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

Using Edge Technology To Protect Your Home Or Business

Todd Huffman-SurveillanceWhen it comes to security systems you may have heard the term “edge technology,” “edge analytics,” or “edge devices.”  What exactly do these terms mean and why are they important?  When talking about security systems “the edge” is typically used when referring to video surveillance components.  Every security system integrator and industry professional will likely have their own definition of what it means, but in summary “edge technology” refers to surveillance devices that operate, analyze, and record at their source versus transmitting all that information over a network to the system’s core.  In traditional surveillance systems there is a central server where recorded data from peripheral devices is stored and analyzed.  In an edge-based system cameras perform these functions locally.

Why is this pertinent information?  Depending on your specific situation using edge-based technology can provide more efficient surveillance processes and enhance the overall effectiveness of your security system.  As every situation is subjective a licensed security systems integrator should always be consulted when determining what type of components will serve your business best.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed security system integrators are committed to providing comprehensive security systems that exceed your expectations.  We have been installing comprehensive security systems at businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We know how to assess your security needs and implement relevant technologies that will help keep business running as usual.

Surveillance components that can be considered on “the edge” are IP cameras, video encoders, and network attached storage (NAS) devices.  These devices have recently become more advanced and their capabilities that were once unique to the central server of the security system continue to improve.  According to Steve Gorski, general manager at Mobotix, “Edge-based surveillance solves the bottleneck problem by using the camera to decentralize intelligence and video data.”  This means the cameras themselves are more intelligent and effective.

Edge-based technologies allow for higher image resolutions and the ability to compress them without the loss image quality.  Even with the use of high resolution IP cameras becoming more commonplace, in a traditional system, the images still have to travel to the central server to be stored and typically compressed; this is where image quality can be lost.   Edge technology helps reduce the need for exorbitant storage space on the central server as many edge devices are capable of storing data locally on SD memory cards or NAS devices.  Traditionally these types of storage options were primarily used as backups for the system, but they can now be implemented as the main recording devices in smaller applications.  Cutting down on the need for centralized storage will reduce the need for high bandwidth consumption, ultimately cutting costs.

According to Fredrik Nilsson, general manager for Axis Communications, “It’s estimated today that a staggering 99 percent of all recorded surveillance video is deleted before it’s ever seen.”  How does that make surveillance useful?  It really doesn’t except for use in forensic investigations or after the fact viewing, but with edge-technologies providing intelligence and analytics at the source, detection capabilities increase which creates a more effective system.  With smarter edge devices that can detect patterns, motion, facial recognition, license plates, camera tampering, and people count, you can avoid potential catastrophe that could be caused by deleting recordings to free up space.  These types of analytics provide a platform for real-time viewing that can even be streamed to mobile devices, which are also often considered part of “the edge” realm.  The ultimate goal always being prevention and proactive approaches rather than delayed after the fact reactions.

With any technology “the edge” is a work in progress and will continue to evolve.  It seems edge devices are primarily implemented in smaller applications where the camera need is less than 20.  One of the reasons being a server-based surveillance system can run more analytics per camera because of the CPU power, so the more cameras you have the more processing power you’ll likely need.  For smaller facilities and businesses with remote locations that need surveillance, edge devices are a viable option as they provide real-time analytics, can store footage locally, and don’t require a ton of bandwidth consumption.

At Perfect Connections, Inc. we are committed to providing security system solutions that fit your specific needs.  Our team of licensed integrators has been providing comprehensive security system solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We realize that just because a new technology is available that doesn’t mean it is the appropriate solution to every problem.  Our integrators work with you to learn your needs and will design a custom system that addresses your subjective security risks.

