6 Reasons Why CCTV Security Systems are Vital for Your Business

Do we pay the price of keeping our facilities safe and secure? Do we have a good ROI when we spend our hard earned cash on CCTV monitoring of our facilities? How crucial is it to have our premises covered by a well-designed professionally installed security system?

One of the most cost effective ways to provide security in the workplace is with CCTV Security or Video Surveillance Systems. The highly advanced technology of modern security cameras allow businesses to lower cost and risk by protecting their assets with continuous and seamless monitoring of their facilities. These relatively inexpensive cameras have in the most part replaced expensive security guards while increasing the reliability and accountability to near 100% by providing real time remote video surveillance.

Here are six reasons why CCTV systems are crucial and extremely necessary for businesses today:

  1. Reduce Cost and Risk

CCTV security systems prove themselves as the best investment as soon as they are installed. Full view of your premises and real-time recording as well as remote online access by owner/manager lowers the risk and prevents costly incidents such as burglary, fire, vandalism, etc.

  1. Prevent and Deter Crime

Criminals target buildings and facilities when they see there is no monitoring or watchdog. The very presence of CCTV cameras on an installation is enough to deter potential criminals and prevent their action at the outset. Similarly, by the sight of a safety hazard, employees can take the necessary action to reduce the risk and alleviate the source in the shortest possible times.

  1. Fool-Proof Coverage

A well-designed CCTV infrastructure is practically impenetrable and can provide 100% coverage. Multiple cameras keeping an eye on each other’s blind spots in addition to keeping an eye on the most vulnerable areas of the property, full monitoring is not hampered by human errors such as the guard being on shut-eye or being busy with something else. Remote online access as well as recording of the events documents everything should it be needed by the police or judge.

  1. Keep Your Employees Honest

CCTV cameras on the outside prevent break-ins by outsiders, but if installed inside the facility to monitor sensitive materiel, goods, and assets, as well as vulnerable areas of a facility, it will prevent wrong doing by company employees. Even if something happens, the recorded video will prevent wrong accusation and lack of trust among all staff.

  1. Encourage Good Behavior

CCTV cameras help in creating discipline among employees and customers alike.  CCTV cameras encourage employees and buyers to be on their best behavior alike. It also gives customers a sense of security and safety as they know they are protected and gives them confidence in doing business with you.

  1. Prevent Safety Incidents

CCTV cameras can be installed in high-risk areas of a business facility or establishment. These high-risk and accident-prone areas include locations where fires can break out as well as locations where a potential danger to the building and personnel exist. Properly selected cameras can prevent potential damage because emergency measures can be taken immediately with careful monitoring.

  1. Assist Law Enforcement

CCTV recording of the scene of the crime, allow law enforcement agencies to use the footage and release photos and videos of the culprits to the public. A picture or a video record of the suspect can make a huge difference when it comes to making an arrest and getting dangerous criminals off the street.

So there you have it! We hope that we have enlightened you on the importance of CCTV Security Systems for your business. If you wish to know more about CCTV systems, check out our article on How to Select the Correct CCTV Camera to Use?

5 Reasons for Outsourcing your IT Services – Does it also save costs?

Many companies argue whether outsourcing their IT services would save them any money or if it would actually increase their costs vs having an in-house IT engineer handle their IT requirements.

Actually, I’ve seen many company owners who decide to go for a single in-house IT engineer because of the belief it would cut costs, or because they feel more confident and in control.

So you might be interested to know that the facts are actually the opposite – one of the main reasons (or probably the main reason) for IT outsourcing is for the sake of costs savings. This is so important that not just small companies, but many large enterprises have implemented the IT outsourcing model as a factor of costs saving.

But apart from costs savings, there are also other important reasons for why I would recommend IT outsourcing specially for the small companies and startups.

