Subscriber Discussion

Remotely Access Contruction Cameras Via 3G/4G?

I just wanted to start off by saying so far I love this site.

That being said the company I work for recently began selling Honeywell's Total Connect Services to our customers. After the release we had a rural construction company (from what I've heard, mostly home building) approach us about doing some cameras that they can view remotely from time to time to check in on their construction crews. All they have is "internet stick" internet. I don't know the exact details of what they currently have, I've been trying to get it from the customer.

Anyways, I figure the total connect service really wouldn't be the best for them, and they'd benefit more from an actual surveillance system. Having recently put in 3 Axis cameras with SD storage and Axis Camera Companion, I figured I could do the same thing, but I can't quite put all the pieces together in my head.

I do need to get more information from the potential customer, right now I am dealing with them through a more local rep so it is difficult, but from what I gather they want 2-3 cameras that they can periodically check in on the crew. My thought was to put together a weatherproof enclosure with a 3/4g capable router inside with a POE switch and then three cat5e cables of what ever length coming out as well as possibly a USB cable for the Internet Stick (or an antenna attached to the enclosure) and the customer can then deploy this at which ever construction site, pull up the IP address (assuming we can get a static IP) and view the camera.

So I guess in short, does this sound right? Am I missing something? Is there another route I should consider?

Thanks in advance,


We are actually trying this know at a solar park we just finished with analog cameras and DVR. We are using a 3G router and a 3G stick from the provider. It should work but I am not sure if the bandwidth would be enough to show an acceptable picture.

I figure if I keep the resolution low, for periodic viewing it should be good enough, if they want to see more detail they can view the saved clip or something.

The biggest provider in my area (Canada here) has launched it's LTE services, while limited right now, should hopefully spread in the coming months/years.

You're really better off finding a method for the cameras to push periodic snapshots OUT.

You certainly can do something where you use a 3G/4G connection and allow for traditional viewing, streaming, but it's likely going to be a lot harder to fully support. Common issues I've seen are:

1) High cost for a static IP - You can mostly mitigate this with DynDNS, but if the connection is spotty, the IP can change more frequently than the minimum cache time of most DNS servers at the end-users ISP, resulting in an unreachable camera.

2) Inability to get a routable public IP. Verizon in the US for instance passes out 10.x.x.x IP's on their 4G/LTE network, you won't be making an inbound connection unless you also have a router that can nail up a VPN.

3) Excess bandwidth usage. A 100kbps stream (really very low quality and resolution) will chew through a 5G monthly bandwidth allocation after about 96 hours of viewing time (1 stream for 96 hours, 4 streams for 24 hours, etc.). Someone goes away to lunch, or home for the weekend, and leaves a stream open and you're going to get smacked with a very unfriendly bill.

4) General signal quality issues, some days it will be great, other days it might be flaky and the customer is going to be contacting you asking why the video looks bad today.

If you want, I have a cheap site I can recommend for storing and managing push images. It's kind of a beta/side-project kind of thing.

^^ Brian K gets a 'like' from me. Great feedback.

We specialize in cellular connected systems and have designed for the exact points that Brian K outlined here, so have a good amount of experience in this space.

Many of the Axis cameras will allow you to very simply push periodic images to an FTP site and pick them up or display them on another web page. This is a good approach that balances site visibility but limits bandwidth requirements. An additional area that I recommend you consider is to get away from the "USB Stick" concept and go towards a more intelligent cellular modem. Most of the reliability issues can be attributed to folks that try and use these USB based modems which are really a SOHO device meant for operation about 20% of the time and not in outdoor environments.

I can make several recommendations in this area should you have questions.

Also, there are several companies that specialize in offering Construction Cam solutions and provide several niche based features. Examples include Earth Cam, OxBlue and Multivista. Each of these generally provides a service based offering with long term documentation and time-lapse services. They usually wrap the hardware and service into single packages.


Daniel, your original idea of using ACC and a 3G/4G router in a box makes sense to me. The key is that you want to record on the edge. This way, you only use bandwidth when you want to view live (or download a recorded clip).

Keep the resolution high this way. Let the client dynamically drop frames if the resolution is too high for live viewing.

Btw, this post on Cellular for IP cameras review options that might be useful to you.

Great point and I 2nd the edge recording recommendation for access to full frame video for archival / investigative purposes. Whether you use an SD based solution right in the camera (a little more limited) or a full VMS based solution on the edge. It compliments cellular deployments quite well!

Chris, the main thing that makes me nervous about deploying a full VMS based solution at the edge is keeping that box powered and protected. It's a lot more complicated that putting an SD card inside an existing device.

Thanks for all the information everyone really helpful.

I understand the data useage problem, but my regional provider offers unlimited data. Of course they have that clause of the ability to slow down after excessive useable or what ever.

My intention was to use storage on the edge, via an SD card. Yeah storage becoms slightly limited, but I assume I should be able to get atleast 2 week storage on motion record with 6-8 FPS. 8-12 hour work days.

