Category Archives: SecuritySpy

Segregating IP Cameras on their own LAN

Our macOS CCTV software SecuritySpy allows you to set up an effective video surveillance system of any size, in both home and commercial settings.

The simplest setup for a LAN (Local Area Network) that includes network cameras is to have a central Ethernet switch with all devices, including the cameras, connected to it. This works well for small networks, but there are some problems with this setup that become especially important on larger networks:

  • IP cameras generate constant traffic, which can slow down the LAN.
  • Having cameras on the main LAN, with Internet access, can be a security risk.
  • Larger PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) switches are expensive, have significant power consumption, and often contain noisy fans.

The solution to these problems is to segregate the IP cameras onto their own LAN. In contrast, this solution has the following advantages:

  • Camera traffic is completely separate and does not impact the normal LAN.
  • Cameras do not have Internet access, removing the risk of them sending sensitive information over the Internet or being hacked.
  • You can use a PoE switch that is no larger than you need it to be. Smaller PoE switches are less expensive, use less power, and are quieter.

Setting this up does require a bit of knowledge of IP addressing, so if you are not familiar with this topic, we would advise you to research how IP addresses work on local networks before proceeding. An example setup is as follows:

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Running an NTP Time Server on your Mac

When implementing a CCTV system (e.g. one based around our macOS CCTV software SecuritySpy) it is important for all cameras to maintain the correct time for the purposes of drawing accurate timestamps onto their video streams. Not only will this help you review recorded footage, but if there is an incident that needs to be reported to the police, it will help them with their investigation. You may even be asked to verify or demonstrate to the police that your cameras are set to the correct time.

For this purpose, you should always give your cameras a valid NTP server address (NTP stands for Network Time Protocol). The cameras will contact the NTP server at regular intervals to set their clocks (you should also set your cameras with accurate daylight savings time settings, so that any such adjustments are applied automatically during the summer months).

For this purpose, we recommend using one of the time servers that Apple provides for free, which are time.apple.com, time.euro.apple.com and time.asia.apple.com. Continue reading

Setting Up A Home CCTV System

In this blog post, we will go through the process of setting up a video surveillance system for your home, based around our macOS CCTV software SecuritySpy. When setting up a home CCTV system, cost is an important consideration, but we also want to choose high-quality hardware that is easy to install and set up. To this end, our example system will comprise the following components:

Cameras: we have chosen to use Amcrest IP5M-T1179EW cameras for the following reasons:

  • Physically quite small and unobtrusive.
  • Easy plug-and-play setup (no manual IP/network setup required).
  • High resolution (5 MP), night vision, and good codec support (H.265 and AAC).
  • A built-in microphone – essential for a camera covering an entrance.
  • Great value – under US$70.

IP5M-T1179EW-28MM Camera Continue reading

10 Recommended IP Cameras 2020

Here are our network camera picks for 2020. They are listed in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank as a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras that, due to their impressive features, we recommend to our customers for use with our SecuritySpy CCTV software for the Mac.

Some abbreviations used below are as follows:

  • MP – Megapixels – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher this number, the more detailed the image, but resolution isn’t everything: the optical quality of the lens system is also extremely important.
  • PoE – Power-over-Ethernet – when using a PoE switch, the camera draws power over the ethernet cable and therefore doesn’t require a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability. All the wired Ethernet (i.e. non-WiFi) cameras on this list support PoE, but note that the larger “speed dome” cameras typically require the higher-powered PoE+ standard.
  • IR – Infra-Red – some cameras include Infra-Red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for night vision. Usually the manufacturer will specify the maximum useful range of the IR in meters.
  • P-Iris / DC-Iris – These features allow the camera lens to automatically adjust its aperture size, based on the amount of incoming light. P-Iris is more sophisticated and will give better results than than DC-Iris, but both are far better than a Fixed-Iris lens, especially for outdoor applications.
  • Varifocal – These lenses allow you to zoom in and out somewhat (sometimes manually, sometimes motorised), in order to adjust the field of view at installation time. A focal length of 2.8mm is very wide-angle; 4mm is standard; 8mm is moderately telephoto.
  • PTZ – Pan, Tilt, Zoom – motorised remote control of the camera’s horizontal and vertical angle, and focal length.

