CCTV Providers: A Case Study

Note: Please, be aware that this post may contain affiliate links.

This is a case study into how I am choosing which CCTV manufacturer/provider is the best suited to aid our off the grid life. The resulting system doesn’t even have to have local storage, but it should offer us the best privacy and security incentives to give up local storage.

I have chosen the first CCTV provider that has made it through to round 2 – Anlapus

I have a separate spreadsheet sheet for single-camera setup and 4 camera/DVR/NVR kits. Anlapus will be in both sheets, but this case study will focus on the 4 camera system entry.

A few notes for you. There are abbreviations throughout this case study. The first time you see them, your browser will display it’s own rendering of the <abbr> HTML tag. For example, if you hover over the HTML a few words back, you will see what it stands for, you will also see the styling for an abbreviation.

I have also created embedded notes (mainly in the scores column), these will look like this.

The Chosen System

The system I have chosen from Anlapus is the “H.265+ POE 1080P HD Outdoor Security Camera System”. I will try to choose a system as close to this from each provider, but no matter the system that is chosen – the price will be considered as part of the score(s) that will be awarded for each manufacturer

The specifications

Attribute Description Measurement Value
Camera resolution Where possible, I have tried to stick with 1080p as a preferred resolution, that will give me a baseline, that all manufacturers will probably have available. MP/s 2
FPS What FPS does the system support (per camera)? a = System FPS
b = Number of possible cameras
c = FPS per camera

a ÷ b = c

240 ÷ 8 = 30
Initial price How much does the unit cost
a) at the time of writing
b) from the cheapest [reputable] retailer I can find online
c) including delivery
d) converted to GBP if need be
GBP £193 ($249)
Compression level What is the video compression level?
  • 1 = H.264 1
  • 2 = H.264+ 2
  • 3 = H.265 1
  • 4 = H.265+ 2
  • 0 = none of the above
4
Zoom type What type of zoom do the cameras/system have?
  • 0 = none
  • 1 = digital
  • 2 = optical
0
Zoom level What is the magnification of any zoom? Actual zoom level 0
Configurable regions Does the software allow you to set certain portions of the cameras output as private/secret/masked?
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
1
Night vision distance What is the distance that the infra-red illumination works up to? feet 100
Audio Does the system allow for 1 way; 2 way or no audio at all?
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = 1 way
  • 2 = 2 way
0
Firmware updates Is there a place to download updated firmware, should the need arise?
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
1
Default credentials A huge one for me personally.
  • 0 = blank password, probably with “admin” as username
  • 1 = easy password
  • 2 = random password, easy username
  • 3 = device specific credentials
  • 4 = biometrics, I can’t see this happening though
2.5
Video file storage Choose all options that apply for the live action video file storage? ONE point for each option that applies

