What’s going on at your home or business when you’re not there? Why not log on and check? By Ian Harvey
Home and business video surveillance systems used to be the domain of the well-heeled or large corporate concerns who could afford to deploy the resources required to install and monitor the equipment. However, a combination of falling prices and Internet-based technology seems to have come up with a solution for the average home and small business. Internet accessible video monitoring systems are cheap, easy to install and provide instant peace of mind because they can be remotely monitored anywhere there’s Net access – including over mobile phones.
“We have one system that will e-mail you a video clip anytime a motion detector is triggered,” said Sean O’Leary, president and CEO of Safe Tech , a Toronto alarm system company. “Or you can log on via the Net with a password and see for yourself, and dispatch police who will respond if there’s a confirmation there’s an issue.”
Cameras which used to cost thousands of dollars have dropped dramatically in price and they’ve evolved as network components, meaning they have unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and can be accessed via a browser over the Net. For determined Do-It-Yourselfers, off the shelf version is also available from computer and electronic manufacturers at retail level. Aron Reid, at D-Link Canada, manufacturers of wireless and wired network components, says there are several colour cameras, from outdoor to indoor starting at $200 and rising to $800 for top of the line models in both wired and wireless. Wireless models simply connect to the existing Wifi system in the home or business, he said, but require a power supply, while wired models simply pull power from the Ethernet cable connecting it to a router. Several cameras can be spread around the house though Safe Tech consultant Sal Aprile says in his experience many customers have privacy issues and prefer outdoor cameras which require weatherproof housings and are more expensive.
“From there you can run it through a computer with a video card or in other cases to a network drive that doesn’t have to be connected to a computer that’s turned on,” Mr. Reid said. In any case the system can also be configured to send an e-mail if a motion detector is set off. For the more technically challenged, Telus offers HomeSitter to customers in Alberta and B.C. to access cameras in homes or business via any Internet connection. It also allows users to log into the video feed remotely and get a real-time update of what is going on, or to review digitally stored video to see what led up to the alarm being triggered. The $9.95 a month service is not available in Ontario and the basic hardware costs extra – up to $300 for two cameras. The real break-through, says Prateek Dwivedi, director, Product Marketing at Toronto based Casero Inc which created the software for the Telus system, will be when hardware prices fall though the $99 mark.
“For the mass market, it’s almost got to be free,” he said drawing a parallel with the cell phone sales model. “And it’s got to be simple. Our software sits on the network so installation is a matter of a couple of questions over a browser.” The value proposition to Internet accessible cameras in the home is that grandparents can set a time to check in on their grandkids half way around the world, road warriors can log on to say good night to their own children, anxious moms have a nanny or teen cam while others can check on elderly parents or even just their pets.
“We don’t see it as a security camera, we see it as a window to the personal content of your life,” said Dwivedi. “Though in many places now, such as California, police won’t respond to alarms unless there is visual confirmation of a break-in or incident.” As such, the value of being able to instantly determine what set off a motion detector is invaluable, he said. “Now that the carriers have the high speed bandwidth of EV-D0 we could also video to a handheld, because you may not be near a computer when you get the alert.” Globe and Mail