Do you have a need for a low cost, simple to setup security system for your home or office? Do you want, or need to monitor a particular area for a reason?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, or you have another need for a security system, then Logitech may have the solution for you.
Logitech, who most people probably associate with keyboards and mice and even webcams, have a series of devices that are designed to provide a low cost security system for the home and office. These devices are network based, provide high quality images, are easy to install and use and are reasonably priced.
There are three main products – the Indoor Digital Video Security System, the Outdoor System and also the spy camera designed to look like a digital clock. Logitech refer to these products as the WiLife Video Security System, and they can be used individually or combined to provide a more complete security system.
So let’s take a look at the Spy Camera first shall we?
The Clock Add On Security Camera from Logitech is the first networked spy camera that delivers professional-grade video monitoring in a single affordable system. What I will stress here is that whilst Logitech state “professional-grade” there are a number of factors that actually affect the picture quality, for example light, other traffic on your network, your electrical supply (because the camera itself talks to your computer via your electrical supply – more on that in a moment).
The spy camera itself is disguised as a digital clock in order to hide it, although the clock itself is quite big and so may look a little out of place in some homes, but don’t let that put you off, but it certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an office.
The clock can be small because you use your PC to actually record the video from the camera, which does obviously mean that the PC needs to be switched on and the USB receiver connected to both the PC and the electrical supply. What this means is that the clock can be placed anywhere there is an electrical outlet, and if anyone were to look at the clock, it would look just like a clock, and not something with “extra” wires coming out of it.
And as for the recording, you are only limited to the amount of available hard drive space on your computer – but again, don’t worry as you can set a maximum amount of space that the camera, or cameras can record to.
The camera itself provides a full colour image (VGA or QVGA) and the lens itself contains a glare shield to ensure clearer images and it also adjusts to changes in various light conditions, which is a very nice feature. The is also built-in video compression which basically means that you can store more video in less space. Windows Media Encoder 9 is used to perform the video encoding, and works very well. If you don’t already have Windows Media Encoder 9 installed, don’t worry as this is all taken care of for you.
You can also even view the camera remotely via the Internet and even receive SMS text alerts on your mobile phone.
So, to the camera….
The components you get in the box are:
· the clock camera
· a power cable
· USB receiver
· USB cable
· the software
so as you can see, there isn’t a lot to connect and configure, which means that the average person should be able to get it going without issues.
It is very simple to setup and use – and in fact, barring any problems, you should be able to have it up and running in no time at all.
INSTALLING THE SOFTWARE
Before you start there is two very important things to note – the software that comes in the box currently only supports 32 bit operating systems. If you, like me, are running a 64 bit operating system, then you will need to download the 64 bit software instead of using the software on the CD. The 64 bit software can be found here along with the latest version of the 32 bit software.
The other is that you must make sure that you plug in both the clock and the USB Receiver directly into an electrical outlet and not into a UPS or surge protector as it won’t work correctly. I tried plugging them into a power strip and it couldn’t locate the camera.
§ Recommended CPU speed:
1.4 GHz (1 camera)
§ Recommended PC memory:
384 MB(1 camera)
§ PC Video card memory:
32 MB (1-2 cameras)
Recommended DirectX 9 compatible
§ Display resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels or higher, 32-bit colour
§ Hard drive: 100 MB for program and a minimum of 500+ MB for video storage
§ Operating system: Microsoft® Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, XP Professional or XP Media Center Edition
§ Internet access required
§ Logitech Master System required
So, either put the CD in the drive of the computer you want to use as the recorder, or run the software you downloaded. Either way, you will be presented with the following screen.
Click on the Install Command Center button to begin.
The Command Center software is used to not only control the camera or cameras and view a live feed, but also to play back any stored videos using a time line approach, or you can just open up the folder on your computer to view the individual media files. But however you want to play back the videos, the Command Center software is needed to configure and control the camera.
Choose the Language you want to use and then click Next.
What follows are the usual screens when installing any piece of software, the Welcome screen, the Licence, the destination location of the software, etc. Just work your way through those screens as normal.
You are also asked if you want the Command Center to run automatically when Windows starts.
Now this is completely up to you – each has its merits. If you don’t want to miss any recording, have it run automatically. If you only intend to record occasionally then it’s probably worth starting the software manually as and when you need it. You can of course change this setting later anyway. After that it’s just a case of rebooting the computer.
CONFIGURING THE SOFTWARE AND CONNECTING THE CAMERA
The next stage is actually configuring the Command Center software and connecting up the camera.
The first thing you need to do is decide how much storage you want to allocate for the recordings and where that location is.
It’s very easy to change – you can either use the slide bar (less or more) or enter a number in the allocation box.
You are then asked if you want to setup a Remote Viewing Account. This is for allowing access to the live feed from outside the home. You can also set this up later, which is what I chose to do – more on that in a bit.
The next bit is all about how many cameras you are connecting and the connection method. As this is the first and only camera I am connecting at this stage, I accepted the defaults (note here the USB Powerline Adaptor).
The next step involves you plugging in the USB Receiver (or USB Powerline Adaptor as was just referred to) into a wall socket and the connecting it up to your computer, as shown on the pretty diagram provided.