For purchasing IP cameras, we recommend B&H Photo Video – they are a reliable, established outlet. Amazon is another option, however there are many “grey market” cameras sold on Amazon (e.g. cameras designed for the Chinese market only, but sold into the US against the manufacturer’s rules), which should be avoided due to potentially foreign-language user interfaces, lack of firmware upgrades, and lack of support from the manufacturer.

BASIC OUTDOOR DOME: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY N44BN52

Dahua Wedge Camera

This compact outdoor Dome camera from Dahua is a good inexpensive ($180) camera for covering an outdoor area. 4 MP resolution and good low-light sensitivity, combined with 20m night vision and a built-in microphone, provide all the basic features necessary to make an effective addition to any CCTV system. And it works in temperatures down to -40° C (–40° F), making it ideal for extreme environments. Continue reading

Remote Access via Mobile/Cellular or Satellite Internet

In order to connect to any server over the Internet (such as SecuritySpy’s built-in web server for remote access to your CCTV system), the server must be exposed to the Internet via a public IP address.

Most standard home and commercial Internet connections (Fibre, ADSL, Cable) provide a public Internet address, which makes setting up remote access to SecuritySpy fairly straightforward, as described in the Remote Access section of the SecuritySpy Installation Manual.

However, Mobile/Cellular Internet connections (i.e. those that use a 3G, 4G or 5G modem to connect wirelessly over the cellular network) are becoming increasingly common, as their speed and reliability increase and costs decrease. Unfortunately, most mobile Internet connections do not provide a true public IP address, but rather provide a private address within the Internet provider’s network (this is called Carrier-Grade NAT). Therefore it is not possible to set up remote access in the same way. Typically, this is the case with Satellite-based Internet connections as well.

Some mobile Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can provide a true public IP address for an extra fee, but not all do.

The solution to this problem is to use a service called ngrok, which allows you to set up a secure tunnel to your server in order to provide access to it from the Internet. Here’s how it works: Continue reading

Optimising SecuritySpy’s AI Object Detection

The new AI-powered motion detection features in SecuritySpy version 5 use deep neural networks to detect the presence of humans and vehicles. This allows for highly-accurate triggering of recordings and notifications of just the events that you are interested in.

The AI algorithms output a prediction probability, indicating the likelihood for the presence of a human or vehicle, and you can choose the threshold at which this triggers recording and notifications. Generally, a threshold of around 85% gives good results.

However, the accuracy of the AI depends on many factors such as the distance to the subject, lighting, resolution and quality of the camera. You might find that a threshold of 85% is letting through too many false-positive triggers, or conversely is preventing real motion from generating a trigger.

To see how the AI is performing on your system, create a folder called “AI Predictions” in the SecuritySpy folder within your Home folder (to get to the Home folder, click the Go menu in the Finder and select Home). Then, whenever a video frame is passed through the AI, SecuritySpy will annotate the frame with the motion area and prediction probabilities, and will save it to this folder as an image file. Inspecting these images allows you to determine what the AI is “seeing”, and will therefore allow you to adjust your trigger thresholds for optimum results on your system.

Here are some examples of these annotated images (cropped to just the relevant area):

annotated1 Continue reading

10 Recommended IP Cameras 2019

Here are our network camera picks for 2019. They are listed in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank as a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras that, due to their impressive features, we recommend to our customers for use with our SecuritySpy CCTV software for the Mac.

Some abbreviations used below are as follows:

  • MP – Megapixels – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher this number, the more detailed the image, but resolution isn’t everything: the optical quality of the lens system is also extremely important.
  • PoE – Power-over-Ethernet – when using a PoE switch, the camera draws power over the ethernet cable and therefore doesn’t require a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability. Note that some cameras require the higher-powered PoE+ standard.
  • IR – Infra-Red – some cameras include Infra-Red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for night vision. Usually the manufacturer will specify the maximum useful range of the IR in meters.
  • P-Iris / DC-Iris – These features allow the camera lens to automatically adjust its aperture size, based on the amount of incoming light. P-Iris is more sophisticated and will give better results than than DC-Iris, but both are far better than a Fixed-Iris lens, especially for outdoor applications.
  • Varifocal – These lenses allow you to zoom in and out somewhat (sometimes manually, sometimes motorised), in order to adjust the field of view at installation time. A focal length of 2.8mm is very wide-angle; 4mm is standard; 8mm is moderately telephoto.
  • PTZ – Pan, Tilt, Zoom – motorised remote control of the camera’s horizontal and vertical angle, and focal length.

