Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let the Recorder Beware

Contributed by Virginia

These premises are under video surveillance
Convenience stores post this no nonsense warning at their front doors. Banks who display a height chart at their exit door are indirectly issuing the same warning.

This conversation may be recorded for training purposes.
Most if not all companies and utilities issue this warning before connecting a customer to a representative.

Surveillance is a given these days. In most cases the camera warnings are intended to warn the “bad guys”, and the recording notice is for “the rest of us.” The majority of people take these messages as givens and the concept rarely registers. A few however will protest that to record the conversation is unconstitutional and violates their rights under the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This provision was ratified by Congress and added to the U.S. Constitution on December 15, 1791. Over the years, its scope has been the target of arguments and interpretations in courts high and low all the way up to The Supreme Court. But two hundred and ten years later the events of one day, September 11, 2001 blunted resistance to surveillance literally over night.

It’s hard to venture out in 2011 without your presence being documented on someone’s surveillance tape. Airports, parking garages, parking lots, building lobbies and elevators, stores of every kind, hospitals, parks, you name it, cameras are in use. Washington DC, among other locales, is in the midst of creating a city wide surveillance system, consolidating and integrating more than 5,000 cameras already deployed independently by multiple district entities. When completed nearly 5.6 million people will be monitored daily.

The post-9/11 era has provided fertile ground for the development of more sophisticated, more affordable systems. The sales of IP video surveillance systems are on the rise. IMS Research reports that 2010 sales grew by 10% over the previous year with the market for IP Cameras growing almost three times as fast as the total surveillance market.

Yet let us not forget that while this shift in our sensitivity has been cultural, it has not been legal. One question needs to be asked. In our heightened vigilance against terrorism and crime, are we undermining privacy rights? Are we out and out breaking the law? Systems integrators need to stop and think about this as well.

Audio recordings fall under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The ECPA is an amendment to Title lll of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (the Wiretap Act) extending restrictions on wiretaps beyond phone calls to include electronic data transmissions. As written, it protects wire, oral, and electronic communications as they are being made, are in transit, or when they are stored on computers. It applies to email, telephone conversations, and data stored electronically.
So how does this apply in the real world? As mentioned before, in most municipalities, if you leave your house you’re going to end up on a video recording somewhere, and that’s that. But any conversation you may be having is still considered private. For the most part, business owners are okay if they display camera warning signs but the same is not true when it comes to audio recording. They can videotape all they want, but they are on thin ice when it comes to audio recording. Federal law permits very few exceptions to the rule. This brings up the question of that taping warning you hear while on hold awaiting customer service. What of it?

State laws cover the recordings of telephone conversations and this is where it becomes complicated. Each state has its own particular wording but it boils down to the need for one party or two party consent. One party consent requires the recording party to inform the other party that she is being recorded. Two party consent goes one step further and requires the recorded party to give consent. Under ether law if a person stays on the line it is implied consent. Thirty eight states and the District of Columbia are one party states while twelve states, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington require both parties to consent.

Audio capability is not a problem if it is not being recorded; for example when a video camera is being used to monitor entrance to a facility. In this scenario an intercom with a call button is located at an electronically locked door. Both the button and the intercom are connected to an IP camera. In most cases the audio is not recorded. You can use a standard web browser (like Internet Explorer) to view and talk to the person at the door or you can use Video Management Software that supports two-way audio. For example, ONSSI offers Ocularis software tying this all together, displaying the video, (recording it if required) as well as allowing the person at the computer to talk to the person at the door. When the button is pushed a signal on a dedicated computer sounds and the video from the entrance camera is displayed on its monitor. After conferring with the visitor via the intercom, the security officer if he so wishes, pushes a release button that unlocks the door.

However the issue is so complex that many manufacturers are loath to even offer audio recording capability. End-users are wise to remember that if they record audio there is the possibility that they may face legal issues and integrators should keep in mind they may be implicated as well. Seeking legal advice beforehand might be a wise precaution.

