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Keep watch: 5 cloud security cameras for your home

Robert L. Mitchell | June 26, 2013
If you want to make sure nobody's making off with your valuables — or that your dog isn't chewing up the furniture — try one of these cloud-based cameras

The Samgsungsmartcam portal's buttons and sliders made setup and configuration easy. Unfortunately, the video streaming didn't always work reliably.

The SmartCam mobile apps for iOS and Android include buttons for taking a snapshot, entering high-quality (for mobile) 640 x 480 pixel mode, flipping the image, adjusting brightness and turning the microphone on and off. Two-way audio is not full-duplex: To speak into the microphone to someone in the same room as the remote camera, you must first click the microphone button, then push and hold the microphone icon that appears over the video image to transmit before speaking. You then let go of the button to hear, walkie-talkie style.

Trouble with setup
I had trouble getting the SmartCam to run optimally on my home network. While the SmartCam video feeds are supposed to go directly from the camera to your browser through an encrypted IP tunnel, during testing they went through Samsung's servers — a fallback, called relay server mode, that the SmartCam resorts to when it can't establish a direct connection. When this happens, the words "relay mode" appear under the image, resolution drops to the minimum 320 x 240 pixels, there's no audio feed and the session times out after two minutes. Performance was slow and unreliable in relay mode, and I suffered frequent plug-in crashes and browser freeze-ups.

My wireless router attaches to a DSL modem in my office that also acts as a router, which a Samsung rep said probably interfered with the ability of the camera to reveal its IP address to Samsung's servers. However, when I connected the camera directly to the DSL router using an Ethernet cable, as suggested, it did not solve the problem.

I tried the Samsung on two other networks, with mixed results. I was unable to establish a link between the camera and a Belkin 802.11b Wi-Fi router in one location, but I did get it to work with a Netgear WGR614 in another. It operated without dropping into relay mode when accessed from the Web portal, and performance and the reliability of the connection were much improved.

I also experienced degraded relay mode connectivity when viewing the camera feeds remotely from my Android phone over a Verizon 4G connection. (The app alerts you to this mode by displaying a big "R" above the image.) And when I used the public Wi-Fi connection at a local McDonald's, the SmartCam mobile app didn't drop down into relay mode but repeatedly lost the connection. When I tried the same thing using my laptop, it connected only in relay mode.

A Samsung spokesperson said that this problem occurs in about 5% of all situations and usually is due to issues with the user's broadband, mobile configuration or cellular network issues; he also said that Samsung is working to improve the user experience in relay mode.

 

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