Cabin Security System

By Ethan Ace, Published Jan 22, 2012, 07:00pm EST

A PRO member recently asked for recommendations to secure a cabin in a remote location, with no power or internet connectivity. We posed the question on LinkedIn, discussing a number of options. In this update, we'll look at these options, the pros and cons of each, and our ultimate recommendation.

The Question

The full text of the user's question:

"I have a property in the mountains that keeps getting broken into. We have no electricity at the cabin so I need some sort of solar powered, motion activated security camera system that can send me very clear photos of people breaking in so that I can easily identify them. And, if at all possible, have those photos sent to me in real time via a cellular connection (we do have that there), to my computer, phone, iPad or whatever, so that I can react in real time and send the Sheriff to act before the thieves get away."

The Challenges

There are a number of challenges here:

  • No power: The lack of electricity at the site means that whichever solution is chosen, it must be powered via batteries or solar. Completely battery-powered systems are few, and solar may have its own issues at the site, due to forest coverage. A solar array capable of powering multiple cameras would also likely be very large, which may present issues in locating it.
  • Limited connectivity: With no internet access at the site, images transmitted for remote viewing will need to be small, suitable for transmission over cellular networks.
  • Location: With the cabin being remotely located in the mountains, false alarms are a key concern. A single false alarm could take take a substantial amount of time to investigate. 

Possible Options

A few options were suggested for this application:

  • VideoIQ: VideoIQ [link no longer available]'s analytic capabilities would likely do well in this area, and provide more configurable detection rules with adjustable sensitivity. However, since the area is remote, with no power, light levels will be low, nearly guaranteeing that additional IR illumination will be required. The combination of a camera or cameras, IR illuminators, and an external cellular router will also require a substantial amount of power, requiring a large solar power system. All these things add up to a much more expensive system than other options. 
  • Eye Trax: Another possible solution presented was Eye Trax, a system consisting of a VGA camera with IR illuminators, combined with a passive infrared detector with 75' range. The Eye Trax camera transmits still images via GSM cellular connection, upon motion detection, or on a schedule. The Eye Trax camera may be solar powered (or 110V) with battery backup. The main drawback of this option is that each camera requires a separate cell account, and a separate solar panel for each, unless the user chooses to install a larger solar power system to power multiple 110VAC cameras.
  • Videofied: Finally, Videofied's wireless video security system, which consists of fully wireless, battery-powered MotionViewers and GSM-connected panel, is an option. Upon activation, the Motionviewer, a PIR detector with camera, captures a short video clip, which is transmitted via a GSM cellular connection. Users may see our test of Videofied [link no longer available] for more information. The main disadvantage to Videofied is video quality. The MotionViewer is equipped with a 320x240 monochrome camera. Compared to resolutions up to 1080p with VideoIQ, and VGA with the Eye Trax system, this is very low.

Our Recommendation

Our final recommendation to the user was Videofied. Here's why:

  • Single Cellular Account: Unlike the Eye Trax system, Videofied is able to transmit video clips from multiple cameras via a single cellular connection, which lowers recurring cost.
  • Flexibility: Videofied is a fully-featured intrusion detection system, with options aside from MotionViewers, such as door contacts and smoke detectors. Videofied door contacts also accept input from external dry contacts, so sensors such as flood detectors may be connected. Since the location is remote and unoccupied most of the time, these other detectors may be more desirable than other options, which provide video only.
  • Autonomy: Since the Videofied system, including the panel, as well as detectors, is completely battery-powered, no solar options need to be considered. This lowers initial install cost, and the cost of batteries over the system's life is unlikely to add up to the cost of solar systems to run other options.

Users should be aware of Videofied's limitations, however, which may be critical to some applications. 320x240 monochrome video is low-resolution by today's standards, and will not provide identification-quality video at long ranges. If "chokepoints" can be covered, this may not be an issue, but if not, more cameras will be required than with other options. If live look-in is a required feature for the user, Videofied will not be a fit. The MotionViewers' cameras are only activated upon motion, so viewing of live video is not possible.

A Videofied control panel has an MRSP of about $700 USD. An outdoor MotionViewer has an MSRP of about $600, with an indoor MotionViewer costing about $400. Typically, Videofied products are purchased as a solution from an alarm / security provider and are not DIY.

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