Recommendations For A Neighborhood Camera System?

Some of our council people are asking us for the ability to watch the entrance/exits of their neighborhoods with an surveillance solution. I would like to recommend to them a reliable, easy to maintain, 2 to 4 camera system. Some of them were asking about LPR abilities but due to the cost of integration I don’t think those would be feasible, but I haven’t used any LPR cameras that operated from a stand alone DVR. The systems would all be deployed near entrances to the neighborhoods and housed in weatherproof boxes, and cameras placed near entrances (on signs, poles, wherever they can be powered).

Before I made any recommendations I wanted to check with you guys and see if you had any systems you think would do well, or experience putting in similar systems.

"I would like to recommend to them a reliable, easy to maintain, 2 to 4 camera system."

Det Cobb,

Good question. Home surveillance kit recommendations are hard because there's lot of options, all of the low cost ones suffer from non-trivial issues and most people don't want to spend a lot.

Of the ones available at Costco et al, none stand out as being the 'best' (especially because mosf of them are re-labels from the same Chinese manufacturers).

"Some of them were asking about LPR abilities"

Do you mean just capturing license plates or actually alarming on match license plates (e.g., LPC Vs LPR)? To keep it simple, I'll assume just capture. This can be done but most residential kit systesm come with fix wide lenses which make it very unlikely to capture license plates unless the camera is within 10' or so of the car and aimed at the right angle.

"The systems would all be deployed near entrances to the neighborhoods and housed in weatherproof boxes,"

Even the super low cost cameras are outdoor rated and decently weatherproof so that should be ok. But what the recorder? Would those be in someone's house?

How about Internet connectivty and remote access? Is one of the neighbors going to connect it to their Internet and then allow neighbors to access it?

Neighborhood surveillance from an investigators standpoint is important to get a description of a person or vehicle, time it was in the area, and in a best case scenario a tag from the car. Using a camera at an entrance/exit with the ability to get a tag gives the HOA an opportunity to give a police officer a lead when crimes occur in the neigborhood. Believe me I understand the limitations (lighting, angles, tag differences) but so often we get low resolution large videos/pictures, that really cant help us find the guy with a "hat". I know using LPR systems on other investigations have been extrememly helpful in generating leads, far more than overhead parking lot or residential views. A high res LPR image and another image of the whole enviroment have worked for us to be a great combination. It would be an offiline LPR camera, just good resoltuion to caputre a tag that can be run later.

Connectivity is something they all cringe about because of the reoccuring cost of the internet and accesibility of internet at the entrance. Finding a DVR with wifi that can be accessed by a HOA president or officer in the event of a crime may be a better solution. If the cell modems were reliable and affordable that would be a great solution, but I dont see them wanting to do the configuration to make those work. Its a lot like a remote surveillance installation that I do, but I would say they need something with a lot less maintenance. I am going to look at one of the 4 camera DVR systems with wifi, that we can position 2 cameras for the entrance and exit, and 2 for the back and front of the vehicles.

I am really interested in looking at more affordable and reliable cloud based systems and I was reading your reivews on some of those services.

Check out Eagle Eye Networks in Texas There were at ISC last spring and we thought offered up the best analytic NVR at the show. We're testing now and it seems pretty good so far.

I learned a valuable lesson after my second attempt in trying to sell the correct solution to neighborhood groups like this! That lesson was "Never %$$#&^g do this again"!!

There are so many negative issues with scenarios like this. Mr. Cobb, assuming you are the spokesperson for the 'hood, you have two options that will decide in a matter of days if this project has a real chance of ever actually getting deployed.

Option 1: demand an upfront deposit of $1000 per home due in 14 days (fully refundable should some members choose not to be on board - one for all, all for one!!)

The second Option 2: will likely be the only option. That is to finance the project yourself!! All decision making is yours and further, charge the 'hood members $500 per request to view saved data by way of a Paypal a/c that upon payment will authorize access to the remote server. (obviously a few parameters are required, but they are easy to put in place). Believe me, whatever it costs you it is the cheeper option on many levels!!