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 Todd Huffman-Flickr-Creative Commons

Cameras and Lighting

West Midlands Police-Infrared FootageNot all surveillance cameras are created equally.  It may seem as simple as selecting a surveillance camera and popping it into place, but what about the external factors that affect the quality of recorded images?  One of the top concerns for industry professionals and end-users alike is a cameras ability to function in the dark or varied light conditions.  Whether you’re using interior or external cameras, their ability to function under varied light conditions is paramount.  Our experts at Perfect Connections, Inc. understand the importance of a surveillance system that doesn’t quit when the sun goes down.  We are a licensed security systems company that has been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.

What challenges do different lighting conditions pose to surveillance cameras?  The most obvious is the absence or lack of light.  Unless your cameras are True Day Night it is likely that they will not be able to pick up fine details in the lack of light.  Another common issue is the effect of light glare.  Problematic glare can come from car headlights to poorly placed exterior lighting fixtures.  Glare will disrupt the sensors in the video camera and the recorded footage can be rendered useless.  It is important to take lighting conditions into consideration when choosing and installing cameras as it will impact the overall effectiveness of your system.  What good is a camera that captures grainy unclear images or blanks out for seconds at a time?

Fortunately there have been vast improvements in the surveillance industry that are changing the game when it comes to light adaptation capabilities.  According to Greg Peratt, Senior Director of the Panasonic Video Solutions Integration Team, there are IP (Internet Protocol) cameras that can capture detailed footage in lighting less than .01 lux illumination.  Lux illumination is the metric measurement for how much light falls on an object.  A measurement of 1 lux, “equals the amount of light that falls on a one-square-meter surface that is one meter away from a single candle.”  Therefore a camera that can capture detailed images in less than .01 lux illumination is not only impressive, it’s advantageous.

Another helpful advancement in the case of low or varied light is the Infrared Cut-Filter Mechanism (IRCF).  This filter is automatically lifted or lowered in front of the camera’s sensor depending on the light levels.  The IRCF helps block out disruptive infrared light that can come from sunlight or certain lighting fixtures and it ultimately improves the camera’s low-light performance.  When light levels are low-typically at night-is when the filter is automatically lifted from in front of the sensor.  Cameras that have this feature are considered to have True Day Night capabilities.

The only hitch with this technology is color is often distorted or lost completely.  However, the camera is still able to capture a clear black and white image and according to Steve Carney it captures an image, “…that is not only vastly more usable but also cleaner without chroma noise.”  Carney points out another differentiator between True Day Night cameras and the impersonators is what happens when the IRCF is lifted or removed.  In a True Day Night camera a piece of “dummy” glass will take the place of the IRCF in order to maintain focus and, “minimize the spectral offset between visible and IR light.”  In other cameras the ability to remove such a filter doesn’t exist, therefore the full spectrum of visible and infrared light cannot be taken advantage of.

Other features to look for when considering Day Night cameras are the shutter speeds and any tinting on the camera housing.  Varying shutter speeds affect the amount of the light that is able to be captured.  The slower the shutter, the more light is captured which isn’t always better.  Often times a camera will come with a domed or “bubble” exterior housing.  These “bubbles” can sometimes be tinted.  Depending on your application you may or may not need tinting; sometimes the tint can have an adverse effect by decreasing visibility and obstructing image clarity.

Whether you are replacing older interior/exterior cameras or installing new, your best solution is to call on the experts.  Every business and facility is different which means each will have different requirements when it comes to day/nighttime surveillance.  Having a licensed security professional do an in person assessment of your facility will help determine what type of camera should be implemented and where.  Our team of licensed professionals at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses and facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We believe in personalized service that tailors solutions to your individualized needs.

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 West Midlands Police-Flickr-Creative Commons

How The IoT is Changing Physical Security

Jonathan Briggs-Network CableOur world is constantly changing and evolving.  Progression is an inevitable force that influences the way we live our daily lives.  This is especially true of advancements made in the techy devices we interact with on a daily basis.  Everything from our smartphones to our security systems.  It’s the manner in how we interact with all of these devices that is driving innovation and product design.  The internet and networking of devices is creating a connected environment that offers ultimate convenience and changes how we perceive the potential of security systems.

