webrtc

WebRTC Well Suited to Smart Home WiFi Security Cameras

WebRTC (Real Time Communications) is an open source IETF/W3C standard that adds a full-blown media engine (audio and video codecs, jitter buffers, echo cancellation, synchronized streaming, data channel) to Web browsers so that they can do cool stuff like video calling, VoIP, screen sharing, file sharing, and audio streaming without any need for plugins, extensions, or app downloads.  Google and Mozilla are at the forefront of this initiative and Chrome and Firefox browsers have WebRTC built-in. Microsoft recently announced support coming for IE and Skype in the form of a WebRTC API called ORTC.

Although WebRTC was initially conceived as a browser-browser play, it’s now spreading to mobile apps such as Vonage, Amazon Mayday and Snapchat via it’s acquisition of AddLive.  Disruptive Analysis forecasts that there will be over 6 billion WebRTC-enabled devices and over 2 billion WebRTC active users by 2019. In short, WebRTC is a big deal and is quickly ramping to become a ubiquitous mainstream platform for RTC on not only the Web but also mobile and now smart home and Internet of Things devices.

That’s the back story. But how is WebRTC relevant to the smart home and WiFi security camera space?

  1. The WebRTC architecture lends itself very well to secure streaming. All media is encrypted end-end .
  2. WebRTC architecture is native P2P meaning all media is transported P2P (there are exceptions such as when transcoding or TURN servers or other server-based functionality such as mixing are required) and therefore is not subject to surveillance or interception by a server.
  3. It’s low-cost, making it ideal for consumer smart home cameras. The video codecs (VP8, VP9, and OpenH264) are royalty free meaning the barriers to entry for developing a WebRTC-powered video camera and app are drastically lower than with standard H.264 or other royalty based codecs.
  4. Both the content (audio and video streaming) AND camera remote control are supported by the WebRTC architecture. Camera pysical remote control such as panning, tilting, and zooming can be controlled via the dedicated WebRTC data channel.
  5. WebRTC architecture inherently supports NAT and firewall traversal via ICE, STUN, and TURN. This means that port forwarding is not required, meaning a consumer does not have to open up their home network to the public Internet in order to use a WiFi security camera, which makes a WebRTC solution more secure than cameras that require port forwarding.
  6. Purpose-built low latency via VP8 video codec and NetEQ for voice.
  7. No app required! Access and control your cameras from any Web browser (Safari excepted for the time being pending Apple support).

There are currently two WebRTC smart home WiFi security cameras out there:

  1. Camiocam – clever solution that turns any PC or laptop webcam, or camera on an Android device, into a smart home WiFi security camera with some pretty advanced searching and filtering capabilities (e.g. “show me anything with the color blue that moved on Monday between 2PM and 4PM).
  2. Amaryllo iSensor HD – this camera has remote pan/tilt control by swiping across the screen of the app

In addition to the home security market, we’re also seeing WebRTC based solutions in the commercial CCTV space. The Flashphoner WebRTC Media and Broadcasting Server can broadcast streams from any IP security camera using RTSP to multiple browsers or mobile devices, ideal for security teams where multiple people need access to multiple cameras.

As we can see, WebRTC is spreading quickly from browsers to mobile and now to smart home and IP appliances such as security cameras. Expect to see it show up in a lot more places including the Internet of Things. For info on the latest WebRTC news I’d recommend starting with this blog.

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myfox, ifttt

IFTTT Adds to their Smart Home Channel Arsenal with Myfox

Automation service IFTTT recently added  the Myfox Channel.  Myfox is a French home security and automation platform  that consists of three things:

i) Door/window intrusion detectors called TAG

ii) Video surveillance camera

iii) App for control and monitoring for iOS and Android

This brings the growing number of smart home Channels on IFTTT to three: SmartThings, Manything, and Myfox.

As noted in a previous blog post about IFTTT, any IP/WiFi home security camera that has motion detection and email alerts (which pretty much all do)  can be used as a trigger using the IFTTT Gmail channel, enabling a given camera to trigger actions by connecting the Gmail channel to any other IFTTT channel by creating or using an existing Recipe.

IFTTT is becoming an increasingly valuable service for smart home and Internet of Things users.

webcam, security camera, geckoeye

3 New Crowdfunded Video Security Cameras For Your Smart Home (and Car)

The Smart Home is going mainstream, part of the broader Internet of Things trend of  increasing  billions of Internet-connected/smart devices and sensors  that communicate with each other, the cloud, and people (in the case of consumers, via smartphone and Web apps and text messages). Popular examples of Smart Home devices include the Nest Learning Thermostat, Dropcam Security Camera, Hue Light Bulbs, and WeMo switches. These devices can connect directly to the Internet via your home WiFi network (as is the case with all of the cameras in this post), or can connect to each other and the Internet via Hubs like SmartThings which typically employ a low-power RF network such as ZigBee or Z-Wave out to the sensors.

There are three clever new crowdfunded smart home security cameras that have been in the news lately that have advanced physical designs and unique features beyond the “table stakes” features  listed below that are found in Dropcam (often considered the reference for smart home security cameras particularly after being acquired by Google/Nest for $555M in June) and other popular home security cameras. Dropcam has many more features and capabilities than those listed below including  Two-Way TalkZoom,  Time Scanner,  Custom Activity Zones as well as Tabs and People Detection).

