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Just connect - Plug and play surveillance on trial

06 January, 2014
ProSecurityZone tests D-Link's JustConnect plug and play network video recorder for easy surveillance installation for the home or office

We've heard it said many times that the future of IP surveillance technology lies in the plug-and-play simplicity that we've all come to expect in computing hardware. Network video cameras should be no different - they connect to the same structured cabling used on computer networks, they're assigned an IP address and they are controlled by a central computer housed in an NVR (Network Video Recorder) which essentially boils down to a server with lots of storage.

When D-Link invited us to try it for ourselves, we welcomed the opportunity to set up a simple network in our labs and letting a technical journalist loose on it with just the instruction manual to assist. Doing this seemed a little like asking an art historian to paint a picture - he knows all the theory but never touched a paintbrush in his life. If he could do it, anyone could.

The delivery from D-Link consisted of an NVR, a DCS-7513 high definition, wide dynamic range day/night outdoor network camera and a DCS-6511 high definition day/night vandal proof fixed dome camera, all high quality kit that can be used in any professional surveillance installation.

The cameras are designed for flexibility so there are many more cables hanging out of them than you need for a simple network connection. Finding the standard ethernet cable is actually all that you need in order to connect them to the NVR box. Another ethernet cable attaches the NVR to a computer network or internet router and that's it... an instant surveillance network.

If you were to think that it can't get much simpler than that, you'd be wrong because you don't even need the computer. Using an HDMI or even a VGA cable, you can attach the NVR to a monitor and control everything from the front panel of the NVR. We tried it in both configurations to be certain we weren't missing any complexities that might raise a stumbling block on the installation.

Controlling the cameras and setting up the system from the control panel on the front of the NVR took a little getting used to and required several references to the PDF user manual to make sure the right buttons were being poked. The absence of a mouse made it a little tricky to navigate the menus. The NVR comes with a mouse port but for some reason we couldn't get the mouse to operate. However, it wasn't essential as with a little experience in using the front panel, navigation of the on-screen menus became much simpler.

Everything is available to the user from administration functions to direct camera control either as a single camera view or as a split screen to view the output from up to 8 cameras at once. The view could be toggled simply by using one button on the front panel.

For simple installations in small businesses or the home environment, the D-Link cameras and NVR are professional, high quality surveillance tools which will provide the expected service and which really are as simple to install as the plug-and-play concept suggests. The most difficult part of setting up such a network is bolting the cameras onto the wall and working out what to do with the spare wires hanging out of the camera .... neither of which are really any significant challenge. The rest of the installation is as easy as putting together a home entertainment system.

So does this mean that plug-and-play surveillance is a reality?

The answer is yes, to some extent. For small networks without complex requirements, plug-and-play is a reality. More complex surveillance networks incorporating integrated access control, video analytics and equipment obtained from multiple suppliers including legacy analogue cameras obviously require more complexity during configuration.

The dream is that all surveillance components will eventially become plug-and-play including legacy hardware, software applications and peripheral components. It isn't there yet but D-Link has made the first step to achieving that with the JustConnect network video recorder.

Jonathan Newell is a broadcast and technical journalist specialising in security systems and transport safety. He contributes to a range of titles in the technical press. He shares his time between the UK and Kazakhstan

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