Electronic Design

Smarthome Security Cameras

I looked at a pair of Smarthome’s cameras including the Day/Night Wireless Camera & Receiver (model 7545IR) (see Fig. 1) and the Vidi Observer One Security Camera (see Fig. 2). The 7545IR is designed for use with a composite video and audio input while the Vidi is a network-based camera. They have different characteristics so you may want to figure out what you need before ordering one.

The Day/Night Wireless Camera & Receiver is a matched pair. The receiver has a composite video and audio output. These must be connected to a video capture device like the ATI TV Wonder Pro. Only one receiver can be plugged into this type of input at a time. The camera and receiver can be programmed to use one of four channels. This means you can setup four units to transmit continuously. Alternatively, you can use something like Insteon or X10 power control units to turn a camera on and off. In this case you can have as many cameras working with one receiver although only one camera can be on at a time.

The camera has a 512 x 492 resolution. The quality is excellent and the camera adjusts to lighting conditions. At the extreme low light end it will automatically turn on a ring of infrared LEDs. This LED floodlight lets the unit work in complete dark and it is especially useful in a dark hallway where moonlight is unavailable. The range without the LEDs is about 100m and 15m with LEDs.

The Vidi is a self contained unit. The Ethernet version plugs into a wired network and the 802.11b version requires a matching access point within its range. It can tilt (60º) and pan (120º) and it has a digital zoom. It can work with an optional, external Vidi Motion Sensor which we did not try. The software can display up to 4 camera outputs simultaneously but there is no real limit on the number of cameras that could be attached to a network.

The Observer One has three resolutions: 640 x 480 (VGA), 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. The trade off is frame rate and quality. Frame rate can also depend upon the network load.

The Java-based web interface is both a major feature and a limitation. The source code is available for the hacker at heart so it is possible to overcome the latter. The interface allows complete control of the camera include capturing images and video. It can even send emails. Unfortunately the support cannot be integrated into any other security or monitoring system. Still, the ability to simply click on a bookmark or URL to bring up the current video is very handy and probably more than sufficient for a home environment.

Smarthome’s Day/Night Wireless Camera & Receiver (model 7545IR) (see Fig. 1) is priced at $199. The Ethernet-based Vidi Security Camera (see Fig. 2) is priced at $274. An 802.11b wireless version is priced at $339.

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