Table Stakes Features available on most smart home video security/surveillance/monitoring cameras:

  • Fast and easy DIY setup
  • Web and smartphone apps for camera control and monitoring
  • motion and sound triggered alerts (in-app push notifications, SMS, email)
  • remote live view (720p HD video streaming)
  • cloud video recording (Dropcam streams continuously to the cloud, does all analysis (e.g. motion/sound detection) in the cloud, and charges $10-$30/month depending on size of CVR (cloud video recorder)
  • 107 – 130 degree field of view (wide angle)
  • encrypted video
  • night vision/IR

The three clever newcomers are in the pre-availability phase (some further out than others). Let’s take a look at three which have been featured in the last 30 days on popular tech websites, and highlight the new things (“Cleverness Cred”)  that they bring to the table that differentiates them from the  Table Stakes features above.

Here are the three clever new smart home video cameras in order of estimated delivery date / likelihood of shipping:

iSensor HD

Availability status: Exceeded goal on IndieGogo. Ends Aug 30th. Estimated Delivery: Sept 2014

Price: $99 limited time early-adopter special ($160 MSRP), free worldwide shipping

Techsite review: GeekyGadget

Cleverness Cred:

  • uses Skype for 256-bit video encryption (compare to Dropcam 128-bit), low latency video ( (sub 0.5 second), remote camera pan control, and push picture alerts
  • built-in motor and gears for remote panning (180 degrees) on top of 60 degree lense for 240 degree view
  • compact cylindrical form factor (shorter than an iPhone 5, less than 2″ diameter)
  • USB power for more placement options
  • embedded microSD for local video storage if no WiFi available
  • intruder warning light and beeper
  • Configurable to continuously upload video to the cloud, only when motion/sound is detected, or disabled
  • 15GB free cloud video storage on Google Drive
  • no image curvature distortion, fish-eye lense free

Note: iSensor HD does not have night vision/IR – it does have a “super bright white LED for use at nighttime.”

Blink

Availability status: Exceeded goal on KickStarter. Ends Sept 14th. Estimated Delivery: May 2015

Price: $69 in USA, $99 outside ($30 shipping)

Tech Site Review: TechCrunch

Cleverness Cred:

  • no power plug-in required for placement pretty much anywhere – camera has a replaceable battery that lasts for >1 year and operates on “ultra-low power mode” and is woken up when needed by the  required Sync Module (which does have to be plugged in)
  • temperature sensor and temperature-triggered alerts
  • LED light and optional beep warning
  • free cloud storage (no monthly fees) – up to  5 days/120 hours, then overwritten
  • records video only when motion is detected
  • USB port on Sync Module for local video storage
  • optional battery-powered 105 dB siren Alarm Unit  ($25 for Kickstarter backers, $50 MSRP)

Note: Blink does have IR/night vision.

GeckoEye

Availability Status: 14% of goal on IndieGogo.  Ends Sept 21st. Estimated Delivery: N/A

Price: $189 (shipping not specified)

Techsite review: Digital Trends

Cleverness Cred:

  • camera battery is solar powered  – no power plug required for placement pretty much anywhere
  • double-sided HD cameras so you can see what’s happening in front of and behind the camera
  • compact 1.7″ hockey puck-like form factor
  • Required base station does require power plug-in,  but also has 240-hour battery making it portable for temporary use as a car DVR
  • base station has a SIM card slot for cloud recording while mobile (in a car)
  • can be mounted on basically any surface  (including a car windshield) using supplied sticky tape
  • 128 GB onboard memory for local video storage if no WiFi available
  • 50GB free cloud video storage
  • GPS tracker

Note: GeckoEye does not appear to have night vision/IR support.

Let us know if you’ve already contributed to any of these projects, if you’re thinking about it,  or if you’re planning on going with a more established smart home camera from the likes of  Dropcam, D-Link, Belkin, Foscam, or Samsung. Or if you’re planning on using an old smartphone as a security camera with an app like Gotya for Android and Windows Phone or Manything for iPhone.

Featured Image courtesy of Geeky Gadgets

shodan, internet of things

Protect your Web security and baby monitor cameras from hackers

If you’re one of the millions of consumers using a Web or IP security camera (such as Foscam, Belkin, Insteon, Dropcam to name but a few) with an accompanying mobile app (Android or iOS) to monitor it, make sure you change the default login (username and password) immediately as a basic security measure to prevent hackers from accessing your camera and doing really stupid and creepy things like this.  In Foscam’s defense, this incident probably involved a Foscam device simply because they’re so popular. It could have been any Webcam or baby monitor  from any manufacturer. In addition, Foscam  recently updated the camera’s firmware to prompt users to change the default login and they have also recently published a list of tips for consumers to secure their cameras on the Foscam blog.

 As reported by ReadWrite, something called the Shodan search tool is one way Internet connected device hackers can identify targets so if there’s a “Google search for connected devices” out there, this is serious business and users should be on red alert to take action to secure their cameras.

And it’s not just Internet connected cameras that consumers need to be vigilant to ensure they’re secured – it’s Internet connected thermostats, door locks, lights, appliances, motion and contact sensors, sprinklers – literally any gadget with an IP address connected to the Internet. As the Internet of Things continues to expand well into the tens of billions of devices, gadgets, and sensors of all sorts, online gadget hacking is only going to increase.  Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly secure your connected devices.

For a low cost remote controlled security camera that uses your old smartphone and that doesn’t even have a default login and therefore can’t be susceptible to that type of attack, check out Gotya.