Wired vs. Wireless Security Cameras

Sep 10, 2019

Wired or Wireless?

When we talk about wired vs. wireless in home security, it has little to do with whether a piece of equipment has attached physical wires attached to it. The terms wired and wireless refer to the communication signal that is transmitted from one piece of security equipment to another.

For a security system to execute its programmed commands, such as sending an alert to your cell phone, all of its components must be able to communicate with one another as well as you.

Communication signals can be transmitted using an analog or digital format. Then they are routed through a wired connection, like a telephone or cable line. Or by a wireless connection that uses radio waves to send the transmission, such as cellular, laptops with WLAN card, fiber optic communication, etc.

When it comes to security cameras, there are pros and cons to each type of transmission method. We’ve detailed all of the those pros and cons in this post.
 

Analog vs. Digital

Both analog and digital signals are used to transmit audio and video information. Analog technology is considered old-school and technically works by translating data into electrical pulses of varying amplitude. Digital signals, on the other hand, are a translation of information into binary format (zero or one) where each bit is representative of two distinct amplitudes.

For security cameras, the difference between analog and digital cameras (also called IP cameras) is the format in which the video signal is delivered—either pulses or bits. Which is better? It depends. Analog cameras have been the industry standard for decades. They are reliable, easy to install, and operate, and they can achieve clear high-resolution video images. And don’t think because they’re older technology, you can’t have a wireless system. Analog cameras can transmit their analog video signals either wirelessly or through wired connections. However, your can tend to have more interference in the transmission signal using this method.

Digital or IP cameras are more commonly chosen today though. Why? Because digital cameras offer incredibly high resolution. A higher resolution allow the camera to perform functions like facial recognition, license plate recognition, and the ability to digitally zoom distances of more than 100 feet. Digital video cameras also are more compatible with wireless technology and can be better suited for remote video surveillance needs.
where do the security camera signals go

Where Do the Camera Signals Go?

Once your analog or digital camera starts rolling, it must do something with the video and audio signals it records. An analog camera sends the signals to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The DVR records, processes, and stores all the data the camera recorded. The analog camera must be connected to the DVR by a coaxial cable. The DVR (depending on the model you have purchased) can take the recordings transmit them to a monitor for immediate viewing. You can watch these on your TV screen or your computer—and it can do this through a wired or wireless connection. It can even stream the footage to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop with a WLAN card.

A digital or IP camera has everything needed to record, process and store the video or audio data built into the unit itself; this eliminates the need to connect it to a DVR unit physically. The data from this camera is sent to wherever you’d like to view it via an NVR (a Network Video Recorder), which is just a piece of software, not a physical unit. This software creates a network, so the components of your security system can communicate with one another and ultimately transmit the signals to wherever you’d like them to go.  
 

Powering Your Security Camera

Even if you are using a digital or IP security camera, which doesn’t have to be connected to a physical DVR, you must still find a way to power the system. There are many advertised “wireless” security cameras out there that still need to be plugged in. The system still requires a cable to be plugged into an electrical outlet for the camera to work; this is especially important for outside security cameras as you need to consider the distance between the wireless security camera and its power source. Why is the camera called wireless if it still needs a wire? Because the word wireless refers to how the camera transmits its video and audio data signals, not how it gets its power.

There are battery-powered wireless security cameras available on the market as well, which would give you a truly “wire-free” solution. It’s essential to consider the battery life of these security solutions, however, in your overall security plan.
digital vs analog

Performance of a Wireless Security Camera

As you can see, you can have a “wireless” security system using either an analog or digital (IP) camera, although most consumers today will likely choose digital.

Deciding to purchase a digital security camera is just the beginning of the many decisions you must make to get the performance you truly want from your wireless security system.
 

Impacts to Camera Performance

For example, let’s say you want to install a camera to keep watch on your back yard at night. Wireless cameras are usually not great at night in low light areas, so if you don’t have adequate lighting in the area you want to view, chances are your video will be dark.

Another issue to consider: Do you have the necessary Internet bandwidth to support a wireless security system? (See our blog on What upload speed to I need for security cameras). Wireless video is only as good as the stream, and if your wireless camera is high resolution, you could experience significant slow-downs during the transmission.

As you can see, designing an effective security system is not always as easy as the commercials on television want you to think it is. If you are interested in talking to a professional security company, FSS offers several affordable options for cameras, including cloud storage, phone app viewing, etc. Call us for a free evaluation.

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