Foscam Wireless Camera
28th February 2018
Bike security | Internet | CCTV | Smartphone
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To get right down to it, we like these "plug & play" 1280 x 720p Foscam Wireless Cameras, and we like 'em a lot. We bought a couple some months back, and they've since been on test quietly monitoring the comings and goings around the Sump garages—and they've been doing a great job.
We already had four hard-wired high-resolution cameras on the job. But by modern technology standards, these devices are medieval. Not that there's actually much wrong with them, mind. They watch. They listen. They record. But the new Foscam Wireless Cameras take security to a new level, notably by issuing instant alerts to our smartphones when we're out and about. Better still, the set-up routine is simple and (mostly) stress free.
Here's how it works
You find a suitable place to fix the camera unit. Best not have it pointing into direct sunlight unless you want to wreck the CCD thingies inside. And best not to have the camera too high or too low. But you can figure all that out for yourself according to your peculiar domestic arrangements. Just be aware.
The camera bracketry is solid, and it's very adjustable. Therefore, you won't have to do much compromising (if any) to get exactly the angle you want. And note that not all CCTV systems are so equipped. Some offer a very limited range of movement, so factor that in when choosing and buying.
Next, make sure your internet router is set-up to enable wireless connection, and make sure that your camera is within "sight" of the router. Confused? Okay, your internet router will have a limited signal range. The camera needs to be within that range. Most routers won't have much trouble with 40 - 50 feet depending on the shape of your home, etc. The way to check is to see how far away your smartphone can travel from your router before the internet signal drops out (try loading a Sump page and see what happens).
Too technical for you? Okay. Stop crying. Just find anyone under the age of 30 (and ideally under 18). They'll sort it out in about two minutes.
Next, find a UK mains power source for the camera. A typical 240-volt, three-core, fused cable will do fine. Set that up ready to go.
Next, using your smartphone, scan the "QR" barcode on the camera box. That will take you to the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, and from there you'll be able to download the Foscam App.
Next, plug the camera into the mains power lead and position it where you want it to be. Then, following the app instructions on your phone, register a free account and point your smartphone at the camera. This is designed to acquaint the two devices. Just let the software do the work. With any luck, you soon be looking at the camera image on your smartphone.
That's pretty much all there is to it. But if you have any problems, Truetech/Foscam operates a live-answering tech-help service, and these guys will guide you through the process—and like most of these things, once you've done it, you'll wonder what the bloody fuss was all about.
You can load a second, third or fourth camera via the app, and you can easily toggle between them and bring up the images you need. On our Android smartphone, the colour pictures are crisp and clear. The cameras work at night too (in more grainy B&W) via an infrared lamp array that will monitor "up to" 66 feet away, or thereabouts. And being infrared, you can stand out there in the darkness and will see nothing but a red light on the camera lens. But the camera will see you clearly enough for identification purposes.
Using the smartphone app, you can adjust the sensitivity of the alert software. We experimented and set ours to MEDIUM, and that's caused us no problems at all. And you can also select the hot spots (areas that you do and don't want monitored).
When something, or someone, triggers the sensors, you'll hear a "bong" on your mobile phone. If you aim the camera at a busy road, it will be bonging all day long, which isn't good. So factor that in when locating the unit. You could do worse than install one camera (together with a motion sensitive lamp) inside your garage pointing at the door.
Regarding the camera itself, note that it's designed with a collection of leads for various plug in applications, including a reset button. This isn't an ideal design. Why not? Because although the camera is waterproof and weatherproof, the extra/accessory lead connectors are vulnerable. That means you won't want to leave the leads hanging in the breeze, so you'll have to make some provision to protect them or loop them indoors.
Both our cameras are mounted externally and have survived a lot of rain, wind and snow, but the leads are trailed inside where they're safe. However, if we put those cameras on a post in the yard, the leads would be exposed, and they'd suffer. You could fit them into a plastic tube or plastic bag. But it would need to be sealed well.
Regarding image storage, for a small monthly fee you can have the images uploaded to the cloud; in other words, they can be stored off-site where thieves can't access them. £2.99 per month will get you three days of storage. That means you'll pay £2.99 every month for however long you want, and you can store (off site) three days of activity.
That doesn't sound much, but it won't be continuous storage, note. The cloud arrangement will only store motion activity. So if you put the camera in the garage and later pop in there for one minute, that's all that will be stored. Move around the inside of the garage for an hour, and all that will be stored. After three days, the storage clock starts at the beginning again and will incrementally overwrite whatever else has been stored. Just remember that you'll always have at least three days of motion activity on "file". It's a good value deal.
There are other packages and other deals (including a 30-day package). Just ask and see what's what. And note that the cloud deal is particularly useful if you're going on holiday or something. And one more thing: the cloud pricing is per camera, not per household.
Additionally, you can buy a Network Video Recorder (NVR) that will sit on your desktop or wherever. There are three models from £79.99 - 179.99. You can record continuously on these if you want.
We've tried the cameras when we've been out and about, and the system works. As long as you can get online, you can view the images on these cameras—and they can alert you too wherever you are in the world. If you're alerted when out of range of a Wi-Fi connection or similar, the warning will eventually land on your phone once a signal is reacquired. But you'll have to set up an email alert (talk to Truetech support for details).
Foscam is asking £65.99 for the basic camera (the F19803P). That's the model we're currently trialling, and we'll be buying a few more of these in the near future. But there are other cameras in the range offering advanced monitoring.
The parent company is Chinese. So occasionally you'll see odd instruction translations popping up here or there on the app, etc. But it's not bothered us at all. The UK business is handled by Truetech Distribution in Brentwood, Essex, and these guys—as we've said—have been very accommodating and efficient.
Buy this system and you'll probably scratch your head here and there. Even simple stuff can be foxing. But persevere and you'll quickly install a very good system at a price that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, and wouldn't have been possible at all much before that. And because it's a wireless camera, it doesn't trail hook-up leads. It needs only a power source. But sorry, there's no battery option—and you'd only find changing the batteries a nuisance.
The conclusion is that we're very happy with these Foscam cameras. When you factor in price, functionality, set-up and support, they're the best we've tried. We suggest a two-camera set-up for the average home user. Businesses might look at four cameras and upward.
It took us a while to "get into" CCTV security. But once you've been there and done it, you'll wonder why you waited so long. And here's a thought, even if you're otherwise engaged and can't monitor the camera images, you can talk to mum, dad, grandma or anyone else and ask them to watch the images via a smartphone or a desktop computer.
Talk to Truetech for details.
UPDATE: We've since had a serious problem with one of our Foscam cameras. What happened is that we received a message on our smartphone advising us that a systems software update was available. These messages arrive from time to time intended to close security holes. We've ignored them until now—and we should have ignored this one because upgrading instantly "bricked" the camera.
Bricked? Shut it down permanently. Screwed up the works. Fortunately, we were still "in warranty", and a few days later a replacement arrived. We checked online and saw that others had suffered the same fate. So we're not updating the other cameras unless it becomes obviously critical. Updating, note, doesn't automatically brick all cameras (and it can happen to smartphones and other equipment). But updating failed us in this instance. Be warned. We haven't given up on Foscam, but we'll be asking some searching questions before we buy more kit.
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