Being able to manage and control your home is important for today’s busy families. In the past, home automation with security systems, cameras, and lighting control meant expensive professional installation, special wiring, and costly maintenance. With today’s Internet-connected devices, home automation can be a do-it-yourself project. Cameras are an important part of a home automation solution, providing an easy way to check in on your home and family members when you are away. Home automation cameras not only provide peace of mind for protection, but they provide a valuable way to see and hear your pets, babies, and other family members. In the past, home security cameras were based on analog or CCTV (closed circuit television) technology, requiring special cabling or proprietary wireless connections. For a seamless, connected home automation solution, you want IP-network cameras (also called cloud cameras) that can connect to your existing home network and use your broadband Internet connection.
What is a Network Camera
If you can't be present to keep an eye on your home, business, or vacation property, the next best thing is a state-of-the-art network camera that can stream real-time video to the networked device of your choice.
Unlike typical security cameras, IP-network/cloud cameras don’t require a closed circuit TV system or special cabling to work. Instead, they connect to your home’s existing network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, just like a laptop or tablet. These are not web cameras as IP/cloud cameras are capable of connecting to your home network and do not require a computer to operate or access. In addition, these cameras can be placed anywhere in the home where wireless signal is available for additional placement flexibility. Once connected, they stream live video you can access from any connected computer. The most flexible systems even let you view feeds through a web browser, smartphone or tablet for on-the-go viewing.
Network cameras are the perfect solution for homeowners, business owners, pet owners, parents, and anyone with something to watch. To help you sort through the choices, this guide offers some quick recommendations and plenty of info about key features to look for in your next camera.
Network Cameras for Every Need
The average home user needs reliable monitoring that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, whereas a business owner might be interested in greater functionality and integration with existing security systems. Network cameras fall into two classes corresponding to these types of users.
These cameras are small, very affordable, and perfect for the home user. Designed to be easy to set up and use, they connect to a wireless home network at the push of a button.
Key features include:
These cameras are more expensive than entry-level cameras. However, the added investment pays off in upgraded features that make it possible to integrate your cameras with dedicated alarm and sensor systems. Typically these cameras are designed for business environments featuring higher resolutions and the ability to integrate into building automation systems – door alarms, security monitoring, and theft prevention solutions.
Key features include:
Features to Look For
Some cameras support wireless, or Wi-Fi, while others require a wired connection. Wireless cameras give you the flexibility to keep an eye on areas that would be too hard to reach with a wired model. However, a wired connection may be more reliable, depending on the building’s construction and the router’s location. So, what’s the better option? Both. Many cloud cameras are wireless-ready and offer a wired Ethernet option, giving you the best of both worlds.
Some cameras require software to access a camera’s output and only computers with this software installed can view the feed. Other cameras offer more flexibility and are viewable using a web browser so you can check your cameras locally or remotely from any connected computer.
For truly mobile viewing, you need a camera that allows you to see a live feed from your smartphone or tablet. Many cameras work with mobile apps, for both iPhone and Android devices, that let you view your home or office and keep an eye on your kids, pets, and possessions from anywhere with a Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G connection.
If you choose to record footage only when motion is detected, you’ll save disk space and know exactly what footage you need to view. If you plan to record footage, select a camera that makes it easy to set motion triggers as well as specify recording schedules so you can record exactly what you want directly to your PC.
Enhanced Motion Detection
For more reliable motion detection during day and night, certain cameras feature passive infrared (PIR) sensors that use changes in heat to detect movement, rather than visual cues. This is great for monitoring at night when a standard camera would not be able to detect motion due to low light conditions.
Some network cameras can illuminate a low-light or no-light area with infrared lighting so you can clearly see what is happening day or night. Infrared lighting is invisible to the human eye but allows the camera a clear view, even in total darkness.
IR-Cut Filter for Best Color Quality
For the best color representation during the daytime, choose a camera with an infrared cut-off filter, or an IR-cut filter. Network cameras see much more of the color spectrum than the human eye, particularly near the infrared region, which can often result in strange or skewed color representation. IR-cut filters work by blocking this infrared light so the colors appear more realistic.
MicroSD Card Slot for Local Recording
Sometimes you need the ability to record footage in addition to viewing a live stream. Many cameras support recording to a PC or storage device, but for seamless use, some feature a microSD card slot, so you can record directly to a microSD card and view footage from anywhere.
For those looking to keep an eye on their loved ones or homes while on vacation, sound detection is the perfect addition to the standard motion detection feature. With automatic email alerts and the ability to configure sound detection for a specific area, cameras with this feature allow you to stay one step ahead.
Built-In Wireless Extender
To ensure that you are able to place your camera wherever you need to without going outside of your wireless network range, choose a camera that comes with a built-in Wi-Fi extender. Simply place your camera anywhere within your signal range to instantly increase your wireless home coverage and easily add additional cameras to your network.
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