The UPS and Downs of Camera Power Supplies

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that innovation seemed in short supply at ISC West this year. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything new, just that you had to dig further to find it. So, digging I went …

Case in point was a new line of camera power supplies from Altronix that include battery backup. This is a natural extension of a product line and is far more efficient than the usual method of plugging the multi-drop supply into an off-the-shelf UPS often purchased for the occasion at the local office supply superstore. The supplies do not include batteries; the integrator must furnish them and, therefore, has the ability to select battery type based on run-time. It’s a great idea, simplifies the installation by eliminating another box (the standalone UPS), and we plan to include it on our future specifications.

This raises the often-asked question of “how much UPS run time is enough?” In our view, 20 minutes is sufficient in most cases, particularly where there are generators in place that will kick on. Remember, in most areas the power is pretty stable. When it goes out it will only be out for a short duration, and if it’s out for longer than 15 minutes or so, something catastrophic has happened and it’s going to be out for hours. That’s not to say you can’t go for longer run times in specific applications. In fact, that’s really easy to do; just oversize the UPS.

We’ve got an interesting application that does just that, but in a planned deployment. Two of our recent specifications for malls in California and Arizona included parking lot cameras with wireless communication to the building. The problem is that these are existing properties, the cameras will be hung on existing light poles, and power to the poles is cut off during daylight hours from a central location. Rather than going to the expense of running power, we’ve asked the integrators to install an oversized UPS at each location, sufficient to power the camera and Wi-Fi transmitter during daylight hours. At night, the power sent to the pole (stepped down to 120VAC) will recharge the UPS and run the equipment, and to accomplish this we need roughly a 14-hour run time. That’s not difficult to do given the minimal current requirements of the camera and associated equipment.

The application described above is a good example of using existing equipment technology in an innovative, application specific way, much like Altronix has done. My first thought was “why didn’t someone think of that sooner?” If someone did, shame on me for just noticing it.


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About the Author


Bob Grossman has held positions in all areas of the security industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! Bob has authored articles for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION and other publications and has spoken at numerous industry events both internationally and in the United States. Currently the founder and president of R. Grossman and Associates, a consulting firm, he divides his time between project-based work for large integrated systems and product consulting for a variety of cutting-edge manufacturers. For more information, visit

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