If you need help with a system that includes audio, just contact us and we will help you define the right system. We can be reached at 914-944-3425 or 1-800-431-1658 (in the USA), or use our contact form.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No Drive Thru Window at Kintronics

Everyone is familiar with the drive thru window, even if they’ve never frequented one. We’ve all seen the lines of cars, inching forward one at a time toward the intercom at the side of the building, be it MacDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, etc. A brightly lit menu displays the variations and prices of the tacos, burgers, or fried chicken, but for the most part, drivers and riders already know what they want, and are ready to place their orders as soon as they hear the voice bark from the speaker order please!

Sounds simple right? Place order, drive round to window, hand off money, receive bag of food, drive home or to the park and enjoy your meal. This is true most of the time, but sometimes things don’t quite line up right, like when a Big Mac devotee tears into his bag, flips open the styrofoam box and finds…. a fish sandwich. This is exactly what we strive to avoid at Kintronics. That’s why we ask so many questions.

How wide an area do you want to view? How far away is the viewing area? This determines the best lens to use.

If you’re looking for an IP camera system, we want to make sure we specify the right camera. We don’t want you to open the box and get any unpleasant surprises. That’s why we ask

  • What is the lighting at night? This determines the low light sensitivity required and whether we should suggest lighting.
  • Are the cameras to be used indoors or outdoors? This determines whether we should suggest day/night cameras and enclosures.
  • What is the environment – salt air, etc? This determines if you need special enclosures IP66.How cold and hot does it get? This determines if a heater and blower is required.Are you watching people gambling, walking, moving cars? How fast are they moving? This determines the frame rate required.
  • How many cameras do you need? This determines what software, computer and storage is required.

Maybe you’re in the market for an access control system? In that case, be prepared to let us know

  • How many doors do you want to control?
  • Indoor or outdoor?
  • What type of lock do you need
  • How many people will control the credentials and access
  • What type of credential do you prefer – HID or Isonas?

If you’re looking for paging or PA over IP we need to determine the correct sound level output (decibel [dB]), the number and type of speakers, consoles, amplifiers, and transformers , and whether power supplies or PoE is best. So be prepared for

  • In how many areas do you want sound?
  • What is the background noise level?
  • Indoors or outdoors?
  • How large is each of the areas?
  • What type of ceilings do you have – solid drop, etc.?

Like a Big Mac, some systems may fit many customers needs, but that doesn’t mean this is a one solution fits all world. So when you call, make sure we know your objectives and feel free to send us pictures, diagrams, even maps. This way we can perform an engineering analysis and ensure you get what you expect. At the heart of it, Kintronics is an engineering company, providing engineering specific and complete system solutions for each application.

If you need some engineering assistance please contact us. We can be reached at 914-944-3425 or 1-800-431-1658 (in the USA), or use our contact form.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Cameras from IQinvision

IQinVision has released its newest version of the popular Sentinel HD Megapixel line of IP cameras. Like the line it is replacing the full featured all-weather outdoor camera comes in four models offering the user a choice of resolutions
  • The IQ861NE with 1.0 megapixel /HD720p (1280Px720p)
  • IQ862NE - 2.0MP/HD1080p (1920x1080)
  • IQ863NE 3.6MP(2560x1440)
  • IQ865NE 5.0MP (2592x1944)

The Sentinel makes installing easier. Using the One-Touch-Focus feature, fine focus adjustments can be made from a remote computer, eliminating the need for manual focusing at the camera. With its Ethernet terminal punch-down there is no need to terminate with an RJ45 connector. And although it is a simple feature, installers will appreciate the steel camera hangers that allow the use of both hands.

The new Sentinel cameras provide multiple, individually configured H.264 and simultaneous MJPEG streams. The H.264 standard builds on earlier standards such as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 resulting in better compression performance. Compared with MPEG-4, H.264 gives a better quality image at the same compressed bitrate. In addition to its superior compression performance, H.264 offers added flexibility over MPEG-4 in terms of transmission or storage, including a packetized format and features that help minimize the effect of transmission errors.

The Sentinel can be considered green in that it has a power consumption of less than 7 watts, which is lower than many similar cameras. It can also operate using Power-over-Ethernet. In addition to the aforementioned features, all four models come with

  • Day/night moveable IR filter
  • Lightgrabber low light feature
  • IP66/NEMA 4 outdoor enclosure
  • Choice of telephoto, wide, or ultra-wide lens

All this plus IQinVisons standard three year warranty make any of the Sentinel cameras a wise choice. Contact Kintronics for pricing and availability. We can be reached at 914-944-3425 or use our contact form.