You are probably thinking "what the heck is this guy on about??" That's okay! I will bet you $100 cash that this project will not get deployed unless you finance yourself!! I'm making this assumption based on no less than 10 homes in the hood and 8 months to be fully operational.

Good Luck my friend. (Oh, I failed to mention that the permit(s) process will be a 'piece-of-cake'!!!

(let me know if we have a deal.... John H. IPVM gets 15% by default ($30)

I will bet you $100 cash that this project will not get deployed

Detective Cobb is L.E., and gambling is illegal... ;)

You might consider using a cloud based video security system like Eagle Eye Networks. This solves some of the problems associated with maintaining DVR/NVR hardware and software in a neighboorhood environment and may solve some of the infrastructure problems of connecting multiple cameras at different locations to the same user interface for all the cameras. If possible, get a dedicated internet connection for the camera system, unless you have some very accommodating neighbors that don't mind using their bandwidth to upload/access video system. Weather proof enclosures for hardware may need to be climate controlled, depending on what devices are being used. Point-to-point wireless links from some of the cameras to the head end, where server and internet service would be located, might come in handy.

This solves some of the problems associated with maintaining DVR/NVR hardware and software...

How so? I thought that Eagle Eye requires a DVR-sized box to get to the cloud.

John H. - can you connect me up with Jeff Sandine? I might need his services. Consider this a 2nd vote (I saw one earlier) for some way to opt in for connection through IPVM.

Done, and yes, I'll take that into consideration for connecting members feature.

Their Bridge 304 is a relatively small dedicated computer running Linux with their VMS, 750GB drive, ethernet and USB ports.

That's nifty.

Curious, does it provide POE or do you need a switch for that?

We would be really intersted in looking at these but the website doesnt show much.

Full Disclosure - I work for Eagle Eye

We have several Home Owner's/Property Owner's Associations that use our product for exactly what you describe. Our Bridge 304, pictured above, was just launched just before ASIS. Now that we're back in the office we'll get some more information, like the datasheet, on our website. (we do have a case study of one of these customers on our website, which can be found here -->

The feature that most HOA's like is that they can easily share access to some or all of the residents/tenants and then remove them one at a time as needed (in other words - each person has their own login, not one shared login for everyone)

Some folks below mentioned that we don't include cameras, and that is correct. We work with a wide range of cameras though, so you can choose the ones that you think fit the features you need and the budget you have.

I'll be glad to get you more information if you would like, just request information on our website.

Hans, have you taught your engineers what tag cameras are yet? Because when I talked to them last around the time of this article, they didn't know what a tag camera was. They looked at the one we had connected to a system and thought the camera was bad. I had to explain in depth what a purposed built tag camera was and I still had the feeling they weren't comprehending it.

What is a tag camera? LPR/ANPR?

This model does not include PoE, but some of their larger models do.

Full disclosure: I'm CEO of Camio (but we built Camio for this exact scenario).

My neighborhood uses Camio with these $289 Sharx weatherproof mini-bullet cameras that work via both PoE and WiFi. It's a "federated" setup in that each home owns their own camera with their own Internet, but we marshal a coordinated response instantly whenever anything bad happens. For example, we had a car-jacking and robbery on our street and the neighbors instantly stitched video across 7 cameras from homes on the street to identify the getaway car and robbers.

Each home owner pays for the camera, their own Internet connection, and the $9.90/cam/month for 30-day history, alerts, and search with But the cameras themselves also have on-device storage with SD card regardless of whether you have a Camio subscription. They're aesthetically nice and they're soon coming in a metallic gray color too:

The video is private to the owner unless they share events explicitly. For example, door-to-door solicitors often case neighborhoods for burglaries, so our neighbors post links to for quick vetting of legit solicitors like this

How it works: the cameras record on the local SD card and upload to only upon video motion detection or periodic "heartbeats" that calibrate the scene. Camio stores 30-day video history and analyzes the importance of the events to decide whether to notify you via app push notifications or email. Neighbors can also just browse daily highlights from their smartphones.