5 Reasons for Outsourcing

Among many benefits one can list, I think the 5 below are the main reasons I would recommend outsourcing IT services:

  1. Saving Money Saving money is probably the most important reason for IT outsourcing. IT outsourcing will eliminate the fixed costs of hiring employees, training, employment insurance and taxes, and a lot more.
  2. Receiving Professional Services Nowadays it is almost impossible to find a single employee who is a master in all the different fields of IT that a company needs such as LAN infrastructure, setup and management of servers, VOIP, Video Conferencing, user support, etc. In my experience, companies who do hire their own in-house IT staff fall into a trap where their IT engineer gives them the wrong technical solution, simply because he/she is not a subject-matter-expert in all the fields that the company expects him/her to be. Outsourcing IT services will ensure that the company would have access to a pool of resources when and as needed who are experts in their own fields.
  3. Keeping up to date with new technologies It is extremely hard to expect that a single IT employee can keep up to date with all new technology advances. This will prevent companies that depend on their internal IT resources from benefiting on new technologies which could effectively save costs. This is not the case with companies who provide IT outsourcing services – they always keep themselves up to date with new technologies to stay in the competition.
  4. Improving Company Focus For companies who depend on their local IT resources, company management would inevitably find themselves dragged into making decisions on IT expenditures and figuring out what solution is the right one to implement, or how accurate the estimations or technical evaluation of their IT employee are. I’ve even seen top management of companies getting engaged in solving basic IT problems that has ultimately halted operations. By outsourcing IT requirements, companies can focus on their core business.
  5. Flexibility By outsourcing, it would be very easy to demand resources when needed, without worrying about the workload of in-house IT resources.

Risks of Outsourcing

Like any other “good” service, IT outsourcing also has its own risks. The most important risk that you would need to be careful of is that the company you select for outsourcing does not “lock” you to themselves. I would strongly recommend you make sure you include in your agreement that you receive a copy of all network drawings, equipment login credentials, and details of configurations. I would also recommend not going with any customized or proprietary software that would lock you up with a specific service provider. By following such hints, you can always switch to another IT outsourcing company when needed.

How to Select the Correct CCTV Camera to Use?

There are literally thousands of camera models from hundreds of approved manufacturers available in the market, and this makes the selection of the most appropriate CCTV camera to use a very confusing issue.

In this article, I will try to explain very simply the different parameters you need to look into when selecting a CCTV camera for your project, as well as the required knowledge to determine if what you are being offered really matches what you expect or not.

Please note that I will be discussing IP Cameras here and not analog. As explained in my previous article “Analog CCTV vs IP Cameras – What’s the Correct Choice?” – analog CCTV is not recommended anymore.

Key parameters for selecting the proper type of CCTV camera:

1) Outdoor/Indoor: One of the parameters that can be easily filtered by available choices is whether the camera is for indoor or outdoor use. While it is essential to use an “outdoor” type camera for outdoor installations to provide IP65/IP66 weather protection, “indoor” cameras are less bulky and more cost effective for indoor installations.


2) Coverage Area / Target Distance: The second most important parameter in selecting the correct type of camera is to determine the coverage area and target distance for each camera in your system. Below are some of the key camera parameters that will be determined based on the coverage area / target distance:

  • Fixed vs PTZ: PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) cameras as the name suggests give the possibility to user to turn the camera view to any needed direction and to zoom on specific areas. They can be also pre-programmed to automatically scan specific routes. On the other hand, fixed cameras provide constant uninterrupted monitoring of a specific, fixed area like entrances and exits or perimeters.

Type of Lens: the type of lens determines the angle width and the distance that each camera can cover. As a rule of thumb, the wider the coverage angle is, the less distance is covered by the camera. Using a vari-focal lens enables you to adjust these two parameters of the camera in practice. There are also 180 degrees or 360 degrees fisheye cameras that are used indoors for providing a wider coverage.

180 Panoramic View

360 Fisheye View

3) Image Resolution: in IP cameras, this is determined by number of pixels (color dots) that each camera image consists of. The higher the image resolution, the more image details is captured and provided by the camera. At the same time, more storage capacity would be required for recording. The current common resolutions these days start from 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels) and go up to 5MP (5 Megapixel or 2592 x 1944 pixels).

Camera Resolution Chart

Advantage of IP Cameras

4) Night Vision / IR: If you require capturing video in darkness, then you should look for cameras with day/night and IR (infrared) lighting configurations. IR cameras use infrared LEDs that are lit automatically when dark and enable the camera to capture black & white video in complete darkness. The coverage of cameras in the darkness is determined by the power of their IR light which is a parameter you should look into when selecting such cameras.

