Thanks to the numerous home improvement stores scattered across the country – not to mention the various do-it-yourself programs on TV – it has never been easier for the homeowner to fix up the house without seeking professional help. And, thanks to ever-advancing consumer tech, even projects that once involved calling in for help, can now be self-installed with nothing more than a screwdriver or sticky-tape. One such project is home security. While completely wiring a home with motion detectors, alarms and keypads still remains a task best left to an alarm company, homeowners can now add some home protection by setting up one of the number of affordable “plug-and-play” consumer-based security camera solutions to hit the market. The beauty of these new security cams is that they are lighter on the wallet, a snap to set up, and much easier to use.
These types of digital video cameras, called Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, utilize computer networking to transmit image data. IP cameras can also connect to the Web for remote control and viewing. Some record footage onto flash or external storage, while others save images in the cloud. There are sophisticated IP cameras designed for corporate and government buildings, and there are simplified versions for the home.
IP cameras for the home aren’t new, but in the past they have been complicated devices, requiring networking expertise to set up and operate. Looking like regular ordinary webcams, the latest IP-based cameras feature wireless operation that limits wiring and installation time. And, since they are small in size, they can be placed almost anywhere providing for discrete monitoring of your home and family. They also come with monitoring and management software that lets you trigger alarms and e-mail alerts when a security breach is broken. And, you can log into them when you’re away from home for remote control and viewing via a mobile device like an iPhone.
“For the consumer, IP camera control and viewing apps for smartphones are convenient and easy to use,” said Jim Hatcher, chief technology officer at Human Circuit, a company that specializes in designing media solutions – including surveillance – for corporations and government. “This is an extension of the ‘bring your own device’ idea – purpose-built viewing and control equipment has been replaced by a smartphone and an app. In addition: video recording to a cloud or local memory stick, so no need for the end user to configure, host, and maintain a video server.”
Ready to fortify your home for some piece of mind when you’re asleep or away? Here are a few of the latest wireless home IP cameras available.
No-brainer setup, easy to use
One company that is making waves in this area is Y-cam Solutions with their new HomeMonitor indoor system ($200). “Being a company that provides users with both sides of the security coin (traditional professional IP cameras like the Cube and simple Wi-Fi cameras with online storage such as HomeMonitor) we are in a unique position to be able to understand the future of the market and how these more consumer-friendly cameras will make a difference,” said Y-cam CEO Devin Chawda. “We’ve been selling professional consumer IP cameras for years, but regardless of how simple we can make them to use, the technology is still overwhelming for most non-technical users. With the introduction of HomeMonitor, we wanted to make the technology available to everyone and not exclude those that may not feel they have the technical expertise. Additionally, with the growth in adoption of Wi-Fi and smartphones this allows users to start benefiting from this technology that has previously been out of their reach.”
Chawda points out the entire HomeMonitor system can be set-up in a matter of minutes. “Every camera comes with instant remote access, there is no need to amend any router settings or venture into port forwarding, and, unlike other providers, we offer no-subscription, free seven-day rolling online cloud storage. We also provide free apps for iPhone and Android (Android release due this month) to make mobile viewing even easier.”
Another IP unit to possibly add to your shopping list is Netgear’s VueZone system. The two-part Netgear VueZone Add–On Night Vision Camera (VZCN2060) ($130) includes a wireless night vision camera that lets you see in the dark. Use your connected device – a computer, smartphone, or tablet – to easily keep an eye on children, elderly relatives, pets, property, or vacation homes, from anywhere at any time. The video stream from the cameras can be viewed on any iOS or Android mobile device, and you can add up to 15 zones for monitoring. You also have the option to record footage directly to your mobile device or take snapshots.
Erich Volkert, senior director of product management at Netgear, points out that the VueZone does two difficult things to make things simple for the homeowner. “First, unlike IP cameras that require the user to understand [networking], VueZone requires no technical expertise. Secondly, VueZone cameras are 100-percent wire-free. Customers appreciate the simplicity and regularly tell us that they spent more time deciding where to put their cameras than they did setting them up.”
D-Link expanded its line of cloud-enabled monitoring and networking solutions with two new wireless network imaging devices, the Cloud Camera 1050 ($80) and Cloud Camera 1150 ($100). Both cameras come with 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, Wi-Fi Protected Setup that offers a simple three-step installation process, and H.264 video compression technology that takes up less network bandwidth while offering five times the amount of video storage.
Belkin’s NetCam Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision ($150) offers 720p HD resolution and connects directly to a Wi-Fi router without the need of a computer. You just need to download the free NetCam app to your mobile device and you’re good to go. The camera’s wide-angle video gives you a full view of any room, and clear digital audio lets you listen to pets or children at play. Even if the room you’re viewing is completely dark, you’ll see a clear picture via the infrared night vision. And to make sure you don’t miss any action, you can choose to receive e-mail alerts when NetCam detects movement.
Samsung’s SmartCam ($149) offers high-resolution video recording and can even record events in the dark through the use of non-visible infrared LEDs (up to 15 feet). Requiring no manual configuration by the user, the Samsung SmartCam takes what was once a cumbersome and confusing setup and makes it as easy as a push of a button. Users simply locate the WPS button on the device and their home router (if it supports WPS), and with a click of each, the two will automatically sync and the camera will be added to the network in less than 30 seconds. Once connected to the home network, the user is asked to create an account at SamsungSmartCam.com where they can then register their camera and view real-time footage from the device. No installation of software is required.
The Foscam FI9821W Black Wireless IP Camera ($200) is the company’s latest 720p HD IP camera. It is also their first camera to sport Foscam’s brand new web interface, allowing all features to be compatible with every standard browser on the market, including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
(Main image via Illin Sergey/Shutterstock)