Auto-tracking PTZ cameras are meant to monitor a given area, automatically detect motion, then use the pan, tilt, and zoom functions to hone in and record moving objects. They absolutely serve a purpose depending on the scenario. But what is really the best fit for YOUR particular situation?
I often hear from prospective clients that they want to save big money on their security needs. Generally it is an application that involves a very large area such as a parking lot, many times with multiple access points. Their hope is to eliminate or at least severely lessen the cost of full time/onsite security personnel by mounting a single PTZ dome camera with an auto tracking feature. The theory is to install the camera, flip the auto tracking switch, and catch a detailed view of every face, license plate, and vehicle that moves within 360 degrees of the camera.
Before acting on such assumptions, here are a few considerations to keep in mind with some scenarios where just one auto-tracking camera could work.
More Than One Object
If there is more than one object moving at a time (remember, we are generally speaking of parking lots or similar wide-open spaces, potentially frequented by hundreds of people and/or vehicles), the camera will try to lock in on the fastest or largest moving object. What if a car is passing by while an individual is attempting to break into a parked vehicle, or cut through a chain link fence? There will be great footage of a moving vehicle completely unrelated to the malicious activity that occurred. The camera does have sensitivity settings that determine how much motion is needed to trigger the tracking. Unfortunately it is just a setting between 1 and 10. There is not setting for person or vehicle so it needs to be tested after install to make sure the sensitivity is accurate for the job.
Here is an illustration we’ve created to demonstrate how the size of the objects can interfere with the intended video capture.
360 Degree Rotation?
The second consideration is that if the moving object is not within view of the camera, the camera will not capture it. This seems obvious but sometimes when the specification sheet is read, and the words 360 degree rotation are seen, people have a tendency to believe that the camera sees all as if suspended within the earth’s atmosphere, nonchalantly shooting random video.
It’s important to remember that the 360 degree rotation cameras cannot see above the horizon they are set on, meaning that the camera can look out straight or down but not up. So while the camera can Pan (picture a person shaking their head “no”) 360 degrees left to right, it can only Tilt (picture a person nodding their head “yes”) 90 degrees from straight across to the down position. Additionally the view will be blocked by the mount itself or the object it is mounted on.
When to Use Just One Auto Tracking Camera
Situations with Limited Movement
It is best to plan to use a camera with auto track in a situation where there is in fact limited movement or light traffic. This allows the camera to zoom in and follow a possible perpetrator, providing usable video footage.
Here is a video by Veilux demonstrating an Auto-Tracking PTZ capturing video successfully in a fairly light traffic area.
PTZ Camera + Full-Time Security Guard
If the area in question contains an abundance of concentrated movement, the ideal situation is when there is a full time security guard on duty, physically manning the station to control the PTZ camera. This gives the best possible combination but also brings us back full circle to the cost of security and surveillance and how it needs to be tailored to each application.
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