At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed integrators provide comprehensive security systems to businesses and homes throughout northern and central New Jersey.  We believe in installing quality systems that are in line with the best technological advancements the market has to offer.  This doesn’t mean we use the trendiest devices for the sake of being “trendy,” it means evaluating current products that will add value and provide a platform for future adaptation.  With the Internet of Things (IoT) it’s imperative to implement devices that are not only relevant but can stand the test of time, within reason.

The definition of the IoT can be summed up as, “the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing internet infrastructure without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”  This means devices that are able to “talk” to one another via an internet connection without third part interference.  An example would be a motion detector that automatically uploads a video clip to an authorized smartphone when it senses movement.  The IoT is influencing changes in security system components like video cameras, access controls, recording equipment, fire and burglar alarms, locks, and monitoring services.  The devices themselves are evolving but so is the manner in which end users and system operators interact with them.

A higher level of remote connectivity to security systems and their components is a result of the IoT.  End-users can now login to security systems and their devices via an app on their mobile device.  This would allow the business owner who is away on vacation to periodically check-in on the day-to-day by logging into their surveillance system on their smartphone.  The homeowner who forgot to lock their doors and arm their system can now do so remotely via a mobile device or computer.  Automated notifications can be setup to send an alert when an alarm is triggered, someone tries to gain entry without proper access credentials, when a camera or motion detector capture movement within their range; the possibilities are extensive and continue to be developed.

According to Steve Hausman, president of Hausman Technology Keynotes, we are still at the beginning of the “IoT revolution.”  Some research suggest by the year 2020 there will be over 30 billion wirelessly connected devices in operation.  With everything becoming more and more connected one has to wonder, what are the risks?  In this highly connected world, there is a plethora of data being recorded, stored, and shared but who has access and rights to this data?  Therein lies the problem.

As with anything connected to the internet, the risk of being hacked or stolen is inherent.  In the security world this would be a problem for IP cameras, cloud storage and recording solutions, networked access controls, and basically anything running on or connected to an internet network.  With that in mind, industry professionals and developers are continuously working on solutions to prevent and minimize vulnerability.

Hausman says, “Security standards need to be established and enforced at the design and manufacturing levels.  As the IoT evolves, we can also expect that society will not only adapt to its usefulness but come to expect that appropriate safeguards be implemented to ensure both privacy and security.”  Today, those “safeguards” are being provided by licensed security integrators who understand the risks associated with system automation and the IoT.  Often times this means strong encryptions for not only the network, but the connected devices as well.

The IoT isn’t something that’s going to disappear.  Its presence in the security industry will continue to shape the way manufacturers develop products and how they are implemented by security integrators.  As licensed professionals our integrators at Perfect Connections, Inc. provide comprehensive security system solutions to businesses and homes throughout northern and central New Jersey, and have been doing so for the past 23 years.  Our team has witnessed decades of advancements in the industry.  We realize it is our duty to continue our own education as well as offer knowledge to our customers when implementing new technologies and component counterparts.

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 Jonathan Briggs-Flickr-Creative Commons

Defining Edge Technology

Todd Huffman-SurveillanceWhen it comes to security systems you may have heard the term “edge technology,” “edge analytics,” or “edge devices.”  What exactly do these terms mean and why are they important?  When talking about security systems “the edge” is typically used when referring to video surveillance components.  Every security system integrator and industry professional will likely have their own definition of what it means, but in summary “edge technology” refers to surveillance devices that operate, analyze, and record at their source versus transmitting all that information over a network to the system’s core.  In traditional surveillance systems there is a central server where recorded data from peripheral devices is stored and analyzed.  In an edge-based system cameras perform these functions locally.

Why is this pertinent information?  Depending on your specific situation using edge-based technology can provide more efficient surveillance processes and enhance the overall effectiveness of your security system.  As every situation is subjective a licensed security systems integrator should always be consulted when determining what type of components will serve your business best.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed security system integrators are committed to providing comprehensive security systems that exceed your expectations.  We have been installing comprehensive security systems at businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We know how to assess your security needs and implement relevant technologies that will help keep business running as usual.