Monday, November 7, 2011

As Seen on TV

On Monday October 3, we all came to work here at Kintronics with the same question for each other. “Did you hear about Parkchester?” Why? Because one of the lead-in stories carried on the local news broadcast the previous morning had been “Brutal attack captured on video leads to arrest of suspect in Parkchester.”You might ask, what is Parkchester? And why is Kintronics so interested?

What is Parkchester?
Parkchester is a 129 acre condominium complex in the Bronx. It was developed and built by Metropolitan Life Insurance in 1939 as a self-contained apartment complex for middle class families. Family was the key word and concept and was paramount in its design. In 1972 a conversion to condominiums began with the creation of Parkchester North Condominium with 3,900 units. The process was completed in 1986 with the final 8,286 units that comprise Parkchester South. Walking along its winding sidewalks amidst shrubbery and occasional statuary is a delight, but driving through Parkchester is a nightmare. But this is the way it was meant to be.

To minimize traffic there are only two through streets, Union port Road, running from the northwest corner to the southeast, and Metropolitan Avenue, from southwest to northeast. They form an X, crossing at Metropolitan oval a landscaped seating plaza with pool of fountains in the very center All cars are required to navigate the roundabout that encircles it, effectively keeping the speed low. Met Life built these roads, as well as the sewers, water mains, and islands lining them, and when construction was completed to its satisfaction, deeded them all to New York City.

There are no real side streets in the sense of actually going anywhere. All offshoots of the main two roads are dead ends, provided solely for the purpose of deliveries and residents’ parking. In keeping with the desire to keep this a family -comfortable community, 52.5% of the 129 acres is given over to landscaping and recreation; of the remainder, 22% comprise streets, and 27.5% is occupied by buildings.

There are 171 buildings scattered throughout, in fifty one clusters, ranging in height from seven to thirteen stories. These buildings house 12,271 apartments. As if that didn’t constitute a city in itself, there are also one hundred shopping and commercial spaces. Residents can walk to two supermarkets, several pizzerias, bakeries, and delis, two banks, numerous clothing stores, two drug stores, cleaners, a movie theater and doctors and dentists of all specialties. Parkchester even has its own Macy’s! So now that you know what Parkchester is……

Why is Kintronics so interested?
Naturally we were appalled and sorry that the attack on an elderly man had occurred, but glad we could have had a part, no matter how miniscule, in the apprehension of the attacker. For You see, the police identified the perpetrator thanks to video captured by an Axis 207 IP cameras mounted in the front lobby of a building on Unionport Road and saved on a computer system using ONSSI software.

Kintronics provided consulting services to Parkchester South and its 116 buildings. We helped make sure we understood their objectives and helped determine which cameras were best for each location resulting in the installation of hundreds of IP cameras in building lobbies, outdoor spaces, and special areas requiring increased surveillance.

Security surveillance is not limited only to the grounds. Within the buildings elevators are being fitted with an alarm notification system consisting of alarms, two way intercoms to the safety officer’s station and cameras to allow the officers to evaluate the situation and react appropriately. The project is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2012

In many ways, the world has become a much scarier place than it was in 1939 but with the help of the comprehensive security system Parkchester is installing it can continue to be a place that offers a serene setting for its third generation of families.

To learn more about how to provide security and surveillance using IP Cameras, conact us at 914-944-3425 or use our contact form.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review and Comparison of IP Cameras

Megapixel IP cameras are becoming much more popular in surveillance applications, and many manufacturers have introduced new megapixel cameras. These megapixel cameras are being offered at prices that are not much more than the older VGA cameras. This camera review compares the latest megapixel dome IP Cameras from Axis, IQinvision and Ganz (division of CBC). Cameras range in price from about $659 to over $1100. One thing we always say, you get what you pay for, so understand that there are product performance and reliability differences. Take a look at our previous article; High Resolution Megapixel Cameras are Not all the Same which describes the differences in cameras.

