In the last year alone, several major retailers have been caught off-guard by problems at their food processing plants, mostly related to cleanliness and food storage. From peanut butter to poultry, companies have been forced to recall products — and endure the attendant PR nightmare — based on these issues. So it makes sense that many food processing plants, especially ones where live animals are brought, either have or are looking to install or upgrade a video system, not only for security but to monitor quality assurance and ensure cleanliness processes are being followed.

Ideally, these plants should be rigorously cleaned with high-pressure hoses and the appropriate chemicals, says Jay Hauhn, vice president, product management and industry relations for Boca Raton, Fla.-based Tyco Integrated Security. In addition to the plant’s normal operations, unless installers and integrators use the appropriate equipment for that environment, that very cleaning process that’s designed to improve food safety can pose a major challenge for those cameras — mainly because of the human element.

“A lot of those guys are pretty good at shooting the cameras on purpose, and you’re talking about not only water but harsh cleaning chemicals as well,” Hauhn says. “Even the best seals for connecting the conduit and other wiring to the camera are put to the test …so a six-dollar-an-hour employee with a high-pressure hose, which shoots out at 2,000 PSI, trained on a camera actually reduces the camera’s life as opposed to cleaning it.”

This is precisely why it’s important to make sure cameras are able to withstand any harsh environment in which they’re installed. This example also serves as a reminder that a harsh environment can be much more than bad weather and other outdoor conditions. However, that’s often what first comes to mind, Hauhn says.

“It’s all about overcoming the environment, whether it’s man-made or natural,” he says.

Despite that common perception that the “harsh” label primarily refers to outdoor conditions, those situations are often much easier to manage, Hauhn says, mainly because of the number of established ratings that cover a camera’s ability to withstand various environmental conditions. The most well-known of these would be ingress protection (IP), which rates a camera’s ability to withstand dust and moisture, but there are many more, says Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison for Chelmsford, Mass.-based Axis Communications.

“IP ratings are often associated with camera resistance to water and dust. There are also classifications, ratings and standards for explosion-proof, marine, pressurized, chemical, military, wind, vibration, etc. Really, each harsh environment has its own ratings,” he says. (For more in-depth detail of some of the most common ratings and standards, see “Rating Ruggedness” on page 86.)

What to Look For

The first thing to consider when planning a video system for a harsh environment is location, says Chuck Westfall, technical advisor, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A., Melville, N.Y.

“If an IP security camera is going to be installed in a harsh environment, installers and integrators should consider the potential abuse that the camera may be subject to,” he says.

As with almost any camera installation, a major consideration is image quality, but there are many more factors to consider, both with the camera itself and the installation, Surfaro says.

“In addition to image quality and functionality, for harsh environments, one of the most important features is ease of installation. In challenging environments, the installation has to be easy,” he says.

In terms of placement, it’s not just about the installation, but also any ongoing maintenance that could pose a problem, particularly in harsh environments, Surfaro adds.

Cameras should be placed where they provide the best capture of the scene and actionable video — regardless of environment, Surfaro says.

“Meeting the customer’s operational requirements is the first determining factor in selecting a video surveillance system. The environment should not compromise quality surveillance video,” he says. “However, in harsh environments, installers must also consider installation and maintenance. In many harsh environments, there’s a greater and more frequent need for maintenance and cleaning. Cameras need to be accessible for regular maintenance, while still be installed in such a way that they cannot be tampered with either, maliciously or accidentally.”

Once you’ve determined what image quality the end user wants and where cameras are going to be placed, environmental ratings will guide your decision of a particular camera, Surfaro says.

“Ratings are also important to consider when selecting a product. Look for IP and NEMA enclosure ratings, as well as military standards to ensure reliable operation in harsh conditions,” Surfaro says. “These features also help extend the life of the camera, helping customers avoid costly replacements down the line.”

Temperature ratings, which vary with many indoor- and outdoor-rated cameras, also have to factor in to the final decision. And there are a wide variety of options in that area, says Mike Leary, network solutions product specialist, Tri-Ed Distribution, Woodbury, N.Y.

“Outdoor-rated cameras can be found that operate in temperatures as low as -58 deg. F and as high as 131 deg. F. It’s best to review specific documentation to assure suitability for the environment,” he says. “Heated and cooled enclosures enable cameras with more modest temperature ratings to be used in harsher environments than they were originally designed for.”

But ratings don’t tell the whole story, says Frank De Fina, senior vice president, sales – North America, Samsung Techwin America, based in Ridgefield Park, N.J.

