Most web surfers are familiar with webcams that plug into a USB port on a personal computer. These webcams require software loaded onto a computer to work. In addition, knowledge of how to properly set up a router is also required. Most webcams have limited uses for video chats and video telephone communication services like Skype. There are few software programs that can convert webcams into an amateur security system. These systems are limited to a few cameras each connected to its own computer or USB cables to a maximum of fifteen foot lengths.
Recent breakthroughs in camera design resulted in a new camera called an IP cam, or network camera. Network cameras do not require a personal computer since each has its own built-in web server. These cameras are classified into two types: Professional and Consumer. The professional network cameras are usually installed by Network Technicians with specialized IT training. Professional IP camera prices start out at about $350 and go to over $6,000 each. Consumer IP cameras can be installed by those who have technical expertise as well as knowledge about routers and networking. It can be very frustrating setting up these cameras because of the many different variables involved in each installation. Most routers are not configured the same way, so knowledge about one router manufacturer will be different than routers manufactured by a different company. Also, as router standards and capabilities change, new and different set up procedures can be challenging to the most technically savvy.
There are three ways to connect network cameras so they can be observed remotely through the internet:
1) Dedicated static public IP address, plus a router that has Network Address Translation.
2) DDNS services. These services monitor the public IP address of the Local Area Network (LAN), so that an incoming remote camera request can connect to the LAN and the appropriate camera.
3) A private server network that can direct remote sites to the correct camera.
1) A static IP address should not be tied to a LAN used for confidential data. This means a separate ISP account and a premium charge for the static IP address used by the security camera network. These can be very costly. The camera installer must still have knowledge of Network Address Translation and port forwarding. Network troubleshooting skill and knowledge is a must.
2) DDNS services are available for free and for fee. The free services have limits of use in terms of numbers and types of connection requests. Fee based services produce better results, but still require knowledge of Network Address Translation, port forwarding and DDNS set up procedures. In addition, network troubleshooting knowledge is required. The cost can be free to $35/month.
3) Private server network. These networks consist of a local server outside of the LAN which works as a relay to assure that the remote observer and correct camera are linked together. It is an advantage to have multiple servers located in different locations on their own private secure network. These systems requires installer to have Network Address Translation, port forwarding knowledge and network troubleshooting skills. Most of these systems charge an annual camera fee and video storage fees.
There is a new inexpensive way to get around ALL the problems listed above. A new type camera called a Self-networking camera has built-in firmware that automatically controls the router settings so that no knowledge of routers is required. In addition, these self-networking cameras connect to their own FREE and secure world wide server network so that a static IP address or DDNS service is not required.
What does this all mean? Anyone with minimum or no technical knowledge can set up a self-networking camera without even reading the instructions. The only requirements are a source of electricity for the camera and router and a connection to the internet. No computer or software is required to put the camera online. Commercial network camera installers do not need to be tech savvy IT technicians to install these cameras. When it comes to computers we have all heard the comments, easy to use, no knowledge required, simple set up, plug and pray, and etc. The first adopters of this self-networking camera technology were network CCTV installers who no longer needed the specialized training and certification required from the network camera manufacturers. Self-networking cameras are now available for consumers with no technical knowledge. Plug the camera in the outlet, plug one end of a CAT5 cable into the camera and the other end into a router and the camera is online within seconds instead of hours.
You may be wondering how you can see the camera video. Self-networking cameras can be viewed and controlled in six different ways:
1) Visit a free website set up for the cameras. Type in the camera id and password from a small credit card sized camera ID card and you can observe, control and record from each camera.
2) Install a Windows based software on any PC. The cameras pop up automatically on the screen. Press the record button to record. That’s all there is to it. The application even works on a low-powered netbook.
3) Use a supported smartphone such as an Apple iPhone 3GS. Downloadable applications can allow you to Pan Tilt, or record directly from the camera.
4) By using a N.A.S. (Network Attached Storage) device instead of a personal computer for video storage. A NAS is similar to a computer but does not require a keyboard, mouse and does not have a video output. They are very inexpensive and can store a large amount of video files.
5) Some self-networking cameras have a built-in video storage that could use a 16 GB Micro SD memory chip.
6) Using the NAS device, it is possible to redistribute video to other storage locations at the same time. For the most secure applications, the recorded video can be stored in multiple locations automatically.
The self-networking cameras can be used in many additional applications. The result is an expansion of advanced camera features at no additional charge. These new features include built in microphones, video motion detection, built in SMTP and FTP servers, NAS settings, and camera settings such as brightness and resolution can now be controlled remotely. Other features such as multiple video streams and on-camera recording are also available. Other application specific features such as Day and Night (Near Infrared night vision), wireless and Pan and Tilt functions are also available at low cost. The typical consumer self-networking camera costs much less than its professional counterpart, yet it essentially the same camera with the same high quality. These cameras are small enough to take on vacations and business trips.