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In order to properly compare security cameras and security camera systems, you need to understand the terms used to describe them.

This glossary explains some of the lingo you may see in security camera system descriptions and reviews.

CCTV Cameras

Sometimes called analog security cameras, CCTV cameras transmit video to specific monitors through a closed circuit of coaxial cables, rather than through a network connection. (The “CC” in “CCTV cameras” stands for “closed circuit.”)

CCTV cameras are usually monitored by a live person. Because no internet signal is involved in the initial video transmission, recording the footage digitally requires the physical presence of a digital video recorder (DVR). If remote viewing is needed, the DVR can then be connected to the internet.

Centralized Surveillance Systems

Centralized security camera systems use a network connection to transmit video from all cameras to a single, centralized server, where the video is recorded (instead of being recorded and stored at the physical location of each security camera).

Covert Cameras

Also known as “hidden cameras,” covert cameras are devices that are intended to record video (and sometimes audio) without being detected or recognized as a camera.

Decentralized Surveillance Systems

In decentralized security camera systems, each individual camera records and stores its own video separately at its physical location (rather than transmitting it to a centralized server).

Deployable Cameras

Deployable surveillance cameras are fully self-contained security camera systems that don’t require any physical on-site network. An IP camera, internet source and video management system (a software that allows remote video viewing) are all built-in.

This makes deployable security cameras ideal for temporary surveillance needs when it wouldn’t make sense to invest in a full network infrastructure.

Digital Video Recorder (DVR)

Much like the device, you may have connected to your television, the DVR in a video surveillance system records the video footage from CCTV cameras connected by coaxial cables. The DVR itself can also be connected to the internet to allow remote video viewing.

Infrared Cameras and (IR) Illuminators

Infrared illuminators strengthen a camera’s ability to use near-infrared light to deliver quality black and white images in low light or complete darkness. They can be built into the camera or installed separately.


Integration simply means that a security camera connects to and works with some other device or system, such as an access control solution. Types and degrees of integration vary widely.

IP Cameras

IP security cameras, also known as “network cameras,” use the internet to transmit video. “IP” stands for “Internet Protocol.” These are a more modern type of security camera than CCTV security cameras.

Network Cameras

See “IP cameras.”

Panoramic Cameras

Panoramic cameras are fixed cameras that provide wide-area coverage – between 180º and 360º – with a single camera.

PTZ Cameras

“PTZ” stands for “pan-tilt-zoom.” As that phrase implies, PTZ security cameras allow the user to remotely control the angle of the camera lens and therefore instantly change the viewing area as needed.

Thermal Cameras

Thermal cameras, also known as, thermal imaging cameras or even thermographic cameras, create images based on the heat that always radiates from any object, vehicle or person. The images can be black and white or color-coded. A thermal camera is less sensitive to problems with light conditions, such as shadows, backlight, darkness, and even camouflaged objects.

Video Encoders

A video encoder connects to an analog video camera and converts analog video signals into digital streams that are then sent over an IP-based network, such as a LAN, intranet or Internet. It essentially turns an analog video system into a network video system.

Video Management System (VMS)

The video management system or VMS is the software component of the security camera system that collects and stores video footage from all the security cameras. It also provides an interface for viewing that footage.

Some video management systems may also offer additional capabilities, such as the ability to control the motion of pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras, distribute footage, and much more.

A VMS may also be referred to as “video management software” or a “video management server.”

Even after you have a basic understanding of these common security camera system terms, it can be difficult to determine which products are right for you. We can help.

Let our experts answer all your questions and design a custom solution that meets your needs — and your budget. Contact i2c Technologies today: (888) 422-7749.