The move to
web-based email systems and various anti-spam software has cut down
on the avalanche of dubious offers and advertising appearing in our
mail boxes, but I’m still stuck with their real-world equivalent of
electricity, gas, and broadband providers, charities, and religious
proselytisers ringing my door bell and interrupting my work and
relaxation at home, often requiring long conversations while they
take advantage of my desire not to be rude.
New apartments and
homes may have a video doorbell to allow you to screen callers, but
my house is a two-level Victorian that lacks such modern adornments.
first thought was video doorbells from eBay. You can acquire both
the wired and wireless varieties, some with displays fixed to the
wall and others with multiple tablets that can be moved around the
home. Since my house is two levels, at least two display stations or
tablets would be required, which was beginning to move the price north
of AU$500 dollars, and cabling the wired systems might require an
electrician, as well.
As our household has
multiple computers and displays, I decided instead to purchase a
motorised camera that would be accessible from our wireless intranet.
The Neo CoolCam Wireless Wi-Fi IP Camera with two-way audio and IR night vision for around AU$45 delivered was my final choice. This is manufactured in China, and, as I suspected before I opened the box, the
documentation is very rudimentary, but it does offer an OCX for
Internet Explorer and two apps for the iPhone and Android.
Unfortunately, there are no apps for Windows Phone 8 or Windows RT, but there
are paid and subscription security apps, such as ISpy on the Windows
Store, that support this camera type.
To set up the camera, I plugged it into a PC, installed the software from a mini-CD, and set
up the password for my Wi-Fi network. I then navigated to
192.168.1.129 in Internet Explorer, approved the use of the OCX, and
the camera view with controls appeared. Two-way audio and video
worked immediately both on the set-up PC and other PCs on my home Wi-Fi
network, and I could also move the motorised camera. There does not
seem to be motorised focus on this model, so making sure the focus
and depth of field is correct using the manual focusing ring is a
good idea before installing the camera on a wall.
While the camera was
working fine, every time I disconnected from the PC, it apparently
disappeared from the network. This stumped me for quite a while, until some internet searches turned up the fact that the wireless IP
was actually the next IP in sequence, namely 192.168.1.130. Plugging
that into the browser gave me access to the camera.
camera’s highest res is 640×480 at 30fps, and you may move the
camera remotely through a wide arc, change brightness and contrast,
record video or stills, and turn on infrared and audio. The camera
also has options to allow for motion detection, automatic recording,
alarms, door unlock, and the ability to send snapshots to an email
Mounting the camera
was relatively easy, and I was able to run the thin DC power cable
through a front window rather than needing to drill masonry.
I’m setting up
some old, superfluous XP laptops to provide an always-on view upstairs
and downstairs, and I’ve installed the OCX on various PCs in the
house, so a camera window is always available.
While the audio
works well, it’s generally low quality and the camera speaker is
low volume. It’s fine for relatively quiet areas, but it may be inaudible
in noisy areas.
The software will
handle up to nine cameras if you need a video surveillance system, but I
was happy with the modest investment to provide a security camera at
the front door.
With the camera in
place, I’ve yet to try it for screening calls at the front door,
but it has let me locate our missing cat waiting patiently to be let