  • SD Card (on camera)
  • Cloud storage from manufacturer without subscription
  • SD Card (on DVR/NVR)
  • USB Device
  • HDD/SSD
  • Local network (eg FTP)
  • Personal cloud storage (eg Nextcloud)
  • Commercial cloud storage (eg Google Drive)
1
Backups Does the system have backup/export options?
These options would be very similar or exactly the same as the live video storage file section above.
Again, one point per applicable option.
  • Option to star/favourite or flag video etc that ensures their persistence on the system
  • SD Card (on camera)
  • Cloud storage without subscription
  • SD Card (on DVR/NVR)
  • USB Device
  • Local network (eg FTP)
  • Personal cloud storage (eg Nextcloud)
  • Commercial cloud storage (eg Google Drive)
2
Notifications These notifications would include things like SMS; email; automated phone calls etc.
These notifications should originate from the DVR/NVR and not from the camera itself
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
1
Privacy mode Nb: For single-camera setups only
A privacy mode would include an option to for example press a button or say a key-phrase and have the camera stop collecting/storing data
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
0
Global availability I am not naive enough to think that these systems will be available in every single country throughout the globe, but they should be available in the main countries that my userbase is in.
  • 1 = Only available on 1 Continent
  • 2 = Only available on 2 Continents
  • 3 = Available on 3 or more Continents
3
>ONVIF Compliance This one is thanks to @ambianicai on Twitter, and this tweet and means that cameras should, ideally be ONVIF compliant. This means they can be used with a variety of different equipment. The advantage of this is that they are not tied to the manufacturer’s equipment, but can be integrated into many systems.
  • 0 = non-complient
  • 1 = complient
1
RTSP Streaming Again, thanks to @ambianicai for this one, RTSP streaming would allow the user to stream the camera view direct to software such as VLC.
  • 0 = no RTSP
  • 1 = RTSP available via script or other 3rd party
  • 2 = RTSP available by default
0
PoE Support If the cameras are the wired variety, is there the facility to power the cameras over the ethernet cable that carries the signal? This allows us to run a single cable to the camera.
  • 0 = PoE not available
  • 1 = PoE available
1
Camera lens size/aperture This gives an indication as to how much light can enter the camera. mm 3.6
Camera viewing angle What is the angle that the camera lens can view? Generally speaking, a larger number, will allow more information to be gathered from the sides of the camera. Excessive viewing angle can often lead to an unnatural look though.
Sometimes, such as with fish-eye lenses, this is the desired effect.
degrees (°) 90 II
Camera IP 4 An IP rating tells you how much things like dust and water can get into an encloseure. It’ normally used to work out a somethings waterproofness.
  • 0 = No IP rating
  • 1 = It has an IP rating but one under IP65
  • 2 = IP65 – dust tight & protected against water projected from a nozzle
  • 3 = IP66 – dust tight & protected against powerful jets of water
  • 4 = IP67 – dust tight & protection against immersion for 30 mins at depths 150mm – 1000mm
  • 5 = IP68 – dust tight & protected against complete, continuous submersion in water
IP66 I
Number of cameras This allows us to work out the FPS, and cost per camera per day etc. as is 4
Number of camera channels This is not always the same as the number of cameras, as people often get an 8 channel DVR system, but with just 4 cameras. This would allow the user to upgrade their system later on. as is 8
Internal storage size This is the size of any internal storage, be-it HDD/SSD/SD Card/USB etc. GB 1000
Scheduled operation Does the system allow you to schedule the live or motion-activated recording?
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
1
Motion-activated operation Does the system allow you to set it to only record when motion is detected?
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
1
Continious recording Does the system allow you to continiously record?
  • 0 = no
  • 1 = yes
1
Manual available Can you download a new manual, if you want one?
  • 0 = No
  • 1 = Single language
  • 2 = Multiple languages
2
The company What is the company like?
Are they in financial trouble, do they have a history of abandoned projects, have there been any data breaches etc.
  • 0 = Stop listing this company now!
  • 1 = SEVERAL data breaches
  • 2 = Unreliable company
  • 3 = ONE data breach – lessons learned
  • 4 = nope, everything is ok
4

The Apps
I have placed a lot of significance on the app, the people who develop it, its history etc

The review ratings What are the review rating? I will take the score of the app in Google Play. The rating as is 2.5
Notification meaningfulness What do the notifications say when they arrive on your phone?
Do they have meaningful messages…
…or are they something like the cameras technical name & the DTG3 (I’ve actually seen this) etc?
  • 0 – Complicated notifications
  • 1 – Meaningful notifications
0
Audio Does the app allow you to listen, or talk, or both?
Nb: I know that I already have audio above, but this is specifically for the app
  • 0 – No audio
  • 1 – 1 Way audio
  • 2 – 2 Way audio
0
App permissions Does the app need permissions? It probably will do (to store footage etc), but does it need permission to do things that make no sense considering what the app says it will be doing?
  • 0 = Too many permissions needed (IMHO)
  • 1 = Just the right amount of permissions needed
  • 2 = This porridge These permissions are just right
0
Other apps Does the app developer have any other apps in the app store? If so, what are they like? What ratings do they have?
There is a possibility that if an app developer has several apps that have a history of introducing malware or otherwise failing etc, this could mean that our app may be in danger of malware or failing etc at some point in the future.
  • 0 = The devs’ other apps are terrible
  • 1 = The other apps are ok
  • 2 = I would give this developer my Grandmother’s false teeth to gamble on an app (sorry Nan!)
0
Open source Does the app developer have any open source code available?
If so I will take a look at that and look at what other people have said about it.
If they are recent projects, it could give us an indication as to the quality of the app we are being asked to install on our mobile device.
  • 0 = No open-source projects available
  • 1 = Some PRs etc available
  • 2 = Some open-source projects available
  • 3 = Plenty of open-source with a good track record
0
Previous security breaches Has there been any other security of data breaches?
Nb: This is not necessarily a show-stopper: if a company handles a data breach in a positive manner, it can come out the other side with a much more secure system, with well-learned lessons.
  • 0 = This developer has been associated with several breaches
  • 1 = Several breaches
  • 2 = NO data breaches, but no other code or apps
  • 2 = One breach, handled poorly
  • 3 = One breach, handled well
  • 4 = NO data breaches over several apps
4