Security Cameras with Nightvision

5) Camera Housing: camera housing is also an important factor to consider when selecting your camera. Below are the main types:

  • Dome Cameras: Dome cameras are used both for indoors and outdoors for both fixed and PTZ cameras. They have a nice look and it is also hard to determine which direction the camera is pointing at.

  • Box Cameras: These cameras are also used both indoors and outdoors and are the standard type of security cameras we all have an image of in mind. The lens and direction of the cameras are clearly visible and clearly show everyone that the location is under CCTV surveillance.

  • Bullet Cameras: These are small, cylindrical type, waterproof housings that are usually used for outdoor cameras especially when you don’t want the cameras to capture much attention.

6) Vulnerability: Apart from indoor/outdoor type of cameras, you might also want to select “vandal-resistant” cameras that come with very-hard-to-break glass covers to protect the camera against vandalism. There are also Explosion-proof cameras that are extremely expensive and protect the camera against explosions.

7) Other features: In addition to above main parameters, new IP cameras also come with a constantly-expanding list of new features and enhancements – these include video analytic and enhancement features, web interface for direct view and remote monitoring and control, automatic alert notifications via email and SMS, and even internal NVR for recording of videos. So these are also the parameters you might want to check into.

Please note while I’ve tried to focus only on the key factors, it is also important to emphasize that designing a professional CCTV solution still requires a high level of expertise and experience and it is always worth it to have a professional company involved in designing the proper CCTV solution tailored for your needs.

IPTV VS Analog MATV – What’s the correct choice for distributed TV entertainment?

One of the key requirements in every hospitality infrastructure (being it a hotel or a man-camp for a remote oil and gas site) is to provide the guests with a selection of TV entertainment channels in each room.

These solutions usually consist of a “head end” system where satellite and/or terrestrial TV channels are captured and then distributed over the TV network to each TV installed in the rooms.

Up until only a few years ago, the only well-known solution was MATV (Master Antenna TV also known as SMATV – Satellite Master Antenna TV), where the TV channels were “modulated” at the head end over different TV channel frequencies and then distributed over a coaxial distribution network.

Recently however, there is a growing demand for IPTV solutions. As the name suggests, an IPTV system depends on LAN infrastructure (computer network) to fulfil the same function.

Benefits of IPTV over MATV/SMATV

IP-based technologies are for sure the future of everything and the same is true here! There are many benefits of an IPTV system over an MATV/SMATV – some of the most important ones are:

  1. Higher picture quality: an analog MATV system is highly susceptible to poor image quality and distortions like ghost images and snowy pictures, while in a well-implemented IPTV system, there is zero downgrade of picture quality.
  2. Unified communication medium: if there is a proper LAN infrastructure in place or if we’re talking about a complete new installation, IPTV would not need separate cabling apart from the LAN infrastructure while for MATV, separate coaxial cabling would be required.
  3. More channels: while in an analog MATV the total number of channels that can be broadcasted is limited to 80, in an IPTV system there is no such limitation as long as the proper LAN infrastructure is in place.
  4. Interactivity: unlike analog MATV which is a one-way system, IPTV solutions provide 2-way interaction giving access to great features such as internet browsing, Video on Demand (VoD) and customized hospitality features.
  5. Wide distributions: as IPTV is based on IP technology, the solution can be distributed over wide areas in such a way that there are now many providers who offer IPTV services over the internet.

Challenges of IPTV

Based on the above benefits of an IPTV system, should you go ahead and replace your existing SMATV tomorrow? Well, there are key challenges that might make this a difficult decision to make:

  1. Need for a good LAN infrastructure: IPTV systems can’t be implemented just over ANY existing data network. You need to make sure the existing network can actually support the required bandwidth for the IPTV multicast packets and that the network switches do support features such as IGMP Snooping. If not, you end up with a flooded data network and totally unusable, jittered TV images.
  2. High Equipment Costs: Although like all such new technologies, the price of IPTV equipment is sharply dropping every year, the extra costs can still be a decisive factor here.