Would a mobile NVR maybe help a little bitter? With the edge storage on the AXIS cameras I was going to use they can't exactly use Axis Camera Companion, they'd have to access the camera direct and download the clips. I figured if I left an open port on the switch/router they could plug in their computer and not use any data to download the clips as they'd grab straight off the LAN.

Daniel, why can't they use Axis Camera Companion? Alternatively, you could use Exacq Edge if you wanted something with more features.

Well given it's a house being built I assume they don't have a site office as is typical in commercial contruction, there for no PC on site, or I guess if we can get a static IP, they could then install camera companion at home and few the cameras that way?

Daniel -

You should put together a prototype of your proposed solution and run it past the customer. IME what you are describing is likely to be seen as too cumbersome for them. I know it seems simple, but many times you're dealing with people that aren't really all that CCTV savvy. You want to make sure it is relatively easy for them to pull up images from a given date and time with minimal clicks.

Also, my experience in this application has been that many times full-motion video (either live or of previous times) isn't all that much of a high desire item. They often want to check overall progress, especially to go back to a given date that a sub contractor might have claimed was a "weather day" and see what the site looked like at that time.

Of course, the ideal solution is a little of both. On-site recording in some fashion, plus images pushed every hour or so to a remote site. Easy for the construction folks to access the push images, and then they can search and pull recorded video in the rare cases it's a big deal.

The "leaders" in this space (Earthcam, Oxblue, etc.) are primarily using DSLRs, not even CCTV cameras. That gives you some idea of how important video is in these applications...

"The "leaders" in this space (Earthcam, Oxblue, etc.) are primarily using DSLRs, not even CCTV cameras. That gives you some idea of how important video is in these applications..."

That's a pretty blurry line these days as well, as almost all current DSLR offerings now include video recording, usually at full 1080p60. Many of the "prosumer" and higher models also have dual card slots, supporting both SDXC and CF cards (CF supports up to 256GB; newer CF 5.0 spec calls for up to 128 petabytes!), providing lots of storage for video.

Oh for sure, I have no itnention of just putting it together and giving it to them, I want to make sure they are aware of what is possible, what isn't possible, and any contraints interms of video quality while viewing, or limitations in speed, or even the lack of signal all together.

Fortunately, the stars are begining to align in this industry for this type of solution. I forecast that you will start to see new models of cameras with SDXC abilities. The "edge storage" solution is good hype right now, but without much greater storage than 32 GB, what is the point. (The new ISD jaguar cameras boasts 512 GB SDXC abilities via dual card slots). I am glad to see that Exacq Edge now supports ISD, but would also like to see IQ 700/IQA models upgrade to SDXC so that in the cellular application, the dual streaming ability would exist (high res stream to storage for review and low res higher fps for live "check-in" views).

When it comes to exterior cameras, Daniel, I would never count on motion detection for events (unless you are using good analytics). We tend to free run most large area exterior cameras (to VMS storage), since storage is so cheap. On an edge solution, I would probably free run the recording (or schedule if needed), and reduce the fps/resolution/compression and/or change the codec (at 1 fps, may as well use JPEG) to fit the storage size and retention duration. I would assume that 0.25-1 fps archived would be fine for most construction projects.

A problem may be the user that does not shut down the client (and exceeds limit of bw, if it does exist). Unlimited cell plans generally do have a ceiling. Be sure to maybe custom configure the client with a task scheduler that routinly shuts down the client application nightly (or use some other approach if needed). In this instance, do not promote "mobile access". If you are going to do this, you may want to go to Iveda with their cellular/axis cloud solution (they have a product with Axis camera packaged in Dotworx enclosure ready to go). Not sure if it runs on their Milestone cloud engine.

If anyone knows of a good NAS solution for remote deployments (industrial/low temp ratings), I would appreciate the input.

Jeffrey, note Axis is now at 64GB and Bosch's more recent cameras are SDXC, meaning easy 128GB support. For a single camera, that'a fairly decent already.

Jeffrey, I just started a discussion on "Good NAS for Remote/Industrial Applications."

Btw, we have a review of Earthcam's general offerings and their gigapixel camera.

We have done several of these type installations for the police as they can get 3g and now 4g LTE cell modems with unlimited data and public ips. We are upgrading a 3g card tomorrow with 4g LTE and will let you know the speed. A few of the installations utilize Mobotix cameras with wireless links on poles back to a central pole with a NAS for local storage and then the 3g card for remote access - we also setup a wireless ap for the squads to pull up video when they are in range or onsite investigating -- the other solution we have deployed utilized flash pcs running linux and exacq with sony ptz -- this was before exacq was able to be installed on camera -- im looking forward to 4g as it could open up better applications

I am not sure this helps but we distribute Jablotron wireless alarms and they also make a strange 3G camera. It might be worth having a look at it.

Basically, insert a SD card and 3G SIM, and you get live and recorded videos (4 CIF max) on request. It can be triggered by other wireless detectors/keychains/things also.

It is a strange animal, not really a IP camera ( in fact not really a camera ) but we had a few situations where it did the job.

