prison systems
Why Use a CCTV Consultant? - part one
Supplied by Mike Constant, published in CCTV Today

Only a few years ago, specialist consultants in CCTV were a rare breed and often associated with installation companies. Hardly the place to go for independent and unbiased advice. Now there are quite a number of consultants offering independent advice on many aspects of CCTV. As with all professions, the service provided and their ability varies from the mediocre to the very professional, knowledgeable consultant. For the purposes of this article, it is assumed that the need for CCTV has been established from a thorough analysis of all the options available to solve the particular problem or requirement.

The first question to ask is "do I need a consultant and why"? There could be many reasons such as the following.

I have obtained quotations from five installation companies, which vary greatly in cost. I would like advice on which one will satisfy my requirements.

This is quite a common problem, with most installation companies employing very professional sales people, but with varying degrees of technical knowledge. The customer is frequently unable to differentiate the jargon and hype from real facts. A day or two of a consultant's time may represent a tiny percentage of the potential cost but save much heartache later.

I am starting from scratch with no knowledge of CCTV and require advice based on my perceived needs.

This is a classic case for obtaining the best advice at the earliest stages of the project. The consultant should be prepared to analyze your problem and even propose that CCTV may not be the answer to the problems. If it is, then you should obtain a cost proposal for the various stages of consultancy described later.

I have a system installed by a national company, but feel that it is not providing the quality of pictures I expected.

This happens more frequently than people realize, one problem is that many customers just accept the fact and do nothing. Others are convinced by the installer that everything is up to current technology. I've even been told on more that one occasion that it was the customers' fault because he did not describe his requirements properly!

Here is just a selection of problems from my experience and it is surely just be the tip of the iceberg.

The complaint was that the pictures were poor and frequently deteriorated to just a mass of snow. The system consisted of seven fully functional cameras. The first problem was that the only possible transmission from remote cameras was by microwave. The areas viewed by the cameras were reasonable well lit, but the 1KM microwave beam passed over docks. During the winter the docks were prone to drifting fog and mist, the area was also subject to high winds and driving rain. Hence the varying picture quality. When this was explained to the customer, he accepted the limitations whereas the installer had stated that microwaves were immune to interference. Another problem was that the microwaves were mounted on very flimsy mountings with no vertical adjustment, so the other problems were aggravated by a significant amount of movement. One remote pole had two pan, tilt units, one microwave receiver and two microwave transmitters fitted. When the loading was calculated, it was over 50% above the safe load rating for the pole, even without wind loading. In fact, none of the poles supplied were suitable for mounting microwave transmitters or receivers. Then it became interesting!

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