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What is a network camera?

A network camera, often also called an IP camera, can be described as a camera and computer combined in one unit. The main components of a network camera include a lens, an image sensor, one or several processors, and memory. The processors are used for image processing, compression, video analysis and networking functionalities. The memory is used for storing the network camera’s firmware (computer program) and for local recording of video sequences.

Like a computer, the network camera has its own IP address, is connected directly to a network and can be placed wherever there is a network connection. This differs from a web camera, which can only operate when it is connected to a personal computer (PC) via the USB or IEEE 1394 port, and to use it, software must be installed on the PC. A network camera provides web server, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and e-mail functionalities, and includes many other IP network and security protocols.

A network camera can be configured to send video over an IP network for live viewing and/or recording either continuously, at scheduled times, on an event or on request from authorized users. Captured images can be streamed as Motion JPEG, MPEG-4 or H.264 video using various networking protocols, or uploaded as individual JPEG images using FTP, e-mail or HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

In addition to capturing video, network cameras provide event management and intelligent video functionalities such as video motion detection, audio detection, active tampering alarm and auto-tracking. Most network cameras also offer input/output (I/O) ports that enable connections to external devices such as sensors and relays. Other features may include audio capabilities and built-in support for Power over Ethernet (PoE). Network cameras also support advanced security and network management features.

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