Farm Talk

Front page stories

January 7, 2014

When no one's looking

Parsons, Kansas — With the dollars agricultural producers have invested in their operations, electronic surveillance is becoming an important risk management tool.

Farm shops, machinery and grain storage areas can be remotely monitored to improve crime detection and improve law enforcement response time.

Video surveillance, in particular, offers the ability to capture what’s going on around the farmstead when no one’s looking — or at least when thieves think no one is looking.

Video Surveillance

There are many factors to consider when selecting a video surveillance system for the farm. Since each farming operation is unique, the value and relative vulnerability of surveillance areas should be considered.

Surveillance camera systems can be specifically designed for indoor or outdoor uses. Indoor cameras tend to be smaller, lighter, and sleeker than outdoor cameras. Outdoor security cameras are often more expensive than indoor models because they are built to withstand weather.

Video surveillance systems consist of cameras, monitors, and recorders. The most effective use of video is its integration with intrusion detection devices such as motion sensors. A motion sensor triggers an alarm and activates the video recorder in the area where the motion originates.

There are plenty of camera types on the market, including:

•Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) cameras pan from left to right and up and down. PTZ cameras can rotate 360 degrees to target areas.

•Box cameras are a commonly used surveillance tool. They are cost-effective, a visual deterrent, and can accept a variety of lenses based on the application. They are comprised of the camera body, lens, and power supply.

•Dome cameras are half spherical-shaped cameras and are usually used for discrete applications because where the camera is actually pointing cannot be seen. They are also available for either indoor or outdoor use.

•Infrared cameras can produce high resolution color images during the day and switch to black and white images in low light situations to record images that cannot be seen by the human eye. They can also be weatherproofed to withstand weather extremes.

•Wireless security cameras communicate with the network or DVR without wiring but a hard-wired power supply is needed. Solar options are available.

Camera resolution is the measure of detail of an image — the higher the resolution the better the clarity and quality of the picture.

Consider how large an area the camera is capable of viewing.  The focal length of the lens affects the field of view. A camera with a shorter focal length captures a larger field of view while a longer lens magnifies the scene, decreasing the field of view.

For simple, one-camera systems, memory card recording is the most common method.  The next step up for recording video is a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). DVRs are better for long-term video surveillance because they can store much more data. Digital recordings are more effective than audio tape recordings because they record images as well as sound and can be viewed selectively. The recorder is a computer that allows the farmer to retrieve and view video by date and time of recording.

Other electronic systems and devices suitable for and applicable to farmsteads include:

•Switches activated by the opening of doors, gates, lids, etc.; motion sensors that light an area when movement is detected; video recorders that are activated by motion; and electronic access controls such as card readers and electronic key/lock cores that release locks and record entry data relative to location, date/time, card holder, etc).

•Electronic card access controls, rather than keyed locks, should be used to restrict access where valuable assets are stored. They may not only control access but also record the date and time of entry; they may also record the specific card used to gain entry, thereby identifying the person whose card is used. Another feature is computerized control in selecting and assigning access levels and time zones when various cardholders' cards can be used.

•Alarms can be monitored at the farm or at approved, off-site alarm monitoring stations. If the latter, monitoring station personnel would call the police, according to pre-established protocols, in response to alarm signals received from the farm. In addition to signaling a monitoring station and perhaps your computer, an activated alarm might trigger lights and sirens and/or place an automatic call to your cell  phone. £

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