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A modular IP camera is comprised of a camera body (often referred to as the main unit) and one or more sensor units which each consist of a lens and image sensor, and are connected to the main unit via a cable.

The main unit typically houses the processor, any edge storage such as an SD card, plus power and network connections. The maximum resolution and angle of view for each sensor unit is determined by the combination of lens and image sensor, as it would be for a regular IP camera. Sensor units can be purchased separately from the main unit and come in a wide variety of lens and feature combinations, allowing you to put together the hardware specification that best suits your needs.

The modular approach is incredibly flexible, allowing you to easily build a standalone CCTV system, deploy cameras discreetly into tight spaces or monitor several closely situated areas in a very cost-effective way. A handful of manufacturers offer modular IP camera ranges, but the most popular by far are from Axis and Mobotix.

Here are 5 great reasons to choose a modular IP camera system.

1. Affordable and Decentralised video surveillance

For a small business looking to create a straightforward, but very capable multi-camera CCTV system, the modular approach is well worth considering. Most main units support edge-based storage, allowing the footage from the connected sensor units to be recorded to SD card. This decentralised design removes the need for a separate storage device such as a Network Video Recorder (NVR). Although the main unit is processing the video feeds from the sensor units, the main unit itself will only require one connection to your network, which reduces the need for additional network ports and switches. What’s more, if the main unit features Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support then both power and data can be supplied via a single cable – bringing further cost-savings and simplifying installation.

2. Wide variety of sensor/lens options

A wide selection of indoor and outdoor-ready sensor units is available to suit any situation, including fixed lens, varifocal, pinhole and fisheye. Axis sensor units offer HD resolution (some units are 720p and others are 1080p) and the Mobotix DualFlex sensors will even support 6MP at 12 frames per second (fps). The wide variety of lenses makes a modular IP camera a very versatile video surveillance solution. For example, when monitoring in a small retail store, you could choose to place a fisheye lens overlooking the shop floor, a couple of varifocal lenses to cover doorways and a pinhole lens to discreetly monitor the Point of Sale area.

3. Fully-featured technology on the inside

A modular IP camera’s outward appearance may look quite different to a regular IP camera, but you can still expect to find the same advanced technologies on the inside. This can include video motion detection, Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) features to improve images captured in challenging lighting conditions, support for two-way audio and even compression technology to help to lower bandwidth and storage requirements.

4. Flexible installation and maintenance

The sensor units can be deployed conventionally on walls and ceilings using a variety of accessories which include dome housings and pan/tilt mounts. They can also be installed discreetly in tight spaces and flush-mounted in wall partitions or ceilings thanks to their compact form factor. The sensor unit and main unit are connected via a detachable cable – typically 3m in length but cables up to 12m are available. This allows the main unit to be located securely and practically in an area that’s accessible only to authorised staff, but also offers convenient access for maintenance. Additionally, the modular design also means that should one of the sensor units need to be swapped or even repaired, this can be done without having to remove the whole IP camera.

5. Cost-effective Video Management System licensing

Video Management Systems (VMS) such as Milestone XProtect and Axis Camera Station will require a licence for each device using an IP address in the system. A modular camera’s main unit only uses one IP address, so only one device licence is needed to cover its multiple sensors – this is a very cost-effective way of getting the most from your VMS.

If you have any queries about finding a camera and sensor combination to meet your exact needs, just  get in touch.

Kevin Bowyer – Technical Director at NW Security GroupKevin Bowyer - Technical Director for NW Security Group

Modular cameras represent a highly flexible way to install and position your cameras. For example, cover four adjacent rooms from a single base unit, by running one camera lens to each room.

The cost and infrastructure gains this approach brings can be substantial."

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