Off-the-grid: CCTV Provider

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As part of the off-the-grid series, this may be one of the hardest subjects I have to write on. This is the process I’m following(ish)

Progress:

Note:
The CCTV article is now complete
You can read the final post here

The overall aim of the post

It was as a result of the recent security issues with Swann[1], Wyze[2] & now Xaiomi[3] that I started this series. Now I actually get to the CCTV post, I realise just how many variables there are to take into account.

  • Do you want cloud storage (I’ll be focusing primarily on local storage)
  • How many cameras?
  • Internal or external?
  • Motion detection?
  • How many days storage?
  • Preferred price-range

My process

Get a list of manufacturers

Once I have a list of potential CCTV manufacturers, there are a number of things I have to take into account:

Do they have a website… they should, but it’s not essential

Do they have an array of products? I’ve found that if a manufacturer only has a few products, they tend not to be too good. They may be selling rebranded products as part of a bigger general store. Obviously, there are obviously exceptions.

The initial interface. I get a feel for this from screenshots, downloading product guides and reading reviews etc. An ideal interface should be intuitive and secure.

Security – I absolutely hate it when a CCTV system comes with a user interface that has a default username and password on it. Even worse, is a blank password. This makes it easy for others to gain access to the system.

After taking a quick look at 5 or 6 manufacturers, I have seen a few decent implementations, such as scanning the unique id from the system hardware & verifying the users’ email address in order to give them login information. Each of these attempts is a big improvement on the old default of “admin” and “pass”. In this day and age, I consider a basic default set of credentials to be an insult to users and immediately discounts the manufacturer from progressing further in the process.

Storage

Does the system have local storage or cloud-based storage? Although I have nothing per se against cloud-based storage,

Local storage

Local storage allows for greater control of your data but can come at a price. If you are out a lot or the unit on which the CCTV coverage is at risk of being stolen during a break-in, then you may need to think local storage.

Myself, I spend about 22 hours a day glued to the same sofa-bed in the living room, so there is very little chance of a successful break-in.

Cloud Storage

I am not a fan of systems that store your media in the cloud and then charge a subscription fee if you want to look at events that happened over 24 hours ago.

If you’re not aware, the aim of this series is to see how many of our cloud-based services can be brought under our own security and ownership. That being said, just because we stop using cloud storage, it doesn’t mean our details are safe.

For instance, a lot of places, allow you to store your media locally, but they store your details on their system so they can connect your mobile device and the main system.

Note: this is how I assume it works and is something I still have to look in to.

Note: This is how I assume it works and is something I still have to look in to.

Home Assistant integration

It’s not essential, but it would be nice if I could connect my system to Home Assistant. so that I can display the cameras as camera entities, and maybe have binary sensors activated when motion is detected on the cameras.

My ideal system

As I am comparing systems, I will be looking for the system I am after so that when it gets later into the process, I can compare like for like including prices etc

  • Wired 8ch NVR, 1-2TB HDD,
  • locally administered users
  • no credentials stored with the external entity
  • secures setup process & not just “admin”/”pass” as default credentials
  • I don’t mind setting up port forwarding
  • 4 x 1080p cameras
  • Android/iOS apps with remote viewing & event notifications
  • Preferably H.265/H.265+
  • 2-year warranty would be nice
  • PoE would be nice also

Obviously the above is a personal wishlist. It is something that I want, and of course, I’m aware that people’s tastes vary drastically. But here’s the thing. For the most of it: If I can find a company that does a system that satisfies my wishlist, they will be able to satisfy other peoples wish lists.

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References

  1. Swann’s home security camera recordings could be hijacked
  2. Wyze Massive Data Leak
  3. Google Blocks Xiaomi Smart Home Devices from Assistant Following Camera Feed Mix Up

Credits

As always, my featured image comes from Unsplash & is by Bernard Hermant

unsplash-logoBernard Hermant

Grandadevans

I am a disabled veteran of 3 tours of Iraq and a tour of Afghanistan as part of the British Army. No longer able to work as I have to lay down on a sofa-bed in my living room 20-ish hours a day. I'm hoping to be able to make a living blogging about my Home Automation /Smart Home journey and maybe regain some dignity in life.

2 thoughts on “Off-the-grid: CCTV Provider

  • January 7, 2020 at 13:14
    Permalink

    Hey there – great series, having fun reading through your posts.

    Have you looked at Milestone as an NVR? It’s locally hosted and very powerful and best of all it’s free for 8 IP cameras (as long as they’re on the HCL – which there are thousands! I’m using Hikvision). There’s no direct integration to HA, but I use it to record KeyFrames at 1 per second and when it detects movement then it records the previous 5 minutes of KeyFrames and at 25 fps until 5 minutes after the moment stops. Also, if the house alarm goes off then milestone records at full speed and starts pumping out alerts.

    The HikVision cameras also do motion detection (which can be an input to Milestone, but I chose not to use that), I feed this into HA and use this for alerts – so for instance, garage camera detected AND house alarm armed = not right so alert. If the house alarm goes off HA send alerts via pushover and email to get my attention.

    Know it’s doubling up alerts – but rather that than none in an alarm state…

    Reply
    • January 7, 2020 at 22:49
      Permalink

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks, and I’m having fun reading your comments.
      Thanks for recommending Milestone. I’d not heard of them until then, and the chances are that I wouldn’t have come across Milestone at all during the series.
      Having had a look at their site, though – they look ideal and look like they are the current favourite in the CCTV provider. I still have over 40 providers to go through though 🙁

      I’ll have a further look at their site tomorrow as well as the supporting documentation; User Interface etc.
      I will also see if it will run on Linux under Wine, or whether it need a VM to run, as it’s system requirements say that it needs Microsoft Windows.

      Thanks again, for the recommendation. I need to go now, as I am just about to start another series on coding, as I want to build an add-on for hassio that will allow you to run broadlink2mqtt without any problems and/or technical knowhow.

      Thanks again
      John

      Reply

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