An IP camera, also known as an Internet Protocol camera, is a digital video camera that transmits control data and image data through an IP network. These cameras are often utilized for monitoring purposes and, unlike traditional analog CCTV cameras, do not necessitate a local recording device, only a local area network. Although most IP cameras function as webcams, the terms IP camera or netcam typically refer to those accessible directly via a network connection.

Some IP cameras need the assistance of a central network video recorder (NVR) for recording, video, and alarm management. However, others can function independently without an NVR, as they can record directly to local or remote storage media. Axis Communications invented the first IP camera in 1996.


In 1996, Axis Communications introduced the first centralized IP camera, the AXIS Neteye 200. Although marketed as accessible from any location with internet connectivity, the camera couldn’t stream real-time video and was restricted to delivering a single image per request in Common Intermediate Format (CIF).

This limitation was due to the absence of powerful integrated circuits for handling image processing at the time. Consequently, the camera targeted the tourism sector rather than serving as a replacement for conventional analog CCTV systems.

Mobotix unveiled the first decentralized IP camera in 1999, featuring a Linux system with integrated video, alarm, and recording management functions. In 2005, Intellio launched the first IP camera with embedded video content analytics (VCA), capable of detecting various events such as object theft, line crossing by humans, human entry into predefined zones, or cars moving in the wrong direction.

As cloud infrastructure advanced, Ring (an Amazon subsidiary based in the US) introduced its first IP Camera doorbell for home use in 2014. The device offered easy installation, cloud-based recording, and motion detection, retailing for $199 USD.

As of 2021, Ring has sold millions of units. The success of IP cameras spurred other companies like Nest (a Google subsidiary based in the US) to release similar cloud-based devices.

Read more: CCTV vs IP Cameras – The Difference


Traditional analog CCTV cameras relied on established broadcast television formats, such as CIF, NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. However, since 2000, there has been a shift in the consumer TV market towards high-definition (HD) resolutions like 1080P (Full-HD), 4K resolution (Ultra-HD), and 16:9 widescreen format.

IP cameras can vary in resolution, features, video encoding methods, supported network protocols, and video management software APIs.

In 2008, two industry groups emerged to address the standardization issues in IP video surveillance: the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA).

PSIA was established by 20 member companies, including Honeywell, GE Security, and Cisco, while ONVIF was founded by Axis Communications, Bosch, and Sony. Each group has since gained numerous additional members, enabling cameras and recording hardware adhering to the same standard to be compatible with one another.

Read more: How Surveillance Is Used In Security


IP cameras cater to both enterprise and consumer markets. Consumer IP cameras, typically used for home security, often transmit live video to a companion app on the user’s device and connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable.

In contrast, enterprise IP cameras tend to provide higher video resolution and video analytics and are primarily accessed through HTTP and real-time streaming protocol (RTSP).

Although IP cameras were once more prevalent in businesses, a 2016 survey of 2,000 Americans found that 20% owned home security cameras. This shift towards home use is partly due to the ease of self-installation, saving both homeowners and businesses time.

Popular features of consumer-level home security cameras include wide-angle lenses, low-light or night vision capabilities, motion detection, and mobile app access to footage.

Videos can be stored locally on a micro-SD card or via cloud services. The home security systems market reached $4.8 billion in 2018, with a compound annual growth rate of 22.4% between 2011 and 2018. High crime rates, particularly robbery, and theft, drive adoption in countries like the US and China.

Key players in the home security market include Nest (owned by Google, US), Ring (owned by Amazon, US), and Arlo (owned by Netgear, US).

Major alarm security industry players are ADT (US), Vivint (US), and SimpliSafe (US). The largest IP camera manufacturers are Hikvision Digital Technology (China), Axis Communications (Sweden), and Dahua (China).

IP Camera Types

IP cameras are generally classified as fixed, varifocal, or pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) based on functionality. Fixed cameras offer a static view, while varifocal cameras enable remote zoom adjustment.

PTZ cameras allow users to remotely direct the camera assembly in any direction for motion tracking or manual monitoring area adjustment. IP cameras can be designed for indoor or outdoor use, with outdoor cameras often rated IP65/IP67 for weather resistance.

IP cameras may feature various digital imaging technologies, including multi-sensor cameras, panoramic cameras, and thermal imaging cameras.

Cloud And Local Storage

Some camera manufacturers provide cloud subscriptions for remote video clip access and storage, charging recurring fees. These plans usually offer several days of looping storage, after which videos are overwritten.

Many cameras include a micro SD card slot for local video storage. Most IP cameras can be set to overwrite old video when storage is full, and accessing the video typically involves a direct network connection to the device.


IP cameras differ from previous generation cameras that transmit analog video signals, as they send digital images using the transmission and security features of the TCP/IP protocol.

Advantages of this approach include:

  • Two-way audio through a single network cable, enabling users to listen and speak to the video subject (for instance, a clerk assisting a customer with step-by-step instructions)
  • Wi-Fi or wireless network connectivity
  • Distributed artificial intelligence (DAI) with built-in video analytics for image analysis
  • Secure data transmission using encryption and authentication methods like WPA or WPA2, TKIP, or AES
  • Remote accessibility for live video viewing from any device with appropriate access privileges
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) for powering the camera through the Ethernet cable without a dedicated power supply
  • Improved image resolution, often four times better than analog cameras

Artificial Intelligence And Internet Privacy

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised privacy concerns regarding widespread AI usage. AI can track movements, analyze behaviors, recognize emotions, and predict movement patterns.

Facial Recognition Systems

Facial recognition technology identifies human faces by analyzing facial features from photos or videos, serving as a form of biometrics.

Cameras may allow users to create a database of family members and close friends, helping the system determine whether an individual is in the database. Accurate facial recognition cameras can identify authorized (in-database) individuals and detect unauthorized persons.

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