As security camera technology progresses, it’s important for alarm technicians to understand what features add the most value, and what to recommend to clients. Many clients, especially commercial customers that have security systems at least several years old, may be interested in upgrading or adding a security cam for a specific purpose. Security cam systems come with lots of questions, especially questions about what kind of cam is worth installing. Let’s take a look at current features and what factors to understand when recommending the right models.

Night Vision

Night vision used to be somewhat rare and unreliable. Not so these days – every tier of security cam can have highly effective night vision cameras, and some with “starlight” modes or similar sensors can even specialize in it. The feature is so common it’s not really worth a cost comparison, making this an easy recommendation!

Motion Sensor Programming

Sometimes clients may be hesitant to include motion sensors since they are worried about over-sensitive sensors triggering all the time. If that’s a concern, recommend motion sensors with sensing zones and blind spots that can be programmed with the camera’s software. This allows motion sensors to be more accurate and cuts down on false alarms – and installers can handle the programming aspect if owners don’t want to bother with it.

False alarms are also becoming less of an issue thanks to more reliable machine learning. Google, for example, now offers Nest cams with AI capable of distinguishing between people (even recognized contacts), cars, pets, and packages for more tailored alerts. This is something to discuss with clients if they want as much information as a cam can provide.

Resolution

While resolution and megapixels tend to get lots of attention when a new cam comes out, security camera needs are relatively simple here. If a customer has cameras below 1080p/HD resolution, it’s a good idea to recommend an HD upgrade. Otherwise, resolution isn’t a great concern. Cameras with particularly wide viewing angles covering a large space may benefit from a full 4K upgrade, but otherwise it may not add a lot of value.

If clients are interested in getting a higher resolution compared to their old cams, remind them that saving or streaming high-resolution video over the internet takes up a lot of data – as does storing that video. That could easily affect any internet data caps or exacerbate internet speed issues unless the client has plenty of bandwidth.

Lighting

Many security cams now come with built-in spotlights or can easily be connected to other lights (even wirelessly, in some cases), to trigger them when the motion sensors go off.

Two factors to think about here: First, for commercial companies, automatic lights can be a quality-of-life improvement for outdoor cameras, but connected lights don’t usually add much to indoor cameras except in unique circumstances. Second, night vision and built-in spotlights are somewhat at odds with each other. Night vision doesn’t require nearby lighting to work, so a spotlight’s primary function is to scare away intruders.

Pan/Tilt Capabilities

While pan, tilt, and rotate features are common in many security cams, they also cause increased wear and tear and aren’t compatible with motion-activated video cameras. It’s a choice between larger commercial cams that can monitor a large area (still popular in retail, for example), and smaller cams that can be placed in multiple positions and automatically turn on when triggered. Pan/tilt cams must also be remotely monitored, while motion-activated cams don’t require as much manpower to manage on a day-to-day basis.

Wireless or Wired

Wireless vs. wired (including PoE) cams are still a big question, especially for commercial clients. Here are a few things worth talking about:

Positioning: One of the clearest differences, especially when working on a security system plan, is that wireless cams can be positioned nearly anywhere. Wired cams will have more limited positioning, and may require additional wiring work, which can raise the cost of the project.

Maintenance plans: Wireless cams will need to be periodically recharged or have their batteries replaced. Is this something that your clients are willing to do? If not, are they willing to sign up for a maintenance plan with you that will include taking care of charging batteries?

Interference: Brick or concrete walls, distance from routers, and other factors may mean that wireless security cams aren’t going to work in some locations. It’s important to test where wireless cams can actually work – sometimes wireless cams will be required.

Video Storage

It’s a good idea to recommend local storage if possible. Cloud storage tends to be more costly, includes lots of internet data use, and may have more limitations. It’s an option for very simple, one-cam setups on smaller properties, but local storage tends to have a commercial advantage. Both local and cloud storage can work with wireless or wired cams, although cloud storage is more commonly paired with wireless cams (which tend to have hubs or SD card slots for local storage as well).

Either way, video storage requires maintenance. Local storage and cloud storage alike need to be regularly cleared of triggered video events. Consider offering storage maintenance as part of a maintenance plan for smaller businesses without on-duty security guards.

Final Note

The latest security cam features give clients more options than ever. Remember, not all clients will be interested in the specifications we talked about above. Some won’t want to get into the details, while others may not know much about technology. Always be prepared to make a specific recommendation if a client asks you what kind of cam they should pick.