Surveillance components that can be considered on “the edge” are IP cameras, video encoders, and network attached storage (NAS) devices.  These devices have recently become more advanced and their capabilities that were once unique to the central server of the security system continue to improve.  According to Steve Gorski, general manager at Mobotix, “Edge-based surveillance solves the bottleneck problem by using the camera to decentralize intelligence and video data.”  This means the cameras themselves are more intelligent and effective.

Edge-based technologies allow for higher image resolutions and the ability to compress them without the loss image quality.  Even with the use of high resolution IP cameras becoming more commonplace, in a traditional system, the images still have to travel to the central server to be stored and typically compressed; this is where image quality can be lost.   Edge technology helps reduce the need for exorbitant storage space on the central server as many edge devices are capable of storing data locally on SD memory cards or NAS devices.  Traditionally these types of storage options were primarily used as backups for the system, but they can now be implemented as the main recording devices in smaller applications.  Cutting down on the need for centralized storage will reduce the need for high bandwidth consumption, ultimately cutting costs.

According to Fredrik Nilsson, general manager for Axis Communications, “It’s estimated today that a staggering 99 percent of all recorded surveillance video is deleted before it’s ever seen.”  How does that make surveillance useful?  It really doesn’t except for use in forensic investigations or after the fact viewing, but with edge-technologies providing intelligence and analytics at the source, detection capabilities increase which creates a more effective system.  With smarter edge devices that can detect patterns, motion, facial recognition, license plates, camera tampering, and people count, you can avoid potential catastrophe that could be caused by deleting recordings to free up space.  These types of analytics provide a platform for real-time viewing that can even be streamed to mobile devices, which are also often considered part of “the edge” realm.  The ultimate goal always being prevention and proactive approaches rather than delayed after the fact reactions.

With any technology “the edge” is a work in progress and will continue to evolve.  It seems edge devices are primarily implemented in smaller applications where the camera need is less than 20.  One of the reasons being a server-based surveillance system can run more analytics per camera because of the CPU power, so the more cameras you have the more processing power you’ll likely need.  For smaller facilities and businesses with remote locations that need surveillance, edge devices are a viable option as they provide real-time analytics, can store footage locally, and don’t require a ton of bandwidth consumption.

At Perfect Connections, Inc. we are committed to providing security system solutions that fit your specific needs.  Our team of licensed integrators has been providing comprehensive security system solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We realize that just because a new technology is available that doesn’t mean it is the appropriate solution to every problem.  Our integrators work with you to learn your needs and will design a custom system that addresses your subjective security risks.

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 Todd Huffman-Flickr-Creative Commons

What is Hybrid Surveillance?

Mike Mozart-surveillanceAs a business owner protecting your facility is always a top concern.  Are you getting the coverage you need?  If you have a comprehensive security system you’re already in a good position.  However, a security system is only as good as the sum of its parts.  One of the most crucial parts of a security system is the surveillance aspect.  Surveillance systems are the eyes that keep watch over your business even when you can’t.

Like any other technology surveillance equipment is constantly evolving through research and development that is meant to improve its efficiency.  In today’s IoT (Internet of Things) IP-based (Internet Protocol) systems are a driving force that is changing the role of surveillance in comprehensive security.  But not everyone is so keen on the uptake.  Prior to the inception of IP cameras and network devices the world was and has been dominated by analog cameras and DVR devices (Digital Video Recording).  If you have existing surveillance equipment, chances are it’s a legacy analog system.

While the IP surveillance trend is picking up, there are still more than 40 million analog cameras in operation around the world today.  Making the switch from analog to IP isn’t an easy transition for everyone and integrators have become increasingly aware.  Fortunately there are hybrid solutions that allow you to work with your existing analog infrastructure and start your migration to an IP-based system.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our team of licensed integrators work with you to provide comprehensive security solutions that meet your needs.  Our experts have been providing comprehensive security system solutions, including surveillance, to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for that past 23 years.  We recognize the value technology adds to the security systems we install and how they can benefit our customers.

