IP Cameras Inside Light Bulbs: A New Market?

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jan 07, 2015

Poor lighting is a common problem for video surveillance.

To solve this, a big trend in the past few years is to add IR lighting inside the camera but how about the other way?

What if 'smart' light bulbs added cameras inside? This is an emerging niche we examine inside this post, looking at the logistical and operational tradeoffs of such an approach.

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Comments (25)

While I agree on your point regarding facial recognition being kind of useless here, I would love to have this for my backyard patio. Currently I use an indoor Axis M1011-W pointed outside towards my patio, and I would much rather have something in the floodlights mounted above it:

My patio from an indoor Axis Camera.

That said, I would want this feeding my VMS constantly, as my wired cameras do. Because the unit must certainly pull power from the light socket, must the light be on all the time, or do the lights come on for motion only?

Because the unit must certainly pull power from the light socket, must the light be on all the time, or do the lights come on for motion only?

The way most 'smart bulbs' work is that you flip the switch 'on' all the time leaving the fixture powered, but the light only comes on when triggered, like you mention with motion or on user defined schedules. I think it is safe to assume Snap will work the same way, as the company's other bulb products work this way.

I contacted Sengled for more tech details (Will video be streamable to external recorders?) but they replied by saying 'they are still working on the final design'.

LED flood lights are already quite expensive, what's another couple hundred bucks. I can't wait to test some of these.

I bought two of these 1200 Lumen LED PAR38 bulbs for my house this summer. I couldn't believe they were (only) $35 each.

Man, are those things legit. I am very impressed with them, and I didn't expect they'd be priced as low as they are. In general, the price for LED bulbs are dropping quite rapidly.

In addition, the downward mount of the bulb also essentially makes the face rec feature pointless.

The obvious answer, it seems to me, is to stick a 360 degree camera in the lightbulb.

A real risk appears to be someone just unscrewing it and walking away with the bulb, which at the very least defeats any security value the device provides.

Assuming they bring their oven mitts. And it's not like the average light bulb has that much less resistance to vandalism than, say, a plastic dome camera has.

Ari, I think the 360 camera in a lightbulb idea is valuable for general surveillance but I doubt it will help for face recognition as it will make the effective coverage range for getting detailed faces very small.

Even worse, I think they will stick with 720p resolution in order to have strong WDR; so facial recognition will not be a feasible option. Anyhow, I think it will be fit more in SOHO.

Ari,

LED lights generate far less heat than incandescents. I doubt you would need oven mitts to unscrew one, even when it is lit.

I have probably 15 LED bulbs installed, and they do get hot. This is why you see giant heat sinks on most of them. Now, no, they don't get incandescent hot, but if you mistakenly grab it by the heat sink, it's going to hurt.

Lifx has a good graphic of temperature measurements of a bunch of bulbs. The glass isn't crazy hot. The heat sinks? Ouch.

Cree has a new A19 bulb that does away with the traditional heat sink at the bottom, so you don't burn your hands unsrewing it, less weight and a more traditional look to it....

http://creebulb.com/products/standard-a-type/the-new-60-watt-replacement-soft-white-led-bulb

I know you are talking residential applications here, but allow me to expand the subject a bit:

On the very high end, Totus is using 360-cams inside their LED fixtures.

At one location about five years ago, I outfitted a CS50N Sony box camera with an optional Wireless LAN card inside a track light fixture. Very flexible solution for cameras that neded to be moved around a lot.

I can't imagine using a screw-in camera for a corporate customer. If I were Dropcam then I might buy the company and put my name on it, though!

Hello Bob. Thanks for mentioning Totus.

Bob, have you used Totus? I am curious about its market acceptance and how people justify the cost / complexity of a 'super' lamp post.

In addition, the downward mount of the bulb also essentially makes the face rec feature pointless.

If the light can be activated by motion detection, you might have a chance. All but the most seasoned criminals can't help looking directly up at a startling and unexpected light source.

Of course the camera would dial the gain down preemptivley to avoid over-exposing the startled... Yes, it would.

I honestly had this idea a couple of years ago, but with a small battery in the light to try and extend runtime to when power was off. Or, a wifi-controlled light so you could leave power on, but control the lights.

if they can get the price point right I bet they sell the crap out of them.

How do you all feel about this being WiFi based? It seems few really like / use WiFi IP cameras in general, but now we are going to use WiFi lightbulb cameras?

As long as your on the grid, why not go with the flow, i.e. Powerline/Home Plug?

Because powerline is even less commonly used than WiFi for IP video.

I started a new discussion on this here: Have You Used Powerline Networking For IP Cameras?

I tried this a couple of years ago, I modified a low cost Ethernet over power adapter to work with a light socket and shoved it into a jiffy box... it worked well. You'd need some other way to switch the light on and off as the circuit would need to be left on all the time to power the camera. Biggest problem was that I couldn't figure out a way to make it look nice while keeping it simple to install.

At my work (medium sized community college) we have existing parking lots with parking lot area lights and over grown tree canopy. The campus is retrofiting the area lights to LEDs for energy efficiency.

Most parking lots use timeclocks or computer based controllers driving large relay contactors so the poles only have power from sunset to sunrise.

Some fixtures have solutions that act like a controlled switch for each light fixture so the pole always has power, just like the street lights along public roads. Generally, the blue can (electric eye) on the top of the fixture is replaced with a computer controlled relay.

I haven't seen any ethernet over power solutions for industrial voltages (480v or 277v, 3 phase power), just home based 110v inline sockets. I would assume they would not work well with all our 3 phase motors, (elevators, AC pumps, etc.) and thru power transformers.

I'm waiting for the showerhead cam myself. Of course, I can only think of one or two applications that arent related to security.

Got a deal on this one in Sochi...

A potential issue with the all-in-one solution here is what happens if one part of the light or camera goes bad? I know that LED bulbs are incredibly long-lasting compared to their incandescent counterparts but certainly there is some reason to consider that a camera would need to be replaced as a result of a bad bulb. It will be interesting to see how the warranty clauses read once this is released.

I agree with the post about the potential in the residential market. Easy installation and no extra wiring is definitely appealing.

[UPDATE]

Sendled is now for sale: $149 each bulb camera, the production example now claims a 1080p camera unit.

The company has released this demo video showing the app and example screenshots:

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