MUCH HAS CHANGED in the world of security camera technology over the past few years. It wasn’t very long ago that the only way to add a video surveillance system to your home was to run coaxial cabling from each camera back to a fixed security-style digital video recorder. This labor-intensive solution was fine for your local 7/11 but not for the average home, as it required lots of wiring and offered very little flexibility in camera placement.
Now that wireless communications technologies have become more prevalent—and reliable—video surveillance systems have become easier to install and more affordable and practical for home use. Leading the charge are IP-based surveillance cameras. They are a cinch to set up, are interoperable with other IP-based products, and let you view live and recorded video conveniently from any web-enabled product, such as your smartphone or tablet. Add to this the inclusion of Wi-Fi and low-cost pan-and-tilt features, and it’s now possible to endow your home with surveillance capabilities on par with that of a commercial business—at a price you can afford.
So, what other features should you expect from surveillance cameras?
Support for high-definition video and the incorporation of a wide-angle lens are two new and coveted capabilities. HD renders images captured by cameras more discernable and a wide-angle lens can cover almost 180 degrees with very acceptable detail. Together, these two features provide more flexibility in camera placement; just about anywhere you put them, these cameras will be able to see the action clearly.
The use of the Cloud for storing and archiving video footage is another feature to look for, as it supports on-the-go access and retrieval of surveillance video. Smartphone apps that can notify you of activity in your home with live video links will become the norm, as will cameras with built-in infrared technology, which will enable them to see and record video in the dark. Two-way audio over IP will be important to look for, too; with it, you’ll be able to speak with someone at your front door even when you are not home.
Do you want to record camera video or get real-time alerts and on-the-spot viewing from a smartphone or tablet? Dropcam offers 24/7 recording and archiving services through its portals for a monthly or annual subscription. The NETGEAR Arlo does this too, but the subscription is free, or you can purchase a premium service. If you’d like to record the camera video to a hard drive, software such as Blue Iris can do the trick. The newest recording twist: cameras that can store video themselves on a built-in memory or SD card.
Even with all the new technology being incorporated into residential surveillance cameras, installing them will be a breeze—definitely something avid DIYers will be able to handle themselves. The incorporation of Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies means the only connection the camera needs is to an AC outlet. Some cameras won’t even require this, as they are designed to run on batteries. Either way, wireless technology simplifies setup and lets you easily relocate cameras to different locations in the house as your security needs change. Manufacturers’ improvements to their cameras’ installation software, which will automatically configure the cameras for operation on your home’s wireless your network, is also contributing to simpler installation. And with a plethora of apps for PC and smartphones, access to these cameras from anywhere is a snap.
The ability to visually monitor the key areas of your home remotely has never been easier or more affordable. The key is to find surveillance cameras that are easy to connect, configure, and access. Technologies like IP and HD, along with new apps and lenses, are helping cameras break new ground as a practical amenity to add to a home. EH
BOB SILVER is an independent home media convergence consultant who is currently working with NETGEAR. Through his participation in user forums and technology publications, Bob has been able to provide insight, product reviews, and configuration recommendations to homeowners.