Monday, April 16, 2012

Wireless CCTV – Connecting a Burglar Alarm System


Wireless CCTV cameras or IP cameras are the digital replacement for traditional CCTV, but the technology is sophisticated and there is a lot more you can do other than looking at your home or business from across the internet.  For example, you can connect these cameras to most good burglar alarm systems, so that when a camera detects movement, the alarm system will trigger.  You can also set up your cameras so that when the burglar alarm is tripped, you will get an instant text message on your phone.  These amazing new features can bring many an old alarm system into the 21st century without the cost of replacing it and here in part one of this two-part series, I’m going to look at the things you will need in order to achieve this.

The first thing you need is a wireless internet CCTV camera that has a digital I/O port and an alarm system that has a spare digital I/O port too.  Incidentally, this is just a technical name for a little block of connectors where wires can be attached.  Most serious wireless CCTV cameras have such a port.  If your alarm system has one of these ports, it will be inside the alarm control box.  Not all systems have this, but many do – just take a look in the manual.  If you no longer have a paper copy of the manual, search the support section of the system manufacturer’s website where you can often find an electronic copy.

Having verified that your camera and alarm box has digital I/O ports, you will also need to check a few other things in the alarm system manual and the camera manual.  (If you have not yet bought the camera, find an on-line copy of the manual to carry out these checks before you spend your money.)  First of all, check the voltage and power specifications of the camera’s output port and the alarm’s input port.  Do the same check on the camera’s input port and the alarm system’s output port.  Basically, you need to make sure that there is a match, but it is true to say that most wireless internet CCTV camera ports are designed to work with most alarm system ports.  Next, find the precise connectors that you need to use within the connection block that makes up the port, both on the camera and the alarm box.  The next thing you will need is a length of alarm cable to reach from the camera to the alarm control box.  This cable will typically have at least four strands, but if you can only get eight core or whatever, no problem, we’ll just be using four of the wires for this task.

Once you have reached this stage, you will want to know how to connect everything up, which I will look at in part two of this series, not to mention how to configure the alarm system and camera to make everything work, which I will describe in part three.

Now we find out how to connect the wiring from the I/O port of your camera to the I/O port in your alarm box.

The physical connection is very easy.  First let’s look at the alarm box.  You will need to remove the cover, but make sure that any anti-tamper mechanism is switched off first!  Choose the best point for the wire to pass through the box wall – there are usually a number of pressed potential openings marked on the casing and the one you choose will depend on where the box is situated.  Pass the end of the cable through the opening into the alarm box, then connect two strands to the digital input connectors of the port, and two strands to the output connectors.

Next you will need to run the wiring to the camera and connect it up.  It is always best if you can place the wiring where it will not get trodden on, as this may in time break the strands.  You also need to consider possible tampering.  If this wire is cut, your home security system will still work, as will your wireless CCTV camera, but they will not work together which is our objective here.  Therefore it is best if the wiring is hidden within a stud wall or a ceiling, if this is at all possible. Bringing the wiring to the alarm box from the wall behind it is also a very good idea if you can manage it, as this makes it practically inaccessible to intruders.

The final part of the physical installation is the wireless CCTV camera end.  Find the output connectors of the I/O port, and connect the same coloured strands that you connected to the alarm box input connectors.  Make sure you re-check the manuals to be certain of connecting the wires the right way round; it makes a difference and if you get it wrong you could damage your wireless CCTV equipment.  Similarly, take the strands that you connected to the alarm’s output connectors and join these to the camera’s inputs, again making sure you get them the right way round.

Having connected the wiring, you are ready to configure the alarm box and wireless CCTV camera to make everything work.  Have your camera manual and your alarm system manual at the ready, and then take a look at the final part in this series, part three, to find out how to achieve this.

Now in this part of the series you will find out how to configure everything to turn your old burglar alarm system into a state-of-the-art home security system for the 21st century.

Check your alarm system manual to see if you need to do any re-programming of the box, or moving of dip switches or so-called “jumpers” (connectors between two points that can be moved to change a system’s functionality).  You want to make sure that when your camera sends an alarm signal to the input port of the alarm box (when it detects movement), it causes the alarm system to trigger.  You also want to make the burglar alarm activate its digital output port and thereby inform the camera when the alarm system is triggered.

At the camera end, check the camera manual to find out how to configure an event action so that when the camera detects movement, it sends a signal down the cable to the alarm box.  Once you have this set up, when your cameras detects movement, your burglar alarm will go off.  Now make sure the opposite end of the equation works.  The aim is that when the burglar alarm triggers and sends a pulse to the camera’s input port, the camera will send a text message to your phone and record images of the scene.  Configure the camera so that it will trigger when its input port is activated.  If you haven’t the time or inclination to do all this yourself, you may prefer to buy a ready-configured camera pack from a wireless CCTV specialist.

When you use wireless CCTV cameras to trigger an alarm system in this way, there are a few safeguards that you need to build in.  These cameras are very sensitive to changes in the picture, and may not always be able to differentiate between a change in light levels, such as a street light coming on outside your home or the sun moving behind a cloud, and an intruder.  For this reason it is very important only to use a camera in this way where there is no possibility of a change in natural or artificial light within the camera’s field of vision.  An internal hallway or corridor would be a good location, as any change in the image here would likely require an intruder.

The payback for going through the process of integrating a wireless CCTV camera with your alarm system in this way is that you will end up with a much more effective and useful home security system.  Firstly, it will be able to “see” through the lens of the camera.  Secondly, instead of just ringing an alarm bell on the side of the property, the system will advise you almost instantly of any alarm by sending a text message to your mobile phone, using the functionality of the camera.  This means that you can log in over the internet from wherever you are and see what is going on.  Finally, you will also be able to review the incident that caused the alarm, by looking at images that the camera will have recorded.  You can do all of this within moments of the incident and alert the emergency services who will take you very seriously indeed when you tell them you have actually seen the intruders!

By adding a wireless internet CCTV camera to your alarm system you can achieve peace of mind on a different level.  You will know that if your camera detects movement, your burglar alarm will sound.  You will know that if your burglar alarm is triggered, you will get an instant text message and be able to take a look at what is going on, from wherever you happen to be.  This really can bring the average alarm system into the 21st century without the cost of replacing it.

You can used this article in wire based system.