Whether you’re interested in home safety, keeping an eye on the little ones or want to create your own YouTube reality show, the iZON remote monitoring system from Stem Innovations will let you do it all… with your iPhone. I had a chance to put the iZON through the ringer and see just how useful this relatively inexpensive app-based remote video camera really is.
First, the basics: The iZON requires the use of any iOS device, like an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You’ll also need a home Wi-Fi network for the iZON to broadcast through. The iZON costs about $130, which is far less than many other home monitoring systems. And with its Apple-like design, it’s also more fashionable than most competing devices.
With the iZON, you can monitor both video and audio feeds from anywhere, over either Wi-Fi or a 3G network. The iZON also includes optional motion and noise detection sensors, which will turn automatically switch on the video and audio feeds anytime they’re triggered.
Another, um, interesting feature of iZON is the ability to automatically upload videos from the iZON to a connected YouTube account, which is both awesome and terrifying all at once.
First, plug in the iZON using the 6-foot USB cable and wall plug adapter that come with the device. I’d recommend getting your iZON all set up before you install it in a permanent location, just to make sure it’s where you want it.
Next, download the “Stem: Connect App” from the App Store. (Of course, it’s free.) The app serves as both your control panel and video monitor for the iZON. Fire up the app, and you’ll be able to “Add a Stem Product.” Choose the iZONn Remote Room Monitor option, and you’ll be prompted to create a new account. Once you’ve entered in an email address and password, Stem will send you a validation code.
When I did this, the validation code I received didn’t work. I called iZON to find out what the problem was, and they were very helpful and sent me a new validation code (though I did have to delete the account associated with the email I wanted to use before I could enter the new validation code).
The rest of the set up isn’t difficult, exactly. It is, however, anything but straightforward, so I won’t waste your time by going through it all here. It involves leaving the app a number of times to change Wi-Fi settings, and things of this nature. There were definitely aspects of the app I’d recommend Stem streamline, just to make this solid product that much easier to use. Allow yourself at least 15 minutes to complete the full setup.
NOTE: Make sure your Wi-Fi network doesn’t use WEP security settings — the iZON will not connect if it does, even though it seems like it’s connected. Instead, set your wireless router to use WPA2 settings, which work perfectly. But definitely make sure you have something protecting your Wi-Fi, since you’ve installed a Web-accessible video camera in your house.
Launching the spy cam
Stem includes a couple of screws and anchors for anyone who wants to permanently install their iZON. Since it’s quite small, and can fit more or less anywhere, I decided to simply set mine on top of the kitchen cabinets, where it can overlook my living room and give me the best view of my dog and cat when we aren’t home, given the iZON’s 60-degree viewing angle.
Accessing the audio-video feed through the Stem app is easy. Just select the iZON icon, and after a minute or so, a thumbnail screengrab will show up. Click that, and you’re on the live feed. Simple and easy.
Based on my tests, the feed is about 20 seconds behind live action, so keep that in mind before you go storming through your front door to catch a thief; there’s a chance he’s already out the back.
Right now, the iZON shoots up to a 300kbps bitstream, with color QVGA video, at 10 frames per second. That means the quality is not amazing, not particularly clear with quick motion, but certainly good enough for its intended purpose. According to Stem, an upcoming app update will allow for a 1.5Mbps, VGA-quality, 30fps video stream, which really will be pretty spectacular for such a device.
The iZON transmits a higher level of video quality over Wi-Fi than it does over a 3G connection. The live stream loads quite quickly over Wi-Fi, but took a little while longer to load over 3G. But it still wasn’t bad, and it was quite awesome to be able to check in on my dog and cat while out for the evening.
In addition, I was particularly surprised by how well the microphone on the iZON picked up sound in the room, and it definitely made the iZON feel like a much higher-end product because of the clear audio feed.
Uploading your video to couldn’t be easier. To sync your YouTube account, simply click the blue arrow icon on the video thumbnail screen, where you’re taken to the feed settings. Click the “Upload to YouTube” option, and you’ll be taken to a screen where you can enable automatic YouTube upload, enter your YouTube account credentials, and enter tags, description and category. Video uploads are automatically set as private, so only people you invite to see an iZON video on YouTube can see it. But you can also turn off the private upload setting from the setup screen.
Once YouTube upload is enabled, go to the live feed screen. Next to the volume adjustment slider at the bottom is a little “record” button. Click that, and you can record up to 35 seconds of live footage. (Click record again to stop recording if you want less than 35 seconds.) When YouTube upload is enabled, everything you choose to record is automatically uploaded — you cannot choose to delete a video before it is already uploaded.
This feature has both positive and negative uses. If someone is breaking into your house, and you catch them in the act, you can save the video evidence, and share it easily. But this also makes it possible for anyone who uses the iZON for nefarious purposes, i.e. recording someone who doesn’t know they’re being recorded, to bring about far greater consequences, since video of whatever’s been recorded can be made instantly public for the whole world to see.
For anyone who wants to use the iZON as a genuine security camera, the motion and audio detection features are particularly useful. Both sensitivity and range of view are fully adjustable under the motion settings, and both audio record level, as well as the level at which an audio alert is triggered can also be adjusted to your specific settings.
If either the motion or audio alerts are turned on, as well as push notifications, the Stem app will send you an alert as soon as the iZON is triggered to turn on — something that’s especially beneficial for home security purposes.
Another added bonus of the iZON and the iZON app is, you can add more than one iZON device to your account, meaning it’s possible to outfit your house with a full Scarface-style surveillance system for only $130 per room — a much better deal than you’re going to get with professionally installed video monitoring setups.
While I did find the set up of the iZON, and the functionality of the app, unnecessarily complicated, it really wasn’t that difficult considering it only takes about 15 minutes or so from start to finish. The quality of the video and audio feeds are surprisingly high, and the ability to access a live feed of my house from anywhere with at least cell phone service I found to be incredibly awesome.
Overall, the iZON makes an affordable security system with do-it-yourself setup, although the app needs a bit of streamlining before it’s perfected. For the price, it’s a surprisingly well-made product. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to keep a closer watch on their home, pets or kids.
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