If the drivers don’t install correctly or the USB device is not recognised, you will see an error.
In my case, the error was because I was trying to use the 32 bit drivers on my 64 bit machine – remember the warning I gave earlier!
The next bit sees you connecting the camera to its power supply and then plugging it into an electrical outlet.
Then follows a series of configurations and tests to make sure everything is working and can talk to each other.
If that all passes, all that is left to do is name your camera – unless of course you like the name Camera 1.
And that is it – you will then be shown confirmation of your settings.
Just click Finish and you are done!
You may be advised that the camera’s firmware is out of date and needs updating. At the time of writing, version 2.72 was available and the camera came with 2.62.
Updating the firmware is simple, and only takes a few moments – just click Update Cameras.
USING THE COMMAND CENTER SOFTWARE
Ok, so the software is installed, the camera is plugged in, and everything is working. The next step is to configure any settings you might want to change.
By default, the settings for recording are quite low, to ensure maximum recording time.
You can change the resolution, the frame rate and also the bit rate. Just remember the high the quality recording, the more disk space you use.
You can also have a look at information for each camera – including its IP address and statistics.
You can also choose whether to start recording whenever there is movement anywhere in the camera field of vision, or you can actually set a motion zone.
This is a very cool setting that enables you to drag a box around part of the image and set the system to only record when there is movement in that zone. For example, movement through a door, or when a till drawer opens and closes.
You can even schedule in events and enable continuous recording.
By default, the camera doesn’t record continuously – it waits until there is some movement which then starts of the recording on the PC. When the movement ends the recording stops a few seconds later (it’s about 5 seconds to be precise). This also ensures that you can get the maximum amount of recording available depending on your disk space. After all, you don’t want to record 8 hours of nothing, and just when something happens that you want to record your hard drive space is all used up!
You can even set up alerts that can enable you to receive email messages cell phone messages whenever something happens. For example, you get a message telling you a recording has started and you know that no one is in the house, so you could call the police (this is also where remote viewing comes in very handy – more on that in a moment).
It is also very easy to check how much disk space has been used and how many files you have made. You can even change the video path if you want.
One of the very nice features is the ability to remotely view your camera or cameras. In order to do this you need to first create a WiLife Online Account.
Just follow through the steps to do this – it’s very simple.
One VERY important to thing to note here, make sure the password you set here is not easily guessable – if someone can guess it then they can access your cameras remotely, and the last thing you want is someone else having access!
And that is it – your account is created.
The software will even test your router for you, and if its UPnP enabled it can configure it for you. You also have the option to change the ports it uses from here as well.
When you want to access your account, or view any of your cameras online, you just open a browser and go to http://online.wilife.com, enter your email address and password and click Log In.
You can then choose which of your cameras (if you have more than one) you want to view.
And hey presto, you are viewing your camera live!
When you want to play back any files you have a couple of choices available to you. You can either choose a recording from the Camera timeline (the green boxes indicate a recording) or you can just open the folder that you chose as your recording destination and just open a file in Media Player.
There are simply lots of other features and settings available to tweak and play with – far too many to go into in this review, but have a look at each of them, they are very interesting.
ADDING OTHER CAMERAS
Well, that is the hard bit over, and yes, it wasn’t really that hard was it?
If you want to add another camera it is very simple and just involves you adding a camera from within the Command Center software are performing the camera connection steps again as before.
You can add another spy camera, or you can add either an internal or external camera. You can actually add up to an additional five cameras, which should satisfy most requirements.
The Indoor Camera is packaged very similar to that of the spy camera.
Obviously this one actually looks like a camera! It even comes with little window suckers so that you can mount the camera on a window facing out. And unlike the spy camera, you can tell when it is operational as there is a light on the front panel.
Just to show the sizes of these cameras, here is the Internal camera sitting next to the Spy Clock camera.
You can upgrade the software and service that you get “out of the box” with something Logitech are calling the Platinum Service. Platinum gives you more control and flexibility to protect your property, family, and employees, while providing you the ultimate in video security – more notification options, powerful alert options, and increased accessibility to your cameras and recorded video files from a remote location anywhere in the world, at any time. Being better informed about what is happening at home or your business is your new reality.
Upgrade to the Platinum service and enjoy the features that increase the monitoring power of your WiLife System Command Center at a specific site.
· Scheduled Alerts
· No-Motion Detected Alerts
· Desktop Notifications
· Password System Lock
· Digital Pan-Tilt-Zoom
· Online Connection Monitoring
· Online Video Storage for your select important video
· Online Camera Management
· Online Search and Playback
· Online Video Sharing
The cost of the Platinum Service is £49.00 per year. I didn’t try it out as part of this review, but if the features sound appealing to you, then it could be well worth the £49.00 each year.
Released in August 2008, the current UK price for the Spy Clock Camera is £229 and the US price is $249.99 and is currently available from Amazon. The Indoor Camera is £230 in the UK and the US price is $230. As you can see, once again, we in the UK are subjected to significantly higher prices!
So, to conclude, I have to say that these cameras are very easy to setup and configure and performed really well. That coupled with the possibilities provided by the remote access, and if you need a low cost PC based security system then you are on to a winner.