Monthly Archives: August 2013

A different approach to WiFi cameras: Dropcam

dropcamI have been using a Dropcam for about a year now and have been very impressed with it. It is a very low-cost WiFi IP camera that, instead of offering local viewing through a webserver on the device, automatically streams its video to Dropcam’s servers, where you can view the video from anywhere on the Internet.

Just to review, the way a “normal” IP camera works is that it has a webserver on the device, and you access that webserver in order to view the video from the camera. For instance, if you connect the camera to your router, you’ll check the router to find its IP address – let’s say, for instance, that it’s 192.168.1.47.

You then use a web browser to view http://192.168.1.47, and your camera shows up there. However, if you want to view¬† your camera from outside your network, you have to “port forward” a port to the web port on the camera. A number of factors can make that operation difficult.

The Dropcam does away with all of that, because the camera is only attached to your computer with a USB cable ONCE for configuration (it gets the WiFi configuration from your computer – mine uses the WiFi signal from my Remote Hub out in my workshop), then it joins your network and streams its video to dropcam.com. The camera and dropcam.com website have proven to be very reliable.

It is powered with a mini USB cable (5 volts), which is included, along with a wall plug USB power adapter.

Dropcam allows you to view the video from your camera for free on your dropcam.com account. If you want to record the video so you can go back and look at past video (e.g. for security purposes), they have inexpensive recording subscriptions.

montereyThey have a number of demo cameras set up – including a nice one looking out a window onto Monterey Bay in California. While I couldn’t find a demo camera on a farm, this gives you a nice idea of how good the picture is and what the interface looks like – very good, very easy to use.

The Dropcam is very good, but it’s far from perfect. The big advantages are:

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Small, lightweight, inexpensive
  • Transmits video AND audio – look and listen
  • IOS and Android apps for viewing cameras
  • Visible over the Internet, no port forwarding

However, it has a few very salient disadvantages:

  • Not suitable for outdoor use – indoor use only
  • No local access – you HAVE to be connected to the Internet to view the camera
  • Fixed lens – no telephoto, no wide angle, no point/tilt/zoom
  • A couple of seconds delay between the camera and the video stream

axis_indoorIf you have a place you want to keep an eye on, Dropcam is an excellent choice. The quality of the camera and picture is comparable to my “favorite” indoor camera, the Axis M1033-W. As you can see, although the camera has to be indoors, it does a nice job showing outdoor scenes if it can be placed inside a window.

Dropcam is, potentially, a very useful tool for your home and farm.

 

 

 

New Ayrstone Product: the AyrMesh Receiver

Receiver July 2013 Front_400hiToday we’re announcing a new product in the Ayrstone AyrMesh line: the AyrMesh Receiver.

The AyrMesh Receiver is actually, of course, more than a receiver – it transmits and receives data – but it is designed as a simple, low-cost way to put one or more “wired” (Ethernet) devices onto an AyrMesh network. It is very similar to our AyrMesh Hub, but with a couple of important differences:

  1. The AyrMesh Receiver connects to the Hub’s WiFi signal, not the wireless mesh signal.
  2. The AyrMesh Receiver does not create its own WiFi access point – it is a client device only
  3. The AyrMesh Receiver uses a directional antenna for maximum range – it can be positioned up to 2 miles away from an AyrMesh Hub (optimal conditions).

Typical uses for the AyrMesh Receiver include:

  1. Using high-end IP cameras or other network devices that do not have WiFi
  2. Bringing the AyrMesh network inside of metal buildings – an AyrMesh Receiver can be placed on the outside of the building and devices inside can be connected to the LAN port of the receiver. You can even put a WiFi access point inside the building so you have WiFi indoors as well as outdoors.
  3. Connecting devices like network-enabled weather stations in more distant fields – since the AyrMesh Receiver can be up to 2 miles from your furthest Hub, you can now include areas in your network that were previously unreachable.

The AyrMesh Receiver is available now from Ayrstone – please see our website for details.