We have a proprietary compresson algorithm optimized for video that is 6-10x more efficient than h.264 which enables megapixel streaming over 3G to a video server. Placing cameras on the edge connected to our compression codec enables the stream to a server to be viewed.

Peter, and what are we supposed to do with your proprietary compression algorithm in this specific application? How can it be incorporated into COTS surveillance equipment?

The codec has been incorporated into a Linux from scratch networking appliacne solution that runs on commodity x86 hardware. It includes routing, vpn etc. Also, has 3G/4G connectivity through miniPCIe slots - we use Sierra and are on Verizon/Sprint etc. - to transmit. Connect cameras to the "box" to compress and transmit to a point where stream is decompressed if necessary or store in a compressed formant - 1Gb = 100Mb.

Where is the box available? How much does it cost? Analog only or? What VMSes can store/understand' your CODEC?

The box is available from CeladonReef. We are just now introducing the solution after considerable development, testing, and pilot projects. Pricing is something we are working on and are looking a VSaaS solution priced based on cameras/streams or delivering our VMS to an enterprise and, again, charging for streams and or cameras. We do RTSP out of our vms and have connected with Exact Vision, but can do others. We have our own VMS and viewing software that is deployed on a Linux laptop or VMware on a Mac etc. laptop. Either analog, usb, etc. We are focusing on megapixel cameras since that seems to be an interesting approach in the video surveillance market.

We placed an inquiry into CeladonReef but no response yet. We will update if and when we hear back. One immediate question, Peter, you might know. What is the maximum resolution / fps / camera count the box supports? The data sheet seemed to imply VGA only.

I am a founder of Celadon and Dir. of Biz Dev. If you have question let me know. The codec can be configured to accommodate HD 1080 or higher. Frames per second around 30 or more depending on settings. Camera count is wholly dependent on horsepower of the box. Currently, a dual core atom can support 3 megapixel cameras.

Peter, how much does it cost? Do you need another box on the other side to decode or can the streams be sent directly to a 3rd party VMS? Since you are talking about a proprietary codec I am trying to understand how 3rd party VMSes can incorporate it.

We are currently working out a few pricing models including a managed service based on a monthly amount per camera or streams. Yes, you need another box to decode and/or we send the encoded stream directly to our cloud-VMS or a server(s) with our VMS software installed. Where it can be stored compressed and viewed, We can feed an RTSP feed directly to another VMS like Exact but it is not as high quality since we have to transcode to a non-proprietary codec. Again, this is our version 1 and we working on a number of features. However, we can stream a megapixel camera to our cloud based VMS.


We have done a number of these using VideoIQ's solution. I would encourage you to take a look at it as it offers some added benefits, namely active monitoring using Video Analytics. This is above and beyond your stated scope, but if your customer is experiencing any level of jobsite theft (or currently employs a guard service) you would do well to take a look.

We've been building fixed and portable 3G / 4G Cellcam systems for years, using primarily Mobotix cameras and Verizon backhaul and (often) solar power plants since our setup draws a total of only around 6-8 watts. Recent installations include Chevron and several east-coast police departments. I can attest to the accuracy of the problem list outlined earlier by Brian.

After trying all sorts of combinations of cameras, edge recording, remote NAS, etc. we've found that trying to play back images from edge-recorded content over a cellular connection is usually a very frustrating experience. The best setup for most applications seems to be using event-driven recording over the cellular connection to a centra l NAS. This allows for the best combination of bandwidth management, image quality, and rapid search and playback by end-users.

As a side-note we've also tried a variety of NAS devices and as this point our favorite is Synology. We've been burned by iomega once too often ;-)

There is a security integrator in Denmark that offers temp/portable CCTV solutions to construction companies 'as a turn key service'. They use milestone, and apparently know more than anyone else in that regard. You could contact milestone for further details. My only concern is that they might provide a larger camera solution that what you are looking at. Food for thought.

Tom, with regards to playback, have you tried using Axis edge storage. I was surprised to see how much faster and more fluid Axis was than Mobotix. I am curious how much this is a general edge issue vs a camera implementation issue.

We have, and I agree it's quite a bit better. Mobotix uses an unusual recording method that I believe is reponsible, so don;t know if there's much they can do other than a completely different approach. But, the only NAS protocol presently supported by Axis is CIFS/SMB - and nearly all ISPs block the CIFs ports, so our remote NAS scheme wouldn't work with Axis cams without outbound VPN tunneling which adds overhead and reduces performance even further.

Tom, interesting feedback, thank. I presume what you prefer than is NFS?

Yes, that has issues too in terms of port allocation, but at least it works pretty consistently over various networks.

For most this is enough, and we've never really had an issue with customers staying logged in as he novelty wears off after a week or two.

As much as this statement burns, I totally believe it.

For construction cams I think that's correct:

Timelapse construction site video (I feel sorry for this guy living right next to the site :-)

but we also do a lot of process control, aircraft counting applications, etc. and in those it can be a battle to keep the event size and frequency below the monthly limits. Municipalities, police, etc. can readily get those unlimited accounts but it's not so easy for private companies.