Axis was one of the first companies to introduce IP Cameras and has recently moved into the megapixel market. IQinvision was one of the first companies to introduce megapixel cameras and have the most experience in this technology. The new megapixel cameras from CBC, Ganz are the latest entries from a company that is well known for their high performance lenses. We compared the Axis P3344VE-12mm version, IQinvision IQM31NE and the new PixelIPro ZN-DT1MA from Ganz. The review compares some key specifications, and provides a comparison of the video quality based on the tests we did.

All the cameras have vandal resistant outdoor housing with IP-66 rating. They are all day/night type cameras and can be used indoors or outdoors, provide about the same resolution, are powered using PoE and have 2-way audio capability. They have frame rates up to 30 fps, support H.264 as well as MJPEG compression, and have input and output I/O connections. Even though these cameras appear to be alike, they have distinct features and pricing that makes each one suitable for specific applications. Be careful when selecting a camera that has two-way audio or even alarm input and output connections. The camera may have the function but the IP NVR (or VMS) software may not support these functions.

Here is a summary of the features and benefits of each camera:

Axis P3344VE
Manufacturer’s Suggested Price: $1099
P3344VE is one of a series of IP dome cameras. The series includes cameras with resolution from 800 x 600 pixels to 1920 x 1080 (3 MP). The specific model reviewed has a resolution of 1280 x 800. It is available with either a 2.5 – 6 mm or 3.3 - 12 mm lens remote controlled zoom P-Iris lens.

Important Features:

- Operating temperature range: -40 °C to 55 °C (-40 °F to 131 °F)
· Viewing angles using the 3.3 – 12 mm lens*, 70°-20° view (horizontal viewing angle), F1.6, DC-iris
· Uses a remote-zoom, focus lens
· Low light sensitivity: Color: 0.4 lux, F1.6, B/W: 0.06 lux, F1.6

This camera is supported by most of the IP NVR software systems, and has excellent reliability, and picture quality. This is the most expensive camera of the group reviewed, but provides the better features and functions. It includes a very nice remote zoom and auto-focus lens that makes it much easier to set up. The P-iris lens provides improved depth of field.

Price $699
IQM31NE camera is part of a series of IP cameras that range in resolution of 720 x 480, 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080 resolution. We reviewed the model with 1280 x 720 resolution.

Important Features:
· Operating temperature range: -20 °C to 50 °C (-4 °F to 122 °F)
· Viewing angles using the 3.3 – 12 mm lens, 76°-27° view.
· Low light sensitivity: Color: 0.2 lux, F1.6, B/W: 0.05 lux, F1.6

This is an economical camera with great performance. It provides the best low light performance. This camera does not have the remote zoom and auto-focus lens making it more difficult to set up. It is a good camera for indoor and outdoor applications where you have low light conditions.

Price $659
The ZN-DT1MA is one of a series of IP dome cameras from Ganz (CBC). The series includes cameras with resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080. The specific model reviewed has a resolution of 1280 x 720. It is available with 3.3 – 12 mm remote controlled zoom P-Iris lens.

Important Features:
· Operating temperature range: 0ºF ~ 122ºF (-18ºC ~ 50ºC) when using PoE. · With the optional heater the low temperature is better: -20ºF ~ 122ºF (-29ºC ~ 50ºC).
· Viewing angles using the 3.3 – 12 mm lens*, 89.8° ~ 23.9° view (horizontal viewing angle), F1.6, DC-iris
· Uses a remote-zoom, focus lens
· Low light sensitivity: Color: 1 lux, B/W: 0.15 lux (Slow Shutter ON)

The low light performance is not as good as the other cameras, but it is the least expensive of the group reviewed. It has the widest angle lens (89.8 degrees) of the group. The camera uses the p-iris type lens and has a very nice remote zoom and auto-focus lens that makes it easier to install and set up. It is an excellent camera for indoor and outdoor applications where you have adequate lighting.