BASIC OUTDOOR DOME: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY N44CG52 / N44CG53

Dahua N44CG52 IP Camera

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10 Recommended IP Cameras 2018

NOTE: this post has been superseded by our newest post 10 Recommended IP Cameras 2019.

Here are our camera picks for 2018. They are listed in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank as a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras that, due to their impressive features, we recommend to our customers for use with our SecuritySpy CCTV software for the Mac.

Some abbreviations used below are as follows:

  • MP – Megapixels – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher this number, the more detailed the image, but resolution isn’t everything: the optical quality of the lens system is also extremely important.
  • PoE – Power-over-Ethernet – when using a PoE switch, the camera draws power over the ethernet cable and therefore doesn’t need a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability.
  • IR – Infra-Red – some cameras include Infra-Red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for night vision. Usually the manufacturer will specify the maximum useful range of the IR in meters.
  • P-Iris / DC-Iris – These features allow the camera lens to automatically adjust its aperture size, based on the amount of incoming light. P-Iris is more sophisticated and will give better results than than DC-Iris, but both are far better than a Fixed-Iris lens, especially for outdoor applications.
  • Varifocal – most lenses have a fixed focal length, whereas varifocal lenses allow you to zoom in and out somewhat (sometimes manually, sometimes motorised), to adjust the field of view. A focal length of 2.8mm is very wide-angle; 4mm is standard; 8mm is moderately telephoto.
  • PTZ – Pan, Tilt, Zoom – motorised remote control of the camera’s horizontal and vertical angle, and focal length.

INEXPENSIVE OUTDOOR BULLET: HIKVISION DS-2CD2042WD-I

hik-bullet

Hikvision has a huge range of IP cameras, with quite a few outdoor bullet-type models at very good prices. This particular models offers a good all-round feature set, with 4 MP resolution, great low-light sensitivity, PoE support and 30-meter IR night-vision. It’s also great value, retailing at around $100.

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10 Recommended IP Cameras 2017

NOTE: this post has been superseded by our newest post 10 Recommended IP Cameras 2019.

Here are our camera picks for 2017. They are listed in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank as a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras that, due to their impressive features, we recommend to our customers for use with our SecuritySpy CCTV software for the Mac.

Some abbreviations used below are as follows:

  • MP – Megapixels – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher this value, the more detailed the image, but resolution isn’t everything: the optical quality of the lens system is also extremely important.
  • PoE – Power-over-Ethernet – when using a PoE switch, the camera draws power over the ethernet cable and therefore doesn’t need a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability.
  • IR – Infra-Red – some cameras include Infra-Red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for night vision. Usually the manufacturer will specify the maximum useful range of the IR.
  • P-Iris / DC-Iris – These features allow the camera lens to automatically adjust its aperture size, based on the amount of incoming light. P-Iris is more sophisticated and will give better results than than DC-Iris, but both are far better than a Fixed-Iris lens, especially for outdoor applications.
  • Vari-Focal – most lenses have a fixed focal length, whereas Vari-Focal lenses allow you to zoom in and out somewhat (sometimes manually, sometimes mechanically), to adjust the field of view. A focal length of 2.8mm is very wide-angle; 4mm is standard; 8mm is moderately telephoto.

INDOOR / OUTDOOR DOME: VIVOTEK FD8164 / FD8164V

Vivotek FD8164

Vivotek FD8164

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Hikvision DS-2CD2432F-IW Camera Review

Hikvision is a big name in the IP camera industry, offering a wide range of cameras that cover the whole spectrum from small home-use cameras to professional high-resolution industrial models.

Features

The DS-2CD2432F-IW is an inexpensive ($130) compact camera suitable for indoor use, with an impressive feature set. The 3 MP sensor offers higher resolution than many competing products from other manufacturers (Hikvision themselves also produce a DS-2CD2412F-IW model with a lower 1.2 MP resolution, but the price difference is not large, so we we would recommend going for this 3 MP model). It has both WiFi and Ethernet connectivity, and can be powered either by PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) or by a 12v power adapter, making it easy to install in any network environment. The sensitivity of 0.07 Lux, combined with built-in infrared (IR) illumination, allows it to function well in low-light situations, and it has a built-in microphone and speaker for two-way audio.

Hikvision DS-2CD2432F-IW

Hikvision DS-2CD2432F-IW Front View

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