Home surveillance is important today; and if it is cheap, why not implement it at the earliest?
Security, the one word that is probably the most important in our lives today, is always at stake. We need to keep a watch out for our loved ones, on our property and businesses, 24x7, hoping that nothing untoward happens in your absence. However, it is not practically possible to have a trusted guard on site, and at every given moment, and hence you have to keep an eye on everything you love.
CCTV cameras are not new and they have been around for more than a decade. While cameras became cheap, interconnecting them was a painstaking installation and the implementation was not as cheap either. While time went by, and technology got smaller and cheaper, today we see cameras getting cheaper and everything soon coming under the networking umbrella. With wires being connected to almost everything and signals (be it power or data) becoming a pain with every increasing metre of wire, the only option was to rely on wireless technologies. Today, with smart and IoT devices at play, we see everything become wireless. CCTVs were probably the first to enter the wireless appliance segment with Wi-Fi-based IP cameras. And now, wireless cameras are become cheaper and even easier to install and implement, and we could thank today’s faster internet speeds, smartphones and cloud services that come into play here.
With an internet connection in every home and hand, you can now take charge of your own security, at least at ground level. You need to keep a watch on your loved ones and your property at every given hour — be it night or day. And with the access to these cameras over the internet, remote surveillance is just a click away.
The market is filled with IP-based wireless cameras. Yi Technologies, a Chinese name that is famous out there, has finally entered into the country, and a few home CCTV cameras for the Indian portfolio. YI is a part of Xiaomi Ecosystem with standalone brand and focus on AI computer vision. We checked out the Yi Home Camera and found it impressive enough to recommend. Let’s dive in for more details.
The Yi Home Camera is a 720p wireless IP security camera that looks similar to a desktop webcam that we used to see ages ago. It bears a plastic stand that tilts forwards and backwards, and can be turned left or right to cover the given area of surveillance. But the camera does not have any automatic pan/tilt options or rotation. It is a simple camera that is attached on a stand and connects to a power outlet via a micro USB cable and wirelessly connects to your existing Wi-Fi home/office network.
The device is configured and used using a smartphone app, and that’s as simple as it gets. It uses the 802.11 b/g/n networking interface but only works on a single band (2.4GHz) network. The micro SD card slot can support up to 32GB and recording modes available are 306p@20fps and 720p@20fps with data throughputs at 200Kbps and 700Kbps respectively. Lastly, the lens has a 4x digital zoom capability and the IR uses 940nm-based IR LEDs.
The Yi Home Camera has a premium design that looks feeble, but is pretty sturdy. Thanks to the slim profile, the camera is light weight and elegant looking. The main camera sits within a plate and can be rotated easily by 360-degrees. The wall mounting option makes this camera easier to place it high above and on walls for better surveillance and least tampering.
The camera we received is completely black in colour, but you can opt for a white variant to suit your interiors too. The camera sensor is encased in a translucent plastic casing that allows the internal IR LEDs to project infrared light on the said surveillance area with ease.
The rear end houses a micro USB connector, a micro SD cars slot and a reset button around the outer edges. The back side has just a speaker behind the panel. The base is a two-piece stand that works for table-top placement as well as wall mounting. Simply rotate the base anticlockwise to separate it and you will find three holes that can be used to mount it on a wall or a vertical surface. Once in place, you can mount the camera back on the base and have a wall-mounting option at your service.
The Yi Home Camera has a 720p camera sensor that uses a 111-degree wide lens to survey a larger area in front of it. It features two-way audio as well as activity alerts when it detects motion in the frame. It also sports a micro SD card slot that can store photos and videos captured by the device.
Installation is pretty simple — simply mount/place the camera where it is required, connect the supplied USB power cable and power adapter to the camera and power it on. Download the Yi Home app (for Android and iPhone available) and get started. You will be asked for minimal details such as your wireless network SSID and password, and to create a free cloud account for storing your videos.
Once done, the app throws up a QR code that holds the necessary networking details for the camera to latch on to the network. This QR code needs to be shown to the camera itself and the camera does the necessary connections to your network. The setup process is simple and will guide you all the way to the end, and is very easy to understand and follow. Once done, the camera is ready for setup ahead.
The camera starts its work the moment it is powered on. However, to get the best from it, you need to initially setup its parameters. This includes motion detection, alert settings and storage. Give the camera a name so that you can easily know which camera you want to monitor if you have more than one unit installed at your premises.