Product Comparison Chart

Axis P3344VE-12mm
Market Pricing
Maximum Resolution
1280 x 720
1280 x 720
3.3-12 mm, 20°-70° Horizontal
3 - 13 mm, 27° - 76° horizontal
3.3-12mm, 23.9° - 89.8°
Lens Type
P-Iris, Varifocal with remote zoom and focus, IR corrected, megapixel
Manual Iris
P-Iris, Varifocal with remote zoom and focus, IR corrected, megapixel
Low Light Sensitivity
Color: 0.4 lux, F1.6, B/W: 0.06 lux, F1.6
Color: 0.2 lux, B/W: <0.05 lux, F1.4
Color: 1.0 lux, B/W: 0.15 lux (Slow Shutter ON)
Enclosure Type
Vandal Resistant, outdoor IP-66
Vandal Resistant, outdoor IP-66
Vandal Resistant, Outdoor IP-66
H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC) and Motion JPEG
H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC) and Motion JPEG
H.264, MJPEG - 2nd stream only
Terminal block for 1 alarm input and 1 output, 3.5 mm mic/line in, 3.5 mm line out
Terminal block for 1 alarm input and 1 output, 3.5 mm mic/line in, 3.5 mm line out
Alarm In x1, Alarm Out x1, Audio In x1
Size, Height × Diameter (mm)
119 x 178
97.3 x 150.0
116.3mm (H) x 145mm Ø
Class 3
Class 1, <3.8W using PoE
Triple Power12VDC 1A / 24VAC (50Hz/60Hz) 500mA PoE Class 2 (IEEE 802.3af compliant)
Operating Conditions
Temp: -40 °C to 55 °C, (-40 °F to 131 °F), humidity 15 - 100% RH (condensing)
-20˚ to +50˚ C
Temp: -18ºC ~ +50ºC (0ºF ~ 122ºF ), -29ºC ~ 50ºC (-20ºF ~ 122ºF ) with optional heater

Camera Tests

We tested the three cameras to see how the key specifications matched the actual performance. We tested the cameras by viewing a test pattern and by viewing a rather difficult real world view. Here is what we found:

Setting them up
The Axis and PixelPro cameras both have remote zoom and focus lenses, making them the easiest to set up. You simply push the focus button and the camera automatically provides the best focus. I had some issue focusing the PixelPro camera. I needed to move the focus to the right range and then it did the focusing automatically. The IQ camera has a manual zoom and focus. It wasn’t too difficult to set it up, but of course, you need to be at the camera to do the adjustments. I didn’t make any changes to the other video settings, and all the cameras provided a good image without any adjustments. The IQ camera has some advanced adjustments that allow you to maximize the picture for day and nighttime viewing.

Test Pattern
We used the following test pattern. We looked at the converging lines on the test pattern. As the lines get closer together we looked for the point at which we couldn’t see the difference between the black and white spacing between lines. This allowed us to determine the maximum resolution from each of the cameras.

We looked at the pattern in the full size view and then we digitally zoomed in. It is hard to tell from the pictures we provided below, but all the cameras provided about the same resolution capability.
Here are some examples of the resulting views:

The IQinvision IQM31NE-B5 camera performed very well. Take a look at the following test chart:

We also zoomed in digitally to see the important features. All cameras did quite well. The PixelPro camera provides a nice feature that shows where you are in the full picture in a small pop up window.

PixelPro Enlarged Test Chart

Real World View
The second test was more demanding. We set up the cameras to view a mixed view in the foreground with a bright window in the background. This tested the color quality and the dynamic range of the camera. It also tested the depth of field.

Axis Window View

IQ Window

PixelPro Window

In this test the Axis camera was best at viewing both the foreground and background. It provided excellent depth of field. The image was slightly yellow, when compared to the other cameras. Note that the truck has a yellowish tint. It is actually white.

All the cameras tested provided excellent resolution when tested with the test pattern. The Axis camera was best at providing dynamic range and depth of field. The IQ camera provided a reasonable image of the window area, while the PixelPro camera provided slightly less dynamic range.

So what is the best camera for the job? It really depends on what you are looking at. The Axis is best when you need to view areas that have a very wide range of lighting. For example it is the best camera for viewing people against windows or glass doors. The PixelPro is a good choice for outdoor and indoor areas and where you would like to save time during installation and have good lighting. The IQ camera is an economical camera yet excellent for situations where you need very good low light sensitivity.

If you would like to learn more about these cameras or need help selecting the right one for your application, please contact us. We can be reached at +1-914-944-3425 or just use our
contact form.