By BECKY GILLETTE
Digital camera security systems have come down considerably in price while the quality of images has improved dramatically. And the number of features available now are something that were only in the realm of science fiction in years past.
“The changes every year in the digital camera security business are incredible,” said Wendell Fugitt, owner S.T.A. Security Inc., which covers most of central and south Mississippi. “Equipment we paid big dollar for five to ten years ago is now half the price with five times the technology. It is like going from an eight-track tape to a CD every year.”
Fugitt, whose business was started by his father in 1978, said cameras being installed today have four to five times the quality of cameras from ten years ago. And the features available are very advanced. For example, some camera systems have face recognition, and some have a technology called people counting. You can put that in the doorway of your business and know that 30 people have entered, but only 25 have exited.
“So, there may be five people still somewhere in their store,” Fugitt said. “In case of emergency, owners may want to account for every employee and customer. Not all cameras have that feature, but you can get that feature if you want to pay for it.”
Other features can include object removal functions. A high-priced piece of artwork with a box around it will set off an alarm that sends you an email if that item is removed. Other functions include loitering detection, parking detection and people gathering detection.
Not many businesses want to pay for all those different types of things, but the services are available.
“It is almost George Orwell 1984 kind of stuff,” he said.
Fugitt cautions that when you sign agreements for services like ring doorbell security cameras, you are giving the authorization to allow those images to be viewed by others.
“Just like with Facebook and other things, when you sign those terms of agreement, you are letting someone else have access to a lot of information about you,” Fugitt said. “That is one of the reasons people prefer to go with a family security business instead of the big companies because customers have more trust in a small company protecting their data, rather than a big company that might not do a good job protecting access to their system.”
A lot of people don’t understand how critical it is to safeguard passwords. For businesses, it is important to have a permanent record of passwords or there can be problems if, for example, there is a new manager who doesn’t have the password to the security system.
One major use of security cameras is to deter shoplifters. Having a display monitor at a convenience store that shows your picture as you walk in is a big deterrent as people know they are being recorded.
Sometimes it isn’t necessary to get rid of all the old cameras when installing a new system. Fugitt said the new systems are hybrid. They will record from your existing cameras, but also the newer, much higher-quality cameras. “That is a good fit for the customer,” he said. “Just now we are replacing a camera system that is more than 10 years old. You don’t necessarily replace it until it is not working.”
Michael Clark, a sales person for Interface Security Systems, which has offices in Greenville and other locations, said the newer cameras have better quality and varifocal lenses that allow a much wider angle of vision.
“With high definition (HD) cameras and HD VDR, it allows you from the VDR to move to your left, right and center being able to zoom in on what you are trying to see,” Clark said.
While some people might do just fine buying a digital camera security system from a big box store or online, Clark said there are good reasons to consider using a security firm that does custom installations.
“When you purchase the system, what you are getting are precut lengths of cable,” Clark said. “If you are trying to get a camera 75 feet away from where you are at, you usually can’t go in a straight line and you have to go through the wall and ceiling, and hide the cable. They don’t design the kit for you to be able to call the company and order another 100 to 200 feet of cable.”
The connections on the wire are premade and are larger than the cable. That means having to drill a larger hole to get the cable end though it.
Clark said the biggest advantage of using a security firm is service. It is a lot easier to be shown how to operate the system than trying to figure it out from an owner’s manual.
“Most people have no idea how to program it or how to operate it,” Clark said. “I’ve had this happen more times than not. They call, and if we were to send a technician out, the technician would have to be paid to reprogram it and assist them. If they are not a customer, they can end up paying quite a large per-hour fee.”
Another problem is when a customer has a camera go out, if it isn’t taken down the proper way, the camera will burn out.
Clark likened using a security firm to someone trying to install carpet by themselves rather than use a professional.
“By the time you figure everything out, hire labor to do it right, and make sure you have warranties with the system, you come out really better with a professional installer,” Clark said.
Retail businesses, in particular, benefit from camera security systems. Clark said sometimes the systems are needed more to keep an eye on employees than outside customers. And now because of the mass shootings, many churches and schools are installing digital camera security systems. They are also popular with homeowners who want to keep an eye on the front door, the driveway, the swimming pool, etc.
“I’ve done more homeowners than ever before,” Clark said. “Cameras are some of smartest things put out there. They never lie. They always tell the truth.”
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