ZoneMinder Digital Surveillance Systems

Security is the utmost for any business, whether it is securing your data, or securing your doors. One often overlooked (or under thought) area of security is a camera system. Most people that consider one don't really know their options and immediately settle for a standard CCTV VCR/DVR based camera system. Digital recording systems have been a great addition to this market by introducing many new tools and fea

Security is the utmost for any business, whether it is securing your data, or securing your doors. One often overlooked (or under thought) area of security is a camera system. Most people that consider one don't really know their options and immediately settle for a standard CCTV VCR/DVR based camera system.

Digital recording systems have been a great addition to this market by introducing many new tools and features. One of the most notable is the ability to access video data remotely, via a network connection. Access to a network also allows for remote backups and use of either standard or IP cameras. They also make it easier to control recording schedules or set up motion capturing. Of course, all these features come at a cost.

That's where ZoneMinder comes in. This freely available, Linux based, open source camera monitoring software can easily turn a PC into a monitoring system that compares to a $1,500+ PC based DVR. It has built in flexibility of allowing calls to shell scripts or external programs creating infinite possibilities of integration into other systems. The video and image processing make it very flexible and useful in a wide variety of installations.

ZoneMinder can monitor standard cameras (via a capture card or other device such as USB, firewire, etc.) and remote IP based cameras. Any IP based camera that uses MJPEG streams or has an interface to a single JPEG image will work. It also has the ability to monitor images from a file, if there is no other way to access the image. This can be accomplished with cameras that have an FTP function, though I recommend using a different camera setup if possible (due to security and quality of video). Any camera can be set up for monitoring, recording, motion detection or a combination of the three.

Each captured frame is compared against previous frames in the buffer and checked for differences. If the amount of change is greater than the percent of change defined in the options, an event will be triggered. Depending on the camera settings, events can start recordings, send email alerts, or run an external script. This is enhanced by the ability to filter the captured frame through zone filters that qualify the motion as an event. This is an incredibly useful feature when you are monitoring a high traffic area with a single point of interest, such as a door next to a front window or a register at a busy counter. This helps reduce the number of false alarms.

ZoneMinder is web based for ease of accessibility and can be secured with firewalls, Apache htaccess, and SSL common to the Linux system that it runs on, as well as default authentication which provides multi level user access. It can be configured to FTP videos for remote archiving, X.10 home automation, and even has an xHTML interface that can be accessed from mobile devices. Its open design and ability to call external programs allow for integration into almost any existing system.

ZoneMinder is a low cost alternative to higher priced DVR systems and still has the features and flexibility. A LiveCD is available if you don’t have the hardware to dedicate to a test system. You can get a full list of features and the LiveCD at zoneminder.com. So, if you are even considering a surveillance system, then you definitely need to check out the ZoneMinder site.

Justin Brink

q!Bang Solutions