A selection of IP cameras
|Invented by||Axis Communications|
|First product||Axis Neteye 200|
|Type||Centralized or Decentralized|
|Slots||SD Card (optional)|
|Ports||Ethernet, Audio, I/O block|
|Language||ONVIF and PSIA|
An Internet Protocol camera, or IP camera, is a type of digital video camera that receives control data and sends image data via an IP network. They are commonly used for surveillance but unlike analog closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, they require no local recording device, only a local area network. Most IP cameras are webcams, but the term IP camera or netcam usually applies only to those that can be directly accessed over a network connection, usually used for surveillance.
Some IP cameras require support of a central network video recorder (NVR) to handle the recording, video and alarm management. Others are able to operate in a decentralized manner with no NVR needed, as the camera is able to record directly to any local or remote storage media. The first centralized IP camera was Axis Neteye 200, released in 1996 by Axis Communications.
The first centralized IP camera, the Axis Neteye 200, was released in 1996 by Axis Communications and was developed by the team of Martin Gren and Carl-Axel Alm. Though promoted based on its direct accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection, the camera couldn't stream real-time motion video. It was limited to a snapshot image each time the camera was accessed. At the time of launch, it was considered incapable of operating as a motion camera due to what was at the time, "enormous" bandwidth requirements. Thus it was aimed primarily at the tourism industry. The Axis Neteye 200 was not intended to replace traditional analogue CCTV systems, given that its capability was limited to just one frame per second in Common Intermediate Format (CIF), or one every 17 seconds in 4CIF resolution, with a maximum resolution quality of 0.1MP (352x288). Axis used a custom proprietary web server named OSYS, yet by the summer of 1998, it had started porting the camera software to Linux. Axis also released documentation for its low-level application programming interface (API) called VAPIX, which builds on the open standards of HTTP and real time streaming protocol (RTSP). This open architecture was intended to encourage third-party software manufacturers to develop compatible management and recording software.
The first decentralized IP camera was released in 1999 by Mobotix. The camera's Linux system contained video, alarm, and recording management functions. In 2005, the first IP camera with onboard video content analytics (VCA) was released by Intellio. This camera was able to detect a number of different events, such as if an object was stolen, a human crossed a line, a human entered a predefined zone, or if a car moved in the wrong direction.
Previous generations of analog CCTV cameras use established broadcast television formats (e.g. CIF, NTSC, PAL, and SECAM). Since 2000, there has been a shift in the consumer TV business towards high-definition (HD) resolutions (e.g. 1080P (Full-HD), 4K resolution (Ultra-HD) and 16:9 widescreen format).
IP cameras may differ from one another in resolution, features, video encoding schemes, available network protocols, and the API for video management software. IP cameras are available at resolutions from 0.3 (VGA resolution) to 29 megapixels.
To address IP video surveillance standardization issues, two industry groups formed in 2008: the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA). PSIA was founded by 20 member companies including Honeywell, GE Security, and Cisco. ONVIF was founded by Axis Communications, Bosch and Sony. Each group now has numerous additional members, thus; cameras and recording hardware that operate under the same standard can work with each other.
Wi-Fi home camera
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Many consumer-level IP cameras used for home security send a live video stream to a companion app on the user’s phone. IP cameras in the home generally connect to the internet through Wi-Fi, Broadband, or Ethernet cable.
IP cameras used to be more common in small businesses than in homes, but that is no longer the case. A 2016 survey of 2,000 Americans revealed 20% of them owned home security cameras.
This crossover of IP cameras to home use is partly due to the device’s self-installation. IP cameras don’t require professional installation, saving time for home and business owners. On the other hand, large businesses and commercial spaces, like malls, require high-resolution videos (i.e., 4K), many cameras, and professional applications to accommodate the installation and management of the cameras.
One of the most popular abilities that Wi-Fi home security cameras have is to view their camera footage via a mobile app or other application software. Many cameras offer features such as a wide-angle lens (around 140 degrees, or pan/tilt up to 350 degrees horizontal, 90 degrees vertical), low-light or night vision, and motion detection. When an event occurs, such as detected motion, users can receive alarms and notifications via an app. Video clips can be stored in a local device such as a micro-SD or through a cloud service.
