Digital Recording

Doug Carner Comments
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Security cameras. You've seen them or, more correctly, they've seen you. Security has always been an important issue. Since Sept. 11, video security has become more significant than ever.

Modern technology expands your options to resolve previously impossible situations. If your self-storage site spans nonadjacent property, advanced wireless cameras can bring remote signals to your office. If you own several facilities, you can simultaneously observe all of them using a single Internet connection. To add a marketing advantage, you can display select cameras on several strategically placed monitors in your office, letting tenants know their units are being watched.

A well-positioned video-surveillance system can answer the who, what, when and where of any crime. The mere presence of security cameras can be enough to deter a would-be criminal. But during a crime, your video system is only as useful as the image quality it can provide.

The traditional surveillance system reduces several camera images so they can be combined into the single input of a VCR. It is this shared signal that is actually recorded. The VCR stores this image using a slow-recording mode so it can store several days of video on a single tape. The tradeoff is image quality. Even the VCR tape loses quality as it is continuously re-used. The end result is video playback that is barely acceptable.

You can see an example of this by watching the evening news. The reporter will display a grainy picture depicting a recent store crime. The face of the criminal is masked in snow and the image is almost useless. Compare that image to the picture of the news reporter telling the story. His face is rich in color and detail. What makes the difference? Digital.

Digital recording yields high-quality images that will not deteriorate with time. It retains its video quality forever, and each image contains an invisible mark that assures it was not altered. Modern imaging software can interweave several successive images and create a new picture that provides details no one picture could ever provide. This is how the newest spy satellites are able to read a car's license plate from 100 miles above the earth.

Digital video technology has been developing rapidly. While it was quickly adopted in home camcorders, the small-business market has been slow to incorporate these advances. Most self-storage locations still rely on circa 1990 VCRs, believing their captured images will be good enough should a crime ever occur.

The newest systems let you search for a specific event in a matter of seconds, even when reviewing months of recordings. You can "ask" your video system to show you every time a specific door was opened. Just as easily, you can print or e-mail key images as needed.

Some security systems allow you to integrate your surveillance cameras into your accounting and access software. This allows your staff to watch the site's video cameras without ever taking their eyes off the management computer screen. Furthermore, your keypad cameras can automatically link a video snapshot to each record of keypad activity.

Integration allows you to have advanced video solutions that fit into every budget. For less than $1,000, you can add the ability to view what your video cameras are recording via the Internet. Imagine being able to watch and hear your management office or remote keypads at any time from any Internet-enabled computer.

You do not need to become a video expert to equip your storage site with advanced surveillance. In this post-Sept. 11 world, digital video surveillance may become the most important addition to any storage facility. There has never been a better time to learn what your choices are. As with any product, shop around and find the vendor best able to meet your needs.

Doug Carner is the vice president of marketing for QuikStor Security & Software, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based company specializing in security, software and management for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail doug@quikstor.com; visit www.quikstor.com.

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