Foscam, Samsung, D-Link, Belkin, Vistacam, Netatmo or Y-Cam - for Home Automation novices choosing their first networked CCTV solution the choice can be bewildering!
Navigating the myriad of manufacturers is one thing, but sifting through all the available models is even harder, leading to confusion and frustration. And what if you end up with something at the more technical end of the market? Once you get your chosen devices out of the box, are you going to need a degree in rocket science to set them up?
Fortunately there's an obvious choice - Y-Cam - a CCTV solution designed with ease of installation and simplicity of use in mind.
We took the opportunity to test the Y-Cam HomeMonitor HD a few months ago, read on for our thoughts on why these devices are a great introduction to the world of CCTV.
At Vesternet we're self-confessed un-boxing addicts and the Y-Cam certainly doesn't disappoint - unpacking the camera it is clear to see that the Y-Cam is a quality device, it has a nice solid feel to it. In the box you get the camera, wall / ceiling mount bracket that doubles as a desk stand, network cable and power supply with interchangeable plugs.
The HomeMonitor HD isn't the smallest of camera we've seen and is pretty chunky looking, it won't win any awards for design that's for sure! The included quick-start guide show's what you should have received in the box and has simple steps to follow to get connected. There's also some hints and tips on getting the best use out of the camera.
The packaging is covered in statements espousing the user-friendliness of the device so we were expecting a simple set-up process. You have to use your Ethernet network to initially set-up the Y-Cam, so we plugged it into a free port on our Internet router and headed over to the HomeMonitor web site in our web browser of choice. Creating an account took just a few seconds, during which we entered the MAC address of the camera from the label on the quick start guide.
A simple Wizard then led us through connecting the camera to our network (oops, we already did that) and also gives you the option to change to WiFi if you'd prefer. Once completed some useful tips are given on setting up motion detection which it's worth spending some time reading and understanding so that you know how best to set things up in order to minimise false-positive event recordings.
Once we'd configured the motion detection with a couple of zones we added some additional users to receive motion alerts - note that to actually access LiveView the main user and password would need to be shared amongst users, the additional users created can't actually login to the HomeMonitor site.
There's plenty of settings to play around with too, so you can tweak the config of the camera to suit your requirements. We left everything at the default settings since we were pretending to be a newbie :-)
Up and Running
Once the initial configuration was sorted we had a good nose around the Y-Cam web UI - it's worth noting that this is a true "Cloud" device, there's no local web UI, all access to the device is via the Cloud using a web browser or the Android / iOS Apps.
Both the web UI and Apps have a simple and effective design - there's not many bells and whistles and it's nowhere near as flashy as something like Netatmo. That's not a bad thing though as keeping it simple will certainly help with the ease-of-use philosophy.
While watching the live stream from the Y-Cam there was a noticeable 3 or 4 second lag from real-time - this is to be expected since the video has to round-trip via the Cloud servers. Other camera systems tend to be better in this respect as their software will access the video locally if the laptop / phone / tablet that you are viewing on is on the same network as the camera. But this quite often requires extra set-up shenanigans so we understand why Y-Cam doesn't do this.
The Y-Cam HomeMonitor HD also supports audio so you can listen in on your home as well as watching the video stream. Audio is recorded as part of the motion events as well, although it's a shame that you can't set-up audio detection too - perhaps this will be added in future firmware updates.
At the time of testing the geo-fencing location based and manual recording features were paid for extras, but we're pleased to see that Y-Cam have since revised this and made them available in the standard offering. This includes 7-days worth of Cloud storage based on rolling-recording of motion events - events will expire from the Cloud storage after they are 7 days old, although you can of course download your recordings before they expire!
If you want to increase this to 30 days AND have the ability to permanently save any of your events in the Cloud, you will need to stump up some more cash for the Y-Cam "Plus" subscription. This is reasonably priced at £3.99 per month or £39.99 per year, but the costs could easily rack up if you have multiple cameras! Fortunately Y-Cam offer a 25% discount for additional cameras, so this goes some way to reducing your outlay.
We were pleased to see that the geo-fencing worked well, it's not always the case with devices claiming to support it! This is a handy feature as it means you can set your camera to only do motion detection when you're away from home. That should minimise the uploading of embarrassing clips of you prancing around your living room pretending you're on "The X Factor"!
Other than that there's not much more to say about the Y-Cam devices - they are a completely enclosed system so there's no integration with other devices such as your Z-Wave controller or alarm system. There's no IFTTT functionality either so you're limited to the basic push and email notifications that the Y-Cam Cloud offers. But remember, the idea here is to keep things simple.
Overall we found the Y-Cam HomeMonitor HD a dream to set-up and configure - it definitely lived up to the marketing claims in that respect.
At this price point however it is disappointing that there's a lack of more advanced features. We do understand that Y-Cam are aiming the device at beginners and novices but additional non-user friendly features could always be hidden behind an "expert" interface for example.
The bottom line then is that if you're looking for a simple to install and easy to use introduction to the world of networked CCTV then Y-Cam should definitely be on your short-list.Y-Cam devices are in stock and selling fast, don't miss out!