Why replace an analog system?  To be fair, analog systems have filled a security need since the beginning of surveillance that would have otherwise gone unfulfilled.  But just like any technology, progress is always pushing the envelope of what is relevant and effective.  Look at smartphones, they are constantly evolving, every year a new model with new features that jettisons society forward.  While businesses aren’t necessarily turning over their surveillance systems at the same rate, the growing trend is leaning towards IP and network based solutions.

Hybrid solutions for companies that aren’t ready to make the full switch to IP just yet offer the benefits of a more effective system that will ease the transition when the time is right.  According to Mark Collett, general manager of Sony Security Systems Division, “With hybrid solutions, you can get the best of both worlds—the near-zero latency of analog plus IP’s HD imaging quality.”

Video encoders are the catalyst for the hybrid solution, replacing out of date and expensive DVRs.  DVRs were traditionally responsible for storing and recording footage captured by connected surveillance cameras.  According to James Marcella, a technologist in the security and IT industries, a video encoder is, “an open-platform technology that acts as a bridge between the analog and digital world by essentially turning an analog investment into IP cameras.”  Video encoders would allow you to make use of existing infrastructure by attaching to the coaxial cable from you analog system, transforming the analog signal into a digital stream.

Many industry experts consider DVRs to be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment the consumer will purchase, and they are typically outlived by the analog cameras.  Also, they are not dependable, if they go down so does the whole surveillance system, and this could happen at a critical moment.  Video encoders are capable of running on power over Ethernet that can be tied to a backup power supply, keeping you covered no matter what.  You can also employ redundancies like NAS devices (Network Attached Storage) and SD memory cards to help prevent recording loss.

DVRs lack the image resolution, edge intelligence, and network capabilities that a video encoder can offer.  The frames per second rate (fps) is what creates a smoother clearer image, the higher the better especially in high motion scenarios.  Video encoders are capable of capturing images at up to 60fps whereas DVRs only go up to 15fps.  DVR intelligence is typically limited to whatever the manufacturer specifications have been set to.  Video encoders open the door to third party intelligent applications which allow you to choose video management software from virtually any provider in the connected world.  This creates a platform for advanced video analytics.

There is a large storage and scalability disparity between DVRs and video encoders.  DVRs typically have a low tolerance for the quantity of cameras they can accommodate which can leave a business vulnerable by not being able to cover risky areas.  On the other hand video encoders offer virtually limitless retention by being highly scalable.  Video encoders have the ability to accommodate single cameras and there are some units that can accommodate up to 84 cameras making them a highly flexible and effective solution for a large or small facility.

The hybrid solution allows you to keep existing analog cameras and infrastructure and as the cameras die or warrant replacement, they can easily be swapped out for IP creating a smoother transition.  Remote monitoring is another benefit to opting for a hybrid solution.  This adds a level of security you can’t obtain from an analog system, being able to login to your surveillance system to see what is going on at your facility when you can’t be there.

Hybrid solutions are an economic and less disruptive option if you’re not fully committed to taking the IP plunge, even though progress will continue to push us in that direction.  If you opt for a hybrid solution or aren’t sure what to do always consult a licensed professional to ensure proper application and installation.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed integrators have been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We can guide you through the process of creating a system that meets your specific needs, from an initial assessment to final installation.

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 Mike Mozart-Flickr-Creative Commons

Healthcare Climate and Security

Healthcare-NEC Corp of AmericaHealthcare facilities pose a unique security situation.  By nature they hold a lot of risk other organizations don’t necessarily have to deal with.  Most healthcare facilities are open to the public and provide care for a vast array of people on a daily basis.  Many facilities also house expensive and often sought after narcotics or medications.  Also, recent changes to healthcare policies are having an effect on everyday operations and their implications may not be fully realized yet.  These factors combined with the unpredictability of patient and public behavior make healthcare facilities particularly sensitive environments that require special attention when it comes to security.

