CCTV camera maintenance: worst and best practices

The fate of a typical Pasang CCTV Murah is to stare at an object around the clock through a dusty window in a dirty casing (unless, of course, the customer has prudently invested in a serious thermal casing with a washer and glass cleaner). Prevention? Cleaning? Come on, and this is how it works, «we are not making films.» The IT industry’s traditional “if it works, better not touch it” approach has penetrated the security industry as well, and cameras are slowly squeezing into the unattended category. The price spike, provoked by vendors from the PRC, leads to the fact that cameras intended for professional use are increasingly beginning to resemble consumer electronics products. Which manages to become obsolete before the need for maintenance matures. What do you think, has the graph about the care of the product been preserved in the documentation for modern cameras? Well, yes, «it’s shameful to read manuals», but still?

In whose interests?

Who is interested in ensuring that camera care procedures are carried out in the required volume at the right time? In civilized conditions, the contract for the maintenance of the system is usually obtained by the installer company. Separate procedures, however, have to be performed by the end user. In particular, an important task is the timely notification of the service organization about all emerging malfunctions — otherwise, the accumulation of problems can lead to a partial, or even complete failure of the system. Periodic maintenance can, in principle, be performed by the end user. However, the general desire to save money and the likely negligence of staff (often caused by savings on wages) can nullify this probability.

What about the manufacturer? The recommendations in the documentation are mostly aimed at avoiding making claims: do not pour acetone, do not rub with sandpaper, etc. In fact, a well-groomed camera of the old model is extremely unprofitable for the manufacturer: you need to sell new ones, increase the volume in order to dominate the market. As a result, hardware is no longer a long-term investment. Hence the quite justified disregard of the finisher to his own equipment.

What do we see in the end? Atmospheric pollution spills out into streaks, dust and dirt on casings, including glass, optics and domes. Glass casings in heated chambers on ceramics become cloudy from the inside from oil vapors and paint coatings. Moisture builds up inside the housings, making the electronics operating conditions uncontrollable.

What does all this threaten? Humidity increases the likelihood of electronics failure. A drop in the bandwidth of the optical path leads to a decrease in the real resolution and an increase in the light sensitivity threshold. That is, all the technical advantages for which manufacturers compete fiercely with each other are nullified. Customers make decisions about the purchase of specific camera models based on the technical characteristics and visual quality of the picture. At the time of starting the system, everything is in order with the image. But after several months of «failure» the picture can significantly degrade, or even disappear altogether.
What to do?
The most obvious way to ensure timely maintenance of CCTV cameras is to periodically remind the end user about it. For example, the manufacturer or the installer can notify registered users by e-mail. True, in this case it is impossible to take into account the peculiarities of a particular object: in reality, no one will collect data on the locations of the TV cameras and the conditions of their operation for the sake of some reminders there.

Vlado Damianovski, in his classic work, The Video Surveillance Bible, recommends preventive system maintenance at least twice a year. The composition of the procedures is determined depending on the needs of specific technical means.

Outdoor cameras, which are exposed to a variety of environmental factors, are the most troublesome in terms of maintenance. The specificity of a particular area here can result, for example, in periodic treatment with chemicals to scare away insects, birds and rodents. With a periodic system, attention should be paid not only to cameras, but also to lighting devices — both built-in and free-standing.

Dome cameras, especially PTZ cameras, suffer from optical contamination to a greater extent than box ones. Debris on the dome’s surface can “catch the attention” of the autofocus system, causing the entire image to be blurred. The rays from the built-in infrared illumination, reflecting from the contaminated dome, fall through the lens onto the matrix, from below