When looking at video surveillance systems, you will most likely come across the term CCTV. In fact, it’s such a common term you’re likely to see it used in everyday parlance, too, and you’ve likely seen warning signs at establishments warning that “CCTV Surveillance in Use” – everywhere from your bank to the even local coffee shop. But what exactly does CCTV mean, and how does it work?
What Does CCTV Mean?
CCTV stands for Closed-Circuit TeleVision and refers mainly to the idea that the video footage is sent over a single channel with a dedicated set of wires (circuit) feeding into a monitor or recording device – creating what is essentially a closed circuit. Rather than being broadcast publicly for all to see, any cameras, monitors or recorders used are communicating via a single wired or wireless connection, with no other outside connections or observers.
While virtually all video cameras can work in this manner when used for solely recording purposes, the term CCTV is used almost exclusively to refer to camera systems being used for security monitoring and surveillance. CCTV is most commonly used to monitor the outside perimeter of businesses and secure facilities, entrances, and inside these same buildings. They are also commonly used in home security and surveillance systems, as well as for traffic monitoring and other law enforcement purposes.
How Does CCTV Work?
There are a few different forms of CCTV systems out there, but two common distinctions can be made between analog and IP-based systems.
Analog systems are the more traditional form of CCTV and use coaxial cables to create a connection between the camera and surveillance monitor or recording system on the other end. While generally reliable thanks to their analog coax connections, analog CCTV cameras and systems generally shoot in much lower resolutions than their digital counterparts (though HD-over-Coax is a possibility) and lack the same performance in low-light and other diverse situations that digital systems have. They also lack many of the features and capabilities found in newer systems.
IP-based systems, as the name implies, run off digital IP and local area networks. These are technically not CCTV or “Closed-Circuit” systems in the same sense that hardwired analog systems are but serve essentially the same purpose. Referring to them as such is quick and easy. As most businesses and manufacturers continue to transition to digital systems, IP-based systems are quickly becoming the more dominant form of CCTV.
IP security cameras are typically capable of much higher-resolution video recording (up to 4k, in many cases) and thus provide better, clearer images. They are also usually compatible with many more features than analog based systems, such as video verification, video analytics, and advanced processing for performance in low-light recording situations. IP CCTV systems can also be scaled almost infinitely, allowing for far more flexibility and more powerful systems than analog cameras have traditionally allowed. For instance, while the network may be closed, many even allow for remote monitoring.
IP cameras can run off a company’s existing network or can be set up on its own if data and bandwidth speeds are a concern. Unlike analog cameras, which use coaxial cables to establish a connection, IP CCTV systems generally use Cat5E cables.
What About CCTV For Home Use?
CCTV systems are frequently used to make your home more secure, too. High-end, professional-grade solutions for comprehensive home surveillance can include both analog or IP-based surveillance networks (with IP-based being more popular), while lower-cost and user-friendly solutions might include smart home security cameras and devices (such as those from Alarm.com). Again, these don’t constitute CCTV systems in the traditional sense of the word, but serve as effective, easy and low-cost solutions for keeping a watchful eye out and your home safe and secure.