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As crime rates go up, so too does the demand for surveillance systems that help identify and catch those with criminal intent.  For some, this means high end commercial grade surveillance systems with cameras bolted to the ceiling and around the perimeter of their business or residence which are frequently visible to the naked eye and offer a deterrent to would be criminals.

There are instances, however, when what we really want is to catch a criminal, or mischief maker, in the act without them knowing they’re on camera.  This can happen in cases where activity has been going on for a prolonged period of time, someone in your place of business has a habit of disappearing from your cameras and you suspect they may be up to something, or you just want to keep an eye on the babysitter while you’re away.

While covert surveillance is relatively simple to set up, it’s still not quite as easy as the movies might make it seem.  Here are a few things to keep in mind if you find yourself looking into hidden and covert surveillance technology.

Power

Whether covert, overt, wireless or hard wired, all cameras require power.  With covert cameras you’re frequently dealing with a small, compact unit; which means there’s not a lot of room for large, long lasting batteries.  While there are certainly larger units with extended batteries available; unless they’re plugged into power, most hidden cameras will only last a few hours off their small internal batteries.

This can be okay if you’re only looking for a few brief hours of recording, but if you want to use your camera for prolonged video monitoring of an area you will almost certainly want to go with a device that can be plugged into the wall.

To Wi-Fi or Not to Wi-Fi?

Many cameras these days offer Wi-Fi capability, giving you the ability to remotely livestream video, review, and download recorded footage all from a connected smart phone or computer.  While Wi-Fi cameras are relatively easy to set up there are a few things to keep in mind about using these cameras.

First and foremost, is there Wi-Fi available at the location you wish to place the camera and is there sufficient bandwidth to broadcast video across the internet?  You’ll need a broadband internet connection and a strong Wi-Fi signal to get a reliable video stream from your device.  If you don’t, you’ll have difficulty connecting or may possibly be unable to connect to your camera at all.

Another thing you should ask yourself when considering Wi-Fi is whether or not it’s necessary at all.  Having WiFi in your device will increase the amount of power it uses and can significantly lower the battery life in battery operated devices.  If you’re not dependent on having a live stream from your device, and are comfortable retrieving the footage from the camera itself after an incident has occurred, there’s really no reason to have Wi-Fi at all.

Seeing in the Dark

Just like their more obvious counterparts, hidden cameras require IR illumination to see in the dark, but in order to remain covert, the amount of IR illumination hidden cameras can use is limited.  You’ll usually want to have your camera within 10 feet of the scene you’re trying to record if it’s dark, though if you’re placing the camera in a well-lit room, or a room someone will need to turn the light on in, you won’t need that functionality at all.

An important thing to note about IR light is that it is highly reflective and will not work well if at all through glass.  If you’re planning to use any camera to record a scene that is outside, the camera will need to be outside as well for optimum performance.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a hidden camera, and possibly the most important.  Other things you’ll want to consider may include picking a disguise that fits in best with the location you’re using the camera, whether you need the camera to be covert at all, and what kind of extra features you need in your camera.  When in doubt, keep it simple and, like with any covert device, make sure you practice and learn the ins and outs of your device before you try to capture anything important with it.