Security Camera Mysteries: What is an IP Camera?
Are you interested in setting up a security system in your home or business but not sure which camera to get? Here's one article that you absolutely must read before heading to the shopping sites!
Some are fairly traditional and consist of a video camera that's connected to a monitor (it acts as a kind of special television) by means of a TV cable and that's about it.
Other systems can be far more complex, which is where the ones that feature IP cameras come in, for these high-tech gizmos have really opened up the capabilities of systems equipped with them.
More commonly, an IP camera is usually just referred to as an "Internet camera."
That's because it makes use of the same Internet protocols to send and receive information that most anything else related to the net does.
The first of these cameras was introduced back in 1996, and it had a Linux-based computer inside the camera. Linux is what's called "open source" software that's used in free operating systems (you use Linux instead of Windows, for instance).
The "computer" in the camera back then was small enough and it was intended and operated solely for the purpose of taking the images captured by the camera and sending them along an Internet pathway (network) to a designated "IP address," where it would be decrypted and the reconverted by into a usable image.
It sounds much more complex than it really is.
Most of the IP cameras that are used in a surveillance system come with proprietary software which their owners can install on their computers and which will allow only them to access the images being sent across the Internet.
It's even possible to pull up the images using a standard Web browser because each camera can be assigned its own URL (Universal Resource Locator) and which will only send signals to designated IP addresses (each computer has a unique IP address assigned to it).
The greatest single advantage to an IP camera-equipped system is that the viewing area being sent by the camera can be sent literally anywhere in the world where Internet access is available.
Consider that a homeowner on vacation in Bali could go to a local Internet cafe, log in and access his camera system way back in Nashua, New Hampshire.
This is truly an impressive achievement.
Keep in mind that an IP camera system, by its computer-based nature and the fact that it depends on networks, can be more technologically complex to set up and then maintain.
It also depends on the strength and reliability of the Internet network through which it'll be sending its data (digital, not analog and totally through the Internet, not via means of broadcast).
In the grand scheme of things, though, these are minor quibbles.
A prospective purchaser of one of these systems should look at what sort of software (open source, like Linux, or more traditional, like Windows) the IP camera will be providing and whether or not they have the ability to maneuver around in cyberspace, because IP camera systems require a little bit more familiarity with Internet protocols than just booting up a computer and clicking on a web browser.
Other than that -- and a higher cost than more traditional systems -- there's not much to dislike about them so it is worth investigating as a security option today.
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