The camera settings include status LED disabling so that you can turn off the power LED on the camera to keep it discreet, night vision IR LED activation, microphone, image rotation (180-degrees) and firmware upgrades. Other crucial settings include motion detection, region-based activity detection, sensitivity levels for detection and alert frequency. You can also schedule your camera to work as per your preferred day or time to save on power and data costs. Lastly, the settings also include cloud and local storage options apart from PIN-based protection.
The camera feed can also be shared between multiple users. For instance, your home camera can be monitored/viewed by your entire family, or your office partners and security staff could access the feeds for your business premises.
As for the performance, we found the camera to do pretty much what it claims. The camera captures clear images during the day and can easily spy on the given area in pitch darkness. The camera is a no-brainer and all you need to do is power it on and forget it. The rest can be left out on your app that will alert you whenever there is a motion or an unauthorised activity in front of the camera.
The Yi Home Camera can also be best used as a baby monitor — for those who want to keep an eye on your infant in his/her crib, the camera can be placed at hand and any movement or cry from the baby can be alerted to you remotely. Using the two-way communication feature, the onboard microphone and speaker can be used to chat between camera and your app. You can also use this to alert the person on the other end (it could be either waking up a sleeping guard or a scaring away a thief). However, the volume is not as loud and the camera needs to be at a close distance to understand the owner’s voice.
Alerts and detections trigger the camera to automatically store footage of that scene. These footages can be stored either online or on the onboard SD card. While cloud storage could be expensive in the longer run, local storage (the SD card would be a better option. However, if your camera is stolen or damaged, your footage is gone with it, and hence cloud storage is probably the safest and sure-shot method of safeguarding the evidence.
Viewing the footage is probably the best feature here — you can see the feed in real-time or roll back to a previous timeline by simply scrolling on the timeline bar on the bottom of the video. The speed of the video retrieval will completely depend on your internet speeds at both home and smartphone end respectively. When viewing the video on the phone in portrait mode, you cannot see the entire 111-degree wide video. But you can simply tilt your phone to see the entire area (similar to how it’s done for a 360-degree video). When in landscape mode, you can view the entire area, and also zoom in to a particular point if required.
The 720p video is good for a basic view of the entire surveillance area. However, the quality of the feed falls tremendously if you zoom in. if better quality is what you need, opting for a 1080p camera is recommended. Night vision takes a bigger hit if you want clarity since the image is in monochrome only and gets highly pixilated when zoomed in. The camera’s video quality is only appreciable when the camera is kept at a closer distance, — for example when used as a baby or pet monitor. Recognizing faces or reading a text (for example a car’s number plate) in night mode is difficult too, and the only probable use here is to monitor activity. Nevertheless, the night vision performance is pretty good. We also did notice around 1-2 second lags on the real-time video feed, but it should not be much of an issue.
You can also use the camera or view the feed from a desktop. A desktop client for the software is also available and you can view the camera feed and watch/edit your feeds/storage from there too. Sadly, you cannot configure the camera from the desktop client and have to use the smartphone for the same. Using the desktop client, you can store your footage locally on the PC too.
Using the cloud storage is probably a good option, but is available only for a 30-day free period. Your recordings are stored online for up to 30 days, depending on the subscription plan. The plans start for as little as $5.5 (Approx Rs 400) per month for up to 5 cameras. However, do note that you would additionally be spending for data uploads on your broadband data plans. New users get a trial period of one month for free. Yi Technology ensures that the data is well encrypted and stored securely on its cloud servers.
While the camera is probably a good investment for securing your home or business, we did find one area of major concern — the pricing. The Yi Home Camera 720p is available for a discounted price of Rs 1,999 for a limited period (till January 26, 2019), while the actual MRP is Rs 2,999. But Xiaomi's offering — the 360-degree security camera — is available for Rs 2,699 and sports 360-degree pan/tilt/zoom and sports a full HD 1080p sensor and H.265 video encoding to save on storage costs. Based on the price, we would recommend the Xiaomi camera against this one as far as features such as PTZ, 360-degree rotation and Full HD resolution is concerned. Nevertheless, the Yi Home Camera is also a good alternative if you want a camera with a slimmer profile or if your budget is restricted to below Rs 2,000. The Yi is probably the cheapest wireless IP-based home security camera available on the shelves today, if you consider the sale offer. The company is also giving away 10 cameras for free, which can be checked out on this link — https://india.yitechnology.com/homegiveway.