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Need A System For Monitoring Fire Station Construction

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Joined: 26 Feb 2010
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 10:10 pm    Post subject: Need A System For Monitoring Fire Station Construction Reply with quote

Hi All... this is my first post. I spent some time browsing the forums and there's an overwhelming amount of information here. I'm looking for some help in picking out a system to monitor the construction of a new fire station that we're building. I don't know a lot about the systems that are available but I kind of know what features I think we need:

1) Four outdoor cameras. We're in Northern CA, and the temps range from 25 to 105 degrees.

2) We're building the station on a 2.5 acre lot, and the building is about 50 feet from the street. I would like to put the 4 cameras on existing buildings that are across the street, on each side, and behind the building site. This way we can monitor the construction from all 4 sides. The neighbors are all friendly to the FD, and they will probably be more than happy to let us mount the cameras on their structure during the 1 yr construction project (but I will obviously check before we proceed). The building across the street is 200' away, the one behind is 100' away, and the ones on each side are about 50' away from the new structure.

3) We will get power for each camera from each building that a camera is mounted on.

4) I want wireless cameras with the ability to record all 4 feeds and monitor either each camera individually, or in a "quad" arrangement. The monitoring will be done remotely, and it would be nice to put the live feeds up on our web site. There doesn't need to be a computer monitor on-site except for maybe setup and debugging. The farthest wireless camera needs to reach about 200' to the DVR/Router. The views are unobstructed... at least until the new building is built.

5) I would prefer a standalone DVR rather than a PC, but that's negotiable depending on what's available and what they cost.

6) Speaking of cost... we have a budget of about $2000. We don't need hi-def or face-recognition quality. I wold like to have VGA quality at a minimum. We mostly just want to record the event for posterity, and provide some amount of security. I don't think we need PTZ, but that depends on how well the building fills the picture. Some night-time capability would be nice, but it's not essential.

7) We have Comcast going right through the site so we'll get internet service to one of the 4 buildings that we're mounting cameras on. That's the location where the DVR and router will be located.

8 ) The DVR should be able to record 30fps and I'd like to have enough recording capacity that I'm not swapping out drives every week. Nor do I need it to record for a whole year onto one drive, but there's a happy medium somewhere in between. I want to keep all the video and not overwrite it.

9) Once the project is done, we might continue to utilize the cameras to monitor the exterior of the building and maybe the inside of the engine bays, but they will be more in "security mode" at that point.

That's about all I can think of. I'm sure I missed something, so let me know if I'm way off base with my desires vs. cost. Thanks in advance for any help.
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Joined: 28 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

$2,000 is a tight budget for a 4 camera system. Are you open to low quality Chinese made unbranded cameras from EBAY?

Here's the problem, any name brand outdoor camera (or indoor camera + outdoor enclosure), even low res VGA, will run about $600 to start and that's not even the top brands or even include lenses. There are some home versions of cameras from Panasonic for under $300 but the reviews are reallly bad.

Next you need a way for them to communicate and built in WiFi is OK, but it limits your camera choices and not sure it will span 200', so it may pay to go with seperate outdoor access points with antennas, the cheapest are from Ubiquity, about $50-60 for their low end which will work well for this. Don't forget the wireless means you need A/C for each camera.

Then comes the storage, ideally an NVR (DVR equivalent for IP cameras), but a name brand NVR starts over your entire budget. If you had cameras like Mobotix, you can have it write to a NAS device (1 TB NAS for 4 cameras is fine, cost under $200). You can have other cameras write to a NAS via FTP, but you'll have a bunch of files and now way to manage it, for example, what happens when you run out of space, FTP just stops, where the Mobotix cameras manage it from the built in camera software. Mobotix cameras start at about $750 for VGA model, no night vision, no audio. Don't forget the software if you use a PC, that can vary from free to $150/camera depending on the camera brand and software you chose.

Lastly, the amount of viewers of live video streams is limited mostly by the internet circuit you get. A typical home or small business DSL or cable modem is good for one user at 640 x 480 at 30fps, maybe. You can reduce resolution and frame rate to allow more or get a dedicated circuit from a commercial ISP.
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Joined: 26 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi buellwinkle - Thanks for the reply.

The $2000 budget was just kind-of a guess so we're a little flexible on that. Not thrilled about using cheap Chinese cameras.

I'm open to using wireless access points but I thought that might end up costing more since I would have to buy 4 of them. I didn't realize that adding wireless to a camera cost a lot more than the access point.

Hadn't thought about using a NAS, but that is an option. I could monitor the disk space and swap out as necessary. If you use a NAS, and you want to watch one of the cams remotely, can you watch the live feed, or do you have to play one of the files that the cam created?

The number of users isn't a big deal as it usually won't be very many. I think we can manage that.

Other than being low on the budget, does the project in general seem feasible? Before I pursue it, I was just wondering if there was a better way to go about it.

-- thanks
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you use a camera like from Axis to FTP, it will send files to an FTP server/NAS. You would then have to manually look at them with an FTP client (I use Filezilla). If you use a camera like from Mobotix, you can write directly to a NAS and then their free software allows you find and play back video with audio. Both brands seem to run about the same price for what you get. So from my point of view, get a Mobotix M22 in VGA resolution if you like, they run about $700 or you can get them in 3MP for not that much more. Then you don't need a PC or software, just a cheap NAS. Think about using 3MP cameras but less of them. So if you can cover a larger area with one camera, maybe you can just get 2 instead of 4 and be in your budget.

The problem with built in WiFi is your camera choice. So say you get an Axis 211W, wifi vga indoor/outdoor camera, about $600, theoretically in your budget but then you need an outdoor enclosure and that's about $300 from Axis, then you need an outdoor antenna kit, starts adding up.

Either way, any IP camera will let you look at the live feed through a browser, no PC needed.

As for wireless, check out Ubiquiti networks, http://www.ubnt.com/, for their NanoStation M. Get the right one that outputs PoE so you don't need to have a power supply for the camera and comes with all you need, antenna, pole mount and power supply. Under $100 each and good for 8-15 km so 200' should be no problem.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great info... thanks buellwinkle.
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