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

Best Alternatives to Banned Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 17, 2018
With the US government ban and a growing number of users banning Dahua and Hikvision, one key question is what to use for low cost? While Dahua and...
Integrator Laptop Guide on Oct 16, 2018
This 18-page guide provides guidance and statistics about integrator laptop use. 150 integrators explained to IPVM in detail about their laptops,...
Mysterious Patent Troll 'Secure Cam' Targets Industry, Sues Hanwha, Hikvison, JCI, Panasonic, More on Oct 11, 2018
A company named "Secure Cam," who is actively hiding their ownership, has acquired a slew of video patents and is systematically suing video...
Security System Health Monitoring Usage Statistics 2018 on Oct 09, 2018
How well and quickly do integrators know if devices are offline or broken? New IPVM statistics show that typically no health monitoring is...
IP Camera Installability Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview, Vivotek on Oct 08, 2018
What are the best and worst cameras from an installation standpoint? Which manufacturers make it harder or easier to install their cameras? We...
IACP 2018 Police Show Final Report on Oct 08, 2018
IPVM went to Orlando to cover the 2018 IACP conference, the country's largest police show (about as big as ASIS), examining the 700+...
Last Chance - October 2018 Camera Course on Oct 04, 2018
Today is the last day to register for the October 2018 Camera Course, register now. This is the only independent surveillance camera course,...
Network Cable Testing Guide on Oct 02, 2018
Proper cable installation is key to trouble-free surveillance systems. However, testing is often an afterthought, with problems only discovered...
VMS Mobile App Shootout - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hikvision, Milestone on Oct 01, 2018
Mobile VMS apps are a critical interface for the modern surveillance user. But who does it best and worst? We tested 6 manufacturers - Avigilon,...
Hikvision 4MP Camera Tested (DS-2CD2345FWD-I) on Sep 27, 2018
Hikvision's latest Performance Series / EasyIP 3.0 4MP model, the DS-2CD2345FWD-I, was the top performer in our 4MP shootout, besting rivals from...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Best Alternatives to Banned Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 17, 2018
With the US government ban and a growing number of users banning Dahua and Hikvision, one key question is what to use for low cost? While Dahua and...
Video Quality / Compression Tutorial on Oct 17, 2018
While CODECs, like H.264, H.265, and MJPEG, get a lot of attention, a camera's 'quality' or compression setting has a big impact on overall...
Knightscope Winning Investors, Struggling With Growth on Oct 16, 2018
While Knightscope's new financials show the company only winning 11 new customers in the past 12 months, the company continues to win new...
Integrator Laptop Guide on Oct 16, 2018
This 18-page guide provides guidance and statistics about integrator laptop use. 150 integrators explained to IPVM in detail about their laptops,...
Huawei Admits AI "Bubble" on Oct 16, 2018
A fascinating article from the Chinese government's Global Times: Huawei’s AI ambition to reshape industries. While the Global Times talks about...
ADI's Financials Revealed + W-Box Growth Priority on Oct 15, 2018
  ADI is one of the most powerful distributors in the security industry but how big are they? How much profit do they make? How much do they sell...
Dahua Face Recognition Camera Tested on Oct 15, 2018
Dahua has been one of the industry's most vocal proponents of the value that AI creates: As part of this, Dahua has released a facial...
Amazon Touts Home Security Market Disruption on Oct 15, 2018
Amazon is coming for ADT and all of home security. Indeed, Amazon is advertising this as, in their own words, calling home security a: Inside...
Higher Power PoE 802.3bt Ratified, Impact on Security Products Examined on Oct 12, 2018
Power over Ethernet has become one of the most popular features of many video, access, and other security products. See our PoE for IP Video...
"New Zealand Govt Uses Chinese Cameras Banned In US", Considers Security Audit on Oct 12, 2018
Newsroom NZ has issued a report: "NZ Govt uses Chinese cameras banned in US": This comes after the US federal government banned purchases of...

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