Axis App Aims to Disrupt Timelapse Recording (Timelapse ACAP)

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jan 16, 2014, 12:00am EST

Capturing timelapse images seems like a simple thing, but why is it so expensive? Especially useful for construction sites, timelapse allow a year's worth of dramatic progress to be seen very quickly. However, timelapse services typically cost thousands from speciality providers, leaving many security vendors wondering what's so difficult?

Mobile app developer EyeSpyFX has created an Axis ACAP application [link no longer available], simply called 'Timelapse ACAP' that both simplifies and greatly reduces the cost of timelapse. In this note, we take a closer look at the offering, examine its strengths and shortcomings, and compare it to alternatives.

Timelapse ACAP Explained

By integrating an iOS devices and Axis cameras, Timelapse is a no-frills, low cost utility. No hardware other than a networked Axis ACAP capable camera and an Apple device are needed to use it. A sample clip from the utility is shown below:

A 'traditional' niche for timelapse has been building projects, like the Kuwaiti Highrise shown below. The following clip IS NOT an example Timelapse ACAP clip, but illustrates its basic use in construction:

Timelapse app uses the camera's onboard app to upload snapshots taken on an interval (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 mins, 1 hr, or 24 hr) to remote EyeSpyFX servers, which are then downloaded by a mobile viewing app an Apple device, assembled into a movie and stored in the local device.

The solution uses two pieces of software, both from EyeSpyFX:

  • Viewer for Axis Cameras: This app is loaded onto an iOS device and is the 'host app' to assembles the timelapse pictures. Cost: $4.99
  • Timelapse ACAP [link no longer available]: This is a 'In App Purchase', that is pushed to the camera from the Viewer app. Cost: $49.99

Inexpensive Solution

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The onetime software cost of EyeSPyFX's Timelapse ACAP is ~$55, compared to the ~$3000+/year of other offerings.  These costs do not include the cost of cameras, housings, power options, storage, or connectivity, but in general these elements are more expensive from specialty timelapse/construction camera vendors than off the shelf hardware from security vendors.

In most cases, a service contract must be signed with specialty vendor, and even if the timelapse service is not used, it costs money. On the other hand, EyeSpyFX Timelapse is a one time cost and cameras can be 'repurposed' for general surveillance use upon completion of the project.

A Showstopping Limitation?

However, EyeSpyFX's solution will not work in all applications traditional construction cameras are used. We reached out to the developer for comment on the differences:

"This app may not be suitable for Construction, as the time interval is not long. Generally construction cams need to run over a long time like years" and "Each EyeSpyFX time-lapse account stores 370 images. Once the 370th image is saved the first is deleted…and so it scrolls on. When a user requests a Timelapse video from the  app the images are sent to the iPhone and compiled by the app as a movie. The user then has the movie for that moment saved on their phone. The images on the server continue to add and delete as time goes by."

Essentially the biggest limitation of the ACAP is that it is limited to 370 frames, because of limited storage on the company's servers. If the interval is set to collect images once per day, the maximum length of the clip is 370 days. Construction projects can run for multiple years, so EyeSpyFX's solution is limited to small, rapid projects.

Alternatives

Despite being a niche application, there are a number of specialty and security-related vendors to chose from for Timelapse clips. Some of these include:

  • EarthCAM: Aside from being a leader in construction video services, the company offers a full slate of 'turnkey' packages including equipment, installation, and cloud services. (We profiled EarthCAM in this note.) While offering a full suite of resolution options (including Gigapixel), the solutions range in cost between $6,000 - $45,000 and carry a monthly service cost.
  • OxBlue: Another construction market specialty vendor is OxBlue. The company does not offer as many high-resolution options (ie: no Gigapixel, but 3MP - 5MP), but is modestly less expensive than EarthCAM, with monthly services starting at ~$500 per month and with monthly contracts.
  • Mobotix: A full featured and relatively inexpensive timelapse feature is found as a default option in Mobotix's MxControlCenter or MxEasy.  While this is a default feature, it is hindered both by the relatively high cost of Mobotix cameras, cumbersome configuration, and relative difficulty the interface for casual end-users. 
  • StarDot: Another 'security vendor' timelapse offering is StarDot's Time Vision [link no longer available] offering. A NetCam XL camera (~$800 - ~$1400) is combined with a hosted service costing ~$175 per month.
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