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I-witness

IP cameras gain mainstream popularity as they become more affordable and also easier to use

Published on Jun 27, 2014 5:00 AM
 

Finding new products for securing your home has never been easier.

Improvements in technology have brought us a new breed of IP (Internet protocol) cameras.

The latest IP cameras designed for homes and small businesses carry many useful features, such as two-way communication, motion detection of specific areas, direct recording to mobile devices, customised audio playback and night vision in colour.

They let users see the video feed anywhere in the world on an Internet browser, while free mobile apps for tablets and smartphones allow you to check on the premises anytime.

This makes it easy for you to keep an eye on your pets, children or elderly folks at home while you are at work or on vacation, or simply to have a video chat with your loved ones.

The IP camera is nearly 20 years old. The first was created in 1996 by Axis Communications, a Swedish networking company.

In the beginning, IP cameras were expensive, clunky and complicated. Users who were not tech savvy found them difficult to use. Installation required fiddling with router settings, assigning static IP addresses and forwarding ports.

Installation a breeze now

Convergent Systems, a tech product distributor here, said it was not easy convincing consumers to try out the new technology.

Its product director, Mr Michael Tan, said: "When we experimented selling IP cameras about five years ago, it was so difficult. Everybody thought in terms of analogue cameras, complete with viewing consoles and dedicated recorders. When IP cameras debuted, everybody was still confused, thinking it needed some kind of console to record and saw it as a troublesome technology."

Fast forward to today and the IP camera has come a long way.

Now, an IP camera ships with essential software. Bypassing the router, it seeks out vital camera information such as its MAC address, which is a unique identifier. IP camera vendors provide remote servers that store the settings of individual cameras and handle the complicated set-up process, making installation a breeze.

Today's IP cameras can be set up in under five minutes. Installation procedures can be as simple as pressing two buttons.

Eyeing the potential for home surveillance, more vendors have entered the market.

Increasing competition raises standards and brings down prices.

Electronics giant Samsung hit the ground running when it entered the consumer IP cam market this year with a full high-definition IP camera controlled through a seamlessly designed mobile app and browser interface.

A new beginning

As more people know about such cameras and how they can use them, sales have taken off, said Mr Jonathan Quek, product marketing director of D-Link, a networking company which makes and sells its own IP cameras.

"Since 2010, when we launched the mydlink camera series, which provides owners with easy installation and camera management via Web browsers and mobile devices, our sales have increased by 10 to 12 times."

D-Link said it sells nearly 3,000 units a month.

Sales have also gone up in the last two years for Sineoji, a networking company that develops IP cameras.

Its managing director, Mr Kwon Dae-Yun, said: "Customers are now more savvy and are aware that they can deploy IP cameras easily with mobile apps. It is also cost effective to install these at small offices and warehouses."

Convergent said monthly sales of its IP cameras are in the hundreds and at least five times higher than when the company started selling IP cameras in 2009.

Mr Tan believes that this is a new beginning. "The technology has reached a stage where one can start concentrating on the benefits instead of poring over complicated installation instructions. That's when the mainstream crowd starts buying - when installation and usage becomes effortless," he said.

Digital Life looks at the latest IP cameras to see which one is best suited for your home and wallet.

colintan@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on June 25, 2014.