Testing The iPad and iPhone for Video SurveillanceBy: Benros Emata, Published on May 25, 2010
The iPhone and iPad are certainly hot, capturing popular interest around the globe. The question, for us, is: What value do these devices have for video surveillance? Will they improve surveillance monitoring? If so, how and in what ways? What material limitations do they have that would detract from surveillance use?
In this test, we examine the use of an iPhone and iPad using 3 video surveillance applications, including DComplex's NVR Viewer (Exacq), LexTech Lab's iRa [link no longer available] and the Live Cams app [link no longer available]. Our investigation of these 3 offerings display a broad range in functionalities and pricing.
Inside the Pro section, we demonstrate each application, examine usability tradeoffs among applications and between the iPhone and iPad, make recommendations on important optimizations to the devices and provide guidance on real-world security use of the iPhone and iPad.
Below is a preview/introduction of our report:
- The iPad's larger screen real estate provides a better experience when viewing multiple cameras
- The matrix view on the iPad is closer to an experience of using a desktop PC with a VMS
- Precise PTZ control is difficult to achieve using the smaller screen space of the iPhone
We highlight three video applications of varying price and features that are available to download from the Apple App Store.
iRa Series Applications
Lextech Labs [link no longer available] has three applications: iRa Direct [link no longer available], iRa Pro [link no longer available], and iRa C3 Command Center [link no longer available]. In the following screencast, we focus on Pro and C3 Command. Key points include:
- iRa Direct supports IP cameras only
- iRa Pro has VMS support (Milestone Enterprise and OnSSI NetDVMS)
- iRa C3 Command has VMS support (same as Pro version plus Milestone Corporate) and can be controlled from the app and web interface
- iRa Pro and IRa C3 Command is viewed in landscape mode
- Applications are for viewing live video only
- iRa Pro and IRa C3 Command's matrix view is set: 20 camera view on iPad, 6 camera view on iPhone
- iRa C3 Command setup is done through a web browser
- iRa C3 Command does not currently support 3G mode in iPad but plans to add support in June 2010
iRa's C3 Command application aims to provide a broader platform beyond Apple devices that supports specific needs of large-scale organizations with monitoring teams.
- The web application option from iRa allows 3rd party responders to view specific cameras from a site without having to install a thick client and with an administrator defined set of cameras. On the other hand, responders would still require access into the site's internal network. Plus, responders could use the web application native to many VMS systems.
- iRa's C3 provides additional levels of encryption and security, including the ability to remotely purge any video/data on remote iPhone/iPad devices.
For more information on iRa including 2 control methods not discussed (double tapping to center and tapping two fingers to zoom) review iRa's introductory/tutorial video.
NVR Viewer Application
In the following screencast, we highlight the features of NVR Viewer [link no longer available] by DComplex LLC. This app is available for both the iPad and iPhone. In addition, a demo version [link no longer available] is available as a free download. Key points include:
- The current version only supports a single VMS: ExacVision Webserver 2.0
- Functionalities on iPad and iPhone are identical
- Matrix views can be changed with the Layout button
- The PTZ button opens up on-screen controls
- NVR Viewer supports searching recorded video
Live Cams Application
In the following screencast, we look at Live Cams [link no longer available], an IP camera viewing application for the iPhone. Key points include:
- Matrix is set to a 12 camera view
- Viewing of live video only
- Application supports a fair amount of IP cameras
- Supports a limited amount of NVR software
- Screenshots are saved in the iPhone's photo library
- An on-screen display is available for PTZ control
- Public IP cams displayed by default
Optimizing iPad and iPhone for Security Environments
In the following screencast, we discuss how to establish a VPN connection over 3G and how to lock the iPad / iPhone interface from other uses.
Setting up a VPN is key for use with 3G. Because 3G is a public network and most video surveillance systems are behind a firewall/router inside an organization's LAN, a VPN connection is the best way to access surveillance video with 3G.
While the iPhone and iPad are loved by many for their many apps, games, music and video, this is likely a distraction and problem for most security operations. In the video below, we show you how to disable such use to ensure monitors focus on their duties.
In general, we think these devices provide important benefits for surveillance applications and should be strongly considered by all segments of the market. Driving this is their ease of use (installation was fairly trivial), broad mobility/remote viewing capabilities (specifically 3G) and relatively low price (compared to laptops).
On the low end of the market, where dedicated surveillance monitors are impractical, these devices enable roving monitors or operational managers to check in on their surveillance video wherever they are.
In the middle of the market, where one monitor might be used who is responsible for multiple tasks, these devices free them to do so, moving around while still have access to monitor the surveillance system.
On the high end of the market, where larger surveillance teams are common,
To decide use for your specific application, 3 key questions should be evaluated:
- Do I use WiFi or 3G?
- Do I use the iPhone/Touch or the iPhone?
- What apps should I use for monitoring video surveillance?
WiFi vs 3G
- Areas on site (that is, inside your facility) where WiFi access is not available - common in security when monitors are patrolling outside).
- Remote viewing such as in a car or in a remote facility where you cannot obtain access to WiFi
iPhone vs iPad