Monitoreal "Completely Autonomous" Home AI Tested

By Rob Kilpatrick, Published Feb 12, 2020, 10:12am EST (Research)

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Comments (52)

Does anyone else think that raindrops would be the most game-breaking analytics flaw with a lot of these analytic products? A dog being misclassified as a bird isn't quite so annoying as something like rain which would be a nearly constant, unavoidable environmental condition. Unless I lived in a desert I would not purchase anything that triggers on rain, particularly if it misclassified moisture as a person.

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The challenge with raindrops is that it wasn't a common test scenario for us as we developed the product - as our cameras were installed to be better protected from the elements... but are now definitely going to explore this scenario in more detail and make some software updates.

We do have an option in the Monitoreal settings (secondary object detection) that, if checked, will reduce (or even eliminate) these false raindrop alerts.

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Thank you for responding! I think eliminating rain drops would substantially improve the feedback on product long term.

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Agreed!

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Raindrops can sometimes be mitigated with camera placement. I'm still waiting for someone that can deliver an analytic that ignores blowing snow under IR.

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Yes, I feel it should be easy enough to install a camera so the lens is not directly exposed - with enough snow and/or rain, "analysis" becomes meaningless. Snow under IR is the worst!

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Monitoreal co-founder here. We are thrilled to see our 1st IPVM review and are happy to answer any questions! We are constantly improving (the device is updateable), so all feature suggestions are appreciated.
Mike

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It's great to see a product with fairly useful notifications and I like that it's not bound to proprietary cameras. Hopefully you can get the AI trained to handle rain, and maybe "debounce" loitering objects like cars so they don't generate multiple notifications (unless the user wants to be alerted of cars that remain more than X minutes?).

A couple minor criticisms since you were brave enough to ask for them :)

- Your HTTPS certificate appears to be for the wrong domain so my first experience visiting your site was a notification from Chrome that the connection was not secure.

- The name Monitoreal is difficult for me (US citizen). I keep seeing Montreal when I look at it. I'm assuming you say it as "Monitor Real" but I also read it in a way that rhymes with "janitorial".

- If you're not planning to offer typical NVR capabilities I'd like to see integration with VMS/NVR software. I'm imagining the device presenting an ONVIF interface where each camera added to the unit is presented as a camera similar to how an ONVIF video encoder works. Then the unit could be added to a VMS as a multi-channel ONVIF device. Do you have any plans to do this, or to offer your own recording solution?

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maybe "debounce" loitering objects like cars so they don't generate multiple notifications (unless the user wants to be alerted of cars that remain more than X minutes?).

We have exactly that. You can set to only get notified if an object stays for more than 1 hr, for example. On my own parking lot, I set it to 6000 seconds (1hr 40 min).

Monitoreal settings

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Hi there,

Lewis here, heading up sales at Monitoreal.

Great to be reading people's feedback and suggestions from IVPM's testing of the Monitoreal device.

Regarding the HTTPS certificate, we've just introduced a new multi-language version of our website and I'm pleased to say the issue has now been fixed.

Thanks for bringing that to our attention, please do check the new website and feel free to share any further feedback.

Cheers

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Thank you! Repeated periodic alerts for parked cars are by design ("the car is still there") and we have a setting to tune that, but we need to do a better job explaining that in the UI. Regarding your other points:

- HTTPS: we just moved to a different hosting provider and updated DNS, so this should be resolved shortly

- we heard that a lot at our recent trade shows (ppl thought we're from Canada:)), and yes - our thinking was real-time monitoring. I like that the name is unique (great for online marketing), and let's not forget - many of today's top tech firms and unicorn startups had names that weren't immediately well received. Takes time!

- at the moment, Monitoreal can happily coexist with an NVR (it doesn't interfere with it in any way); so you can have your cameras, an NVR for recording/archiving, and a Monitoreal device for real-time analysis and alerts. That said, recording capability is on our roadmap, and we will add it sooner if enough people ask about it. In the meantime, we're testing how we can get data from a multi-channel NVR (as opposed to from each individual camera) - once implemented, this functionality will just appear as a software update.

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recording capability is on our roadmap, and we will add it sooner if enough people ask about it.

If you want to be a serious player, you have to offer your own recorder + analysis appliance, very few people want to buy a separate analysis appliance. Plus, your recorder competitors are certainly working on or at least hoping to add similar analytics to their own recorders.

