Saturday, May 18, 2013

WiFi surveillance camera (D-Link DCS-930L)

D-Link is based in Taiwan and seemed to have the best reviews for WiFi surveillance cameras. That's not to say much as these self-contained WiFi cameras uniformly carry a reputation for being very difficult to install and to get working. I bought it from Amazon.

The camera itself, in action, has a short power lead (about a metre) and communicates its video over a WiFi link. It doesn't need to be plugged into a computer so it can be put anywhere near a power socket.

I found the installation lengthy and fraught but finally got the thing working. Here's a picture of its current raison d'etre, spying on the bird box in the back garden - which is inhabited.

Spot the bird box - the occupant is too much to hope for!

Installation (via a Windows 7 HP laptop) is entirely driven by the Wizard on the CD. It starts in a straightforward fashion: the camera is attached to the router by a supplied Ethernet cable and is powered up. The camera gets to know the router and its front light turns green.

The first hitch came when the installation program repeatedly failed to find an Internet connection to D-link's servers in 'the cloud'. This problem was resolved by restarting the BT hub router (I find the BT home hub often unreliable and benefiting from restarts). Success at last.

The next problem was an out-of-date version of Java: D-link require the latest version if you're running Chrome. After manually uninstalling the previous version I finally got the latest Java version to verify.

After that, I was able to get on to the D-link website and see the camera images for the first time. I then downloaded the Android app to my Galaxy S3 (this is straightforward from the website) and it worked.

My second laptop had to go through a similar (and messy) Java install before it was able to access the D-link website and get real-time images. I had saved the D-link URL to the Chrome tool-bar which Google helpfully syncs between machines.

So now everything works. There is a camera manual on the CD which has a lot more info than appears in the set-up Wizard - in particular it tells you how to configure more advanced functions such as motion detection and email notifications.

My first impression is that it's a rather basic device: the video-resolution is fair at best and the sound seems crackly; set-up was too technically-demanding and brittle. This seems to reflect the state-of-the-art, i.e. it's early days. Looking at some of the reviews of other cameras, I'm just grateful it works at all.

The ultimate camera function is pet-surveillance, when we go on holiday.