The market size of home security systems reached $4.8 billion dollars in 2018. It had a compound annual growth rate of 22.4% between 2011 and 2018. People in countries that suffer from high crime rates, particularly robbery and theft, are keen to adopt home security cameras. In addition, two countries, the US and China, have a high implementation rate of residential security cameras.
Major key players in the home security market are Nest (owned by Google, U.S.), Ring (owned by Amazon, U.S.), Arlo (owned by Netgear, U.S.), and SimpliSafe (U.S.). Hikvision Digital Technology (Ltd.) and Leshi Video Tech (China) are the largest IP camera manufacturers. As for the alarm security industry, key players are ADT, Security Services (U.S.), Vivint (U.S.), and Frontpoint Security Solutions (U.S.).
IP camera types
Indoor cameras are widely used both residentially and commercially. Depending on their functionality, they're classified as a fixed camera or a pan–tilt–zoom camera (PTZ camera). Fixed cameras are generally used to monitor a set of areas, whereas a PTZ camera can be used to either track motion or manually adjust the monitoring area.
Outdoor wired cameras, also known as AC powered cameras, are placed in outdoor environments. They are designed to survive weather conditions, such as heat, cold, and rain, and are generally capable of capturing video in low light conditions. They are often rated IP65/IP67 standards to withstand the outdoor environment.
Cloud and local storage
Source: Some camera manufacturers offer cloud subscriptions where users may remotely view and download recent video clips by paying recurring subscription fees. Cloud subscription plans typically come with several days of looping storage, and the videos will be overwritten beyond this duration.
Some cameras include a micro SD card slot so users may store videos locally. There is no looping as long as the memory card has sufficient space to store the images. However, locally stored video footage can not be accessed remotely.
Previous generation cameras transmitted analog video signals. IP cameras send images digitally using the transmission and security features of the TCP/IP protocol. Advantages to this approach include:
- Two-way audio via a single network cable allows users to listen to and speak to the subject of the video (e.g., a clerk assisting a customer through step-by-step instructions)
- Use of a Wi-Fi or wireless network
- Distributed artificial intelligence (DAI)—as the camera can contain video analytics that analyze images
- Secure data transmission through encryption and authentication methods such as WPA or WPA2, TKIP or AES
- Remote accessibility that lets users view live video from any device with sufficient access privileges
- Power over Ethernet (PoE) to supply power through the Ethernet cable and operate without a dedicated power supply
- Better image Resolution, typically four times the resolution of an analog camera
Artificial intelligence and Internet privacy
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed privacy concerns if AI is widely practiced. AI is capable of tracking movements and studying behaviors; moreover, AI can also recognize emotions, and further predict patterns of movement. 
Facial recognition system
Facial recognition identifies a human face by analyzing facial features from a picture or video, an example of biometrics. If a camera allows users to set up a database that includes family members and close friends, the system may distinguish whether someone exists in the database. If the camera is capable of providing accurate facial recognition, it can tell if the person it detects is authorized (in the database). The detection of unauthorized persons may prompt the owner to call law enforcement. The footage can be used as a means of identifying and apprehending offenders.
- Privacy concerns
- Average higher purchase cost per camera
- Security can be compromised by insecure credentials, given that the camera can be accessed independently of a video recorder.
- Public internet connection video can be complicated to set up or using the peer-to-peer (P2P) network.
- Data storage capacity concerns
If the video is transmitted over the public internet rather than a private network or intranet, the system potentially becomes open to a wider audience including hackers. Criminals can hack into a CCTV system to disable or manipulate them or observe security measures and personnel, thereby facilitating criminal acts and rendering the surveillance counterproductive. This can be counteracted by ensuring the network and device and other devices connected to the main router are secured. In 2012, users of 4chan hacked into thousands of streaming personal IP cameras by exploiting a vulnerability in some models of Trendnet home security cameras. In 2014, it was reported that a site indexed 73,011 locations worldwide with security cameras that used default usernames and passwords, and were therefore, unprotected.
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