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John, thank you for your input - we will discuss internally and see if we can prioritize the recording capability. What's interesting about this - I (and many people I know) have NVRs (I use Synology NAS), but we haven't looked at the recordings in years. I feel that as we make real-time awareness central to this solution, the archiving will become a secondary function that will only be checked occasionally (if something happens and you need to investigate). That said, recording is easy to add.

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Here I'm going to disagree with John, and suggest a PC based program solves the recorder + appliance issue for many users. I see "Home" in the title, which suggests residential to me for at least part of your target market.

My guess would be that most residential users with IP cameras have sufficient processing power in one or more of their PCs to function as an AI equipped "NVR", and certainly as a recording device. There's a large number using Blue Iris, for example. If you can make your dumb cameras (as well as your supposed to be smart cameras) into smart ones for a few hundred bucks, it opens up a whole new set of hardware choices.

I would also concur with the above comment that raindrops are the biggest false alert concern, although largely avoidable for many camera locations if they only cause problems directly on the dome or lens. Unless you're on a farm or a very rural area, large animals mistaken for people is trivial. Many users will want to capture dogs on their property. Calling trucks, vans, SUVs, etc. "cars" is also trivial for most residential scenarios. Continued alerts on parked cars should be highly configurable, up to and including no alerts at all.

Ditto for recording options per event, such as up to 30 seconds of pre-record even on 4K 30 FPS and thus at fairly high data rates on multiple cameras, and keep recording as long as the moving subject is within a specified zone. Obviously the PC hardware could be a limiting factor, but this should be doable with 6 to 8 4K cameras for higher end PCs. It's not clear to me from this review or from your website how event video is stored, although I do understand it is not in the cloud, which I see as another plus. Perhaps it already uses a local network PC or NAS. (For commercial users, a dedicated appliance would be a higher cost option.)

Even if that Intel stick has to be stuck (pun intended) into a USB port on the PC to augment the CPU and/or GPU, make it happen. Multiple sticks could be used on a PC for more cameras. Of course AMD is now offering reasonably priced CPUs with up to 16 cores now, so maybe the PC versus compute stick comparison should be revisited. And what about versus GPUs?

E-mail alerts with a set of 3 or 4 pictures in sequence is fine for starters, and with texts as well I see an app as lower priority. (I'm sure many will disagree on the need for an app.) Again, just build in as much configurability as is reasonably possible.

I am now officially volunteering to be a beta tester for a PC based application. :-)

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My guess would be that most residential users with IP cameras have sufficient processing power in one or more of their PCs to function as an AI equipped "NVR", and certainly as a recording device. There's a large number using Blue Iris, for example.

If Monitoreal wants the power user / tech hobbyist market, agreed. But, for example, I can assure you the number of homeowners with Wyze, Nest, Hikvision, Dahua etc, is 100x or 1000x the size of those with Blue Iris. Most users either are not technically capable or do not have the interest to set up PCs.

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I don't use Blue Iris either, but I think you're assuming a level of incompetence which doesn't match most residential users of anything beyond a video doorbell. How are they setting up alerts, motion detection zones, email sending, etc. if they are not capable of using any piece of software or a web interface to a camera? The 2nd related assumption would be that Monitoreal could not make the software as simple to use as a typical web interface where you need to enter a dozen or more pieces of info, like online tax services or online job applications. I think it's quite doable to get it beyond the realm of just technical users.

And if you're not providing a video feed somehow to the police who will use a PC screen, whether like Ring's options or you FTP a video to them, do you think tiny phone screens are going to provide adequate identification capability? I don't, so I think if you're going to make an investment in smart cameras you probably already have a PC.

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How are they setting up alerts, motion detection zones, email sending, etc. if they are not capable of using any piece of software or a web interface to a camera?

That takes far less time and effort than setting up a PC. There's far more things to go wrong when loading an application on a PC than configuring an app on one's phone.

Also, the email sending thing on apps is trivial, all the user needs to do is enter in their email address, no gateways or SMTP details, etc.

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That takes far less time and effort than setting up a PC. There's far more things to go wrong when loading an application on a PC than configuring an app on one's phone.

95+% of PC users don't "set up" their PCs, they just buy them, plug them in, and go. Laptops are even easier. Installing a program on a PC in many cases is very quick and easy. A few mouse clicks may be all it takes, and web interfaces don't require program installs.

I would agree that a certain % of users are content staring at a tiny little screen and using it as a PC replacement. There might even be some trying to do spreadsheets on cell phones. :-) But I think the % beyond technical users who need an actual full sized screen and more productive way to work for many uses will continue to be substantial.

Phone screens sizes may eventually reach 13 inches, though, so maybe not.

