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Why explosion-protected cameras aren’t just explosion-protected cameras

When you choose the right kind of explosion-protected camera, you'll get the best camera for your purpose and could save money as well, says Justin Ludik, business development manager, Critical Infrastructure at Axis.

Johannesburg, 05 Jun 2019
Read time 4min 30sec

When you hear the words “explosion-protected cameras”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you are picturing a big, heavy traditional PTZ camera that takes three people hours to install, think again.

Sure, there are situations where you might need that conventional camera. But there are also lots of times you would be better off with a different kind of explosion-protected camera. Plus, there are some useful applications for explosion-protected cameras that just may surprise you.

Bottom line? When you choose the right kind of explosion-protected camera, not only will you get the best camera for your purpose, but you are likely to save some money as well, says Justin Ludik, Axis Business Development Manager, Critical Infrastructure.

Three categories of explosion-protected cameras

Roughly speaking, explosion-protected cameras can be divided into three categories. The first is, of course, the explosion-protected PTZ cameras you were visualising earlier. Still, there are actually two kinds of explosion-protected PTZ cameras: the traditional kind that is meant to be mounted on top of a column and a dome-style PTZ camera, which is lighter, easier to install and can be mounted higher up. The second category is fixed explosion-protected cameras. And the third is thermal explosion-protected cameras. There are two kinds of those as well: regular thermal cameras and temperature alarm thermal cameras.

When to choose a PTZ – and which kind do you need?

Traditional explosion-protected PTZ cameras are most appropriate when you are looking for sweeping 360° views of a large space and the ability to pan, tilt and zoom in on areas of interest, for example, in response to an alarm. These are the only explosion-protected cameras that can be mounted on columns or parapets to deliver completely unobstructed views in every direction and views above the horizon.

So, if you simply can’t tolerate any blind spots, a traditional PTZ camera is what you need. For example, on an oil rig, when you want to be able to scan the entire horizon and above. On the other hand, if you don’t need views above the horizon, you might choose a dome-style PTZ camera instead. They’re lightning fast, and they offer real-time control and the same kind of sweeping coverage when mounted up high. Plus their moving parts are protected inside the dome, and they’re lighter, easier to handle and POE-powered for cost-effective plug-and-play installation.

Fixed explosion-protected cameras – your “eyes on the prize” in dangerous areas

Fixed explosion-protected cameras are often the best choice for monitoring specific spots because they’re always trained right on whatever you want to see. For example, a fixed explosion-protected camera that is light-sensitive and provides high-resolution video can be used to monitor temperature gauges, sensors and valves in a refinery (or in other industrial processes). Or a fixed explosion-protected network camera with optical zoom would be perfect for monitoring the tops of tanks in the same refinery, allowing operators to visually verify safety information from the refinery sensor system. Or for monitoring conveyor belts.

When the heat is on: explosion-protected thermal cameras

The final category is explosion-protected thermal cameras – and, once again, there are two kinds. “Regular” explosion-protected thermal cameras can be used to detect heat radiating from surfaces. For example, you could use this kind of camera to assess the amount of fuel in a refinery tank based on temperature before shortfalls slow down production. They can also be used to detect if there are people are present in dangerous zones during an evacuation.

Then there are explosion-protected temperature alarm cameras. They let you monitor temperatures, detect leaks and take action, before it’s too late. You might use a temperature alarm camera to monitor the temperature of a flame, for example. It could also make use of analytics to send an alarm to a centralised control room when the temperature goes beyond a set limit or increases too quickly. Both are relatively light and can be easy to install.

Three things explosion-protected camera should have

While it’s true that explosion-protected cameras are not just traditional PTZs anymore, and that there are appropriate explosion-protected cameras for more applications than ever, there are some things that you should always look for – and expect – from every explosion-protected camera. Sharp images are number one, of course. You need to be able to see clearly even in challenging circumstances and in spite of vibrations, poor weather and difficult light conditions, for example.

Network capabilities that make it possible to take advantage of intelligent on-board analytics that turn cameras into tools that can help you make smart decisions are another must. And the right certifications for hazardous areas according to the regulations valid in your country are the requirement number three. And, of course, some network cameras are better than others in all of these respects. But, choosing the best quality explosion-protected cameras is an article for another day.

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Natania Tesnar
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