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What is a Network Camera?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A network camera is a device used to capture video or still images and relay those images to a remote location utilizing a local network. These types of cameras often function wirelessly and can be fairly easily added onto an existing wireless network. Depending on the software used with such cameras, they can also often be used to transmit captured video or stills directly to a person’s email account or mobile telephone. A network camera is often used for security and surveillance, and is typically less expensive to purchase and maintain than a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

Also called an Internet protocol (IP) camera, a network camera is typically a freestanding device that can be fairly small. Some of these cameras can be utilized with a physical connection to a network, such as through an Ethernet cable, though many cameras are able to connect to a local wireless network through a router or similar device. Depending on the type of camera used, a network camera will typically capture either still images or video images, which are then relayed through the network. This allows such cameras to send video or images to a network on which a computer is located, and then someone on that computer can monitor the images captured by the camera.

A network camera will typically come with software that can be used to quickly and easily set up the camera on an existing network. Such software can also include various applications that may provide a number of other options for using such a camera. The camera may be able to relay images to a computer, for example, which then automatically sends such images to an email address registered with the software. It is also possible to set up this type of network camera to transmit images through the network to a multimedia messaging service (MMS) gateway, which then sends the images to a particular mobile phone.

Since a network camera can be used with an existing network and computer hardware, it is often easier to utilize than a CCTV setup. CCTV often requires the purchase of cameras, monitors, and storage banks for saving recorded images and video. Even if someone needs to purchase a computer and networking equipment with which to use a network camera, this can still often be less expensive than setting up a CCTV system. The different types of computer software that can be used with network cameras also tend to provide more security options than CCTV cameras, such as motion detection and remote access through the Internet.

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