The other alternative: DVB MATV

In cases where there is a lack of a strong LAN infrastructure, replacing poor quality SMATV systems with IPTV would not seem cost effective. However, there is still another alternative to consider: DVB MATV (Digital Video Broadcast). These systems also work over the same coaxial network used by MATV, but broadcast the channels in DVB (digital) format so they would be a mid-way but cost effective solution to considerably enhance the picture quality of an old MATV system without the need to change the cabling structure. (This is considerable for the renovation of entertainment systems for large hotels where the re-cabling of the whole building would be too much trouble).

Future of TV Entertainment

With no doubt, analog MATV systems are rapidly becoming outdated and replaced by IPTV systems. It would be up to the current MATV owners to decide the “right time” for the swap!

Analog CCTV vs IP Cameras – What’s the Correct Choice?

If you search on the internet, you can find many disputes about Analog CCTV vs Digital IP Cameras. The main question is this: Are IP Cameras the sole players in the future of CCTV, or are there still some good reasons for implementing analog cameras?

oday, I see many CCTV designs proposed for buildings that are based on analog CCTV solutions. Unlike some designers who still propose analog cameras, I can undoubtedly confirm that the future of CCTV surveillance solutions is with IP-based systems. Nevertheless there are still rare cases where one might decide to propose an analog camera – I’ll give a hint on those as well at the end of this article.

In this article, I want to quickly go over this topic and provide an easy-to-understand explanation.

The key difference between analog CCTV and IP Cameras

Without going into too much of technical explanations, the two systems can be quickly defined as below:

  • Analog cameras transfer the video signals in analog form (electrical signals), usually use coaxial cables for the cabling, and have the videos recorded by a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), where each single camera is directly connected to the DVR.
  • IP cameras encode the video signal into IP packets, use the data network (LAN) for the cabling, and have the videos recorded by an NVR (Network Video Recorder) that can be connected anywhere on the network.

Both type of cameras use the same mechanism for capturing the video by their CCD sensor, and the main difference is the method by which the video signal is transmitted.

Benefits of IP Cameras over Analog CCTV

  1. Higher image quality: Unlike a few years ago, where cameras have poor video resolution, now we have mega-pixel IP cameras that totally outmatch any analog camera solution. The higher pixel resolution of the IP cameras means you can zoom into much more details of a scene even after it is recorded, without losing clarity.
  2. Unified cabling infrastructure: by utilizing the same LAN network infrastructure, IP cameras can be deployed usually with no need for major re-cabling. It also enables utilizing different network mediums such as wireless and fiber links seamlessly.
  3. No major interference / distortion hassle: in analog systems, especially when the cameras are over a few hundred meters/feet away from the DVR, interference and distortion due to electrical noises, poor quality connections, and ground loop effects can cause tricky situations requiring extensive effort to overcome. With IP cameras, one won’t need to bother about interferences / image quality issues.
  4. Power arrangements: IP cameras can be mostly powered over the same network cable through POE (Power Over Ethernet) by simply connecting them to a POE-capable network switch, eliminating the need for separate source of power. This is not the case in analog cameras, where each camera would need separate power source.
  5. Easy management: IP cameras can be easily managed and controlled remotely. This considerably simplifies and speeds up troubleshooting of the system. One can easily check the connectivity of each individual camera over the network using a laptop with proper authentication, while in analog cameras physical attendance to each camera and using of separate monitoring tools is a must.
  6. Lots of extra features: New IP cameras come with a constantly-expanding list of new features and enhancements – these include video analytic and enhancement features, web interface for direct view and remote monitoring and control, automatic alert notifications via email and SMS and even internal NVR for recording of videos.

When can I still consider Analog Cameras?

With all technology enhancements, many of the arguments justifying analog cameras are not valid anymore and belong to the past. Arguments such as analog cameras have better image quality or costs less were valid a couple of years ago, but not anymore.

But there are two design conditions when one might still justify an analog camera solution:

  1. Very small systems for small shops: If you want a very simple and cost effective setup to include up to 4 cameras connected with a very short cables to a DVR to setup a basic surveillance for a small shop, analog cameras are probably still considerable for 1-2 more years.
  2. Distributed, distant cameras with no existing network infrastructure: There might be some rare cases where a simple surveillance solution is needed where there are a few cameras distributed in different directions and with several hundred meters/feet distance from the control room. In such cases, if there is no network infrastructure available, one might still consider an analog camera solution for the sake of lower costs of implementation.

