Network cameras make inroads for home surveillance

Cameras can provide another set of eyes and are being used beyond traditional commercial applications
Monday, November 1, 2004

The desire for remote monitoring, whether it’s for a second home, a vacation residence, a boat or even a home viewed from an office, has given rise to sales of network-based cameras in the home surveillance market, according to participants in that market.

This trend has taken shape as technology advancements enable people to remotely view video from any location and the cost for cameras with this capability has come down.

“We definitely have cameras going into the home market,” said Vance Kozik, product manager for StarDot Technologies, Buena Park, Calif.

In fact, he said, about 10 to 15 percent of sales are from residential users, mainly in the mid- to high-end market.

See more, do more

Cameras are another pair of eyes, said Kozik, giving users a chance to conduct surveillance not only around their home but at construction sites, to check on the environmental conditions at their vacation home and the like.

“In the home surveillance market, remote accessibility of images is huge,” said Rick Davitt, vice president-marketing for IQinVision, Newport Beach, Calif., even bigger than on the commercial side.

Davitt said surveillance via network cameras typically falls into two levels: those willing to invest in higher-resolution products and more inexpensive web cams.

But Davitt predicted the market will continue to grow as prices of the higher-end products become more in line with what web cams are selling for these days.

Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications, said the release by his company last year of a network camera selling for less than $200 has helped expand this product category into the home market.

However, he said, a lower price point means trade offs in some areas, such as image quality and frame rate. The lower-priced cameras won’t have the resolution of commercial cameras, but nor will they necessarily need it.

Ruggedness of the camera body may also be less, he said, but home use usually means less wear and tear.

Craig Scott, vice president-business development for Smartvue Corp., Nashville, Tenn., said another issue with the home surveillance market for network cameras has been the cost of installation. With labor and cabling added to the cost equation, he said, “most people don’t see installation as a high value.”

Camera placement can also be a problem with home surveillance, he said, with costs incurred based on where within or outside the home the cameras need to be located.

Smartvue’s approach, said Scott, is to offer wireless network cameras. The installation costs are minimized, he said, and homeowners still have the benefits of remote viewing via computer, PDAs or other devices.

Opportunities expand

The challenge of wireless, he said, which is usually a perception of being less secure or hogging bandwidth, has diminished as networks have improved.

With all of the strides made in the network camera market, Lee Travis, chief executive officer of Home Technologies, said the business opportunities are growing as well.

“I think the market on the residential side for IP cameras is underserved,” he said. Travis said both the new construction and retrofit market using wired or wireless network cameras is huge. “It opens up a retrofit market you can’t do with CCTV,” he said.

Most people have wired or wireless networks in their homes these days, he said, so adding network-based surveillance will be easier.

Travis said Home Technologies has been showing IP cameras to builders and architects to garner their interest. “For new homes and the retrofit market, it’s a huge opportunity.”

Where market participants aren’t seeing network camera growth for home surveillance is with traditional security providers. “We’re not seeing IP cameras from any security companies in the area,” said Travis, nor from cable providers. Rather, he said, the market is driven by do-it-yourselfers and companies that do camera work, such as CCTV dealers.

Some issues remain

Nilsson said one problem with trying to bring network video into the traditional security monitoring arena is that there hasn’t been sufficient bandwidth for home video over the phone, which is still used as the conduit in many security systems.

Down the line, he said, “I think we’ll see cable and DSL providers sell this (network-based surveillance) as another service.” The companies would sell additional bandwidth along with the cameras and DVRs, he said.

And central stations, Nilsson added, will also likely get into the business. “If I were a central, I would want to get video from homes to do checks for false alarms,” he said.

Davitt said the cost of the cameras, even though they are coming down in price, is still too high to make network video part of the typical security company’s solution. “As a broad consumer application,” he said, “I don’t see it happening yet.”

Kozik said, the average person who has an alarm system installed “will more and more demand video.” He said alarm companies will likely team with providers who are already running network pipes into homes, such as telecommunications firms or cable providers.

And in the future, he added, the advances now seen on the commercial side, such as intelligence in cameras for scene analysis, will eventually trickle down to the home security level.