Striving for the Ultimate “Smart” Home Using the Latest Tech! Part 6
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
My Quest to Increase My Home’s Intelligence
Jeffrey Clos is a participant in the Amazon Associates LLC associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. There are some links within this article to the described product.
In an earlier post, I spoke of a Smart Door Bell. Sometime back, I had decided to extend the Arlo System I had. I was interested in adding cameras to our house as we had some “incidents” around our last house. In other words, we wanted to keep honest people honest. Having our house monitored seemed to be a good idea as we always seemed to have something happen, and somebody in the neighborhood was looking to see if anyone had footage of an unfortunate event.
Arlo Pro Kit
There are several options on the market available to us as consumers. I decided to keep it simple. I had the doorbell from Arlo and decided to add on their wireless cameras. In theory, it seemed to be a good idea. They all worked together in unison. The units are small and inconspicuous, with easy magnetic mounts. They can be placed anywhere around the house, provided they receive a good signal from your base unit. My first purchase was the Arlo Pro line of cameras pictured here. The Arlo Pro worked well with acceptable resolutions of 720P, which is considered DVD quality.
These cameras come equipped with night vision and 2-way communication ability, so you can speak with and hear anyone within the camera’s range. The batteries were advertised to last six months, but this involves many factors. You will not get six months as weather and interactions with the units will cut heavily into your battery life. I highly recommend tweaking the motion control sensitivity and ensuring the camera’s angle is not facing a high traffic area. If the camera is facing out towards a street, every passing car will trigger this camera.
The Arlo Pro is a solid camera, but it had some flaws I needed to overcome. The unit, once motion is sensed, will trigger and may miss most of the action. The delay was a tough pill to swallow. The batteries became a chore in replacing continuously as they were not readily available being they were CR123. Each camera took four of these, and I had a total of 4 cameras to cover all sides of the house. I may be exaggerating, but it seemed like I was changing batteries every week. It wasn’t long into my camera usage I invested in rechargeable batteries. I would keep a set of 8 back-ups charged at all times.
Arlo Pro 2
My upgrade came when a deal for the Arlo Pro 2 camera came available. I quickly purchased two of these cameras and retired a few of the Arlo Pro units. With the Arlo Pro 2 units came their own rechargeable battery pack. The units have a micro USB port on the back of each unit. Technically you can pull the entire unit down from the magnetic mount and plug them directly in for charging. Another option would be to take out the battery pack and charge this. I opted for the former option in most cases, having never bought the separate charging adaptor. The Arlo Pro had 1080P, high definition, recording. Did I have to have this? No, but it was a nice feature. Both Arlo Pro and Pro 2 units are nearly identical in size. Provided the Arlo Pro 2 has A/C power, it can record continuously. Given this is not something I would wire directly, this was a feature I would not be taking advantage of. The Arlo Pro 2 also can record 3 seconds prior if wired directly. I would like this, but I have found it to be quite responsive when recording the action. The Arlo Pro 2 would work with the base I had bought with the original Arlo Pro units; it was just an improvement….or was it. The rechargeable battery is good for only three months, and rechargeable batteries diminish over time. Also, it was cumbersome to pull the units down every time you wanted to change them.
Solar Panels for Arlo
It was at this time my family opted to move to a house with more room. I would be taking the Arlo’s with me, but I wanted to improve my setup. I was pleased with the overall performance of the units, but I had to come up with another option for the power. It was time to invest in a solar option. As stated earlier, the units had micro USB connections at the back, and solar options were becoming less expensive daily. This was a total no-brainer. Find a place to mount these items where they can get the most sunlight and plug them directly into the cameras. They recommend you start with charged cameras, but I opted to start from nearly no charge. It was gratifying watching the batteries charge over the next few days. As I am typing this, I am happy to say they are 100% and holding. You have to love the sun!
As stated earlier, the cameras can be placed in any location, provided they still receive signals from the base. In certain situations, the cameras may not receive a full signal. You have a few options: You can move the camera closer to the base to improve the signal, the base can be moved more centrally, provided you have available network cable access or buy an additional base. I opted for the extra base, given the distance between cameras. This will come in handy should I add other cameras at a later time. As is the case with the Video Doorbell, you have to subscribe to the Arlo Cloud storage to unlock the camera’s full potential. As the cameras come, you have seven days of recording on the device. The cloud subscription boosts this to 30 days.
With the cloud service comes AI (Artificial Intelligence) in recognizing people, animals, and packages. I believe only one camera can be designated for package detection. One of our cameras faces the woods in our backyard. I enjoy going through the video library looking for wildlife like deer. The cloud option also opens up activity zones. You can take a camera’s line of sight and only have it register certain zones for activity. You can position the viewpoint boxes away from this zone if the camera is located in a higher traffic area, perhaps overlooking a busy street. This will cut down on the constant notifications.
Since I purchased the Arlo and Arlo Pro 2 cameras, there have been several new releases. The camera resolutions are only going to get better. While 720P and 1080P are acceptable for most people, 2K and 4K options are now available from Arlo and various other manufacturers. The field of view has expanded, and you can monitor more with these cameras. Some of the latest camera iterations use induction charging with the battery. The cable need only contact the back of the camera, and it will magnetically connect and charge. These are only some of the upgrades available today. The technology will only get better from here on out. Part 7