Looking at IP Video Technology
Take a Test Drive...
Take a quick click to this linked site and press the “Start” button. You can control the camera while viewing live streaming video from Squaw Valley’s High Camp hospitality area.
This newsletter is focusing on IP video, which has become very popular over the last several years, mostly due to increased IP camera affordability and faster internet speeds. Having done my usual research for this newsletter, I endeavored to find several web cameras to hyperlink. Without realizing it, I had spent an entire hour visiting various webcams around the world. I visited my favorite cities, like Madrid, Paris, San Diego, and Berlin and saw what the real-time images looked like thousands of miles away. You can see a world-wide list of public cameras by visiting http://www.123cam.com.
This is pretty neet stuff, almost something out of science fiction; but this technology is very practical as well. Today, you can implement IP camera products and software in your own home at a reasonable price.
Monitor Cameras on Your Touchscreens & HDTVs
About a week ago, I was asked to provide a video door intercom system proposal for one our clients. They wanted something simple, and had already run cat-5 network wires to the front door. Looking at the various doorphone choices, many were both clunky and ugly. Most looked like they were holdovers from 1970’s, like cheap bell-bottom jeans and elevator shoes. I found a solution from Channel Vision that included a clean-looking brass-plate doorphone with a small integrated color camera. You can view examples in the right margin of this newsletter.
The small integrated camera normally connects to a stand-alone television monitor. However, this client has a four-story-tall home in the hills above downtown San Francisco, so the image would have to be distributed house-wide. The solution was to specify an IP Video Server. This VCR-sized device takes a standard composite video signal and converts it to streaming motion JPEG image. The camera simply plugs into the video server and becomes IP enabled. Now, our client can view his front door camera from the exercise room as well as the Tokyo Hilton.
We don’t expect most of us to see our front door from the other side of the globe, but there are some very practical applications gleamed from this IP technology.
Firstly, our client is well underway on a Control4 system install. We have several areas specified with flat-panel HDTVs, as well as a number of eventual touchscreens. Secondly, Control4 integrates with both IP cameras and IP video servers. We intend to program the system to display the doorphone camera video on all displays and touchscreens when someone presses the front doorbell. Now, that is a very useful application.
Monitor Your Home on the Internet
Since the signal is IP-based, the front door video could be viewed at work.
Lets take a scenario where Mom is at home inbetween errands, and she hears the doorbell ring over the house-wide audio system. Instead of the normal “Big Ben” doorbell sound, she hears the latest .wav file play a happy seasonal greeting. This is because we programmed in an announcement agent on their system, giving the the flexibility to choose custom greetings depending on the time of year. The neighbors always comment about it when they visit.
Hearing the new jingle, Mom looks at the nearest 7” wall-mounted touchscreen. Strangely, she doesn’t see the regular UPS driver or local friend; she sees someone totally unfamiliar. Instead of opening the door, she decides to call her husband at work.
“Honey,” she says a little concerned, “There is someone strange at the door.”
Her husband logs onto his web browser and selects the webpage that he has saved in his computer browser’s “favorites” folder. I seconds, he sees the image of the stranger. He engages the record feature of his software’s DVR, and now the IP stream is being saved to his hard drive.
Being the savvy integrated man that he is, he consoles his wife and advises her to not open the door, and simply wait while he logs onto his Control4 4-Sight account. On his computer, he locates the “Kujo” button on his Control4 Web Navigator. He presses this, and instantly, he can hear the dog barking sound play loudly through his family room’s home theater system.
Mom laughs as she watches the possible intruder slink away from the front door, disappearing into the quiet neighborhood.
Sound crazy? It’s very easy to program, and I have it myself at home. Instead of playing a dog barking sound, I have a whole array of pre-made announcements to advise whatever ner-do-well that the system knows about the intrusion and signals were sent to dispatch. The benefit of IP is its speed. My alarm events also include distinct emails sent to my address. If I am on the road, I receive alerts from my system, including where the breach occurred, so I can warn the police or family which part of the house to avoid. This was very basic programming that took about five minutes for me to build.
Monitor and Control Your Home Anywhere
In our November “Green” newsletter, I mentioned that some of our clients own several homes. I can’t think of a better way to manage multiple properties than by subscribing to a Control4 4-Sight account. By including video with the status of Lighting, HVAC, Security, Pool & Spa, Gates, and Landscape, it’s the next best thing from actually being there. The control capabilities are very powerful when you add video as a feedback tool to see that you actually did turn the light on. Not only does your 4-Sight Web Navigator say so, but you can actually see the light on in the streaming video you review at your desktop.
Advanced IP cameras have the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom. This is especially handy in areas like yards, where you need to view an area larger than a single room. The Control4 system includes all of the controls necessary to pan, tilt, and zoom cameras as the image is displayed on the onscreen or touchscreen device. For example, if Mom heard strange noises in the back yard, she could view that video and locate its source by any of the house-wide touchscreens or HDTVs.
Taking this another step further. Imagine that you have a house in the mountains, and you weren’t sure whether you are going to arrive late Friday to a snow-covered driveway. You can view your mountain getaway from the same house-wide devices that you use to view local camera sources. The system does not need to discriminate which IP camera images to display, since any camera can be selected on the larger wide-area network. In fact, you could choose to view a number of web cameras that are listed on the www.123cam.com website from various Control4 interfaces. If you wanted, you could have your system display the web camera at the Eifel Tower or Piazza San Marco every morning at wake up.
IP Video is Affordable
The great news in all of this is that IP video is not prohibitively expensive to implement. Web cameras start as low as $199, and as long as you have a Control4 system and functioning home network, you are already most of the way there. Video Servers run $299 for a single video feed, and sophisticated pan/tilt/zoom enabled cameras are well under $1K. Programming time is very quick, since the control drivers are already pre-built. Naturally, we can add any kind of custom programming under the sun as well.
Our January Offer
I always like to offer free stuff for customers in our newsletters, and I just happen to have three 1-year subscriptions for Control4’s 4-Sight service. If you don’t have a Control4 system yet, or if you are an existing customer who purchases an IP camera, we will give away the first three subscriptions to those who call the 650-697-7081 number or email us at our firstname.lastname@example.org address for the install of a system. This is a great opportunity to experience IP camera capabilities paired with 4-Sight services.
Let’s get IP video enabled on your system.
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IP Camera Technology is Affordable
The camera mounted at Squaw Valley's High Camp area is very similar to this Panasonic HCM-511 Network Camera. Run on a Cat-5 network wire, this camera has the ability to pan and tilt to view a wide field of view. (click image for web page)
View and Control House-Wide
This Control4 7" Touchscreen allows you to view the front door from any room location. (click image for web page)
These simple doorphones have embedded cameras that offer a discreet look and a straight-forward telephone communication solution. (click image for web page)
Panasonic has monitoring software that allows you to view your camera images from any internet connection. (click image for web page)
Control4 4-Sight Service
At $99/year, this web-based interface allows you to monitor your Control4 system from any internet connection. Paired with viewable IP cameras on the internet, you can control and monitor several homes. For those with multiple properties, this is the perfect estate management tool. (click image for web page)
Control Your System While Monitoring
While watching your cameras, you can see the action that you made from your 4-Sight connection. (click image for web page)
These two products match as a "perfect pair". (click image for web page)
This is a very interesting site. (click image for web page)