CCTV vs. IP Cameras vs. Hidden Cameras:
What Is the Best Choice for Your Needs?

Understanding the difference between the most popular security camera options.

Whether you're looking to monitor employees in a store setting, service providers in your home, or any potentially suspicious behavior on your property, there is a security camera type best suited to your needs. The most popular types of security cameras on the market include CCTV cameras and IP cameras, both of which function differently to meet users’ specific security needs. Hidden cameras, which can often work with either CCTV or IP-based systems, can act as a solution to some of the problems that come with having visible security measures in place at your home or business.

When it comes to choosing the best security camera type for your monitoring needs, there are a number of considerations you can make: cost, convenience, video clarity, remote monitoring and more. In this piece, we'll explore the pros and cons of different security camera systems so you're able to make an informed decision on how to best protect your home or business.

uses of hidden cameras at the office

What Smoke Detector Cameras Look Like and What They Do

Some of the most popular hidden cameras on the market are smoke detector cameras. Because smoke detectors are required in every living space and workspace, having one hanging on your wall or ceiling is completely inconspicuous and expected. Most people will not be suspicious of the sight of a smoke detector and it will likely not occur to them that it is actually a hidden camera. Most smoke detector cameras are not functioning smoke detectors, although they can be. They are usually hollow shells designed to look exactly like functioning smoke detectors, and they contain small, covert cameras inside. Depending on the style you choose, you will be able to achieve different surveillance results.

What is a CCTV Surveillance System?

A CCTV, or closed-circuit television, surveillance system transmits the feed of its connected security cameras to a specific location. The network of security cameras makes up a complete system and the signals are not publicly distributed to outside receivers. A CCTV system functions with strategically-placed security cameras and human monitoring of the cameras’ video feeds on an internal system of monitors. Video feeds may also be recorded on a separate digital video recorder, or DVR. If the DVR is connected to the internet, remote viewing of video footage may also be available. CCTV is an older system that has developed and modernized, adding new features throughout the years.

CCTV cameras are most often used in business or government settings, or for monitoring large areas such as retail stores, banks, and other institutions. They are often seen surveilling various public areas in cities, such as parks and highways. Law enforcement professionals often use them to monitor public behavior, traffic patterns, and more, to help secure public safety.

What are IP Cameras?

IP, or internet protocol, cameras are digital video cameras that transmit video footage via computer network. IP cameras typically feature better picture quality, advanced recording features, and the capability of connecting a larger number of cameras to the system, when compared with the older CCTV systems. Videos are stored digitally using a network video recorder, or NVR, rather than a physical DVR. Additionally, IP cameras are easy to install and have flexible expansion capabilities in terms of connecting additional cameras, other systems, and storage applications. IP cameras can be used in conjunction with CCTV systems to cover blind spots or have cameras where they are less likely to be seen and discovered.

IP cameras can be used in a variety of settings, from business to personal. Because many IP cameras are wireless, placement can be much more flexible, offering you versatility in your security. IP cameras offer remote viewing options, making them perfect for situations where you want to monitor what’s happening even when you’re away.

uses of hidden cameras at home

A Comparison of CCTV and IP Cameras

There are some major differences between CCTV systems and IP cameras. Although IP cameras are the modern choice, many business owners and property managers prefer to use CCTV cameras to monitor large spaces. Below is a comparison of some of the main features of each system.

CCTV Cameras

Sends video back to a base station or DVR (digital video recorder) via coax or UTP cabling

Video is recorded on a physical DVR which can be connected to the internet for remote viewing capabilities

Power and network cables run between each camera and the base station

Because cabling is required, CCTV cameras all have to be in one location

Cameras typically offer lower resolution of 960 x 480, but some systems offer HD resolution

Primarily provides video surveillance without advanced features

There is a physical limit to the number of cameras that can be added to the network, usually fewer than 12

2-way audio for communication with people on the other end

Uses television broadcast signals

IP Cameras

Broadcasts video as a digital stream over an IP network to an NVR (network video recorder) where videos are stored digitally rather than physically

Often have SD cards, allowing them to record locally, or sends video via the internet to an NVR

Uses PoE (Power over Ethernet) making it unnecessary to run power cables

Because cabling is not always required, IP cameras do not all need to be kept in one location

Some cameras feature increased resolution of 4096 x 2160. Standard resolution tends to be 1080p HD.

Includes advanced features such as analytics, advanced motion detection, and remote focus

Can add nearly unlimited cameras to the network

2-way audio for communication with people on the other end

Uses WiFi and bandwidth

uses of hidden cameras at home

What About Hidden Cameras?

Hidden cameras can be used to upgrade your system, whether you use CCTV or IP cameras. CCTV systems, especially, often use cameras that are clearly visible and mounted in locations that offer the best security vantage point, while many IP cameras are already much better disguised. Hidden cameras can be added to the system in order to capture footage in obscure locations where someone being monitored won’t realize they’re being watched. While visible cameras may prevent unwanted behavior, hidden cameras in areas that are thought to be unmonitored can help catch illegal or inappropriate behavior in the act.

Retail environments are common settings for hidden cameras. Oftentimes retail associates and shoplifters have done their research and are aware of camera locations. They may use unmonitored areas to engage in product theft. A hidden camera located in an area that a potential shoplifter believes to be a blind spot allows loss prevention teams to catch perpetrators in the act.

A hidden camera may be a subtle, streamlined camera that blends into its surroundings, or it may be a camera hidden inside of a regular household or business item, making it as inconspicuous as possible. Depending on your needs and circumstances, you may choose to utilize a small black box camera that can sit covertly on a shelf, or a hidden camera disguised as a clock, a smoke detector, exit sign, or some other item that would normally be found in the space being monitored.

Choosing the Right System for Your Needs

Whether you are choosing to use a hidden camera to identify inappropriate or illegal activity in your home or business, or simply to ensure that everyone is safe, a smoke detector hidden camera can offer the perfect combination of complete surveillance and covert monitoring. It is always important to ensure that your space is protected by a functioning smoke detector in addition to the smoke detector hidden camera that you’re using for surveillance. BrickHouse Security’s experts can help you choose between the available styles of smoke detector hidden cameras, or other styles of hidden cameras, depending on your surveillance needs.