Ubiquiti Super Low Cost Surveillance

Author: John Honovich, Published on Oct 10, 2011

Wireless manufacturer Ubiquiti has been extremely successful at bringing low cost products to the wireless networking market. They are now attempting to do the same in surveillance with their upcoming AirVision VMS and AirCam line of cameras. In this update we examine how these cameras compare to other low-cost offerings and whether this solution is a viable option for users.

UPDATE: We now have full test results of Ubiquiti's first AirCam.

AirCam

The AirCam line consists of three megapixel cameras:

  • AirCam bullet camera
  • AirCam Dome
  • AirCam Mini cube camera

Currently, the line is 720p/1MP, H.264-only, supporting RTSP. All three of these models have fixed lenses (4.0mm for the bullet and dome, and 3.6mm for the cube). Lenses cannot be changed. The line is currently not ONVIF-compliant, but Ubiquiti is considering this addition.

Pricing for all 3 cameras is estimated to be between $100 and $125. We expect their to be minimal discounts for dealers as has been the case for their wireless gear.

The AirCam line is color-only using a 1/4" image sensor, which will be a major limitation for some installations, especially outdoors. The line also uses non-standard, passive 12-24V PoE, which is not 802.3af compliant, which some users will find an annoyance, since standard switches cannot be used. There are three ways to handle this:

  • Install a separate injector for each camera required: This method is simplest, but requires a lot of power strip space. It may be suitable for very small camera count installs.
  • 802.3af adapter: Ubiquiti offers an inexpensive ($19) adapter which converts compliant PoE to 16V at the far end. This allows the use of standard switches at the head end, but requires installers to attach a dongle at the far end, which may be inconvenient, depending on the location.
  • Use a passive PoE switch. These switches are not all that common. A thread on Ubiquti's forum discusses sources.

AirVision

The first product in Ubiquiti's surveillance line is the AirVision VMS software. Specifically speaking, AirVision is made up of two components: the recording server, which is based on open source surveillance software ZoneMinder, and the client, which is a customized user interface by Ubiquiti. According to Ubiquiti, users do not have to interact with ZoneMinder. All tasks are performed through their client, which is browser-based. The server side runs on both Windows and Linux.

The client is designed to be simple to use. A count of cameras and NVRs and their current connected/disconnected states is shown for quick health checks. Maps showing camera locations may be created, so operators may more easily select specific cameras. A statistics screen shows disk usage and processor load, as well as the distribution of activity across cameras, so users may see which cameras are most used. Ubiquiti has uploaded the following video demo of its client software:

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

AirVision is free with the purchase of cameras, with no recurring charges. In an extremely rare move for free software, it is also capable of connecting to and monitoring multiple NVRs in one instance of the client. Most free, or even low-cost, VMS software requires you to log in to each server separately.

The main limitation of AirVision today is that it only supports the AirCam line of IP cameras. Since it's based on ZoneMinder, which is open platform, we believe it wouldn't be too difficult to open to other cameras, but there are no current plans for this, at least in early releases.

Competitive Comparison

Compared even to other low-cost options, the AirCam line is cheap. In our recent survey of low-cost camera manufacturers, we found Compro's IP70 cube camera ($119 online) to be the lowest-cost megapixel option. The AirCam is about 20% less than this. Compared to low-cost leaders such as Vivotek, it's even less expensive. To move to a megapixel resolution bullet camera, the Vivotek IP8332, users should expect to pay ~$350 online, a 250% premium.

Neither of these cameras is a direct comparison, however. The Compro IP70 is true day/night witha mechanical cut filter, as is the Vivotek IP8332, which also has built-in IR illumination. Additionally, both these competitive models are 802.3af-compliant, which simplifies installation.

Recommendations

Based on pricing alone, the Ubiquiti line will be highly attractive for those seeking a very low cost surveillance solution. We will test AirCam and AirVision in the near future, once product is readily available. Until that time, we cannot speak for quality or usability. 

