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Home Automation

Netgear’s Arlo Q Security Cam is a Winner

 

I’ve had quite a few different IP/Security Cameras from various vendors like D-Link, Foscam, Insteon, etc. going back to my first IP based wifi camera that was an 802.11b DCS1000W from D-Link. The early cameras were for geeks only (like me) and required knowledge of networking protocols like port forwarding and more to get the most out of these first and second generation cameras.

IP Cameras are now an integral part of Home Security and the field of DIY Security Camera players has grown considerably.

Netgear asked me to take a look at their newest camera, the Arlo Q indoor camera, and provided me with a review sample for this purpose. The TL; DR version of this post is “this is the camera to get”.

Like some of the current crop of cameras, the Arlo Q offers 1080p HD streaming, audio and video motion sensing/alerts, but unlike the other contenders for this market, Arlo Q offers FREE event based 7 day cloud video storage (you can buy more and even set up continuous video recording, but 7 days revolving storage for FREE sets it apart from the others). Plan details are at https://community.netgear.com/t5/Arlo-Knowledge-Base/What-are-the-available-Arlo-subscription-plans-and-how-much/ta-p/88 (my opinion is that the Basic Free Plan is great and should be enough for most folks).

There are multiple ways to actually mount the camera, including a magnetic base for metal surfaces (the mag mount is strong). A nice long power cord (really a long USB adapter and wall wart plug with USB slot) is included. There’s also a wall mount and mounting screws, etc. included in the box, so there’s lots of flexibility.

in the box

Arlo Q can be set up with an iOS or Android app, as well as a browser based app. I used my iPhone and it was quick and simple to set up an account as a new user. This is the first IP camera I’ve used that supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands. The camera is a 802.11n device, and I configured it to use the 2.4GHz band even though I have a dual band Netgear Nighthawk 802.11ac router that supports both 2.4 and 5GHz. Connecting to your wireless network is wizard based, including a neat QR code process where you place your phone 8 inches away from the camera which reads the generated QR code, wait for a pleasant chime to signify “success” and wait about 30 seconds while the Wi-Fi network you specified is provisioned and ready to use. While it is ready to use “as is” after this, you can go into settings and fine tune schedules, and you can rename the camera from its default alpha-numeric (useful if you have more than one Arlo camera).

setup

The iPhone app automatically filled in the SSID that my iPhone was connected to, which was a 5GHz 802.11ac band, but since I wanted to test with 2.4GHz, I had to supply the name of that network (no pick list is available, but that won’t be a problem for most people – I just specifically wanted to test on a slower connection to see worst case performance).

There’s a scheduler that allows you full control of arming/disarming the triggered detection recordings and alerts, or you can leave armed/disarmed. Usage will depend on camera location and the kind of traffic you expect and when you expect it.

The video quality is superb. There was hardly any lag on the 2.4GHz connection using Live view. While there’s no PTZ (pan and tilt) the field of view is very very wide and gives more than enough coverage (and this avoids the device being much heavier).

field of view

Unlike the other cameras of this type, Arlo Q also has user configurable “activity zones” that let you customize three locations that will trigger alerts. It was easy to configure these by dragging the zone around visually on my iPhone. This camera supports two-way audio, so if you’re in another room or miles away, you can kick the dog off the sofa. Alerts arrive by e-mail nearly instantly. The email includes a still image from the captured video and a link to view the full captured video event in your library.

email alert

Sample Video Capture (see the high quality!):

 

You can add “friends” to your Arlo account per the user guide “Friends can view live streams from your cameras, record video clips, view, share, mark as favorite, and delete clips from your library, and take snapshots. Friends can be granted limited access to some of the settings and features on your Arlo account. You can select which cameras friends can see (if you have multiple cameras) and what administrative rights are available to them“, so you don’t need to share your credentials will your kids but you can let them access features.

I really like Arlo Q and highly recommend it.

HomeKit and My Connected Home

 

The Internet of Things isn’t arriving fast enough for me, but I’ve managed to jumpstart my Connected Home’s entrance into this brave new world thanks to Apple’s iOS HomeKit.

What I have now using HomeKit is a preview of things to come, and I’m hoping that iOS9 brings some improvements and refinement, as has been rumored by many who more actively follow the iOS ecosystem. And I’m happy to play with what I have today, a somewhat fragile but working system that lets me control HomeKit enabled devices from multiple vendors both from my iPhone 6 and by voice command using Siri over my home network.

Most of the top tier Home Automation and Control vendors like Insteon and Lutron, who already had bridges and addressable devices in the marketplace, are introducing HomeKit enabled bridges or have introduced them. Existing dimmer switches and on/off switches should work with the new bridges, but battery powered devices like motion sensors most likely will not work. There may be support for motion sensors in iOS9, but it’s not known if existing sensors will need to be replaced by a new HomeKit enabled sensor.

HomeKit can control devices, scenes that control multiple devices, rooms, and zones, depending on the iOS app. You need to add/discover a particular vendor’s HomeKit enabled bridge and you’ll need to add devices from a particular vendor using that vendor’s app. Once devices are enabled, you can use any vendor’s app to configure scenes, rooms, and zones, provided that the app supports this.

There are only a few apps in the iTunes Store that work with HomeKit devices. Lutron’s App is sandboxed and only controls Lutron devices. It does recognize Rooms created by other apps. It can create Scenes, but only using Lutron devices as HomeKit devices from other Vendors don’t appear in their app.

 

lutron scenes

 

Insteon’s HomeKit enabled Insteon+ App has full HomeKit integration and no restriction on using other vendor HomeKit devices in scenes. I can include Lutron dimmers in scenes I create in the Insteon+ app.

 

insteon scenes

 

While I don’t have any Elgato devices, I actually like the Elgato Eve app best because it is easier for me to read. The Elgato Eve app also lets me add/edit scenes and rooms.

 

elgato eve

I’ve got Hey Siri enabled on my iPhone 6. And I’ve got a charging cradle in my Bedroom where my iPhone spends the night. Siri integration with HomeKit is not perfect, but it’s pretty cool to tell Siri to run on a light or a scene, as shown in my video.

To control devices over cellular or while away from home, a 3rd generation Apple TV with firmware 7+ is required. I found that I had to move my Apple TV from Ethernet to Wireless for this to work. I also had to sign out and in to iCloud a few times. HomeKit works remotely using iCloud integration. Siri commands over cellular didn’t work, but using the actual Apps on my iPhone worked fine (with a short delay).

All in all, this is great fun for an over the bleeding edge geek.

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