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How your IP-camera security gets obsolete – fast!

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Maintaining an up-to-date IP camera surveillance system requires more than just a passing glance at the monitors. There are significant drawbacks to keeping equipment for too long. Not only is it dated, but there is a chasm between features available on older models, compared to what is available today.

Marc van Jaarsveldt, consultant, The Surveillance Factory, a system integrator, says there are many factors to consider when reviewing your security cameras to determine if an upgrade is required: “There are many factors to consider prior to upgrading and the option to extend the lifespan of your existing equipment must be appraised. The biggest challenge is to decide whether to keep abreast of new technology or to try and keep your system live for as long as possible. This trade-off does have implications for how effective your camera system is as a security tool.”

While getting value out of your initial investment is key, there is no denying the leap that surveillance technology has made in the past five years and what this means in terms of camera technology features and benefits if you do decide to upgrade your system.

When reviewing the system, van Jaarsveldt says that the camera lifespan will generally be impacted by the quality of the equipment purchased at the outset, the current operating environment and maintenance schedule as well as the client’s overall appetite for improvements made to the system.

In a typical surveillance scenario, a quality camera may have a lifespan of between five and ten years, while a less expensive model may only survive for three years. “This will be impacted by the environment as an outdoor camera, for example, will be exposed to harsher elements. There are temperature changes, rain, dust, moving parts (on PTZ cameras) and even electrical surges to contend with, all of which can affect the camera” says van Jaarsveldt.

He cautions that camera lifespans do vary based on the manufacturer. Not all camera brands can survive in the field for ten-years: “The average warranty period for a camera is three years, with a possible extension to five years. Being out of warranty, however, does not mean it doesn’t work, it will simply cost more to repair, should something go wrong.”

If longevity is a goal, then maintenance of the system is critical. Van Jaarsveldt says that while this does not impact the overall lifespan significantly, it can make a difference to its functionality: “Simply cleaning the cameras will help, especially if they are in a harsh environment where they are exposed to sun, dust, water or chemicals from industrial processes. By cleaning the camera housings and lenses you are able to slow down the rate at which the hardware degrades or deteriorates. This can prolong the life of a camera. Also check for and remove nesting insects such as wasps, ants and spiders from camera housings.”

While it is understandable that users want to get the most value out of the system and enjoy a longer lifespan, the biggest influence and challenge to maintaining an up-to-date system is the rapid rate of technology development. While cameras five years ago offered an acceptable 720p resolution (1MP), today’s cameras routinely offer 3MP, 5MP resolutions and even the much talked about 4k, which is 8MP.

“The fact is that cameras five years ago are in no way a comparison to what is currently available. Even the best IP camera then could not compare with what is available now,” says van Jaarsveldt. “This makes the challenge more complicated as newer technology offers so much more value for a security environment where the quality of video footage is so important.”

He says that for some industries, such as retail, this lag in technology poses a significant risk and threat to the business: “There are certain sectors that simply can’t afford to fall behind the technology curve. While the older systems may still work, the reality is that a new system will offer more functionality and significantly more value to the business.”

An example according to van Jaarsveldt is the fact that older generation cameras offer lower quality images due to much lower resolutions and substantially less advanced light management such as WDR: “Earlier generations of cameras don’t offer good resolution with excellent light management, exposure and contrast control and wide dynamic range (WDR). While the new generation IP cameras offer far superior resolutions and most end users tend to accept 2MP or even 3MP as the entry level resolution.”

These higher resolutions offer more detailed images and when the video is analysed for incidents or events, this additional resolution is critically important. Newer IP cameras also offer superior light management, automatically allowing for big variances in contrast to be eliminated by combining multiple images.

“In security environments, where light contrast affects the cameras significantly, this is a very important feature. The camera is now able to produce video footage of a far higher quality and this provides improved security and forensic value,” explains van Jaarsveldt.

He says that while older systems may still be useful, clients need to be aware of the ramifications of keeping the older hardware in the field for too long: “If a complete camera swap out is not affordable, then review your cameras and replace the ones that are used in higher risk areas with newer models. Note that cameras with vastly higher resolutions may affect the performance of the back end recording server or NVR as well.”

By working with reputable system integrators, clients should be made aware of the specific components of their camera system that need to be retired and replaced. “Surveillance systems are generally in place for a good reason, it is imperative that they are upgraded as necessary and maintained appropriately,” says van Jaarsveldt.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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