Sound like this could be a potential soltuion as long as they had internet connectivity.

Steve, one thing about Carter's setup is that each resident "owns" the video access and is private until shared. If people are expecting to be able to monitor the choke points at any time, this model would not work well.

Not to put this on camio per se, all solutions have to have Internet access and therefore may have the same dilemma.

Is there any association owned infrastructure, like a clubhouse or utility room, where a shared internet connection could be located?

To clarify, Camio allows guest access too. Our neighborhood operates as "private until shared", but our entire office building is a guest on the two cameras that cover our office building entryway area (so anyone can get alerts and review at any time).

I'd like to see IPVM do a comparison chart of the most popular and the most promising cloud based systems. As an integrator with many different customer types, requirements and parameters to consider, it would be useful to be able to quickly determine which cloud based system would be the best choice for any specific project.

Which ones?

We've tested Eagle Eye and Genetec Cloud on the professional level this year. We've tested a bunch of the home ones (Google Nest Cam, Ring, Canary, iControl Piper, FLIR FX, Simplicam, etc.). We are finishing a test of Angelcam, etc.

Given overall interest, comparing professional oriented cloud systems is most desirable, but there are just not many to compare.

Barracuda Networks now has (maybe been around for a while) Cuda Eye which is their "cloud-based" surveillance solution.

We tested Cuda Eye a long time ago when it was Viaas. It was decent back then but looking at their current offering and it does not appear to have improved much. They were independent until May 2015 and then they evidently sold back to Barracuda, after failing to establish any real competitive position. Last I recall, they had a 10x10 booth at this year's ISC West with 2 booth babes trying to get attention.


The cloud based systems that I'd like to see compared are: Eagle Eye, Camio, SmartVue, Ivideon, CudaEye, 3dEye, Angelcam, Homeboy, VueZone, Stratocast, Multisight, SecureI,, I-viewnow, in addition to the ones you've already tested.

I'd like to see an executive summary of each company, how they address physical and cyber security issues, what the hardware options are with details about how each systems works, camera compatibility, motion detection system described, analytics, etc.

Mobotix cameras are quite popular for HOA's as the NVR/DVR is built into the cameras so you only need power and a data connectivity piece. I also tested our cameras with CAMIO cloud recording solution as was very pleased with the performance and overall usability. You get best of both worlds- edge and cloud recording for a system that requires zero to little maintenance.

One obstacle to Mobotix residential adoption is the price. Their edge recording was an innovation that has since been widely adopted across the industry. Are there any remaining Mobotix benefits that justify the very significant price premium?

Beyond price, MXControlCentre certainly stood out among the field of contenders.

Hal, Horace, let's leave it at that. No Mobotix debates here.

If Det Cobb has questions about Mobotix, he can ask.

A pre-emptive warning to Hal? That's a first...:)

I was really impressed with the Mobotix cameras but they definately were pretty cost prohibitive for small deployments. From a access control and vehicle checkpoints thier combination of high resolution and day/night cameras makes them great cameras. Also they were one of the first to make a high res IP camera kit for covert installations, so we used them before Axis had its line of micro IP cameras.

Horace. Price is determined by Total Cost of Ownership. Not per device. Do your homework and determine TCO over the expected life of a system, say 5years minimum and your statement about price will be null at that point. Not to mention MX decreased MSRP by 25% recently so even further justification for long term MINIMUM TCO. Do your homework again. Also, I am now heading up our residential Home Automation vertical so I can assure you we are selling a tremendous amount into the resi market and 9 times out of 10 it is not about price.

Steve. Eagle Eye is a great recording solution, you still have to choose the cameras though. Just FYI. this is not a full solution. No matter what solution you choose, License plate capture is a science, you either want to do it as close to 100% or try doing it and your results could be 50% or less. Your better off finding the right capture device "camera" and then deciding what is the best recording solution, whether DVR based or edge camera based like Mobotix or others out there.