Conclusion: After reading this article, if you see a designer proposing you a camera system based on “coaxial cables” – you can confidently conclude that you are in wrong hands!

Which Telephony Solution Costs Less to Implement – VoIP or analog POTS?

Telephones have always been and will continue to be a part of any office, hotel, or any industrial infrastructure. Today, there are still many design requirements where you see requests for analog phone systems, arguing cost saving reasons.

So the question would be: What is the most cost effective solution for telephony systems – Voice over IP (VoIP), or analog Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS)?

If you’re thinking “Of course VoIP”, I’m afraid that’s not a fully accurate answer – there are also exceptions!

Below I briefly explained which of the two costs lower to implement:

What are the situations where VoIP systems cost less to implement?

There are many situations where VoIP systems are simply the better option for telephony when it comes to saving costs.


1) Scattered and Large Infrastructures

The cabling costs for an analog or VoIP telephony solution on very small offices might not differ much, but the difference would be immense if we’re talking about large building infrastructures with hundreds of phone sets. In a VoIP setup, the same LAN network can be used for VoIP telephones with no need for expansion with a separate cabling infrastructure. However, in an analog telephone solution, you would need to lay copper cables from the PABX to each single point that requires a telephone connection, raising the need for expensive multi-pair copper cables for the telephony backbone.

2) Where Scalability is Demanded

In analog systems, a pair of twisted copper wires should connect each phone to the PABX. It means scalability would need to be designed from the beginning by using multi-pair cables with enough spare pairs to allow for future expansion. Without adequate spares for expansion, the laying of new cables would be simply unavoidable. In VoIP systems, there would be no need for new cabling to accommodate expansions in the network backbone.

3) When a High Number of Phones are Needed

Analog PABXs need to include individual circuits for every extension, and as the number of extensions increase, they simply are much more expensive than VoIP PABXs. VoIP PABXs can be as small as a 1U rack server with no need for separate electronics.

VoIP systems of course come with many extra benefits in addition to costs savings – such as a long list of features not available on analog systems, full integration with computer and data networks, much easier maintenance, software upgradability, and much more.

Therefore except for very small offices with less than a handful of phones, I can’t think of any other scenario for proposing a full-analog POTS PABX anymore. But this is not the end of story!

What are the situations where analog systems cost less to implement?

Don’t be surprised! There are still many situations where an analog system can be a more appropriate solution for at least part of the telephony system of an infrastructure.


1) Distant Locations with no Means of Electricity

VoIP phones need to be powered on to work! This is usually done by getting the power from a POE (Power Over Ethernet) network switch over the same network cable that connects the phone to the switch. However, this limits the distance to no more than 100 meters or 300 feet. But in analog POTS phones, the power to the phone is provided over the twisted pair cable which can be extended for up 2 miles (3 km) or more. It is not a rare scenario in industrial infrastructures where the telephony system would need to be extended to some remote locations.

2) Hotlines and Emergency Phones

Analog phones are still commonly used in industries as hotlines / emergency phones – they are independent from any network infrastructure and hence would still work in cases of emergencies like power cuts and shutdown of electricity to the infrastructure network.

Both VoIP and analog each have their own strengths in specific situations, which allow you to save on costs when implementing the correct telephony system. Today, there are technologies that allow both VoIP and analog systems to interface with each other. FXS cards or ATA adapters are usually used to interface an analog phone system to the now very common VoIP PBXs.

The Challenges of Unified ELV Implementation

In my recent article 5 Reasons Why Integrated ELV Systems Reduce Costs, I tried to explain briefly how a well-designed integrated and IP-based unified ELV system considerably reduces construction costs.

However, like any other good thing, this comes with its own set of challenges to tackle!

Integrating complex ELV systems into a single LAN network requires high design experience and extremely good knowledge about integrated technologies.

The network designer who is responsible for the design of the unified ELV system must have an in-depth understanding of both the passive layer (cabling/containment) and the active layer (network switches and routers).

One of the main challenges in utilizing the same network for different systems is the calculation of the required bandwidth. This is especially important to ensure that audio/video related technologies such as CCTV (surveillance cameras), IPTV (TV system) and VoIP (telephone) – systems that highly depend on IP streaming techniques – are not jittered.

