Helping you see in the dark – the evolution of infrared

Posted October 02nd, 2018 by Alessandra Atria

Have you ever tried using a camera in the dark? The absence of light makes it extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, to get a good image. This is especially true for a video surveillance system that is trying to detect and identify intruders at night, where image usability is critical.

While there are many technologies out there, such as thermal imaging cameras, that can facilitate surveillance at night, these devices work by

detecting heat and are therefore mostly used to verify the presence of people, rather than provide detailed images of them.

This is where Infrared Radiation (IR) comes into play. For operators to retrieve a detailed image in the dark, visual cameras are the only option, which means creating artificial light within a scene. This can be achieved utilising IR-LED illumination, a power-efficient way of producing clearer images in the dark. It can either be added to a system as a standalone device, or by using camera-integrated IR illuminators.

The decision to use a standalone device depends on the aims of the surveillance system, and there are many options available for differing requirement. For example, discretion can be important during night traffic surveillance, where light could be too distracting for a driver. However, standalone illumination will deliver better results when discretion is not necessary.

How does IR illumination work?

IR technology isn’t new, but innovation in the IP surveillance industry continues at pace and technology progression has meant we can now see in the dark better than ever before. Our partner Axis Communications recently launched AXIS OptimizedIR , which as the name suggests, can be optimised depending on the specific camera and scenario.

Infrared technology It is based on power-efficient LEDs with minimal heat dissipations. This means it supports Power over Ethernet, with no additional cables required. The low heat generation also results in increased durability, longer lasting LEDs, and illumination concentrated only where it is needed keeping power usage low. Even illumination helps avoid under-exposure; there’s no need to worry about image usability anymore.

IR illumination is usually supplied built in of a CCTV camera or as a standalone unit in combination with a camera; depending on the security needs, a business may need either or both solutions. A standalone IR light will be more powerful and able cover a further area, while an integrated CCTV IR illuminator, will have a shorter reach, as built in lEDs tend to be less powerful than those in standalone illumination.

In the case of OptimiseIR, the integrated IT illumination takes a step further, implementing the features of the standalone IR illumination into pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras, allowing the light to cover a smaller or wider area as the camera zooms in and out and delivering high quality images.

One thing to note: integrated IR lamps tend to attract insects such as spiders which may obscure the camera view. Consider how this may impact your camera cleaning and maintenance operations when deploying integrated IR.

Illumination and lighting, the key for image usability

Effective and reliable video surveillance in an environment with complete darkness has historically been problematic; but it doesn’t have to be anymore. Today, your choice of network camera can be decided by the task required, rather than the light that is available, all because of the evolution of IR technology which is helping deliver effective light, and therefore better image quality, from a video surveillance system.

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