Choosing a PTZ camera or fixed camera needs a more common-sense approach
Choosing a PTZ camera or fixed camera needs a more common-sense approach

With the significant progress and advancements of analytics and intelligent video, CCTV cameras are becoming more interactive with operations and able to provide a higher return on investment to organisations. However, we continually see smaller sites, or those without dedicated monitoring or broader integrated systems, installing pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras to provide greater coverage of an area.

I was at a site last week where a dome style PTZ had been installed to cover the building back entrance, yard and fence/gate areas of a compound and had been set on a tour function. The lens of the camera was fully visible and so it was clear where the camera was pointing, easy to predict its sequence and ultimately straightforward to defeat. It is surprising how many sites still employ this somewhat old-fashioned approach and how many installers recommend it.

This discussion may suggest that I am bit anti PTZ cameras, which is not the case and if proficiently used, they do add significant value to a system. They are particularly useful when integrated to other security systems to quickly provide images of an alarm activation or track an adversary in large grounds. However, there are numerous shortcomings which can initiate formerly from operator error.

The first relates to the camera’s home position. Each PTZ should have default position that provides a broad overview of an area to aid the detection of suspicious behaviour and so that it can still be effectively used in a reactive review of an incident. This creates the need for robust procedures and considerable operator discipline to return the camera to its home position after use. I have seen many occasions where staff have tracked a suspicious person, zoomed in and done some great work to get a great facial/head and shoulders shot, but then they have forgotten to return the camera and left it pointing at a 2m by 2m square piece of the pavement. There is the functionality for some systems do this automatically if the camera doesn’t move for a set period of time, but there needs to be a means of overriding this so that specific surveillance jobs can still be completed – this again could create operator error.

PTZ cameras should also not be used where a guaranteed image is required – for example, ANPR or a facial shot (identify) at an entrance. This may seem obvious, but we again see a great deal of misuse of PTZ in these types of areas. A PTZ can be moved and zoomed in and out and this therefore disrupts the guaranteed view. If the camera is turned away or zoomed out, you then may miss someone or a vehicle entering the site which could affect the timeline for investigation. Also consider that staff may maliciously move cameras to point in the wrong direction to facilitate a crime or misconduct.

Additionally, in a world where we are increasingly concerned about our privacy, PTZ cameras create the most concern due to the advancements in technology. A robust CCTV Policy that highlights the designated use and ongoing training of staff will help offer reassurance that the system is operated responsibly.

In closing, remember that a PTZ camera can only point in one direction at a time and so whilst 360degree coverage is achievable, proactive and well-trained operators are required to gain full benefit from this facility. If your building security plan or Operational Requirement outlines a specific view is required, a fixed camera should be installed to guarantee this image. If a broader view of area is required, consider the merits of a panoramic camera as this technology is now extremely impressive.

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