Some of the design considerations needed to achieve the best results are listed as follows:

  • Ensuring a proper network topology with correct IP plan that allows expandability
  • Ensuring the usage of correct network switches to achieve the needed bandwidth while controlling the costs
  • Determining the correct backbone media to use for future expansion
  • Ensuring proper network segregation by implementing Virtual LAN (VLAN) techniques
  • Implementing IGMP snooping for controlling IPTV multicasts
  • Ensuring backbone redundancy

Another challenge to tackle at the design level of a unified ELV system is selecting the right products to use. There are so many brands for so many systems that need to be integrated into a unified, IP-based solution – and due to the diversity of solutions, there is no single brand that even claims they can cover everything.

So it becomes absolutely critical to ensure that the right products from correct vendors are determined for each specific project, based on the project requirements as well as the priorities. It is also very important to ensure that the selected solutions can actually seamlessly blend into a single, unified solution.

5 Reasons Why Integrated ELV Systems Reduce Costs

In this article I want to quickly go over 5 reasons on why designing integrated ELV systems considerably reduces construction costs.

Unfortunately, many ELV designers still base their designs on traditional systems running on proprietary networks for various building management systems, as well as separate telephony, data and television networks each with their separate/multiple cabling systems.

This results to increased costs, limited functionality, and complex management.

The solution is a modern design based on integration of all ELV systems over an IP-based network.  This calls for a higher level of technical expertise and experience, and a good combination of networking and ELV knowledge. As you will see below, the results are higher efficiency at lower OPEX and CAPEX costs, and reduction in risks of delay:

1- Unified Cabling and Pathways

Unlike traditional solutions where each system would need to use its own cabling system and pathway (CAT6 for network, copper multi-core twisted pair for telephony, coaxial cable for TV systems, twisted cable for PAGA, control cable for ACS, …), in a modern IP-based ELV design, all systems mainly use the same common data network, hence considerably decreasing the costs on cabling and pathways.

Of course the installation of common cabling and pathways requires planning of the containment systems at the early stages of the project so that the optimum routes can be designed by experienced network designers.

2- Less Quality / Interference Problems

One of the key challenges of traditional analog designs especially for systems such as CCTV, telephony, and television is the complication during the design and installation to ensure that proper quality of audio and picture is obtained. Although things might look good on paper, in the course of installation and commissioning many unforeseen problems usually pop up, which cause further unexpected delays on project timelines and increase on forecasted costs.  Problems can arise such as grounding problems, quality issues of cables and connectors, and electrical and ground-loop noise which directly affect analog solutions. In IP based solutions, by implementing a digital/IP based backbone these issues are no longer a concern.

3- Lower Costs for Expandability

Most of traditional ELV systems are very limited on the available means of expandability over large compounds. For example, to expand a conventional analog telephony, CCTV, or public alert system over a medium-sized compound, kilometers or miles of cables need to be physically laid. This calls for expensive, multi-core copper cables that are both expensive and hard to lay. While on new IP based solutions, the network cloud consisting of all types of connection mediums such as much less expensive fiber cables or even microwave links can be used to seamlessly interconnect remote areas at a fraction of the costs of traditional solutions.

4- Easier Management and Troubleshooting

IP-based unified ELV solutions are by far easier to manage and troubleshoot, because the maintenance staff do not need to bother about multiple cabling systems and connections, and the cabling (called physical layer in data networks) is easily managed and checked. The overall needed experience and troubleshooting time required for maintaining the systems are also considerably lower and usually a single computer would be sufficient for managing and troubleshooting the all systems from a centralized location.

5- Capability for Remote Management

Unlike traditional analog solutions, IP-based systems can be remotely managed and reconfigured, with minimum physical changes required. This saves considerably on maintenance costs while bringing many new features and possibilities.

Other Benefits of Unified ELV Systems

Costs savings is not the only benefit of modern IP-based integrated ELV systems – there are more benefits such as:

  • Much more functionalities and features
  • Expandability with no need to redo the infrastructure
  • Software upgradability
  • Integration of different systems

In a future article I will explain the challenges of designing modern integrated ELV systems.

What is ELV after all?

