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Technology Untangled: Easy video security with Internet cloud camera

Stephen Bour
December 19, 2012
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technology-bourToday we will look at a simple and effective Web-based network video security camera from D-Link that makes it easy to remotely monitor your home or office over the Internet.

I became intrigued by this subject after recently working on a project that included evidence from a home surveillance camera. That camera recorded an incident as a series of hundreds of individual snapshots. Using editing software, I was able to stitch those shots together to produce a smooth, moving video of the event. This home surveillance system was set up with multiple cameras that were wired to a computer acting as a DVR. While elaborate setups like this are certainly achievable, I was looking for something similar yet simpler to set up and operate, something that required just a minimum of technical skill.

What I discovered was the D-Link Cloud Camera 1200, model DCS-942L, a simple yet feature-filled wireless Internet camera. This camera communicates with the wireless network router you probably already own. It connects via WiFi in a manner similar to a wireless printer. It is about the size of a deck of cards. This allows for great flexibility in camera placement, allowing the unit to be placed anywhere within signal range that a power connection is available. Network cameras like this are different than Web cameras because they can operate independently of a computer (they have their own built-in CPU) and can be accessed directly through the Internet.

The D-Link stood out for me because of several key features. Because it communicates with the cloud, it allows for remote viewing of your live video feed from any iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet. You can, of course, also view from any computer on the Internet, as well as control a host of recording and viewing options from your computer while at home or away.

Next, it allows for easy recording of video because of the included microSD memory card slot. Most similar cameras have provisions for recording video to a connected computer or for uploading video to a server, but the D-Link’s onboard memory option makes recording, storing and reviewing video very easy.

Initial setup was straightforward. Begin by attaching the camera directly to your router with the included Ethernet cable, then turn on the power. Next, use your computer to download and run the setup Wizard software. The hardest part was thinking up yet another username and password! Note that the Ethernet cable is only required during initial setup. The camera can operate wirelessly after that.

With the free mydlink app, your phone or tablet easily becomes a remote viewing device. After installing and launching the app, you enter your username and password (the first time only) and then tap to view your camera. Remote viewing includes the ability to monitor audio as well. You can also instantly capture and save a snapshot of any activity as you are viewing it on the screen.

Full functionality and control of the network camera can be achieved by logging on to the D-Link Web browser from any computer. This makes it easy to monitor, adjust and control the camera from anywhere in the world. In addition to providing many video quality and motion-trigger adjustments, the camera also can be configured to provide a two-way audio link, thus allowing it to act as an entryway monitoring and communication device. This camera is also night-vision capable due to the included infrared illuminator and sensor. The D-Link system allows for installation of multiple cameras to your router so you can monitor, for example, both the parking lot and the lobby of your office.

Because of the onboard SD card, you can easily set up the Cloud Camera 1200 as a continuously recording stand-alone security camera. It does not need to be communicating continuously with your computer to accomplish this. A 16GB memory card will record a full week of clear time- and date-stamped video before it begins to overwrite the oldest data. The default video is recorded in 60-second segments at 320 X 240, 10 fps (frames per second), and a single snapshot also is recorded once per minute. Adjustments are available for higher resolutions and longer segments.

Perhaps the more practical method of recording is to set up the camera to record only upon detection of motion. Motion-triggered events are stored to the SD card, and email notification can be set up to instantly send you several snapshots from the recorded event. You can then log on through your computer to view the recorded video. This could be useful for monitoring deliveries to your home or office.

If you are interested in a relatively inexpensive ($150), uncomplicated and practical video security solution, try the D-Link Cloud Cam 1200. You can learn more about the D-Link Cloud video products at http://www.dlink.com/us/en/home-solutions/mydlink/stay-connected. Information on their more robust business products can be found at http://www.dlink.com/us/en/business-solutions/ip-surveillance.•

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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.
 

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