I’m a big fan of WiFi security cameras, and I recently got a chance to test out the new SmartCam from Samsung.
This is a camera that you can monitor from a browser, but the real power is found in the free mobile phone app for iOS and Android users. Log in, select the camera you wish to view, and in about 5 seconds you’re viewing a live feed of wherever you’ve placed the camera. It has a two-way microphone that you can enable or disable, and it also has built-in night vision support using infrared LEDs.
Here’s my rundown of the installation, configuration and usage of the Samsung SmartCam.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the family pet could set it up and 1 meaning you’ll need to hire a freelancer from NASA, I’d give the Samsung SmartCam a solid 8. The printed instructions are well done, and if you follow the steps carefully, it’ll take about five minutes or less to be viewing the video feed on your home PC’s web browser. (An additional 3-5 minutes will be required if you are offered a choice to install the firmware update and decide to update it now — it can be put off until later.)
Why not a score of 9? (A 10 is impossible unless you have a genius dog I can borrow.) Well, after the firmware update, I did restart my browser as requested by the update software, but after 3 or so minutes of waiting, the camera’s front light stayed red and wouldn’t go green. I unplugged the camera and restarted it, and the light turned green in less than a minute. Now, this could very well have been my impatience… and if that’s the case, I’ll gladly say the setup was a 9. Yes, it was easy. 90-year-old Aunt Matilda easy.
After you’ve got the camera working and broadcasting via your web browser, the next step involves joining your SmartCam to the WiFi network. Here, the SmartCam gets a solid 9 for ease of setup. My SSID was easily found, the password was accepted, and after a brief restart of the camera, I was able to disconnect the camera from the router and move it to another location in the house where it would be using only WiFi for video.
A few other services are available, but I didn’t enable all of them. You can choose to configure a YouTube account where you can upload 30-second video snippets. This is more for pairing with the motion detection capabilities of the camera, not for long-term video recording. You can set up automatic image uploads to Picasa as well as a tweet to your Twitter account for motion/sound events. Finally, you can also enable an email notification when an event is triggered (again, sound or motion or both).
All in all, setup is super-easy. You shouldn’t have any headaches with getting the SmartCam up and ready to go. I’m including a screen capture here of the General configuration panel — look closely and you’ll see that you can configure the sensitivity of motion and sound detection, as well as volume controls and night vision.
Using the SmartCam
While you can certainly use a web browser to view the video feed, the free iOS/Android app for your mobile phone is also easy to configure. After installing the app, you simply provide your username and password to log in and then select the camera you wish to view (if you have more than one SmartCam). Every SmartCam has a passcode (8 characters or less) that you must enter to start the feed, and I must admit that I do like that added step — the passcode is stored on the camera itself, so even if someone were to get my username and password for accessing Samsung, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to view my camera’s feed.
As for the video feed… the image is crisp and bright. There’s a 2-3 second delay, but this is fairly typical of the many different security cameras I’ve tested in the past.
As for app controls, they’re pretty much identical to the browser-based controls. You have the ability to flip the camera’s feed vertically and horizontally, you can change the brightness of the feed, mute/unmute the microphone, snap a photo image, and enable HQ (high quality) video play if you have a good broadband provider.
While there is no SmartCam app for the iPad, you’ll find that the iPhone version runs just fine on the iPad. As a matter of fact, this is one of the things I like most about the SmartCam app — it runs in full screen, so I can use AirPlay on my iPad to send the tablet’s screen to my TV in the living room (via the Apple TV). My wife often brings her laptop to the couch in the living room to work, and I recently set the SmartCam up in my workshop so she could watch my two boys and me working on a project while she worked.
The SmartCam comes with some simple mounting hardware so you can attach a small metal plate to the wall. The SmartCam’s white baseplate then slips over the metal plate and locks securely in place. When mounted on a wall, the SmartCam can swivel completely vertical, so that it’s facing straight up or straight down, giving you a wide range of video feed options. If you’re setting the base on a flat surface (versus mounting), the SmartCam can rotate 360 degrees and rotate so that it’s facing straight up, but it is limited to about 20 degrees of rotation downward (the camera body’s lower edge limits the downward motion). If you’re needing to monitor something from high above, your best bet to avoid this limitation will be to mount the base so it is above the camera and then the camera’s normal range of motion will allow it to swivel and be pointed at something directly below.
The Samsung SmartCam is a great little WiFi security camera. I’ve already mentioned how easy it is to set up and configure, and once you’ve got an account created, adding additional cameras will be an even faster process.
There are a few feature requests that I’ll be forwarding on to Samsung, but they are by no means critical deal breakers. First, there does not appear to be a way to disable the activity light on the front of the camera. It’s green when broadcasting and red when disabled. If you’re using this camera for security, it’s a fairly easy LED to spot and could ward off a potential intruder who spies the camera… but if you’re wanting your SmartCam to be discrete, you’ll have to put a piece of electrical tape over the LED to block it.
Second, while I like the Twitter feed capability, I’d much prefer if the camera could send me a text message. My workaround right now uses IFTTT.com and the notification email that is sent. When Gmail receives an email from the SmartCam, a filter adds a label to the email. An IFTTT recipe monitors my Gmail account for that label… when an email is received with that label, IFTTT shoots me a text message. Easy enough if you’re familiar with IFTTT (and IFTTT is easy to use, so there you go), but a native feature that allows you to get a text message would be great.
The mobile app works great, and having the ability to install it on my iPad and throw the feed up on my TV with the Apple TV is a big plus.
All in all, for $150 the SmartCam is a quick and easy solution for anyone looking for a WiFi security camera. While the camera is intended for indoor use, I could easily see spending a few extra dollars on a plastic enclosure that would allow you to mount the camera externally for monitoring outside a home. (You’d need to weatherproof the enclosure to make certain moisture couldn’t get in, but that’s easy enough with some self-sealing foam around the power cable.)
The SmartCam tested was the SNH-1011N model and is currently being sold for $149.00 directly from Samsung as well as other providers.
Note: I’d like to thank Chris for providing me with a SmartCam test unit.