Better picture, app integration and audio features make home monitoring more interesting for home users
With the Internet of Things really starting to take off now, especially in the home security / video camera space, I recently had a chance to try out two devices aimed at making your home more secure through motion detection, alerts and audio communications.
The scoop: Canary home security video camera, $199 (or a two-pack for $379), by Canary
What is it? Here’s another network-connected video camera that you can use to monitor your home for security-related purposes, such as looking for intruders, or non-security purposes, such as watching to see if your dog is jumping on the furniture, or a “babycam” to see if your child is sleeping or awake. The cylindrical device connects via wired ethernet to a home router, or you can use a Wi-Fi network (802.11a/b/g/n). Monitoring of the camera is done via mobile app (Android or iOS supported).
The camera sports a 1080p resolution camera with a 147-degree viewing angle, so you can place it in a corner of a room or on a shelf to get a wide view of the room you want to monitor. In addition to motion detection, the camera also has night vision, for monitoring action when it’s dark.
Additional devices can be connected to the “network”, so you can have video coverage of your home, or you can point them to view the outside of your home (the devices are not weatherproof, so you’ll likely keep them inside). You also need to have the Canary be located near a power outlet.
In order to save clips and review them later (or store them for sharing), you have to subscribe to a monthly plan (plans start at $4.99 per month that save the last two days of footage, and go up to $30 per month for a 30-day history). But the monthly fee isn’t required if you just want to use the camera for monitoring purposes.
Why it’s cool: Like other security video cameras these days, the Canary sets up via the app quickly and easily. However, instead of connecting your mobile device to the device’s Wi-Fi network (in order to pass along your home’s Wi-Fi credentials), you instead attach an audio cable to the back of the Canary unit and your mobile device’s headphone jack. Wi-Fi details (network name and password) are then transferred via this audio cable. It’s quite cool.
The app itself lets you view the video feed “live”, although there’s about a 5-second delay between the live footage and what you see on your device. The Canary can also blare a very loud alarm (A 90+ dB noise, you trigger it with the app) if you happen to see something out of the ordinary and you want to scare it away. An Emergency Call button also lets you call the fire department, police or an ambulance (the numbers are pre-programmed based on the location of the camera, another cool feature).
The picture quality from the camera is fantastic - no more blurry images coming through like with previous security cameras. As long as there's enough light coming into the room, you can see what's going on very clearly. When it gets dark, the camera automatically switches to Night Vision mode, where you get black and white footage.
Another handy feature of the Canary is that it uses the location of the mobile device to determine the “armed/disarmed” status of the camera. For example, if I leave the house with my phone, the device determines that I’m gone and sets it to “armed”, which means I’ll get mobile alerts on my phone if motion is detected. Once I return home (again, based on the location of the phone), the system disarms and it doesn’t send the alerts. However, motion-detection recording still occurs, but you have to view them manually. This is a neat feature, although you have to add additional users to the network (for example, your spouse or kids who might be home when you aren’t) in order to eliminate false alerts being sent out. The automatic arming/disarming feature is a nice touch, because it eliminates having to remember whether the camera is on or off all the time.
One other neat feature – the Canary can monitor the temperature, humidity and air quality of the room it’s in and display that when you’re connecting to the live view (although it won't alert you if a temperature gets too high or it gets too humid).
Some caveats: While the microphone is nice (letting you hear what’s going on at the camera’s location), it would be cool to include a speaker to enable two-way communication. For example, if you saw the dog on the couch, you could tell it to get down, or if your child came home from school you could chat with them via the camera instead of a phone or other method.
There's also no pan and tilt features, but you can zoom in during the live feed (up to 3x zoom) by double-clicking on the image.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).
The scoop: Turcom CyberView R TS-621 HD Wireless Security Camera, $129.99, by Turcom USA.
What is it? This is a more traditional style networked video camera, with a large wireless antenna, spherical camera and stout base for connecting a wired ethernet connection and additional ports (power, alarm, audio inputs/outputs). Unlike the Canary, the Turcom camera sports, pan, tilt and zoom features, and includes mounting screws for placement high up on a wall or room.
Although a wired ethernet port is included, you can configure this for wireless connectivity as well. Configuration is a bit trickier than the Canary – you first have to connect to your home router via a wired ethernet cable, then download the app and scan a QR code on the camera’s base to make the initial connection so you can input wireless information (network name, password). After the initial wired connection, you can disconnect and use it wirelessly, or you can keep the ethernet cable connected and use it as a wired camera.
Why it’s cool: This camera is a bit more rough around the edges than the Canary, which is clearly going for the consumer audience than this one. This seems to be aimed more at the pro-sumer or small business user – someone who only wants to use this for security purposes (hence the mounting gear, the pan/tilt/zoom and ability to connect to a third-party alarm system). Motion detection can be changed via a slider bar in the app, allowing the user to eliminate false motion or only send alerts when there’s obvious motion. A camera like this is more likely to be pointed outside and have settings that can tell when someone is trying to break in versus a car driving by.
This camera also features a microphone and speaker, which allows for two-way communication. Position this camera at the door, for example, and you can have a conversation with someone visiting your home (for example, you can have your kids talk to the camera and answer back when they get home from school).
The picture quality from this camera was also very good (720p resolution and lower, configureable by the user), with the same abilities of switching over to night vision mode when it got dark outside or if it was monitoring a darker room.
Some caveats: Setup and configuration is a bit clunkier than the Canary, so it might take some more time to get things to work to your liking (especially with the alerts, motion sensitivity, etc.). There’s also no cloud storage option for photos and videos captured by the device – you can save footage to a microSD card on the device or see “locally cached” photos/videos, but the cached images are deleted rather quickly.
Grade: 4 stars
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