I have used the Genetec system with great success - and accuracy in both capturing all the reads --catching every plate going thru the capture zone - read rate- and very accurately reading the plates - read accuracy.

Iver read about video cameras that are used for LPR with software packages, but none of them have had a large capture area or excellant read accuracy.

Let me know if you have questions.



We have tested Genetec LPR system and Genetec cloud based LPR offering. I didn't mention them because I doubt they have the budget for this. Maybe Stratocast? It's clearly a sophisticated offering just difficult for most neighborhoods to afford.

Have you looked into a Wireless ISP for remote deployment? I have used this option on occasion. Setup is $399 and $85 p.m 4Mbps upload from the provider in this case!

Coming back to the original question and project. As a design engineer I was presented with situations like this pretty often with my former company. You run into two main issues: Cost, and internet connectivity. The secondary issue is if you have power at the gate locations (often times not, but in this case it sounds like the answer is yes).

I"m going to make the assumption that getting internet to the camera locations isn't possible... due to billing or what have you. Perhaps a dedicated wi fi network back to a community center could work, but in a subdivision with that many houses, I doubt it (due to line of site issues). So, the only real way to get live video would be over a cellular network, but that's usually dead in the water due to billing and overall costs.

Mr Cobb also inquired about LPR, which can be both very easy and very complicated

I'm going to suggest an entirely different solution: Reconyx security still cameras.

They are basically super high powered deer/trail cameras. They are very fast shutter speed wise, have scheduling and built very tough. Their resolution is relatively low, but more than good enough for security applications. They run on AA batteries, so power isn't an issue (or I think they have a solar power kit). They are self contained, so connectivity isn't an issue. There is no NVR, there is no software, just hang the camera and turn it on and forget about it. If there is an issue, go back and pull the SD card and review by date and time. They are about $650 each, plus a 32 gig SD card, plus you'll want the vandal enclosure to stop people from messing with them. So call it $700 per camera per location. They also have an LPR version (which is NOT the same as the security version) that you could put at key entry locations.

It might not be the most elegant solution, but for ease of use, ease of install, no reaccuring costs with the highest degree of overall system functionality, I think it's something to consider. Most of the time when I would present the options of a cellular/wifi/embedded DVR system to a small neighborhood like this, then tell them about a Reconyx camera and how fast and easy it is to set up, they either went that direction, or ended up with another still shot camera option. Try to build a system that includes camera and wifi and power and recording for under $700 per location, including installation.

Downsides? You don't get live video. You don't get video at all. Your mounting/aiming/focal distance/FOV options are limited (since the cameras are fixed lens). If you want to retrieve the video you have to manually pull the SD card. You'll have to replace batteries every couple of months. However, I think in a situation like this the cost savings are worth considering it as an option

Disclosure: I don't work for Reconyx, I'm just familar with their products

Here are my questions that I am thinking of, mostly because my HOA has asked me to work up a plan for my neighborhood:

  1. Where are the cameras needed
  2. Where are you placing recorders
  3. Who has access to video/recordings
  4. Who maintains and runs the system
  5. Who pays for the system
  6. Do you charge per incident to retrieve video

Do they expect cameras all over? Do they just want coverage in main areas? Or simply just at the main entrance? My HOA expected all street areas covered. That would be quite a few cameras, which lead to a lot of constant power connections. Not plausable here.

In my scenario, we don't have a central, shared space. Each building has four independently owned condos, but no common space indoors. We would have to appoint one homeowner as the "guardian" of the recorder. What happens if this homeowner moves/dies/changes his mind etc?

We never got this far, but it was something that needed hashed out. You simply can't have everyone in the neighborhood accessing the system at once. It isn't feasible. Most of the residents of my HOA are too old to even possibly use the system on their own anyways.

Next issue is who installs, configures, maintains, etc the system? Do you hire a company to do this? Do you appoint a tech-friendly home owner to maintain the system as much as they can? Who has admin credentials?

Is the system being paid for by the HOA general fund? Do they assess the members on top of normal association fees to get the funds? Do they have an opt in fund raiser, where people buying into the system have exclusive access?

