kids walk through the front door while you’re at work or on your way home.  With home automation you’re able to set up custom notifications that will be sent to your smartphone, mobile device, or computer.  This means you can go on vacation and be notified of temperature drops in your home, package deliveries, or close the open garage doors you forgot about before you left.

Depending on your home automation application, often times you can log-in to your surveillance cameras, turn lights on and off, lock and unlock doors, control media (audio and video), arm and disarm your alarm system, all from the convenience of your mobile device.  When integrated with your home’s security system a singular control panel can be centralized to help avoid confusion that can result from having too many different operating mechanisms.

As a homeowner you might be asking yourself “how will home automation affect my security system?”  For the most part home automation is considered a promising and revolutionary approach to added home safety and efficiency, but as with anything, it isn’t perfect.  Any technology that operates over the internet inherently comes with the looming threat of hackers.  Why would someone want to hack a home automation or security system?  To state the most obvious, they’re likely interested in disabling your alarm system so they can break-in.  Other reasons could include wanting to cause general havoc by tampering with your lights or HVAC system, wasting energy for no other reason than driving up your utilities bill; for “fun.”

Fortunately there are ways to decrease the chances of being hacked, both on the user and integrator end.  In many cases home automation operates wirelessly over a home Wi-Fi network.  No matter how protected you think your network may be it should always be protected with encryptions and user authentication.  The same holds true for connected security devices and any device that transmits a signal.  There must be authentication between home automation devices, the security system, and whatever mobile device you are using to access them.  Otherwise your system is susceptible to third party hackers.

Take the case of Insteon home automation systems back in 2013.  Kashmir Hill, a Forbes Staff Writer, highlights the findings of David Bryan and Daniel Crowley, security researchers at Trustwave, and what they discovered is alarming (for lack of a better word).  They found that not only was there a lack of password protection on the consumer end, but that the Insteon products (now discontinued, for obvious reasons) themselves did not require usernames and passwords and were “crawl-able” (searchable) on the web.  This meant that anyone with a little know-how could access and mess with the connected Insteon products; unnerving to say the least.  Be sure to hire licensed professionals that fully understand the products they are installing and how they will interact with your home network.

While technology is imperfect and constantly transforming you can be sure if you hire a licensed security integrator with product knowledge and experience you’ll be setting yourself up for success.  A professional with industry knowledge will be able to ensure your system is as secure as it can be by using products that require authentication and that your network is encrypted.  As a licensed security system provider, our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. understands that securing a home and improving the lives of others doesn’t mean haphazardly throwing random products together just to get a job done.  We have been providing security solutions to homes throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  Technological evolution is never-ending as is our commitment to providing the safest products and security systems available.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Phil Campbell-Flickr-Creative Commons

How to Secure a Parking Garage

Parking Garage-David HilowitzThere are many architectural components to a business facility sometimes that includes a parking lot or garage.  Whether it is attached or detached, near or far from the main building it can be a convenient asset to any business.  It’s likely the place where you and your employees park in the morning and leave in the evening.  At some point in your life, whether you were at work or another establishment, you’ve probably had an uneasy feeling walking to your car.  But why?  Perhaps it had something to do with a perceived lack of security.

A parking lot or garage can often go overlooked when it comes to the security of an organization as it is not necessarily looked at as an actual part of the main building.  Often times organizations focus on protecting the areas people spend most of their time in, their office or interior work destination.  Sometimes a parking lot or garage isn’t even owned by the business it serves but rather an outside property manager.  However, parking destinations can often be high risk areas especially at night.  As a licensed security systems company our experts at Perfect Connections, Inc. assess the security risks of an organization as a whole.  We have been offering comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We understand not every business or location is the same, and with different locations comes different security risks.  Our team helps minimize risk by offering tailored security system solutions.

The risks associated with an unprotected parking lot or garage can be mitigated once brought to light.  Speaking of light, it is one of the most important safety factors in parking lots and garages.  As you’ve probably experienced at one point or another not all parking areas have adequate lighting, thus creating dark corners and easy hiding spots for potential criminals.  According to James Marcella, Director of Technical Services for Axis Communications, “The most effective deterrent to criminal activity is a well-lit area, because not only does it increase the ability for natural surveillance, it also improves the quality of recorded images from security cameras.”

Not only is it imperative for patrons to be able to see, but if something were to happen it’s crucial that security cameras record useable footage.  Lighting and surveillance tend to go hand-in-hand.  This means installing light fixtures that will provide ample illumination and an adequate CRI (Color Rendition Index) rating.  CRI ratings quantify the precision a light source has when it comes to reproducing color.  One of the best and overall cost effective options is LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting.

While lighting is paramount, surveillance is key when it comes to catching criminal behavior, especially in parking lots and garages.  In our current technological environment surveillance cameras and equipment are becoming more efficient and advanced.  For instance, garage and parking lot environments are not exactly the cleanest or protected areas, therefore surveillance equipment has to be able to withstand harsher elements.

Fortunately there are cameras built specifically for such vulnerable settings.  Vandal-resistant cameras happen to be a surveillance solution in volatile areas, providing protection from both human and environmental elements.  They typically come sealed from dust and moisture right out of the box making them durable and increasing their longevity.  This helps cut down on long term costs of repairs or replacements.