According to the International Electrotechnical Commission, ELV (Extra Low Voltage) is defined as any system operating in a voltage not exceeding 35V AC (or 60V ripple free DC). Although the term is technically correct from “electrical” point of view, it by no means describes the broad range of systems and technologies which are known as ELV systems in buildings.

ELV is the terminology used in the construction world in an attempt to electrically define all the systems in a building which need electricity to run but are not part of the building’s main electrical system. ELV covers all the new modern technologies that are increasingly becoming must-have systems in every building such as data network, CCTV, fire alarm systems, public address systems, audio/video solutions, access control and intrusion detection systems, home automation, and much more!

The fact that such a broad range of technologies are collectively named “ELV” shows probably how much we are lagging behind the new demands of 21st century. Below I will very briefly explain some of the confusing abbreviations that constantly pop up when discussing ELV systems.

LAN and WLAN

LAN stands for Local Area Network – also known as SCS (Structured Cabling System). Simply put, it is the data cabling in the building to enable users to network their computer devices and possibly access to internet.

In a small building, this can be simply CAT6 cabling from an MDF (Master Distribution Frame – i.e. equipment rack) while in larger infrastructures, you usually see multiple IDFs (Intermediate Distribution Frame) interconnected by fiber optic cables. (It is interesting to know that while we have no electricity passing fiber optic cables, they are still categorized as “ELV”!)
WLAN stands for Wireless LAN which is the network of wireless access points that provide wireless network coverage within and outside the building.

As you will see below, as the technologies enhance, more and more other ELV systems depend on LAN infrastructure of buildings.

Telephony Systems

While up to some years ago, analog telephony systems were still commonly used in buildings and were setup by using multi-pair copper telephone cables connecting the PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchange) to telephone sets, they are now almost totally replaced with VOIP (Voice Over IP) solutions that require no separate cabling and depend on the building’s LAN infrastructure for the interconnections.

CCTV

CCTV stands for Closed Circuit TV (again a very old acronym which shows the old “electrical” roots of such systems). Simply put, these are the camera systems setup inside and outside of buildings to provide monitoring surveillance. Old analog cameras used a separate cabling of coaxial cables connecting each camera directly to the DVR (Digital Video Recorder). These are also today almost totally replaced with IP Cameras utilizing the common LAN infrastructure of the building.

ACS

ACS is the abbreviation for Access Control System. ACS systems give access to different building locations (usually implemented by automatic unlocking of doors) through different means of authentication of people (by magnetic or RFID identification cards, by finger print, IRIS or face recognition). Almost all new ACS solutions also rely on LAN infrastructure to some extent, while they also include electrical cabling to magnetic door locks, manual push buttons, and magnetic sensors installed on the doors and entry gates.

IDS

IDS (Intrusion Detection System) is the common name for a broad range of technologies which as the name suggests, alerts on any attempt for intrusion to a building or premises. They include long and short range radar systems, fiber optic cable systems connected to fences, IR motion detectors, CCTV video analyzing software, and many other technologies.

Fire Alarm

Fire Alarm Systems (also abbreviated to FA or FAS), can be divided into two main types – conventional and addressable. Most FA systems still use 2-wire electrical cables for interconnecting of the sensors (smoke, heat, combined) and beacons/alerts to the control panels. Newer fire alarm solutions also provide LAN connectivity for integration with other systems.

PAS / PAGA

PAS (Public Address System) or PAGA (Public Address and General Alarm) is the speaker system installed in buildings for making announcements, playing background music and broadcasting pre-recorded alarm notifications, sometimes automatically triggered by fire alarm systems. PAS is probably one of the few ELV systems that is still not much IP based and use twisted-pair electrical cables for connecting the distributed speakers to the power amplifiers. However most of newer PAS systems have accessories to enable utilizing LAN infrastructure for interconnecting the main components and provide a distributed design.

SMATV / CATV / IPTV

SMATV (Satellite Master Antenna Television), CATV (Cable Television), and IPTV (IP Television) all explain different technologies to provide a TV distribution system within a building, interconnecting multiple television sets to a single source (usually called Head End) so each television can select the desired watching channel from a selection list.
While SMATV and CATV have their separate cabling network based on coaxial (or sometimes fiber) cabling, they are rapidly being replaced with IPTV solutions which rely on the same LAN infrastructure jointly used by other systems.