“Even though most cameras are rated IP66, and some IP67 — more weather-proof — they all can be susceptible to harsh environments, so all installations should try to find areas protected as much as possible under eaves, or high up away from debris, etc.,” De Fina says. Additionally, installers can use pressurized housings to make cameras dust-free for highways, tunnels and bridges, he adds.

Before installing any camera, it’s crucial to be absolutely sure that it will actually perform the way the manufacturer says it will in that particular environment.

“Anyone can write IP66 on a datasheet, but the larger companies make the extra investment and take the time to have their products independently tested by a reputable lab,” says Vance Kozik, director of marketing, IP surveillance for Fountain Valley, Calif.-based D-Link. “That way, when the lab signs off on the certification, there’s paperwork and documentation to back up the ratings.”

The Price is Right?

Because these more durable, rugged cameras are built to withstand highly volatile conditions, it’s almost a given that there is a higher cost associated with them, Kozik says.

“Most outdoor cameras have IP and IK ratings, so they’re using more material to keep it sealed and protected from vandalism. And more material brings these cameras to a different price point,” Kozik says.

Stainless steel and aluminum are commonly used in corrosive environments, such as where they might be exposed to food, chemicals or salt water. Pressurized housings provide additional protection against dust, fumes and moisture, which determines a camera’s IP rating. The higher the IP or IK rating, the higher the cost.

“Typically there will be a premium paid for equipment that is hardened. That will likely drive higher cost for harsh environment applications,” Leary says. “Installation of these types of products may or may not cost more depending on whether the environment makes installation difficult or dangerous and if more costly installation materials are required.”

How much more cost are we talking? That depends, De Fina says, cautioning installers not to underestimate the labor costs that go along with these types of installations.

“Most outdoor products are typically priced 10 percent to 25 percent higher due to the robust parts, housing and requirements, but the installer should be careful to make sure they have enough installation hours on the install and prepare for extra equipment such as bucket truck rental, trenching, weather delays, etc.,” he says.

As is always the case, there’s no blanket rule for how much more a harsh environment camera and installation will run an end user, so it’s important for installers and integrators to carefully consider all the factors before providing an estimate, says Darrel Tisdale, director of QA and technical support, Arecont Vision, located in Glendale, Calif.

“Pricing is usually dictated by the specific installation requirements. Usually this means adding in the cost of a specific housing or mounting configuration in addition to the price of the camera or cameras. Then, of course, there is the labor cost to install the complete solution,” he says.

Last but not least, De Fina says, be sure the end user understands the need for (and additional cost of) a service agreement — particularly when cameras will be expected to perform in less-than-ideal conditions.

“Providing an up-front service agreement is a necessity to the customer; and if it wasn’t in the budget, walk away,” he says. “If the customer thinks that the system will work as it did the first day in they will be extremely upset and most likely replace the product sooner than later. With a service contract this will be avoided.”



Rating Ruggedness

Common ratings and standards used to determine a camera or other device’s ability to withstand different conditions include:

  • Impact protection (IK) Rating represents the camera’s ability to resist damage from impact. An IK100 rating indicates no protection, and an IK10 indicates it can withstand an impact of 20 joules (equal to a 5kg object dropped from 40 cm high).
  • The International Electrotechnical Commission System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres (IECEx) covers a camera’s explosion resistance. These numerous standards run the gamut of environments. More detailed information is available at
  • The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) provides protection ratings similar to the IP rating system, but which cover additional factors such as corrosion resistance, gasket aging and construction practices. There are ratings from NEMA Type 1 to NEMA Type 13, but they do not build on previous ratings. For example, NEMA Type 11 means a device is protected against corrosion from liquids and gases, and NEMA Type 6 and 6P means it is submersible in water or oil. You can find more details on these ratings at
  • Ingress Protection (IP) Rating describes the ability of a device’s mechanical casing or enclosure to resist the intrusion of solid objects (including body parts), dust, accidental contact and water. The first digit of the rating ranges from 0 to 6, with 0 meaning no protection, 2 meaning it keeps out fingers or similar objects, and 6 meaning it is dust-tight and offers complete protection against contact. The second digit is the level of protection the enclosure provides against water. This number ranges from 0 (no protection) to 8 (submersible beyond 1 meter). The most common ratings for cameras are IP66 (waterproof against powerful water jets) and IP67 (submersible up to 1 meter). Both offer complete protection against solid objects.
  • The most stringent of all standards is U.S. Military Standard (MIL-STD or MIL-SPEC), which cover the physical and/or operational characteristics of a product and detail the processes and materials to be used to manufacture products. For more information on this standard, refer to publication DoD 4120.24-M “Defense Standardization Program Policies and Procedures” at 


  In addition to IP cameras, environmental factors are also important for other types of systems, including access control and intrusion detection. These stories discuss considerations for those systems.