Convergence Channel: Setting Sights on Site Surveys

As a general rule, the more technology improves, the easier it is to implement and use. Morse code telegraphs that only a few people were trained to use gave way to the ubiquitous telephone.

Taking the time to pick the right camera and lens combination will make for a smoother install, a happier customer, and reduce the need for return visits. Oh, and by the way, as I’ve mentioned in this column several times in the past, the front of an IP camera is exactly the same as an analog camera. Lenses and focal lengths need to be selected the same way.

Taming Great Outdoors, and In
One aspect of a site survey and system design that is frequently overlooked is the environment itself. Not only conditions like temperature and weather extremes, but also physical aspects of the environment.

I was recently out at a customer site looking at a parking lot through the view of some cameras. The customer said the view was good now, but in the spring, when the tree bloomed, you couldn’t see anything. The system was apparently installed in the winter when all the trees were bare. Please remember, trees grow! Those newly planted saplings will become towering oaks in a few years. Make sure they won’t impede your view now, or ever.


Physical obstructions aren’t only limited to the outdoors. Warehouses are notorious for large shelving and stacks of product. What’s worse is these shelves and piles of stuff are subject to reconfiguration at any time. Make sure your camera placement is high enough so that it doesn’t get blocked by that stack of boxes.

It seems obvious to take things like that into consideration, but I can tell you it doesn’t always happen that way. In times like we are experiencing today, the need to get in and out of a project quickly becomes very important to the bottom line, but we can’t let it compromise the integrity of our system design.

IP Simplifies Cabling, Power Needs
For the system design expert, the biggest impact of IP convergence would be in the cabling arena. Remember that the front of the camera is the same and the camera/lens principles are the same, regardless of the transmission method.

With analog, you essentially planned to home-run all of your cable to a central point. While that topology can certainly be used in a network-based system, one of the true benefits of IP is being able to run the camera’s cable back to the nearest intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closet on each floor. These IDF closets will usually connect via network backbone to the main distribution frame (MDF), where the servers, phone system and outside connections reside.

Being able to run back to a local IDF not only saves cable, but also time and labor for the pulls. There are strict rules now for running network infrastructure in buildings, and if you haven’t already invested time in learning about Building Industry Consulting Service Int’l (BICSI), I would. More and more consultants (and even many end users) are requiring contractors to have BICSI certifications.

Another big IP benefit is power. In an analog site design, you used to have to find a place for the big box camera power supply on the wall, and then make sure it was within a reasonable distance from your cameras. Now, most of the new IP cameras (if not all) of them are able to utilize power over Ethernet (PoE). This allows you to get your camera power from the network switch it is attached to, eliminating the need for the external transformer.

Putting the 5 P’s Into Action
Most of us have heard the old saying, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance,” and nowhere is it more applicable than planning out a video security system. Taking time upfront to make sure your survey is complete and accurate will save great amounts of time and energy for your installers, making both your and the end user’s bottom line better.

MCSE- and CCNA-certified Steve Payne has 15 years
of industry experience, presently serving as Western Regional Sales Manager for Connections IT.

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