We see a number of important objections:

  • Lack of day/night cameras: Without day/night capability, placing the AirCam outdoors may produce unusable video. Even in indoor locations, users have come to expect day/night capability.
  • Lack of Varifocal lens support: Most professional users want to optimize the FoV for the given scene which is not possible with Ubiquiti's cameras unchangeable lenses.
  • Lack of PoE support: When deploying more than a few cameras, it will be clunky to install a power adapter for each camera.
  • Lack of third-party or ONVIF support: The lack of support for third-party cameras will be an issue for many users, especially considering the line is made up of only three cameras. This leaves no room for special applications or even PTZs. If Ubiquiti were to add ONVIF support to the cameras, we expect sales would jump, as it is one of the lowest-cost megapixel cameras on the market.

That noted, Ubiquiti should not be underestimated. They have disrupted the wireless world with an aggressive and successful campaign of providing super low cost products. They might be able to do the same in surveillance.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...
Uniview Intrusion Analytics and VMD Tested on Aug 13, 2018
IPVM's IP Camera Analytics Shootout featuring Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision created some ill will with a Uniview distributor who...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Aug 09, 2018
A camera's focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can cause important problems. In this guide, we explain focus issues and proper...
Hikvision PanoVu Mini Tested (Multi-imager + PTZ For ~$500) on Aug 07, 2018
Hikvision has released their first PanoVu Mini multi imager, the PanoVu DS-2PT3326IZ-DE3, with four 1080p imagers, including a PTZ and integrated...
Bluebox Video UK Startup Profile on Aug 06, 2018
One UK startup, Bluebox Video has designed, developed and is manufacturing their own streaming video wall appliances. To the right is a picture of...
Zenitel/ Stentofon Turbine IP Intercom Tested on Aug 06, 2018
IPVM has published reports testing an Axis door station and a Hikvision door station (tested). However, those companies are new entrants to this...
Panasonic 9MP Panoramic Fisheye Tested (WV-X4571L) on Aug 02, 2018
Panasonic has released their latest fisheye camera, the WV-X4571L, with 12MP sensor and 9MP resolution, claiming "extreme image quality" under...
Genetec Self-Discloses Critical Vulnerability on Jul 31, 2018
In an unprecedented move for the video surveillance industry, Genetec has self-disclosed a critical software vulnerability across Security Center...
Milestone / Canon Spinout Arcules Cloud Launch on Jul 30, 2018
Canon and Milestone's VSaaS Startup spinoff Arcules launched their platform at Google Cloud Next. IPVM spoke with CEO Andreas Pettersson about the...
IP Camera Analytics Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview on Jul 30, 2018
Video analytics are hot again. But whose analytics really work? IPVM bought and tested Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha and Hikvision cameras,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Chinese OEM Avycon Gets ADI Push on Aug 15, 2018
Who is Avycon? An American company? A Korean company? A couple of guys relabelling Chinese products? The latter is the best explanation. While...
Backboxes for Video Surveillance Tutorial on Aug 15, 2018
Backboxes are a necessity in surveillance, whether for managing cable whips, recessing cameras, adding wireless radios. But it can be confusing to...
Genetec Stratocast / Comcast 'Motion Insights' Examined on Aug 15, 2018
Comcast recently announced "SmartOffice Motion Insights", an extension to their Genetec OEMed cloud video service (covered by IPVM here). This...
SimpliSafe Violating California, Florida, and Texas Licensing Laws on Aug 14, 2018
IPVM has verified that DIY security system provider SimpliSafe, founded in 2006 and acquired in June of 2018 at a billion dollar valuation, is...
Ban of Dahua and Hikvision Is Now US Gov Law on Aug 13, 2018
The US President has signed the 2019 NDAA into law, banning the use of Dahua and Hikvision (and their OEMs) for the US government, for US...
Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...
Nortek Sues SDS, Battle Over Unpaid Bill and Cancelled Lines on Aug 13, 2018
Nortek and SDS legal battle continues. As IPVM reported, SDS sued Nortek alleging bribery and antitrust violation. However, Wave fired back at SDS,...
Uniview Intrusion Analytics and VMD Tested on Aug 13, 2018
IPVM's IP Camera Analytics Shootout featuring Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision created some ill will with a Uniview distributor who...
ADT Employees Protest ADT CEO on Aug 10, 2018
So many ADT employees were so upset with ADT's CEO speech reported on by IPVM, that ADT's CEO was forced to send a mass email to employees to...
Axis / Avigilon Legal Battle Rises on Aug 09, 2018
In what is shaping up to be high-powered, will-not-back-down battle, Axis and Avigilon are squaring off in multiple legal contests. In 2017, IPVM...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact