Remote IP Video Storage with a Mobile Twist
Everywhere I go I see people on the street and in their cars, “app”ing away at various iPhone and Droid handheld Internet devices. Yes, I have iPhone envy. I watch the stock of Apple shoot to the moon, and wonder how I missed the boat. But I just can’t pull the trigger and dump my battered old Nokia phone, primarily because it actually survived a complete washing machine cycle in the pocket of my cargo shorts.
But I’m in the minority. There are projections that by the end of 2010, Apple alone will have sold more than 45 million iPhones worldwide. Add in the sales of Droid and BlackBerry devices, and the future is clear. The time will soon be here when more people will use wireless networks to access the Internet than traditional desktop and laptop PCs.
When an astute security dealer looks at the future, he or she realizes that Internet connectivity for alarm signaling and remote control of devices will be mandatory as POTS — plain old telephone service — fades from the scene. While some fear the future, smart dealers will see the opportunity to up-sell existing and new customers on using their mobile Internet device to control their alarm system(s).
And the coolest and easiest technology to sell is live and stored remote IP video. Who doesn’t want to be able to watch their child/dog/boat/office from anywhere on the Internet, iPhone or laptop, along with recorded video of specific events such as a safe being opened? This is a visual and visceral sale which will dazzle prospective clients just by the salesperson firing up their handheld device, calling a camera, and showing it to the customer. A picture (or video clip) is now worth more than 1,000 words; it is worth $$$ in sales.
Honeywell has leveraged its AlarmNet® communications network to provide one of the easiest to install and sell remote IP video cameras to hit the market. The IPCAM-PT is the first of a number of video devices that Honeywell’s Total Connect will soon be rolling out, with each device allowing the viewing of live and recorded video over the AlarmNet network.
Providing pan-tilt and LED lighting, the IPCAM-PT can be connected to wired and wireless LANs in less than five minutes. Two steps are required: first, contact your AlarmNet central station and have them set up a video Total Connect account; you provide the MAC address(es) from the cameras that you’ll be installing. The MAC is on the box and on a sticker on the cameras themselves and up to six cameras can be connected to a single video Total Connect account. AlarmNet will e-mail the link to “Total Connect” and a temporary user name/password to you.
The second step is to wire the camera into your client’s LAN via Cat5e, and plug in the power supply. The client’s router must be enabled for DHCP addressing, which is commonly default programmed “on” with standard D-Link/Belkin/Linksys routers. When the camera does its initialization dance, panning and tilting through its complete range of motion, then you’re done.
Wireless setup is trickier, as the IPCAM-PT will only work on a Wi-Fi access point that has a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Services) activation button. Honeywell sells an inexpensive Wi-Fi access point that can be added to the client’s existing network quickly and allow near-instant wireless programming and connection of the cameras.
The beauty of the IPCAM-PT is that it is preprogrammed to contact the AlarmNet network. Because the camera calls the network over the Internet, no port forwarding or firewall manipulation is needed. What the camera is doing in network terms is no different than when you sit at your PC and type www.sdmmag.com into your Web browser. The SDM Web site comes to you from over the Internet, and is allowed through your firewall and router because it was requested by a device (your PC) that is within the local network. So you don’t need to mess with router or firewall settings to get the job done and the camera hooked up.
Once it’s active, the camera can be accessed through the client’s Total Connect account by going to the appropriate Web page and keying in the valid user name/password (which should be immediately changed for security). Click the video tab, and still JPEG shots from each camera are presented on the right. Clicking on a camera presents a live MPEG-4 stream from that camera on the left, which can transmit up to 15 fps (frames per second) based on the available bandwidth of both the transmitting and the receiving Internet connection. Customers can view live video, take snapshots, and move the camera’s field-of-view from any Internet-connected PC/laptop, all iPhones, and most non-Apple wireless handheld devices.
For recording, a few simple programming steps are required. Technicians need to set the time of day and days of the week that recording is desired, along with a “triggering” method, typically the motion detection that is built into the camera. When motion is detected, up to 10 frames of combined pre- and post-event images will be recorded by the cameras and stored on the AlarmNet network, as well as being accessible to any authorized user. While not providing full-time or full-motion recording, this method reduces the Internet bandwidth requirement because we are not blasting 24-hour video through the client’s DSL or cable modem. Yet because of the excellent image quality, the client can clearly see the people moving through the camera’s field-of-view.
It’s an inexpensive service, with wholesale costs of less than $10 per month for a single account that can support up to six cameras, which don’t necessarily have to be on the same LAN or Internet connection.
So with one account a client could have a couple of cameras in his house — one in his office and one to watch a loved one, be it a grandmother or a Ferrari parked in his driveway.
Honeywell soon will be offering a video encoder that allows standard analog cameras to be connected to the service, as well as an outdoor IP camera.
I’ve tried this system out and it works as advertised — quick and simple to install, an easy-to-use client interface, and the reliability of the AlarmNet network.
For information visit www.mytotalconnect.com or call 800-467-5875.