Should you wire up your camera system or utilize wireless technology? This is the question we will be going over today. It's a highly debated topic among security professionals. I will do my best to go over them individually and make cases for both solutions. I will be mainly talking about Wired and Wireless solutions for IP cameras specifically since some of the technologies I'm going to be referring to are only possible with IP cameras.
Wiring the camera is a simple concept; essentially you would be physically running a wire from the camera back to the Network. (With an IP camera this is most commonly cat5e.) The reason I say the 'Network' and not a 'Recorder' is because the camera will send the data through the network to the designated recorder. Cat5e is an extremely versatile wire and allows for simultaneously transmitting not only the video signal, but audio and power as well. This makes installation rather straight forward and easy. Since we are physically running a wire from the camera back to the network this makes for an extremely reliable connection as long as the wire isn't damaged.
You can instantly see the limitation of having to run a physical wire from the camera back to the network: what if the ideal spot for the camera is in a spot that is incredibly hard to run a wire to, or not even possible? Well that's where Wireless technology can help depending on the situation.
If you were to listen to marketing then you would think that Wireless is extremely easy and would be vastly superior compared to wiring a camera. This couldn't be further from the truth. What most people don't realize is that there is more than one type of wireless; you have "WiFi" cameras and then point to point wireless links. I'm going to cover these individually because they are vastly different.
A "WiFi" camera typically has the wireless transceiver built into the camera. This is what you will find typically in a WiFi doorbell, or other standalone wireless solutions. They utilize your existing WiFi transmission to get on your network. These aren't bad options for a look-in camera to make sure your parents or kids are doing well. The first issue that arises is the fact that you will need to run a power line to that camera, so your "wireless" camera isn't truly wireless, unless it's battery powered, but then you'll have to recharge/replace batteries. When the cameras are battery powered they are generally event driven and have small recording times. The second issue is the WiFi itself. First and foremost you will be limited to the range of your WiFi; a high definition security camera would require a certain signal strength to maintain HD qualities. This means that the camera would have to be relatively close to the WiFi Access Point/Router. The other problem and the real reason I advise against this type of camera is because WiFi works at half duplex, meaning only one device can speak at a time. If you have a production WiFi network where people will be working, streaming, making phone calls etc all connected to this same WiFi network then you will experience decreased performance and lack luster reliability. I would not suggest more than a few "WiFi" cameras on a single network and would definitely not rely on them for security purposes, but perhaps as a "nanny" camera.
Getting into the second type of "Wireless" is a point to point solution. This solution is the preferred method of installing wireless cameras and can excel at great distances. That is, as long as it has a relatively clear line of sight and you have power at both locations. Essentially, a point to point wireless solution means that you have two or more antennas connected directly to each other with an antenna that is either directional or semi-directional, depending on the distance and application. It can get more complicated than that depending on what you're trying to do, such as multiple buildings going back to a central building; that would require a semi-directional antenna going back to an omni-directional antenna or potentially even multiple pairs of semi-directional antennas. With this type of wireless you will actually be using cameras purchased separately because these antennas just transmit data and do not have video capabilities built in. And that brings up an interesting point as well; IP cameras digitizes their images into thousands of individual packets called data. Since the antennas are transmitting data, rather than a raw video feed, this allows us to actually put multiple cameras on a single antenna. The number and resolution of the cameras will depend on the throughput of the antennas. Because we are dedicating antennas for the cameras we eliminate the problem found with "WiFi" cameras that bottleneck our entire production network with so much traffic. Since we are tailoring the antenna type to the application we also eliminate the limitations of omni-directional antennas. Keep in mind that to install this type of solution it would require a some-what knowledgeable tech to choose the correct antennas and set them up according to the requirements of the cameras.
As you can tell, the problem with wireless systems isn't wireless itself, it's actually the choice of antennas. Omnidirectional antennas like the ones built into AP's and Routers aren't suited for constant high data throughput at virtually any distance more than 50ft, they don't have the power or throughput necessary to support multiple HD security cameras. Ontop of that when you add every day normal internet traffic through the same frequency it can severely impact performance.
In closing, wireless options can be just as reliable as wired systems, but it does take knowledge to be done properly. With that being said, I would never recommend a camera that connects wirelessly to an existing WiFi network in a commercial setting. This will not only impact your wireless network performance, but the camera will not perform reliably, either. If you are a homeowner and want to add one or two cameras to keep an eye on your kids, then a WiFi camera will be just fine. However, as a homeowner, if you are looking for a security camera for protection I would advise going with the most reliable method of hard-wiring the system so you do not have to worry about signal strength or battery power.
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