Testing Archerfish Solo Smart Camera / DVR / VSaas (Cernium)

By: Benros Emata, Published on Aug 08, 2010

Combining many video surveillance functionalities in a single device is a growing trend. The hope is providing a turn-key, 'all-in-one' solution simplifies deployment and provides everything one needs less expensively.

In this report, we test the Cernium Archerfish Solo [link no longer available], a cube camera that integrates video analytics, an on-board DVR and a managed video solution into a single $300-$400 device. Billed as bringing "Homeland Security Technology" to the home and SMB user, we bought one from Amazon to better understand the product's effectiveness.

The below introductory video overviews our test coverage:

While the Archerfish Solo bundles many features in a single product, numerous product limitations, system instability and a comparatively high cost will make it difficult for most residential or SMB users to find this product a strong choice.

Given the products high rate of false negatives (missing people walking by) and moderate rate of false positives (e.g., shadows, night time video noise, dogs), we believe many users will be dissatisifed with using this for safety and security. The false positives will distub users (often during sleep) and the false negatives will undermine the confidence that the system can truly detect the delivery man or burglar.

While the product offers basic live and recorded video playback online, setup can be problematic when the user's router does not properly support the required UPnP settings (a common condition statistically). Furthermore, during our test period, we experienced significant instability and a day where the hosting service was completely offline for multiple hours.

With many cube IP cameras in the market at about $100, unless Archerfish can deliver video analytics that users value and use over the long term , we believe most users will find it hard to justify the significant premium for their service. 

Without taking advantage of video analytics, the most attractive element is likely Archerfish's free ongoing service for accessing the on-board video storage. Most competitors charge $10 or more per month for this service. However, their up-front equipment costs are about $200 less, which will still make the sale challenging for customers who look to save on upfront costs for a new service in the market.

Key Criteria / Decision Points

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When evaluating Cernium's Archerfish Solo, the following 10 key criteria / decision points should be considered. The below will provide a comparison to other managed / hosted video systems; see our tests to compare to other providers such as ViaaS and Rogo.

Criteria Strength Description
 Pricing Weak (Product cost), Moderately Strong (Subscription cost) $399 MSRP unit price, $5/month + $0.99 per month per device for Premium subscription (monitoring analytics), free for monitoring live/recorded video
Simplicity Moderate  Simple web interface but challenges within setup (depends on UPnP support, configuration and firewall settings)
 3rd Party IP Camera Support None  Not supported, Archerfish is a closed solution that does not support 3rd party IP cameras or VMS systems (Archerfish Quattro [link no longer available] supports analog cameras)
H.264 Support Strong  H.264 recording
Analytics Support  Moderately Strong (comapred to VSaaS), Moderately Weak (compared to analytic providers) Compared to managed / hosted offerings. Weak compared to other video analytic providers
Exporting  Weak  Functionality broken during our testing; MPEG-4 format compatible with COTS media players (WM, Quicktime, VLC)
Remote Monitoring Moderately Strong  SMB / SOHO users will easily adapt but limited functionality and granular controls
Run as a Service N/A Server not applicable (hosted)
Multi-camera Playback None

 Not supported

Support  Moderate

 Initially exceptional, end of testing no response for three days

Key Findings

In the section below, we provide an overview of the key findings. Later in the report, we dedicate individual sections to examining and showing in-depth the aspects of each element.

Analytics: Using Archerfish's analytics to know what's happening at your house/business can be problematic: (1) users have to manually set a fixed schedule (a new entry for each day). No means exists to quickly arm/disarm the system. This will certainly lead to nuisance alarms. (2) The system is likely to miss many people that walk in front of the camera, increasing the risk that many valid events are not captured. (3) The system products a moderate amount of false alerts (day and night) that would discourage users from activating the alerts.

Setup:  Users will need to be aware of their router's capabilities, specifically whether UPnP is supported, enabled and firewalls are configured to allow proper communication. Significant amount of time may be spent manually configuring and troubleshooting these items. If not conducted properly, live video and exporting will simply not function. Although, Cernium's support staff provide remote assistance, we found this to be quite troublesome and consistently losing access to basic functionality such as live monitoring.

Live Monitoring / Investigations:  We can recommend the system to those SMB / SOHO environments willing to compromise on factors of storage, live monitoring and investigative functionality. The camera's internal storage (of 2GB) provided no more than four days of continuous playback - even with the lower Standard quality setting. Additionally, customers seeking extensive and/or more granular search capabilities with be limited to a simple jump to search, event and continuous video playback. 