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Installing a program on a PC in many cases is very quick and easy.

And in the cases that are not?

We can agree to disagree here, it may be simple to you and people you know but I will continue to believe that for ordinary people, they will far prefer a turnkey app / appliance over having to set up and keep a PC running.

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Program/app ease of install and use, as well as reliability, is up to the developer. No different than the cameras and NVRs themselves, and you could certainly comment better than I could on these 3 factors from brand to brand in cameras and NVRs.

I'm not suggesting a PC dedicated to acting as a smart NVR. That would obviously not be cost effective. If someone is a pure cell phone and/or tablet user, they will need a separate recording device.

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Chris, I am familiar with Blue Iris and other DIY tools - but that's not our primary market at the moment. Our device is more similar to Roku or Apple TV - plug it in, take 5 min configure, and you're good to go. That being said, there's nothing wrong with building your own PC-based (or NAS-based) NVR. Monitoreal can happily coexist with those. That's how my own home is set up - I have a Synology NAS that has motion-triggered recording (Synology Surveillance Station), and my Monitoreal device does everything else (smart detection, real-time alerts).

I am convinced the NVR is going away.

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I'm actually not all that familiar with Blue Iris since I don't use it, but if you want to have your product replace NVRs I think PC software is part of that equation. As you know what you're adding is the smart detection at a lower cost, as well as adding it to existing cameras. Dumb motion detection and recording is of little use unless you have lots of review time.

As it stands now with no PC, what is the capability of your device? Is there a list of detailed specs on your website? (The site didn't seem to be working correctly for me yesterday.) Can one device handle multiple 4K cameras? When an event is detected, can I store full/highest quality 4K 30 FPS video of it?

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Chris, we currently support RTSP 1080p streams. You can still use a 4k camera if it can provide a substream (1080p or less).

FAQ: Support – Monitoreal

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I am convinced the NVR is going away.

I think one of us is out of touch with security / surveillance needs in the different markets and it may very well be me.

I agree that the idea of the NVR is on it's way out - at least from a consumer perspective. Consumers seem to be flocking to cloud-based solutions like Ring/Nest, but the NVR didn't go away - it simply moved from the closet to the datacenter.

AI isn't perfectly reliable, so some customers are going to want to record 100% of the time, or record several seconds before/after some kind of event at a minimum. Playing these sequences back as independent video clips/still images is not a great experience in my mind - but again, maybe this is me being out of touch as an enterprise-focused engineer? Also for legal purposes, I think it's important to have the option of exporting digitally signed/encrypted footage in a format that is difficult to tamper with. Stills and AVI's are far too easy to tamper with and proving they have been unaltered is impossible/impractical.

If you're not intending to go all-in on the idea of NVR/VMS, I think you could seriously drive business growth by being easy to integrate your appliance with common VMS's. The easiest way to implement broad VMS compatibility would be to provide an ONVIF device interface so that the video traffic passes through your device, along with the analytic events. You then open yourselves up to not just consumer business but potentially small-enterprise business where not all VMS's have quality native analytics and a lot of customers are looking for smarter notifications/recording triggers.

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Our initial objective is to integrate with existing systems (cameras + NVR) not to replace them - and we do want to make our solutions compatible with existing VMS's. That said, if we see sufficient demand for traditional NVR capabilities - we will introduce them. There is a reason one can buy a 8-channel NVR board for $15 on AliExpress - recording is a solved problem, and storage is a commodity. It would be incredibly easy for us to roll it out.

I think you will feel differently about stills and frame sequences once you've had an opportunity to use our product. It really gives you a very good sense of awareness without using too much data. Let the NVR record what it needs to record - but I'm willing to bet that at some point you may forget your NVR even exists.

Regarding video tampering - that's a different class of problems entirely. Happy to discuss offline when you have time!

Thanks again for the thoughtful post, there are definitely a lot of interesting opportunities in the space.

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Anyone else first read that as "Montreal"?

EDIT: Yep, just read above. Hah.

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We get that a lot! :)

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I agree with John. If you had your own recorder/appliance this would be an easy sell as a complete product with fewer complications.

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Our device can already record optimized scenes (that have activity in them matching your rules), which look like this:

Imgur: The magic of the Internet

Do you feel people need more than that?

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Do you feel people need more than that?

At least call it a smart recorder if you want with 'optimized scenes' but you're throwing up roadblocks by not checking off the box of being an NVR. Your competitors will use it as an excuse, your potential partners will use it as a reason not to carry or prioritize you, etc. Not sure why you are so resistant from including an obvious checkbox, fundamental feature.

