Thermal Imaging Cameras: a Low Cost Solution for Perimeter Protection

Today, the challenge for CCTV professionals is to make sure that video is effective on a 24/7 basis, 365 days a year.  Protecting an area during the day is one thing.   But what happens at night?   And in weather like fog, rain and snow?   What can be detected if CCTV cameras are blinded by the sun?

As CCTV systems become more advanced, the security industry will increasingly focus on 24-hour surveillance CCTV installations, not just daytime operation. To be really safe, a place should be protected day and night.

A number of tools are available to help detect potential intruders in the dark. Often, different technologies are being combined to create a perimeter of security. Fences can be complemented with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems with or without active infrared lighting or old fashioned lamps, Intrusion Detection (Rafid) Radio Frequency Systems, thermal imaging cameras and/or walking patrols. Whatever solution or technology is chosen to protect an area, they all have their advantages and disadvantages and some technologies are more expensive than others. To get a complete picture of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a given solution, not only the initial cost of acquisition, but also installation and maintenance costs must be considered. Some solutions consume a lot of energy and need a lot of spare parts. Environmental and energy consumption issues are at the top of today’s global agenda. Since € 1 of every € 5 spent in the world is used in lighting, and much of this is spent on inefficient and unnecessary lighting, special attention must be paid to this area. Saving energy by looking at running costs will become increasingly important. Local authorities and private companies are all looking at methods to save energy costs and lighting is an area that will receive due attention.

A large number of technologies are available to help detect potential intruders in the dark before they become a real danger. Let’s compare some of them:

The total cost to see at night

Closed circuit television (CCTV), combined with traditional lighting
CCTV systems have been an effective tool for security and surveillance applications via remzFamily. However, just like the human eye, CCTV cameras do not see much in the total darkness. Therefore, in order to detect intruders at night they are often complemented with traditional lights by the network of powered lamps. Although some lamps (fluorescent lamps, HID lamps) are more efficient than others, the operating cost remains very high. Light can only penetrate a certain distance and completely illuminate an area, so that it can be kept under surveillance of CCTV cameras, it is not always possible. Turning on and keeping lights may even be more expensive.

CCTV with traditional lamp lighting require replacing the lamp every 2,000 to 4,000 hours or every 8 months. Significant labor costs and materials are associated with lamp replacement. Light pollution is a global problem caused by the inefficient, intrusive and unnecessary use of artificial light. Symptoms include glow, excessive clutter of illumination and glow sky. Light pollution is a political issue given recent government legislation increasingly hot to control and punish light pollution. In some light locations, it is also considered to be too intrusive.

In addition, the lighting essentially establishes a route of attack for the invaders, creating shadows in which they can hide and access not detected.

Closed circuit television (CCTV), combined with LEDs
Compared to any lamp, LEDs provide significant savings in power consumption. LEDs also provide long life performance with small maintenance costs.
Infrared illumination with LEDs, sometimes also called active infrared, bundles of infrared radiation to the area in front of a camera. The LEDs are often placed around the camera lens.
LED lighting is compromised by limited range performance. In addition, providing lighting for domes has been a challenge for surveillance professionals as the lighting can not be equipped to move the camera.

Electrified fences
In order to keep intruders out of certain areas, fences can be built. To further enhance safety, fences can be equipped with sensors that generate an automatic alarm when someone touches the fence. Or they can be electrified, to keep the intruders away.
In all cases, fences should be complemented, for example, CCTV cameras or walking patrols in order to see what is happening around the fence.

Radio Frequency Intruder Detection (Rafid)
The simplest description of Rafid is to consider a system that uses two specially designed cables – one transmission of one radio wave while the other receives this wave.
Changes in the amount of signal passing between the cable and the receiving cable are analyzed by a signal processor. These changes indicate that someone or something is between the two cables, which will cause the alarm to fire. Due to the difference in signal strength, the system can detect whether these changes are due to the presence of a human or a small animal. It should be noted that in many cases, CCTV cameras still need to be installed in order to see what is generating a true or false alarm.

The thermal image
A new tool to see in total darkness, and in extreme climatic conditions, is thermal imaging.The thermal image is the use of a thermal imaging camera to “see” the thermal energy emitted from an object.Thermal imaging cameras produce images of infrared or invisible “heat” radiation.Based on temperature differences between objects, the thermal image produces a sharp image in which the smallest detail can be seen.They work both during the day and at night.

Most FLIR Systems thermal imaging cameras contain an uncooled vanadium oxide detector.This not only produces excellent quality thermal images, since they do not contain any moving parts, it needs practically no maintenance.Thermal imaging technology does not require additional lighting or lighting and does not have regular maintenance costs.

Decide which technology to use

Before making a final decision on what technology will be implemented to secure a perimeter at night, security managers should take a look at the pros and cons of each technology. This is described in the table below.

Case study: lower investment for thermal imaging
As it shows the advantages and disadvantages of the table on the previous page, thermal imaging cameras have many advantages for perimeter protection.To make a final decision, however, the cost of acquiring the system has to be considered.Below you will find a comparison of the required number of units for perimeter protection systems based on CCTV cameras versus systems based on thermal imaging cameras.In this simplified example, the cost of personnel and equipment during installation and cost in maintenance and energy bills are not included as they can vary greatly depending on available infrastructure, local power rates and local wages.In all cases these costs will be directly proportional to the amount of equipment and the use of lighting.Even if the price of a single thermal imaging camera may be higher than the price of a CCTV camera, the overall investment costs for a thermal imaging camera perimeter protection system is actually lower, in this case 28% lower.The larger the perimeter, the greater this difference will become.Since thermal imaging cameras do not require lighting to operate and given the fact that less cameras are required with the thermal imaging perimeter protection solution, this system will also consume less electrical energy than the CCTV solution, making the thermal solution cheaper in its maintenance than the CCTV solution.

– An industrial perimeter of 700 meters must be protected with the perimeter protection system.
– The perimeter needs to be protected day and night in all weather conditions.This means that CCTV cameras are limited in terms of distance that can be covered by infrared illuminators.

Even if the price of a single thermal imaging camera is higher than the price of a CCTV camera, in this example, the total cost of investment for a thermal imaging camera perimeter protection system is 28% lower.

Although all technologies have advantages and disadvantages of a small calculation makes it clear that thermal imaging is a good and a very cost effective solution to protect a perimeter, especially if this perimeter, as in almost all cases, also needs to be protected during night .
In this technical note, we demonstrate that for thermal imaging systems, not only are maintenance costs lower (power, parts, etc.), but the initial purchase cost of a thermal system is less than a CCTV system.
Although a single thermal imaging camera is more expensive than a CCTV camera, fewer cameras need to be deployed to cover the same area. The construction work that needs to be done is minimal. In some cases, the chambers may still be mounted on existing structures. In addition, since thermal imaging cameras produce a clear image in the darkest of nights, there are complementary technologies like lighting or infrared illuminators need to be installed. Not only does this limit the amount of construction work that has to be done, but it also reduces the cost of maintenance.

Thermal imaging cameras also generate less false alarms which is a common problem with CCTV cameras combined with video motion detection or video content analysis software.