In IP camera, or internet protocol camera, is a video camera that can transmit images and video over the Internet. The camera itself has an IP address, hence the name.

IP cameras see a lot of use in home and business security systems. Video surveillance has been part of security systems for a long time, but IP cameras feature several good things that aren’t available in old-fashioned close-circuit TV cameras. IP cameras can be accessed from any Internet-capable device at any time. They can also integrate well into a Control4 “smart home” system.

From the user’s point of view (that is, from the perspective of someone who has installed a security system including IP cameras on a home or business), IP cameras mean that it’s possible to see what’s going on at the protected property using a computer, tablet, or smart phone with Internet access from any remote location. IP cameras also allow programmed responses under selected conditions. For example, an IP camera could be set up to send an alert to a particular device or set of devices – the owner’s laptop or smart phone, for example, or both at once – whenever a person approaches the front door of a home. Receiving such a message, the owner could check out who was approaching and whether there was cause for alarm.

Some of the potential advantages of IP cameras include:

  • Two-way connections enable a user to talk to someone in view of the camera.
  • IP cameras can be installed anywhere on a wireless network and moved and swapped at will, making them very flexible.
  • Video analytic capability can be incorporated into the camera itself, allowing automated decision making and image analysis, a feature known as distributed intelligence.
  • Control of the cameras is handled by a single network, simplifying adjustments and fine tuning.
  • As noted above, remote access is possible both for image reception and for direction of focus, pan/tilt/zoom, etc.
  • IP cameras work well on a wireless network, simplifying hardware requirements.
  • Using power over Ethernet (PoE) technology, IP cameras often don’t require a power supply, making them invulnerable to power outages, local or regional.
  • Encryption and other security features can be (and usually are) included in the transmission of images.

Despite the last, IP cameras are inherently less secure than closed-circuit cameras, whose signals are literally impossible to access except in the control room, but the versatility and wider uses available with IP cameras far outweigh that consideration, in most users’ view.

Control4 has enabled a lot of these features and benefits through its Simple Device Discovery Protocol, which has been implemented by several of the leading manufacturers of IP cameras. What this means is that the consumer has a wide range of camera brands and designs to choose from in creating an appropriate security system integrated into a smart home. The security features, including cameras, alarms, motion sensors, and other detectors, fit seamlessly into all of the other parts of a smart home system, such as temperature control and lighting control. Security is of course a major concern of homeowners and business owners alike, and the desire to incorporate security features into home or business automation is logical and to be expected.