Rebooting Remote Cameras Simply and Economically

By: John Grocke, Published on Aug 06, 2013

It happens all the time... An IP camera, access control panel, etc. loses connectivity or hangs up and needs to be rebooted at a distant facility. Dispatching a service technician to drive out to reboot the router or device is time consuming and costly. Remote network or power management can be expensive and doesn't work if you can't connect, or if the ISP changes your "static" IP address or port forwarding settings in the router.

One IPVM member, James Talmage [link no longer available], faced this dilemma and solved the issue with a clever and very cost-effective solution, the 3Gstore Remote Power Switch.

3GStore Remote Power Switch Overview

3gstore.com's 2-outlet remote power switch sells for just under $100 and has the following features:

  • Remotely reset or turn on/off devices via Google Talk [link no longer available] chat software. Even if the router's IP address changes, the remote power switch can still be communicated with, as long as it has an internet connection.
  • Web Interface to monitor status, view logs, and change advanced settings & configurations via a web browser.
  • Create up to 20 automatic power schedules to turn devices on and off at given times. 

Common Usage in Security / Surveillance

With two remotely resettable outlets, the most common scenario for security / surveillance users would be:

  • Use one outlet to power and remotely reboot a DSL router or cable modem automatically after losing internet connectivity for a specified time.
  • Connect the second outlet to the IP camera's PoE midspan or network switch to reboot the camera(s) and other devices connected to the switch.

Below is a video of the manufacturer describing the switch unit:

  

Remote Power Switch in Action

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Here is a video showing the switch automatically recycling power to a router after a defined period of network inactivity:

Here is a video showing how to configure the switch, operating the switch remotely via Google Talk to reset devices, and determining the network that the switch is connected to:

Simple Operation

Once the configuration is complete and Google Talk set up, it is very easy to control the unit remotely with simple chat commands as shown below. (Note: IP addresses redacted for security purposes)

 

Caveats and Limitations:

  • The unit only has 2 outlets, but could possibly be expanded by using power strips.
  • There is no UPS built-in, it would need to be plugged into an external UPS in order to operate on standby power.
  • The unit only supports Microsoft Windows operating systems for configuration and setup, but it was indicated in a product video that it could also be done with Mac in a VMware environment.
  • The USB port on the unit is for charging purposes only, it cannot connect to the network and cannot be reset or turned on and off.
  • The unit is not UL listed, but it is FCC and CE certified and has been tested to be compliant with FCC 47 CFR Part 2 and Part 15 Class B equipment regulations.
  • The device only supports Google Talk, which appears to be transitioning into Google Hangouts.  We contacted a representative from 3Gstore, and they indicated that they would "redevelop if need be". Previous versions of this switch ran on Microsoft Messenger prior to Google Talk. At the time of publication, Google Talk is still available [link no longer available] for Windows, Mac and Linux computers but has been replaced with Hangouts in the Google Play store for Android.

Lower Cost Single Outlet Option

For a single device or to just to automatically reboot a single troublesome DSL router or cable modem when internet connection is lost, consideration could be given to 3Gstore's $70 single outlet unit, which operates from an iPhone or Android app instead of via chat. However, the additional $30 for the two-outlet version offers double the capacity and greater control and flexibility.

Other options:

In our research, we have not found any similar units in the same price range for small remote connections or home/small business applications. Raritan has some offerings in the $500 range, and Middle Atlantic's RLNK units sells for about $800, although these units have more outlets, other functionality and are better suited for larger installations such as controlling an entire equipment rack with servers, switches and equipment power supplies. APC has remote management capabilities for many of their UPS devices, but we could not find a small APC surge suppression or non-UPS unit similar to the 3Gstore Switch.  

Thanks to James Talmadge of JR Technical for the tip on this device. If you have any suggestions or ideas that you feel might make a good article, please e-mail them to IPVM.

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