Day/night network cameras patrol Mission Beach in San Diego 24 hours a day. Most cameras have wireless connectivity but all have specialized housings to handle the beach conditions.

Day/night and low light cameras are high on the buy list these days, thanks to their versatility.

These security cameras are more powerful than ever. Domed and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) models are hot, as are illuminated models that can capture images in low light and day/night models that provide color images during the day and black-and-white images at night.

For example, a network-based video system monitoring San Diego’s famed Mission Beach is helping police battle a recent escalation in violent crime. Dotworkz Systems, Inc., a San Diego company that focuses on network based video products, designed the system using a variety of products to fit the application’s unique needs.

New day/night capable cameras such as this one from Panasonic provide 128x dynamic range to capture high quality images and provide accurate image reproduction even in harsh lighting conditions. Key features in this unit include anti-shock auto back focus to ensure perfect focus when switching from color to black and white and automatic day/night switching.


Stretching several miles, Mission Beach is the most popular beach area in San Diego and draws large crowds in summer. Various shops, restaurants, and beach rental outfits line its narrow boardwalk.

Despite its idyllic landscape, San Diego police last year recorded the largest number of violent crimes in beach history, including the sexual assault of two University of San Diego students in Mission Beach’s Belmont Park area. In response, residents collected more than $30,000 in private donations for a video surveillance system. An additional $80,000 was raised in a bond proposition.

Once funding was established, San Diego city officials moved ahead with the project.

“The city’s chief concerns were to deter crime on Mission Beach, to create a visual record of any incidents that may occur, and to improve police response times,” explained William Ferris of Dotworkz. “An analog video system could not deliver what they needed. IP-based video, however, could achieve those objectives and more, plus add the capability for expansion without significant capital costs.”

The integrator specified hardware for this project beginning with five Sony PTZ network cameras to cover the relatively small perimeters of Belmont Park. This model was selected for many reasons. In addition to its pan/tilt capability, it is equipped with a powerful 26x optical zoom, allowing officers to zoom in on small or distant objects with clarity. And because the cameras incorporate a day/night function, they can capture images of the beach and boardwalk in low light when most crimes were committed.

Like all network cameras, these contain sensitive electronics that could be damaged in the extreme heat and direct sunlight of a beach. For that reason, all five are contained within a protective marine-ready enclosure equipped with heater-blower systems. Besides keeping the camera cool, this system helps eliminate fogging of the lower lenses in the early morning mist. Yet another reason was vandalism. Made of a thermoplastic alloy, the enclosure is exceptionally shock- and impact-resistant.

The integrator is no stranger to the challenges of mounting cameras near the sea. It has been producing ruggedized marine ready camera systems for years, and currently has products in use around the globe in military and commercial maritime applications.

In addition, “wireless connectivity gives the Mission Beach system additional flexibility and scalability, plus saved the municipality the cost of wiring and installation labor,” noted Ferris. “Right now the video is sent to the Northern Division Area’s command center, but in the future roving police may add camera access on their laptops, PDAs and smartphones.”

Concerned about Wi-Fi interference in a heavily residential area, a “city link” mesh option handles four of the five cameras on a 5.8 GHz wireless spectrum. This provided the means to wirelessly transmit high-resolution video at up to 20 frames-per-second with 108 megabyte throughput back to the police command center located two miles away. The fifth camera is stationed on a light pole across from the historic Belmont Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and Wavehouse water park.

Tying together the system is enterprise-class software from On-Net Surveillance Systems, Inc. (OnSSI). This recording and camera management software suite required little user training for the officers and no additional hardware to acquire.

Unique security video technology matches specific needs. For example, retrofit lenses can create 360 degree views.

SIDEBAR: Check the Lens

Inside and outside, chief security officers see enhanced value in ways to get unique coverage from a camera. Recently ImmerVision introduced a “new generation” panomorph lens. It can be added to existing standard analog and IP video surveillance systems, with the ability to survey an entire area with 360 degree coverage, no blind spots and no viewing down-time.