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I see your point. Will discuss with the team. It's quite easy to do. It's harder to decide how to price the NVR piece.

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In the past CCTV cameras were recording and storing footage in the event there was an incident that needed investigation, whether for residential or SMB's (large commercial applications being very different). We believe today is different, with modern AI technology finally allowing video surveillance cameras to make people aware of events in real-time. Storage therefore is becoming more optional rather than necessary. Do NVR/DVR's therefore need to be the central hub of CCTV systems in residential applications? It's about awareness provided of course any footage remains private.

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We believe today is different, with modern AI technology finally allowing video surveillance cameras to make people aware of events in real-time. Storage therefore is becoming more optional rather than necessary.

If someone breaks a window at 3 in the morning, they still need recorded video for evidence. That's not going away.

Call it what you want but you still need 'recording' and it's far safer to call it 'recording' than to convince people you just can watch in real-time.

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One image every 2 to 3 seconds doesn't work for me at all. You're not going to replace NVRs just with this limitation alone.

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Chris, as I mentioned previously, it's not our intent to replace the NVR (at least not currently) - but to coexist with it. Our focus in on real-time analysis and rule-based notifications. I have an NVR myself! (Synology)

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Next topic: Cow facial recognition.

Stop branding irons. Yee-haw.

Plausible idea, yes?

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As long as they have distinctive patterns, it's actually plausible. I feel we should roll out human facial rec first though, and go from there. :)

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Michael Alatortsev

Of course - it is already being worked on. I would think the biggest trouble would be getting a labeled dataset.

Emerging technology could identity cattle through facial recognition | Beef Magazine

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Thanks for the link. Now google is feeding me all sorts of beef recognition.

Mooofarm - Digital Cow

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/300374643_Face_Recognition_of_Cattle_Can_it_be_Done

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this absolutely CAN be done, it's just not very commercially feasible, given the cheaper options out there.

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For a small farm with a few cows - maybe. For large farms (hundreds or thousands of animals) - tags and sensors are both accurate and economical.

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In case any readers are wondering why Monitoreal does not have an app, this is to ensure that the user has 100% privacy and protection of their video feed. No data flows through our servers meaning it cannot be compromised or even accessed by employees (as recently found with Ring) or even subpoenaed.

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I appreciate having a "fully offline" option - so much relies on cloud these days and you can do great and wonderful things with it, but you also give up control and privacy to an extent. Especially as governments continue to push for backdoors.

Could you not still offer an app that makes a direct connection to the appliance though? Sure, Google and Apple would probably collect some information about mobile app usage, but it would be a fairly small compromise for improved usability I would think?

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Something to consider - our default "app" is a messenger, which offers secure two-way communication with your device at home, without exposing it to the Internet.

This is me "talking" to my device remotely.

report request

We found that once one is able to effectively communicate with your device through Messenger, they no longer feel they have to have a direct connection.

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My gut feel is that, for privacy, you don’t want to require an app but you want to offer one as an option for those who want that expected feature.

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Could you not still offer an app that makes a direct connection to the appliance though?

That was my first thought also. OnSSI's app works like that. Login details are stored in the app, and the app communicates directly to the server, whether by static IP address or DDNS.

However, this won't work in many cases. Some Internet providers route traffic using something called Carrier Grade Routing, which effectively means multiple customers share the same public IP address at the same time. When you don't control the device that has the public IP address, you can't do a VPN, port-forward, or anything.

The only way to solve it is to use a middleman in the cloud that the server and client both connect to in order to reach each other. That is how Ring, et al, work, and what Monitoreal has decided not to do.

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Exactly, we chose not do what Ring and Nest do. Recent headlines (all the hacking incidents) suggest that we made the right decision.

Having a messenger as the primary channel provides an additional layer of security, as all inputs are sanitized and you can only use pre-set commands to "access" the device - and your device is never exposed to the outside.

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if you moved your company headquarters to Montreal, I think people's heads would explode

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Only the Quebecois!

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“Out of stock” no details of when or where to buy. Always amazed at how many promising tech companies fail at basic commercials.

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Thanks for your message. As we're not currently selling direct, you're right we should reconsider are messaging. We do receive many enquiries through our general email address on the website (which I probably shouldn't add on here). Feel free to reach out and if you'd like a chat.

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If you are targeting the consumer market you probably need to sell direct. But at the very least you need a ‘buy now’ link that takes you to the reseller’s site. If you rely on someone sending you an email inquiry you are throwing away >50% of potential sales.

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny
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