Testing No Config IP Camera Remote Viewing (StarVedia)

Author: John Honovich, Published on May 13, 2009

Managed IP Video is hot but one of the key practical problems is making installation simple. While local access is trivial, remote access of IP video can be challenging. Network cameras usually require network configuration, making users deal with technical details like opening up ports in firewalls and setting up dynamic domain names. These are the type of 'little' things that cause people to quit in frustration.

StarVedia is an IP camera manufacturer that provides remote access with no configuration and no knowledge about networking nor even IP addresses (see StarVedia's product demo clip). StarVedia primarily OEMs to Western manufacturers (while they will not disclose who, readers may be familar with their OEM partners marketing 'plug n play' IP cameras).

We have done a detailed test of StarVedia's 202 camera - a standard definition, MPEG-4 cube camera.

Here are the general findings of the StarVedia 202 test:
  • Remote access of the camera was very simple to do without any configuration or knowledge of IP addresses or IT concepts
  • Remote viewing even at very low bandwidth worked smoothly and without problems
  • The camera's quality was sufficient to see general activity but generally not strong enough to see small details
  • Recording and search with the StarVedia VMS is complex and may be difficult for non-technical users

In our premium report, we provide:

  • Daytime indoor and outdoor video clips at 128Kb/s and 1.5Mb/s
  • Nighttime indoor and outdoor video clips at 128kb/s and 1.5BMb/s
  • Screencast explaining the physical setup and components of the offering
  • Screencast explaining the technical issues in configuring DDNS and port forwarding
  • Screencast explaining the use and configuration of the StarVedia 202
  • Bandwidth and Information Security test results

Key Points on the Camera

StarVedia's cameras only works with StarVedia's software. Users cannot mix and match other manufacturer's cameras with StarVedia. StarVedia loads proprietary software on the cameras that is only supported by their VMS software 

From a business perspective, one of the interesting aspects of StarVedia's cameras is that this managed connection/remote access is provided by StarVedia at no ongoing cost. Users simply buy the camera for a price similar to other cube cameras.

StarVedia provides servers and ongoing management of remote connections from StarVedia cameras to customers using their web interface or thick client.

Sample Video from the Camera

Here are a collection of video clips from the camera:

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A few observations on the camera's video quality:

  • I used the defaults on the camera, except for the sharpness which I lowered to 1 from 5. This made a minor difference on a few test runs.
  • The videos look brighter than the actual light in the area during the test. It seems StarVedia is artifically enhancing the light in the scene. This makes it brighter but also causes some distortions.
  • StarVedia seems to be optimizing the camera for very low bandwidth, remote connections. For these conditions (see the 128 Kb/s clips), the video streams consistently, though at an expected lower quality level.

Physical Overview of the Camera

This video explains what components are provided with the camera and the basic physical features of the camera.

Traditional Ways of Enabling Remote Access

To appreciate the value of simplifying remote access, it is important to contrast StarVedia's approach with common means to enable remote access of IP video. In the screencast below, we examine DDNS, port forwarding and Axis's DDNS service. [Note: if you are familiar with these technologies, you can skip this as it is simply an overview.]

Overview of Configuration and Use of the Camera

In this 10 minute screencast, we examine the details of using the 202 in the online portal and StarVedia's provided thick client. As part of this, we discuss issues with firewalls and check bandwidth utilization.

A couple of key points to call out:

  • The only time any configuration or changes needed to be made was when using a personal firewall on the user's PC. The user needs to allow the thick client (CamView) access. This is similar to other desktop applications. If the user cannot install a thick client or open ports on their PC, they can still use the web interface.
  • Non-technical end users may find parts of the web interface confusing or frustrating. These are enumerated in the video.
  • StarVedia offers NAS but I did not test it as I believe setting up NAS arrays are too techically complicated for most end users.

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