Network IP Camera - Looking for these specific features - and I can't believe i haven't found one yet!
Posted on 2009-02-24
Ok, I'm trying to do what I "think" is not that complicated or unique with a network camera... I want to monitor the status of a large industrial panel with many gauges, status lights, warning indicators, etc. It's about 30 feet wide, 15 feet tall, and has a total of about 8 things that need to be checked every hour or so.
I figure "I know, i can install a wifi pan-zoom-tilt camera on the opposite wall, about 30 feet away, and schedule it to zoom into each of the 8 gauges one at a time, perhaps 1 every 10 minutes", take a short video plus a jpeg snapshot, and email both to two different email addresses - each used by different blogs which display on a website designed to display the status of this equipment.
My budget is about $500 for such a camera, or camera + software.
I naively thought that most network cameras, with all of their brains and configuration capabilities, would easily handle such a schedule and customization. Sadly, after spending about a week researching every imaginable network camera vendor, i have yet to find a single camera that seems to be able to do all of these things.
Frustratingly, i've found that each camera can do some, but not all of what i need - some are missing this feature, some are missing that feature, but none do it all.
Email - the most troublesome feature of most cameras. Most only send email of images, not video.
The Linksys WVC200 only sends video, not images.
All D-Link - seems D-Link (and many other camera makers) have not noticed that most ISP's block outbound connections on port 25 (in an attempt to reduce spam). That means you can't send email to an external SMTP server using the default port of port 25. Virtually all email providers know this, and allow users to send email using alternative ports. Virtually all email applications know this, and allow users to specify what port they want to use to connect to the SMTP server.
Problem is, most camera makers must be relying on a similar build of the actual OS that runs their cameras, as most of them don't let you select what port to send email using. they just use the default of 25, and fail miserably. Sure, you can override the default port for every other protocol - HTTP, streaming video, even FTP, but not SMTP. crazy.
Perhaps a higher-end router (Cisco, etc) can do PAT (port address translation?) where outbound connections on port x get translated in the router to port y. That does not seem to be a feature of SOHO routers (linksys, dlink, netgear). If this is actually possible, i'd certainly like to learn about it, as it's something i currently don't know how to do. Port-forwarding is inbound-only, so even though you can specify different ports for external and internal, doing so doesn't affect outbound connections (to my understanding, anyways).
Scheduled PTZ - seems all PTZ cameras i've looked at in the < $3000 range do let you identify a list of positions by panning around, and can then patrol between them, they ALL just go through the list of locations until they reach the end of the list, and then stop. Useless.
I understand that cheaper cameras are not designed for continuous, 24x7 movement as their motors would wear out quite quickly. But come on... can't move to position 1, wait 10 minutes, move to 2, wait 10 minutes, etc. Or do all 8 positions, taking a picture at each one, then sit still for an hour or two. A warning like "Don't exceed x number of repositions per 24 hour period with this camera or you'll wear out the motor." I'd be ok with that.
Bundled or 3rd party software:
I've looked at numerous crappy webcam programs (willing webcam, webcam 1-2-3, webcamxp). All have really bad interfaces, are unstable, and don't do any of what i've listed above. Little bit of motion detection and FTP, but no scheduled PZT, no email by definable port#, etc.
Bundled software does recording and/or live viewing only. That's of no use to me.
3rd part high-end software - don't know, but i'm sure well out of my price range and may still not have these features.
If anyone can suggest a camera that does what i'm looking for, i'd be most appreciative. Alternatively, a camera with 3rd part software would do. In which case, the camera could be either a network camera or a tethered USB camera (but of good enough resolution to see small gauges at a distance).