IP Cameras

The way we use IP cameras in our smart home is much more advanced than the current market model, which is based upon failry dumb, standalone devices capturing images and video clips to a data storage system. In our smart home we basically have four types of IP cameras:

  1. Cameras triggered by attached hardware/sensors and/or motion detection. These cameras can't be disabled based on current smart home context.
  2. Cameras triggered by attached hardware/sensors and/or motion detection. These cameras can be enabled and disabled based on current smart home context. For example, we may not want to capture footage in our back garden, when we are at home.
  3. Cameras that simply accept requests to capture and store (FTP to our HCS) footage from our HCS. Our HCS has full context and makes intelligent decisions about when and what to capture.
  4. Cameras that simply accept HTTP/RTSP requests from our HCS, which then stores the responses. Our HCS has full context and makes intelligent decisions about when and what to capture.
  5. Cameras on slave devices with local intelligence and contextual knowledge. Typically these are Raspberry Pi based cameras that we have developed and built.

Some cameras can be combinations of the above, for example camera types 2 (motion detection driven) and also type 3 (respond to requests). Smart front door bells with comms capability are a special case and are not covered here.

Triggers

Because our smart home has 'whole home context', it is best placed to trigger the capture of footage. This also includes local slave HCS processors.

In some cases we use hardware sensors directly connected to the camera but we try to avoid this. External sensors provide a more accurate way to trigger IP camera capture than in-built motion detection algorithms though, especially in complex environment.

Motion detection

Storage

All of our cameras work on the premise that the images and video captured is stored locally in our home and synchronised to a cloud storage service to enable simple remote access to trusted people. We do not use any cameras that are tied to a 3rd party cloud storage services.

The footage is filed in a folder for each zone. Within this folder each file has a filename format of the form: 2018-09-23_15:02:48.jpg or 2018-09-23_15:02:48x12.mpeg, where the x12 represents the video duration in seconds.

Transfer

The IP cameras in our smart home basically use two methods transfer captured footage to the camera storage. Either the cameras FTP captured video and images directly to our Home Control System (HCS) or the HCS will 'fetch' (using a HTTP or RTSP request) footage and store it.

To improve security, each zone

Consumption

IP cameras are only useful if they produce useful, timely and quality footage that meets your needs. How you 'consume' or use the footage depends massively on user needs and the application in mind, so we have taken a very flexible approach. Our approach aims to ensure we never miss significant events, whilst also minimisiing the amount of footage we have to consume.

One big consideration is the need for live viewing of IP camera video streams. Exposing each camera to the Internet for remote viewing is more complex and lowers the security of the camera installations.

Access ...

Presentation ...

Archive & Deletion

Knowing what footage to keep and what to delete ...

Security

On all of our IP cameras we have changed the default passwords. We also set up IP address limits for accessing devices where possible.

Power

All of our IP cmeras are powered via a protected 12V dc power supply.

Monitoring

Our Home Control System (HCS) performs network and device monitoring. It will detect when a camera is no longer reachable on the network and alert accordingly.

Modelling

Our HCS models every camera in our smart home in JSON, along with all of its capabilities and characteristics. Our model is extensible and supports advanced capabilities such as face recognition.

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