One of the best things about modern gadgets is how they’ve become more capable at the same time as becoming more simple to set up. In most cases, they’ve also become way cheaper too.
Take this Arlo Q home security camera for example. With this little guy connected to your WIFI, you can remotely check on your house via your smartphone from anywhere in the world!
We’re not talking grainy black and white CCTV style footage either. Night and day, the Arlo Q is able to capture and stream 1080p high definition video and an audio stream to your phone or tablet. Not only that, if you are being burgled - or more likely the cats are fighting again - you can have a two way conversation via the app and the camera’s microphone and speaker.
Well, one way with the cats, but you know what I mean.
An Absolute Steal?
So what do you get for your £150?
The Arlo Q looks like a posh webcam. It’s a little bigger than the latest of those, but it also has to squeeze in necessary smarts to carry out motion and audio detection, as well as package it up and send it to your phone and cloud storage locker. More on that in a bit.
In the box, you also get a stand, which is magnetised, a USB based power supply and a bracket and plugs for wall mounting.
The Arlo Q is a smart looking device, but with its techie webcam style, I did find I liked it a little less when it was deployed in my living room, as opposed to the study where I first left it. Of course, this is entirely subjective, but it would be nice to be able to change the colour or something with clip on covers to help it blend in with your home decor a bit.
Setup is pleasingly simple. You need to download the Arlo app and click on the ‘New System Setup’ option. You’ll then need to create an account and then the app goes on to connect the camera to the WIFI. To do this, it does a bit of a neat trick by displaying a QR Code, which you then show to the camera. Once it beeps approval, the settings have been updated and it connects itself up.
The app itself supports up to 15 cameras, so you should be able to completely cover your house, if you want to. I did note that the camera itself does get pretty warm, so don’t be tempted to secrete it amongst the curtains or cover it up.
21st Century Peeping Tom
You can name each camera and then click on any to bring up a live feed to see what’s going on at that moment. Well, almost at that moment - the time it took the camera to capture and stream the feed to my phone meant that the video was about 9 seconds behind. Your experience will likely vary depending on your broadband upload speed. Tablets get to display up to four cameras at once, which is pretty cool.
Whilst the ability to hear what’s going on, as well as see, combined with being able to speak over the app means that there are plenty of fun uses for this camera - its main ability is as a security device and it does a great job.
Here, I placed the camera in the living room. Initially, I just used default settings and as you can see, it had no problem capturing the cat enjoying her day (no mice were harmed in the making of this movie).
Each time audio or video was detected, the Arlo app alerted me and I was also sent an email. Of course with cats charging around, this was a pretty frequent occurrence, so after a couple of days, I decided to investigate the settings.
There’s a ton of things you can do. The first thing I did was switch off email alerts. The app alert is plenty. Second, I turned off audio detection and finally I found I was able to set the area of the camera’s view that motion detection would actually trigger.
This last feature was particularly useful as I could now have the camera focus on the door at ‘person’ height and now cats trotting about was ignored.
The final feature to get a feel for was scheduling. One of my friends was burgled once. Apart from the shock of the discovery, he was dismayed to find that he had forgotten to switch his cameras on that day, so no footage of the thief was caught.
The Arlo Q has a few ways to help you around that. The most easy to use is to set a schedule. Have it running overnight whilst you’re in bed and through the day when you’re at work. Perhaps at the weekend, just record overnight.
This worked nicely for me, as I keep a pretty regular daily routine and I could fill in the gaps by activating the camera from the app whenever I wanted.
Things will get even better in the coming months though, as Netgear are working on geofencing. Available in beta form on the app, basically when you and your phone leave the vicinity of the camera (IE move outside the geofence) then the camera will activate. Pretty neat!
So what does the camera do if the worst happens and it does detect something? It’s not much good if the thief goes and steals the camera, is it??
Well, that would be annoying, but the footage is quite safe in your digital locker. Log into your app and a library of footage is available in calendar order and stamped with the time of capture.
Netgear will host your files free for seven days. You can download them at any time, but if you want them to be held for longer, you’re going to have to pay.
At the time of writing, there are three packages. The basic supports five cameras for seven days and this is the no cost option. You can support up to ten cameras on the ‘Premier’ pack with 30 days of hosting, but now you’re paying for it at £6.49pm. If you’re really going for it, then go for the ‘Elite’ pack which covers fifteen cameras for sixty days for £9.99pm.
Of course, if you’re a business then it won’t be a surprise that people are moving around in your image, so then you can opt instead for a continuous video package which holds either 14 days or 30 days worth of footage. With these packages, a shopkeeper would be able to review when they think there might have been a shoplifting event.
Verdict - Seeing Was Believing
I really like the Arlo Q. Initially it was fun just to be able to see that my cats were home safe - although leaving it on was banned by my wife when she was home for the day as she didn’t like the sense of privacy loss. Once the novelty wore off and I wasn’t checking it all the time, there’s been a sense of peace of mind that there is an additional layer of security beyond the locked door and if someone does come into my life uninvited, I’ll be able to return the favour via the proper authorities.
Hopefully, that day will never come, so until then, I’ll just enjoy using the night vision to hunt for signs of supernatural activity.