Aside from being durable, ease of integration is becoming a pervasive quality in cameras and security equipment.  Today, end-users are starting to migrate from analog camera systems to IP (Internet Protocol) for their image quality, coverage, and scalability.  This opens the door to whole system integration where a garage surveillance system can be on the same network as the business it services, or at least that’s the idea.  With IP and cloud-based surveillance systems becoming more ubiquitous, clearer images and video analytics are sure to play an important role in the security of any infrastructure, including parking lots and garages.  It would help cut down on the need for physical monitoring services as well provide a platform for remote access via a mobile device or computer.

When enhancing the safety of your parking lot or garage it’s important to consider landscaping, signage, cashier booths and pay stations, and alert systems for the patrons.  Landscaping around a garage or lot should be well kept and vegetation should be trimmed low to maintain a clear line of sight.  There should be clear signage that improves way-finding and some that indicates the area is under surveillance.  Sometimes seeing signage is enough to deter criminal activity.  Cashier booths and pay stations are crime targets for obvious reasons, therefore they should be well-lit and have adequate surveillance coverage.  Alert systems can be a helpful added security feature that would notify patrons by text message of any issues or disturbances while they are away.

Whether you are the owner of a parking lot/garage or a patron it is critical to ensure its security.  It’s not just about being vigilant of your property, it’s about protecting you, your employees, and your patrons.  As every location has different risks you should always call on a licensed security systems professional to perform an in-person security assessment.  Our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  Our team is skilled at providing custom solutions tailored specifically to your needs.  We appreciate the complexities involved in protecting an organization as a whole.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by David Hilowitz-Flickr-Creative Commons

Changing Residential Access

Alan Cleaver-Key in doorThe days of struggling to carry 50 pounds of groceries while simultaneously trying to dig your house keys out of your pocket or purse, might be coming to an end.  As a homeowner your door locks have always been an essential line of defense when it comes to protecting your home.  While our everyday lives are saturated with technological advancement, it only makes sense that our physical structures should follow suit.  That being said, using a key to unlock your doors may be a thing of the past with wireless access control on the rise.

What is wireless access control?  Essentially, wireless access control in a residential setting means replacing the standard lock and key with a keypad, remote control, biometric reader, card reader, or Wi-Fi access.  Keys are no longer the only method for unlocking your doors, in fact, they become the back-up.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our team of licensed experts have been providing comprehensive security solutions to homes throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We stay in touch with current technologies and how they might benefit our customers.  Protecting entrances is key (no pun intended) to the safety and security of any home, and we aim to provide the best solutions to each individual residence.

How does a wireless lock work?  Most traditional locks operate on some form of a “pin and tumbler” method.  This is when the serrated edge of an inserted key moves pins on the interior of the lock a certain distance allowing you turn the lock cylinder and open the door.  With a wireless lock (which typically operates on electricity or battery power) has “actuators,” which connect the cylinder or bolt to a motor within the door or frame.  The motor is electrically activated by a keypad, card reader, or wireless remote controller.  On top of that there are locks that work on Wi-Fi signals used in conjunction with your smartphone or mobile device, sometimes referred to as smart or automated locks.  Lastly, biometrics are sometimes used to control home access.  Typically a fingerprint or hand print is the credential required for such a system.

There are many advantages to a wireless locking system.  For one, you never have to worry about losing or forgetting your keys.  This eliminates having to leave spare keys outside or giving them to people who need access to your home.  Instead of using a key you can, depending on the type of wireless lock, give your visitor the access code or with an automated system you can unlock the door from your smartphone.  With a wireless lock there are no wires.  Typically this means an easier and seamless installation.  It’s a technology that would allow for a more ubiquitous integration that includes old and new construction homes.  Wireless locks offer a convenience and extra layer of security you can’t get from a standard door lock.

While there are multiple benefits to a wireless locking system, none of them are perfect.  With a regular lock you might lose your keys, with a wireless keypad lock you could forget your access code or the code could be hacked by a savvy burglar.  Fortunately, if you forget your code many keypad locks come with a physical key as a backup.  As for code hacking, it’s usually best practice to pick a random code, so don’t use a birthday or something easily guessed.  It’s also prudent- and some systems may require it anyway-to change the code every few months or after you’ve let an outsider use it.

The main drawback with a remote controlled lock is, just as with keys, you could lose the remote.  Unlike keys, a remote is usually programed by a computer.  Therefore, in the event that you lose the remote you can deactivate it from the convenience of a computer.  With a smart or automated lock you run into the issue of not always having a reliable Wi-Fi signal.  Then there’s the dreaded question of what happens when the power goes out?  As some of the wireless locks run on electricity, a power outage could be an issue.  However, many of these locks tend to have multiple redundancies in place including backup battery power.  The main deterrent when it comes to biometric locks is the price as they tend to be a fairly complex system that isn’t as pervasive in the residential market as the other technologies.

Whether you are building a new home or want to enhance the security of your current residence, wireless locks can reinforce your first line of defense and provide a convenience you can’t obtain with conventional locks.  As with any security device or installation you should always consult a licensed security systems professional, especially if you’re looking for full system integration.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our team has been providing comprehensive security system solutions to homes throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We help you connect and protect what matters most, offering a peace of mind you can’t get from anything else.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Alan Cleaver-Flickr-Creative Commons