[FAQ] Video Surveillance and Wireless Systems
Wireless cameras have a unique place in the surveillance industry – partly reflected in their ability to be placed in unique locations. The crux of wireless cameras is that they do not use video or power cables. Data is instead transmitted wirelessly to a corresponding receiver which is then uploaded onto your monitor, and power is usually supplied via onboard lithium batteries. This greatly reduces installation time and complexity. One of the more frequent uses of wireless cameras that we personally see is when people are not allowed, typically by building codes, to have too many wires running around. So they instead opt for a wireless solution.
How do wireless security cameras get power?
Onboard batteries supply the power, usually via lithium-ion cells. But in reality, the vast majority are connected via cable. Yes, that's right, most wireless cameras are not actually wireless.
How long does that power last?
Lithium-ion cells are interesting in that they provide incredibly consistent power, but they die out naturally over time. Even if not in use, a lithium-ion cell sitting on a shelf will gradually fade. Batteries for wireless security cameras can last anywhere from one to three years at best. They are very easily replaced – easier than replacing a watch battery. It’s like unbuttoning and buttoning a shirt!
But most wireless security cameras are powered via a power cable.
How do wireless security cameras transmit data?
Via broadcasting in 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz ranges. Transmitters send the data out over wireless signals which are then picked up by receivers.
What’s the range of a wireless camera?
About 600-700 feet via 2.4 GHz, and up to 2000 feet with 5.8 GHz. Inside a house, the distance is much more limited based on walls and other obstructions.
Is it possible to extend the range of a wireless security system?
Absolutely. By using repeaters, a wireless signal can be boosted down a series of repeaters. However, video quality is like to drop the more repeaters you use. Obviously, the more distance also means more room for things to get in the way of the signal.
What, exactly, can get in the way of a signal?
Wireless technology has come a long way, but it still suffers from interruptions. A lot of things can technically interrupt a signal – and a lot of things don’t, really.
Cubical walls – or similar drywall – do not block transmissions. Glass also does not. Brick, wood, and concrete constructions will degrade the transmission, however. Trees, for example, will tend to get in the way of a signal. Metals are almost a no-go for many wireless transmissions. A metal wall, for example, is very likely to obstruct 70-100% of a wireless signal!
There is also the problem of competing signals – we highly suggest trying to limit how many other devices are next to the wireless transmitters and receivers. So keep similarly wireless phones and routers away, if at all possible.
Types of obstructions you should look out for:
Reflections, Scatterings, Refraction, Diffraction, and Attenuation.
Does signal strength affect frame rate?
Yes! This is why it’s very important to have as strong a signal as possible. You could have the greatest, most powerful camera, but if it cannot transmit its data cleanly, then you’ll get a dumpy, laggy video playback. This is also why you can use repeaters to lengthen the distance of a wireless camera, but you have to accept that it will come at the cost of weakening the overall video quality.
Can clashing signals affect by internet speed?
Yup! This is why you need to be careful with the placement of your wireless security cameras. You should also be aware of what signal strengths they are operating at – typically 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz – and avoid having those competing for signal strength.
If my security camera is wireless, could someone ‘hack’ into it?
Yes. Now, don’t go running off quite yet. If you have a wireless security system it is very possible for someone to hack into it if you leave its security at the default settings. Obviously, do not leave it at the default settings. We highly recommend changing what ports it uses – especially to a port that is not commonly used. We also recommend changing the camera’s address name and password. The security system should be behind your internet, not out in the open.
Where is the footage saved?
Two places, either on the camera itself via an onboard SD Memory Card, and/or through a corresponding network video recorder. We highly recommend getting a network video recorder for any security system, including one with wireless cameras. SD Memory Cards are nifty, but you have to physically retrieve them to get the data off them. And while space on these little buggers has gotten pretty big, nothing beats an actual hard drive capable of recording weeks’ worth of video footage!
Is there any reason to go wireless if I’ve got room for wired cameras?
No. An odd answer for an article seemingly centered around wireless cameras, sure, but generally speaking wired security cameras are simply more reliable and often cheaper to boot. We recommend only going wireless if you absolutely have to. They’re very solid products, particularly now compared to the past, but the simple fact is that wired is always of higher, more stable quality.