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One of the specifications camera purchasers often see are the IP and IK protection ratings. These are indicators of how ‘protected’ the camera is from various elements. Most often, you will see these technicalities presented as “weatherproof” or “vandalproof.” But what do the actual numbers mean?

IP is actually constituted by two conjoined numbers – the first and second digits actually represent two very different things. The first number shows how protected it is against solid objects. This would include things like your hand bumping the box, your fingers touching the box, or you for whatever reason laying some cable atop of the box. At the highest levels – 5 and 6 – it is an indication of how protected the box would be from dust. Being dustproof is important, for tiny particles can easily weasel their way into boxes and begin making a mess of the inner-workings.

The second digit of the IP number indicates how resistant the camera is to liquids. At 1, the box is protected from a light sprinkling, as though you’d passed the box beneath the spritzing vegetable section of your local grocery. At 5, the box is protected from low-pressure jets of water from any direction. The most common IP protection is 66 – with the second 6 indicating protection from strong jets of water. For example, the camera could be on a ship, getting battered and sprayed by sea waves. IP protections do go further – 7 and 8 – at which point you will have to work progressively harder to drown your camera into invalidity. Your general surveillance cameras, obviously, don’t have nor need these levels of protection. If you want a camera that can withstand an apocalyptic flooding scenario, you can be rest assured that a camera of IP 67/68 standards will survive, though you’re being there to see what footage it captures is not guaranteed.

IK indicates how resistant the box would be to impacts as measured by joules.

Ah, so that’s what a joule is. I get it now…

Historically, the IK number used to be attached to the end of the IP. For example, you’d get an IP rating of 66(9), with the 9 representing the impact resistance. This changed in the mid-90s as more uniform and international codes went into effect. This international standard is known as IEC62262 (adapted 2002). This standard specifies the ways in which an enclosure should be tested – undergoing a variety of atmospheric conditions and impacts. Unlike the IP number, the IK number is singular and sequential.

IK00 is no protection. If you got that, you got nothing.

IK01-05 will protect against tiny impacts of less than one joule.

Then the big boy numbers break down like this:

IK06 --> 1 joule

IK07 --> 2 joules

IK08 --> 5 joules

IK09 --> 10 joules

IK10 --> 20 joules

So what do all these numbers actually represent?

One joule can be described as dropping an apple from about three feet up.

Five joules can be described as dropping a 3.75lbs steel ball from 12 inches.

Twenty joules can be described as dropping an 11lbs steel ball from 16 inches.

Some of these numbers might not sound like much at first glance, but these protection standards are very much intended to resist vandals with ill-intent. If a criminal is trying to break into a car, a house, or a place of business, one of the things he or she might do first is try and knock out any cameras. These higher IK numbers are intended to thwart their efforts. Not only does this mean protecting the camera from hammers, rocks, and other kinetic energies, but also from more persistent efforts, like trying to screw open the casing or tear it open with their hands. Many cameras, particularly those of the dome variety, can be easily opened with just your hands if they are not IK protected. IK protection, then, isn’t just resistance to brute force. They often come requiring specific tools – usually in the form of screwheads – that must be used to open them up.

Not all impacts come from criminal intentions. Flying debris can also present problems for cameras. If a falling tree branch hits a camera then you’ll be wanting those higher IK-numbers. Storms tend to toss around all manner of objects. This is where both the IP and IK numbers come into play, as you want a camera that will survive surging water, but also anything picked up by the winds. Mischievous children can also present some issues for cameras. A surveillance camera left unprotected inside a school is just asking to be destroyed in due time.

Ultimately, IP/IK is just intended to help you understand the overall durability of the camera you're purchasing. If you just have a camera set up in a bush to watch your entry hallway, you probably don't need some IP/IK protections. However, if you got something outside hanging from a mount, looking awfully vulnerable to the vandal's eye, then you'll be wanting those IP/IK standards.