Testing Smartphones as Surveillance Cameras

By: Ethan Ace, Published on May 24, 2012

Using smartphones as surveillance cameras is one of the biggest trends in 2012, with multiple manufacturers announcing apps. These apps allow live video to be streamed from the phone's camera directly to a VMS, for viewing and recording by central operators, providing live coverage of incidents as they occur. While most of these apps are proprietary to the VMS, at least one open platform option is available

In this report, we test one of these apps, AirBeam, for iOS. This brief video overviews the app, streaming video in real-time to a VMS system.

There are several key limitations to remember when considering AirBeam as part of your surveillance system:

  • Only HTTP streaming, with no RTSP or ONVIF support. HTTP streaming is not widely supported among major VMS manufacturers, though some support it via generic drivers. Lower-cost VMSs are more likely to allow direct entry of an HTTP URL. The lack of RTSP and ONVIF support is likely a major limitation for the majority of users.
  • Only MJPEG encoding, with no support for H.264, resulting in greater bandwidth and storage usage. Given the periodic nature of the mobile app's use, however, this likely not a large problem. Wi-Fi networks should not suffer issues from a single MJPEG stream, and occasional use to record incidents will likely result in limited impact to storage.
  • The app will not work over 3G/4G connections, only Wi-Fi. According to the AirBeam FAQ, this is due to incoming connection restrictions by wireless carriers. This limits its use to in-building only, or in outdoor areas with wireless hotspots. This may be impractical in many campus settings, and likely makes it completely unusable in public spaces, such as public streets, demonstrations, or events. 
  • Each AirBeam device requires a camera license. This may become cost prohibitive if multiple devices are to be used. Other platforms, such as DVTel, plan to offer license packs or concurrent licenses, so each device does not consume a license, despite its periodic use.

Key Benefits

Overall, AirBeam worked well, and simply. 

  • Setup was simple, requiring only <IP ADDRESS>/video to be entered as the camera's URL in our VMS, along with the port and username and password, if anything other than default is used. Once the device is added as a camera, connection is very quick. After starting the app, video is received by the VMS in a matter of seconds.
  • Framerate and resolution are configurable, up the 720p resolution at 30 frames per second. Both front and rear cameras may be used, but HD resolution is only available when using the rear camera.
  • UPnP is available for automatic port forwarding, making the camera available on the public internet. UPnP will not work in all instances, however, as we have discussed previously, requiring users to manually forward ports should it fail.

Applications for AirBeam

AirBeam's lack of ONVIF/RTSP and 3G/4G support are the most limiting factors of the application. For organizations using VMSs without HTTP support, including most major manufacturers, it is simply not an option. Furthermore, the lack of 3G/4G support prevents it from being used in public or wide open spaces without Wi-Fi access, limiting its adoption by many police and security forces.

However, there are two potential fits where AirBeam may work well:

  • In-Facility guard tours: A guard may use the app to send video of incidents as they occur, or of damage to the facility, so conditions may be recorded. This limits the need for separate documentation, since video may be sent and stored in real-time. 
  • Gaming: In casinos, the mobile app will allow staff on the floor of the casino to observe tables unobtrusively, in real-time, allowing security staff more or better angles to determine if cheating is taking place. 

App Overview Video

This video walks users through the configuration of the app, including framerate and resolution, UPnP settings, and audio and motion detection options.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Cambium Presents cnVision Surveillance Wireless on May 12, 2020
Cambium presented its cnVision wireless for surveillance at the April 2020...
Video Analytics 101 on Mar 16, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals of video surveillance...
Euklis Presents AI Analytics on May 05, 2020
Euklis presented its AI facial recognition, LPR, and object recognition...
Video Surveillance History on May 06, 2020
The video surveillance market has changed significantly since 2000, going...
Leica Launches LIDAR / Thermal / IP Camera on Mar 04, 2020
Swiss manufacturer Leica is launching what it calls a "real-time reality...
Video Surveillance Cameras 101 on Feb 25, 2020
Cameras come in many shapes, sizes and specifications. This 101 examines the...
VMS 101 on Mar 03, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals about video management...
Remote Network Access for Video Surveillance Guide on Jul 27, 2020
Remotely accessing surveillance systems is key in 2020, with more and more...
Video Surveillance Architecture 101 on Feb 18, 2020
Video surveillance can be designed and deployed in a number of ways. This 101...
Mobiqam Presents Battery Powered & Quick Setup Video Surveillance on Jun 12, 2020
Mobiqam presented its battery-powered, quick setup video surveillance system...
VSaaS 101 on Mar 25, 2020
Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) is the common industry term for cloud...
AndroVideo Presents Edge AI Face Recognition Cameras on Jun 26, 2020
AndroVideo presented its AI at the edge face recognition cameras at the May...
NetApp Video Surveillance Profile on Mar 09, 2020
NetApp is increasing its efforts in video surveillance and told IPVM...
Sony Launches AI Camera Sensors on May 18, 2020
Weeks after exiting the branded video surveillance business, Sony is making a...
Video Surveillance 101 Book Released on Jul 07, 2020
IPVM's unique introduction to video surveillance series is now available as a...

Recent Reports

Genetec CEO Declares "We Don't Negotiate Payment With Patent Trolls" on Aug 11, 2020
Are patent trolls like terrorists? Genetec's CEO is coming out strongly...
Hanwha AI Analytics Camera Tested on Aug 11, 2020
Hanwha has released their Wisenet P AI camera, adding person and vehicle...
Alabama Schools Million Dollar Hikvision Fever Camera Deal on Aug 11, 2020
The Baldwin County, Alabama public schools purchased a $1 million, 144-camera...
Dahua Taunts Australian Government, Continues To Sell Illegal Fever Cameras on Aug 10, 2020
Dahua is effectively taunting the Australian government by continuing to sell...
HID Releases VertX Replacement Aero on Aug 10, 2020
HID is replacing two established and broadly supported types of access...
NDAA Compliant Video Surveillance Whitelist on Aug 10, 2020
This report aggregates video surveillance products that manufacturers have...
Telpo China Temperature Tablets Tested on Aug 10, 2020
The provider for overseas companies ranging from Canon Singapore to US'...
Dangerous Hikvision Fever Camera Showcased by Chilean City on Aug 07, 2020
Deploying a fever camera outdoors, in the rain, with no black body, is...
"Grand Slam" For Pelco's PE Firm, A Risk For Motorola on Aug 07, 2020
The word "Pelco" and "grand slam" have not been said together for many years....
FLIR Stock Falls, Admits 'Decelerating' Demand For Temperature Screening on Aug 07, 2020
Is the boom going to bust for temperature screening? FLIR disappointed...
VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Dogs For Coronavirus Screening Examined on Aug 06, 2020
While thermal temperature screening is the surveillance industry's most...
ADT Slides Back, Disappointing Results, Poor Commercial Performance on Aug 06, 2020
While ADT had an incredible start to the week, driven by the Google...
AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial on Aug 06, 2020
One of the most powerful yet often underappreciated characters in all...
SIA Coaches Sellers on NDAA 889B Blacklist Workarounds on Aug 05, 2020
Last month SIA demanded that NDAA 899B "must be delayed". Now that they have...