Home Automation

Home automation systems include a very broad range of technologies for monitoring and controlling almost everything in the building from lights to doors to home appliances and audio equipment and in short whatever works with electricity in the building. Most home automation solutions are now network based and give the option of remotely controlling and monitoring the building over the internet. While in the past, most home automations were using some remote control device, with advance of technology the means of control is now moved to smartphone and tablet applications or voice recognition solutions.

Above are merely samples of ELV, and there are myriad other systems which are not discussed above that are collectively named as “ELV” in construction terminology. One wonders, isn’t it the right time that we change the name to something that better explains what all these systems are all about? What about MIT (Modern Infrastructure Technologies)?

Why hiring a single ELV designer makes no sense

I constantly encounter job advertisements where a construction design company is looking to hire a single ELV designer to handle all their ELV works. Well, for those familiar with the industry, this simply causes a bitter smile – since there is no such magic!

This wrong perception is mainly because of a simplified comparison of ELV designs with electrical designs (maybe due to the “Extremely Low Voltage” terminology)! However, unlike electrical designs, where an electrical designer can very much do all the principle LV designs that is required for a building, in ELV we’re dealing with a very broad range of diverse technologies including but not limited to data, telephony, CCTV, ACS (Access Control System), PAGA (Public Alert and General Alarm), Fire Alarm, IDS (Intrusion Detection System), television systems, audio / video solution, and home automation.

Expecting a single engineer being able to properly cover all these technologies is like referring to the same doctor as your Dentist, Allergist, Physiologist, Psychiatrist and Cardiologist!

What is the correct Solution?

Proper ELV design calls for a team of designers who cover all the needed expertise to enable them to provide an appropriate solution through combined effort and teamwork. The actual number of designers in the team and their expertise is of course dependent on the complexity and scale of the project. However even for smallest solutions, below are the key members of an ELV design team:

  • Team Leader: the Team Leader should have a good general knowledge of all technologies and the needed capabilities to lead the team and to make sure the provided design covers all the specified criteria.
  • Network Engineer: IP Networking is the foundation of any modern ELV design. Proper design of the network infrastructure is therefore the fundamental necessity to guarantee a successful solution.
  • Safety and Security Engineer: a good engineer with sufficient expertise and experience in designing safety and security solutions including CCTV, ACS and Fire Alarm is a key member of any ELV design team.
  • Audio / Video Engineer: audio / video solutions are another part of most ELV designs which have their totally separate field of expertise and hence an audio / video expert is a key member of any ELV design team.

Designing the proper ELV systems – a challenge in today’s construction industry

Contrary to what we used to have 20 years ago, it is now very hard to find a new structure where ELV solutions are not part of the core requirements for construction – whether the structure is a hotel, an airport, an office, or an industrial plant.

This is indeed a challenge for construction designers who are not well versed with the technology concepts of the ELV and all the fuzzy technical jargon that come with it.

ELV is an abbreviation for Extremely Low Voltage. This acronym falls short in explaining the exact content and is mostly misunderstood from an “electrical” perspective, rather than what it really represents.  ELV is actually a combination of data & telephony, safety & security, as well as automation technologies that are now an integral part of any modern structure in the 21st century.

While civil, electrical and sewage designs are considered to be integral disciplines of construction design and are normally done in-house by most EPC companies, design of ELV is more like a Pandora’s box to most experienced construction designers, and they prefer to have it totally handled by “someone else”!

When it comes to “ELV designers”, you can categorize them into 3 different groups:

  • The first group of ELV designers come from an “electrical” background: their work usually include some general block diagrams similar to one-line drawings one finds in electrical designs and totally lack the understanding of the diverse “technological” aspects of the different ELV systems.
  • The second group of ELV designers come from an “IT” background. Although this group understand the technological aspect of a proper ELV solution, they can’t communicate this very well in the language and the culture that is commonly known and used in the construction industry.
  • There is only a small group of ELV designers – the third group – who really master this new technology whose time has come. A combination of “electrical” and “IT/technological” knowhow necessary in order to properly design the ELV systems needed for this day and age.