As licensed security system integrators our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. understands the changing healthcare climate is producing security risks that need to be addressed.  We have been providing comprehensive security system solutions to facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  Protecting the integrity of any healthcare facility is crucial to the safety of not only its patients and the general public, but medical staff as well.

Unfortunately, healthcare facilities are no strangers to criminal activity.  The 2012 Crime and Security Trends Survey, based on responses from 208 healthcare organizations across the United States, showed that incidents of crime at healthcare facilities are on the rise.  In just two years from 2010 to 2012 these incidents rose 37% from a reported 15,000 to more than 20,500.  Keep in mind these were reported events.  The US Department of Justice estimates that at least half of the crimes committed go unreported.  A reason organizations fail to report disturbances is at least partially due to the fact that they don’t want to look bad in the public eye and potentially lose patronage.

There are many contributing factors to the rise in criminal incidents at healthcare facilities.  For one, many facilities are open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which can leave them vulnerable.  Outside disputes sometimes spill into the healthcare environment causing disturbances and putting staff and patients at risk.  Many facilities house pharmaceuticals which can attract substance abusers and drug dealers, increasing the risk of narcotic theft and violence.  Another security issue facilities face is when their real estate expands.  When healthcare organizations acquire new facilities it can be difficult to create consistency in mitigating risks and instituting security protocols, especially across sprawling campuses.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA also known as “Obamacare”) poses a not so obvious concern when it comes to healthcare security.  How can a healthcare policy affect security you ask?  According to James Barbour, Market Research Analyst on the Kratos PSS Marketing Team, the ACA will undoubtedly have implications on healthcare budgets.  He says, “Hospitals will guard their budgets cautiously, and security—traditionally viewed as a cost center—will feel the pinch.”  Experts also estimate a rise in patient volume due to more people being insured.  This has the potential to overwhelm facilities that are already stretched too thin due to budget cuts.  The repercussions of the ACA have not been fully realized in general, however security integrators and healthcare professionals should be thinking about ways to effectively and economically manage the risks associated with the healthcare environment.

Often times a healthcare facility will employ physical security guards to help ensure the safety of their staff and patients.  However, in the changing economy and in light of policy changes we know security may be faced with spending challenges.  Security guards may be on the chopping block when it comes to budget costs, so how can facilities make up for the lack of physical security?  Implement comprehensive security systems that include access controls, surveillance, monitoring and notification systems, and lockdown capabilities.

Access control systems can help limit who can gain entry to specific areas of your facility.  This would help in sensitive areas, like pharmaceutical storage and data centers.  According to Joe Liguori, president of the Board of Directors Security-Net, “healthcare facilities are finding that there is a long-term cost savings by implementing access control for storage and supply closets, for example, eliminating the need to change locks and replace lost or stolen keys.”  Access control can also help decrease or eliminate theft.  By using different methods like card readers, fobs, or sometimes biometrics credentials are harder to duplicate or steal making it easier for medical staff to focus on what is most important, their patients.

In addition to access control, surveillance plays a key role in crime prevention and overall safety.  Security cameras allow an organization to have eyes across their entire facility including areas that often go unprotected like parking lots/garages.  Having a monitored security system, especially in regards to surveillance, helps alert the proper authorities faster in an emergency.  In tandem with a monitoring service, a mass notification system can notify the right personnel in an emergency or dangerous situation as it is occurring.  Being notified of an event as it happens would allow for immediate action and hopefully prevent further damage.  This is where lockdown capabilities would be beneficial as well.  All it would take is the touch of a single button from a facility member, and part or all of a building could be shut down.  This is a particularly beneficial feature that can keep a perpetrator out of certain areas in high risk scenarios.  Fortunately, lockdown capabilities can sometimes be easily integrated with existing access control features.