Image Analysis:  The video quality was moderate, at best, even compared to other cube cameras (at 1/4th the price). Specific issues we found:

  • Outdoor video was washed out (both day and night - day washout was extreme)
  • Indoor daytime video exhibited jagged lines through moving objects that looked similar to interlace artifacts
  • Low light (1 lux) controlled lighting displayed high amounts of gain, creating significant yellow visible noice as well as changing colors of objects to 'bluish'

Download a package of 4 sample clips from the Archerfish camera [link no longer available]. Two important notes: the captured video was at high resolution, which is not the default but exhibits the 'best case' scenario for the cameras. Secondly, the export functionality failed repeatedly over multiple days on multiple PCs via multiple networks. As such, the video is screencaptured. That being said, the captured video quality is extremely close to the original. More importantly, the problematic video qualities (washed out, jagged lines, yellow gain artificats) were all very clear during the original viewing live.

Product Overview

Computing Platform Support

Cernium's Archerfish Solo is a hosted service and no VMS server is needed and no thick client installation is required. Customers will have access to all capabilities via the MyArcherfish portal. Once logged in, users will have access to continuous video, hosted on the camera's provided MicroSD 2GB card, the event list (with associated video) and search capability. Users will have the option to upgrade the provided 2GB card up to 16GB.

Supported browsers include Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari (we did not test on Apple OS X).

Cernium provides supporting documentation for camera installation [link no longer available] and optimization. Additionally, publicly available videos for both home and business environments should provide a sense of the analytic requirements and limitations.The Self Help Tools [link no longer available] section will reference those materials.

Third Party Support

The Archerfish Solo is designed to be a standalone system and does not integrate with third parties.

Pricing

Potential buyers can purchase the system direct from Cernium and link to resellers such as Amazon, Tiger Direct, Circuit City, etc. At the time of this publication Amazon has the best deal at $330; otherwise, MSRP is $399.

We find the price point to be a fairly high upfront cost for SOHO customers and comparing to other cube cameras, which can be found for less than $100. Of course, this is contrasted with the Solo's addition of video analytics. However, our tests have proved that performance of the analytics has been quite weak. 

In addition to the initial cost of the camera, customers will choose between two subscription options:

  • Basic (Free):  provides live monitoring and continuous playback only
  • Premium ($5 / month + $0.99 / month for each Solo device):  provides notifications and event-based playback as the main additions

Another factor to consider is the provided 2GB MicroSD card, which hosts the continuously recorded video. In our tests at Standard quality provided no more than four days of continuous storage. Of course, this depends on scene complexity but we still recommend upgrading to a higher capacity card. Cernium confirmed that at High quality settings, the storage consumption increases by 4 - 5x that of Standard. Amazon lists various MicroSD manufacturers between $27 - 45 USD.

Physical Overview

The following screencast examines key concerns when installing Archerfish Solo camera. Key points include:

  • Physical layout and included components (00:15 min)
  • Working with the mount and details on IP rating (01:37 min)
  • Challenges with the 9' 12v psu adapter (02:35 min)
  • Recommendations for physical placement (03:04 min)

Administration

The following screencast examines how to configure/setup Archerfish Solo system. Key points include:

  • Overview of the installation (00:24 min)
  • Configuring UPnP for auto-port forwarding (02:12 min)
  • Configuring the camera, zones and events (02:41 min)
  • Various notification options (05:48 min)
  • Displaying system events (07:24 min)
  • Storage consumption (09:42 min)

Live Monitoring & Investigations

The following screencast examines live video monitoring with Archerfish Solo system. Key points include:

  • Accessing the hosted video (00:13 min)
  • Monitoring live video and events (01:27 min)
  • Playing back video (02:47 min)
  • Searching for events (03:54 min)
  • Exporting up to five minutes (05:21 min)

Analytics

The following screencast examines key concerns when deploying Archerfish analytics. Key points include:

  • No calibration required (00:45 min)
  • Optimizing events (00:59 min)
  • Examining field test results (01:55 min)
  • Sample clips (03:00 min)
  • Key considerations (04:40 min)

UPnP and Live Monitoring

The Archerfish Solo is dependent on UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) to allow auto-port forwarding in addition to firewall settings. This assumes that the home router supports this feature (not all do); additionally, assumes that this feature works (many do not). Those interested in further dialog on UPnP can view our LinkedIn thread [link no longer available] on the topic.

Buyers should beware of the potential for manual configuration and time delays that we experienced.

The following screencast provides insight to the behavior of the system when the router is improperly configured or UPnP is not functioning:

2 reports cite this report:

Problems Remain with Cernium's Archerfish Cameras on Apr 14, 2011
In August 2010, we conducted an in-depth test of Cernium's Archerfish Smart Camera. In the test results, we called out problems of analytic...
UPnP Problems for Managed/Hosted Video on Aug 09, 2010
UPnP's indeterminate support presents significant problems. Managed/hosted video providers using UPnP risk widespread customer unhappiness. Two key...

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