New Google Nest Cam Tested

By Derek Ward, Published Jun 29, 2015, 12:00am EDT

The most important advance for the new Google Nest Cam is video analytics.

Though this has not been the focus in the mainstream press, IPVM testing shows that their video analytic advances are significant. We bought a Nest Cam and conducted testing in 4 environments: residence / home, conference room, office, and warehouse.

Nest Aware / Video Analytics

In our testing, Nest Aware, their recording / analytics subscription offering, had little to no false alerts in motion detection. Nuisances like lighting changes, shadows, and flashing lights were not triggered by Nest Cam, which is a common surveillance camera problem as well as for previous Dropcam versions.

However, this is not a commercial video analytics solution, since it is effectively a closed system, only offers a single super-wide angle model, has no outdoor version and has a range of only ~10 meters (due to its 130° AoV).

On the other hand, this shows that a large determined software organization can quickly deliver a high-performance video analytics offerings. If and when they expand the product lineup, this could become a serious factor in the video surveillance market.

Nest claims the video analytic improvements derive from cloud-based processing of video, including:

  • "Algorithms pay attention to color (the green leaves of the tree in this case) as well as shape or texture, when a motion starts and when it stops."
  • "Face detection is also used by Nest Aware to identify an alert as important."
  • "Uses depth perception to help improve event detection and to reduce false alerts. Using its eight infrared LEDs, Nest Cam takes a nightly three-dimensional snapshot of what it sees. With this snapshot, Nest Cam can identify things like walls, windows, and ceilings to better filter out unimportant motion"

Resolution

Nest Cam is 1080p resolution, whereas Dropcam Pro is 720p. During our testing, low light image quality benefited mostly with the increased resolution, getting more detail in subjects and objects. Full Light image quality was moderately sharper, with more details viewable.

Hardware Design

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Nest Cam has a magnetic base and 1/4" mounting screw base, which are both installation improvements upon the Dropcam Pro. Below is an image of the Dropcam and Nest Cam side by side:

Subscription Costs

Minor subscription plan changes have been made with Nest Cam. Dropcam Pro originally had their most basic paid subscription service at $9.95 for 7 days of stored recordings for a month. Nest Cam is now charging $10 for 10 days of stored recording as their basic subscription service per month, giving users 3 more days of saved recordings for 3 cents more.

Deficiencies / Improvement Need

However, with these changes, there are still some aspects of Nest Cam that have not changed since Dropcam, like the ability to save recordings locally to an SD card. There is also no outdoor model of Nest Cam nor a model with a tighter or wider FOV, and instead Nest Cam has the same FOV as Dropcam Pro (130°).

Lastly, while Nest has released a new smartphone app and web client, changes are mostly cosmetic. This also means that no attention was given to watching and searching multiple Nest Cam cameras at once, requiring users to either switch back and forth between cameras if on a tablet or smartphone or open multiple web tabs for each Nest Cam. Also, no exclusion or privacy zones can be configured with Nest Cam, which could be useful for eliminating nuisance alerts such as pets in a cage or a television screen with motion occurring on screen.

Nest Aware

With Nest Aware being a big addition to Nest Cam, we tested the motion detection in a variety of scenes. Overall, there were little to no false alerts even though we were flashing lights, producing shadows, changing light levels rapidly and blinking lights. The only nuisance alerts we received was from movement on a television which would require us to position the camera so the television was not in the FOV.

Office

In our office scene, blinking led lights in the dark did not trigger false motion alerts, and subjects ~40' and closer were detected. However, people moving around at the far end of the office were not detected, but that is most likely beyond the scope or range of a real use case for this camera.

Residential

In a real life residential setting, Nest Cam was able to detect motion of residents moving around the dining room and kitchen area ~35' from the camera. Subject entering and exiting the sliding door in the back were also detected. However, motion from the television in the scene would trigger motion detection, and this is where having a privacy or exclusion zone available on Nest Cam is beneficial.

Warehouse

In our warehouse scene, all movement in and out of the warehouse was captured, and cars driving down the parking lot past the loading zone were captured. Leaves blowing in the wind, cars on the far road or lighting changes from the warehouse door did not create a false alert.

Conference Room

Lastly, in our standard conference room scene, we were unable to create false alerts by turning the lights on and off quickly, creating shadows on the walls or waving a flashlight around on the walls. Test subjects were detected in both full light and darkness in any area here.

Image Quality

Lastly, we compared image quality of the 1080p Nest Cam against the 720p Dropcam Pro and also tested "Enhance Mode"

Enhancement Mode

Enhancement mode does not seem to have been updated in Nest Cam, as the Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro look similar. Artifacting can be seen in our subjects face and test chart, with roughly the same level of detail viewable in both.

Full Light

In full light, the increased resolution of the Nest Cam is able to read line 5 of our test chart, whereas Dropcam stops being able to discern characters past line 4. Our subject also appears clearer in the Nest Cam, with less artifacting than the Dropcam Pro.

Low Light

In low light, IR illumination is even but soft, with little to no central hot spot. Nest Cam has more artifacting present in this comparison, but we can also see lines ~2-3 on our test chart, as well as see our subjects hair and face with a little more clarity.

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