Or, do you charge per incident for retrieval of evidence? This would cut down on the lady who needs help finding out what animal is eating her flowbeds. There will be excessive requests for video unless you attach a fee, or make it so simple that anyone can access themselves, but then you have everyone using it at once, making the system unresponsive.

To be brutally honest, choosing the hardware is THE LEAST of my worries. I can quickly whip up a proposal with correct cameras, switches, recording PC, wireless backhaul radios, etc. The hardware part is probably the easiest part of the whole scenario, for me anyways. It's the politics involved that are the real issue.

If you want help with the hardware part, I am happy to help, but will need a map or address of the property in order to help further. There is no cookie cutter solution for every site.

I agree that I see a problem if it was live and free that people would just leave the live screen up all the time bringing the server to its knees.

But do you really think that people are going to be playing and searching recorded video enough to impact the recording, even if it is free and easy?

For the live monitoring dilemna, I suppose you would need to limit the minutes per day per ip and goto black after that, or charge for it.

I guess I don't design systems around what is likely. I more plan for what is possible (worst case) and build out from that. If you open the viewing to every home owner, Murphy's Law states they will all connect at once, every time there is an incident.

In my scenario, I was hoping to avoid placing the VMS on the Internet, which would alleviate most of the issues. This would force the system to be viewed locally. This would require one person to manage the system all the time. If there was a late night incident and time was of the essence, that person would have to be available 24x7x365. That isn't going to be me!

My litmus test would be to require LE to request immediate, time sensitive, on demand, 24x7x365 access. If LE isn't involved, then the request is made through the board.

So, say that every incident has to pass through the HOA board or official. It would slow down the process, but would filter out the less worthwhile requests. But, I can bet my left xxx that whomever administers the system would get contacted directly and the HOA official would be bypassed. You will always have that one guy who is above the rules and deserves immediate access.

Another solution is to have two people with access to the recordings, both of whom report to the HOA board official. This is in case one member is out of town, or ill. It would be nice to have a backup admin. Heck, you could even have a redundant server in the second home, just in case of a fire/theft/etc.

I can guarantee this, if someone pays in their dues, they are going to expect access, for any reason they see justified. It will be a political fiasco if things are handled badly. It is inevitable.

So, say that every incident has to pass through the HOA board or official. It would slow down the process, but would filter out the less worthwhile requests.

If the access is that restricted you might as well use motion-only trailcams with 128GB flash, no?

If somebody wants to see something they get it approved and roll a minivan and swap the card, if not the video rolls over. Assuming the required retention period is short enough, I doubt there is a cheaper way.

But, in my vast experience as a home dweller, people may find the FOIA style procedures insufficient to meet their expectations of video surveillance.

Because they really like to look at live video, (in color when possible, and with audio when permissible). When they are waiting for a kid to come home or when they hear a loud sound or even when just trying to catch the mailman.

Admittidly, this can't be accommodated without great expense, so I think you will have to meet them in the middle of the two extremes.

Run fast. Getting a group of people who no nothing about security cameras to pull the trigger on the right equipment to do the task will be a death defying act. Just came up against one. Some nit whit who never even deployed a wireless asystem quoted 5800.00. Property has 3.5 story roof tops where wireless equipment must be deployed for it to work. Scope of work includes 9 cameras on 4 buildings in a city block. All power run in conduit to the basement. I quoted low at 20k. I can't wait to see the miserable diaster. Did I mention they want to see people performing night time auto break in. I told them to save their money to pay their insurance deductables. Nothing worse than watching your self get violated on film and reliving the adventure and still not know if sasquatch or the neighbor kit robbed you. If the price is too good to be true????? Run Forest Run


I like Jon's list, let me add a few more..
Does the City maintain the streets? IE all homes are plated, and the city owns the streets?
Many communities do this to avoid maintenance costs, and this can really be a legal nightmare for the HOA. Then have your HOA speak to their attorneys and ask if such system is subject to a “civil liberties impact assessment." This might bring the whole topic to a sudden close.