While crime statistics can seem daunting, it’s important to remember that many, if not most, healthcare facilities are generally considered safe.  However, as a healthcare professional or facilities manager it behooves one to consider the risks specific to their organization and how they can be mitigated.  As security system integrators, our licensed team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security solutions to healthcare facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  Just like your patients, we know that no two facilities are exactly the same and that it takes an individualized approach to solve specific needs.

If you live or run a healthcare facility 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 NEC Corporation of America-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

Can My Cameras See In The Dark?

West Midlands Police-Infrared FootageNot all surveillance cameras are created equally.  It may seem as simple as selecting a surveillance camera and popping it into place, but what about the external factors that affect the quality of recorded images?  One of the top concerns for industry professionals and end-users alike is a cameras ability to function in the dark or varied light conditions.  Whether you’re using interior or external cameras, their ability to function under varied light conditions is paramount.  Our experts at Perfect Connections, Inc. understand the importance of a surveillance system that doesn’t quit when the sun goes down.  We are a licensed security systems company that has been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.

What challenges do different lighting conditions pose to surveillance cameras?  The most obvious is the absence or lack of light.  Unless your cameras are True Day Night it is likely that they will not be able to pick up fine details in the lack of light.  Another common issue is the effect of light glare.  Problematic glare can come from car headlights to poorly placed exterior lighting fixtures.  Glare will disrupt the sensors in the video camera and the recorded footage can be rendered useless.  It is important to take lighting conditions into consideration when choosing and installing cameras as it will impact the overall effectiveness of your system.  What good is a camera that captures grainy unclear images or blanks out for seconds at a time?

Fortunately there have been vast improvements in the surveillance industry that are changing the game when it comes to light adaptation capabilities.  According to Greg Peratt, Senior Director of the Panasonic Video Solutions Integration Team, there are IP (Internet Protocol) cameras that can capture detailed footage in lighting less than .01 lux illumination.  Lux illumination is the metric measurement for how much light falls on an object.  A measurement of 1 lux, “equals the amount of light that falls on a one-square-meter surface that is one meter away from a single candle.”  Therefore a camera that can capture detailed images in less than .01 lux illumination is not only impressive, it’s advantageous.

Another helpful advancement in the case of low or varied light is the Infrared Cut-Filter Mechanism (IRCF).  This filter is automatically lifted or lowered in front of the camera’s sensor depending on the light levels.  The IRCF helps block out disruptive infrared light that can come from sunlight or certain lighting fixtures and it ultimately improves the camera’s low-light performance.  When light levels are low-typically at night-is when the filter is automatically lifted from in front of the sensor.  Cameras that have this feature are considered to have True Day Night capabilities.

The only hitch with this technology is color is often distorted or lost completely.  However, the camera is still able to capture a clear black and white image and according to Steve Carney it captures an image, “…that is not only vastly more usable but also cleaner without chroma noise.”  Carney points out another differentiator between True Day Night cameras and the impersonators is what happens when the IRCF is lifted or removed.  In a True Day Night camera a piece of “dummy” glass will take the place of the IRCF in order to maintain focus and, “minimize the spectral offset between visible and IR light.”  In other cameras the ability to remove such a filter doesn’t exist, therefore the full spectrum of visible and infrared light cannot be taken advantage of.

Other features to look for when considering Day Night cameras are the shutter speeds and any tinting on the camera housing.  Varying shutter speeds affect the amount of the light that is able to be captured.  The slower the shutter, the more light is captured which isn’t always better.  Often times a camera will come with a domed or “bubble” exterior housing.  These “bubbles” can sometimes be tinted.  Depending on your application you may or may not need tinting; sometimes the tint can have an adverse effect by decreasing visibility and obstructing image clarity.

Whether you are replacing older interior/exterior cameras or installing new, your best solution is to call on the experts.  Every business and facility is different which means each will have different requirements when it comes to day/nighttime surveillance.  Having a licensed security professional do an in person assessment of your facility will help determine what type of camera should be implemented and where.  Our team of licensed professionals at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses and facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  We believe in personalized service that tailors solutions to your individualized needs.