Remarks

Different IP ratings

There is contradictory information on the waterproofness of the cameras/ According to the text on the product page, the cameras are IP66, but on the accompanying images, the cameras are advertised as IP67. Although both of these are effectively weather-proof… the information does not match.

image of 2 different IP ratings for the same camera
On the left is the image showing an IP rating of IP67, on the right is the IP rating of IP66

Different Viewing Angles

Similar to the above is the question of what the viewing angle of the cameras are. In one image, it is listed as 90°, and in an adjoining image, it is listed as 95°.

Image of camera details showing 95 degree viewing angle (image 1)Image of camera advert saying 90 degreesImage of camera advert showing viewing angle as 95 degrees

The App Review

After looking at various apps from not only Anlapus, Zosi, but also the parent company, Ansjer, I have come to the conclusion that the apps are not really worth the space they take up and if you are wanting to go for a system that allows you to interact with a mobile phone, then this system is not the one for you. The average app review out of 5 must be about 2-3. There are many dissatisfied customers when it comes to the apps. You can read the review yourself at:

Calculate the score

Once the above table has been filled (actually, once the spreadsheet row for this provider has been filled), I can then go on to calculate the score for this provider.

Obviously, I can’t just add up the individual scores; otherwise, a system that has a night vision range of 200 feet, would easily win the as most other scores are between 1-3. So with that in mind, I have to find a formula that will allow each attribute score to converted to a standard integer. An example could be to get the minimum and maximum ranges for night vision, maybe 0-100 feet, then a score could be worked out by finding the providers night vision range on that scale

  • a = Maximum score available, whether anybody scored it or not
  • b = Highest score actually achieved throughout all manufacturers/providers
  • c = Lowest score throughout all manufacturers/providers
  • d = Score multiplier for attribute, yet to be decided
  • e = Total score for this manufacturer/provider for this attribute

a ÷ b – c * d = e

This is an initial thought, and it won’t take me long to get these all sorted so that a formula can quickly be entered in the spreadsheet. That means that I don’t have to work out the values for each provider, and are obviously the great things about spreadsheets.

I could always allow users to place a greater significance on certain aspects attributes, in order to choose what matters the most to them. This could prove a great initial table for the user to look at, as a base for finding the ideal provider.

Once all of the provider scores are worked out, they can then be placed in order and published.

I must make this clear, I am not planning on keeping this table up to date. It is a one-shot deal for the Off the grid series, so will go out of date in time, but the ideas will be there for others to follow.

Feedback

If you have any feedback, then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to work with you on what you want, assuming it’s within my power, of course.

References

  1. Video coding format
  2. HikvisionH.264+Encoding Technology (pdf)
  3. The Date-Time Group page on Wikipedia
  4. IP Code

Credits

As usual, the featured image comes from Unsplash and this one is from Freddie Marriage

freddie marriage

Grandadevans

I am a disabled veteran of 3 tours of Iraq and a tour of Afghanistan as part of the British Army. No longer able to work as I have to lay down on a sofa-bed in my living room 20-ish hours a day. I'm hoping to be able to make a living blogging about my Home Automation /Smart Home journey and maybe regain some dignity in life.

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