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 West Midlands Police-Flickr-Creative Commons

How Can You Tell Which Facility Is Best?

Elderly-Sima DimitricAssisted living facilities are a way our aging community can be cared for and maintain a sense of independence.  As a caregiver you can never be too careful or particular when searching for geriatric care for a loved one.  They’re your family and you want them to be cared for as well as they cared for you.  That begs the question how do you know that the facility you’re looking at is the right one for your loved one?

There are many factors to consider when searching for a facility including the health and mental state of your loved one.  Knowing what type of care they will need is important and will help narrow the scope.  A critical feature that you should always be looking for is the security.  How does the facility protect its residents?  What security features are in place to ensure their safety?  As a leading security system provider our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security systems to healthcare facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.  We understand how important safety and security is to not only the facility but families as well.

What to look for

The physical structure, layout, and interior design of a facility can say a lot.  Any new facility will likely be built with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) design standards in mind.  For example, this means bathrooms will accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.  It’s the older facilities that you’ll want to tour thoroughly to be sure they’ve either made renovations or accommodations for wheelchair bound and handicapped individuals.  This is extremely important for people with limited mobility, you want to be sure they’ll be able to get around with minimal struggle.  Keep an eye out for aesthetic details that could pose a risk like area rugs, high-pile carpeting, outdated and potentially dangerous flooring as these features can increase the chances of slipping or falling.

Is there a check-in desk? This is an important security feature that will help protect residents because it will prevent random visitors from entering unnoticed.  Visitors and guests should be required to sign-in with photo identification to help prevent unauthorized entrance.  Without a check-in/sign-in desk or area anyone could just wander in or out leaving the facility, staff, and residents at risk.  Having a designated area will act as an added form of access control for the facility.

Does the facility have a surveillance system?  Surveillance is a key component to any security system.  It would help monitor residents, staff, and visitors.  Surveillance equipment can be particularly helpful in the case of elderly abuse or missing/wandering residents.  It can help provide timelines and proof in the case of abuse, missing/wandering residents, or unauthorized visitors.  Obviously the goal is to avoid all of these things, but surveillance is an added layer of security that helps provide a peace of mind and encourages people to be on their best behavior.

Is there a monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarm system and what is the facility’s emergency plan?  Having an emergency plan that staff is fully trained and experienced in is vital to the safety and survival of a facility’s residents.  As an emergency consulting firm points out, “Assisted living facilities face greater difficulties than any other business when it comes time to respond to a disaster. Residents are often disabled, suffer from reduced mobility, and may not respond to instruction as expected.”  Part of an emergency plan includes being prepared for unpredictable events such as a fire, earthquake, or hurricane etc.  Being prepared means having a plan of action that all staff and personnel have tested and understand.  Assisted living facilities should have monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarms systems, this will ensure the quickest response time from local emergency and authority crews and help prevent potentially life threatening situations.  Each facility has to adhere to local fire codes and requirements as well.

While looking for an assisted living facility for your loved one may seem like a daunting task, knowing what to look for will help alleviate some of struggle.  As a facility owner having everything in order can be taxing, but it’s essential to the safety and security of your staff, facility, and most importantly the people in your care.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our team of experts has been providing comprehensive security solutions to healthcare facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992.  While no system is perfect, having a comprehensive one will greatly decrease the risk of catastrophe and help prepare you, your staff, and residents in the event of an emergency.  It’ll provide you and your clients with a peace of mind that is hard to obtain from anything else.

If you live or run a facility 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.

For further information and questions you should ask when looking for an assisted living facility the links below can help:

Top 10 Safety Hazards in Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted Living Facilities.org

Assisted Living Community Evaluation Checklist

Image Credit: Image by Sima Dimitric-Flickr-Creative Commons