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Wyze Cam v2: A wireless smart home camera

Wyze Cam

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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I was first introduced to Wyze Cam in January 2018 and I bought one right away. It was billed as a wireless smart home camera and you couldn’t beat the price … it was $26 at Amazon! I tried out that first one and was incredibly disappointed. It kept dropping my wireless network and didn’t seem to have any smarts to it. I returned it.

Nine months later I was out with a fellow techie and we were discussing our latest gadgets. He brought up the Wyze Cam v2. He couldn’t say enough positive things about it. He made sure to point out that it was the second version that he had. I ordered one the same day and it was the same price, so not a major purchase. [Note: You can buy it directly from the manufacturer for only $20 plus shipping!]

The new Wyze Cam v2 was great. There were no problems connecting to my wireless network and the software was much smarter than the previous version, detecting movement on the screen and drawing a green box around the motion that it recognized using new AI.

Like the original version, the v2 is a small cube that looks like a robotic eye. It records in full HD at 15fps (frames per second) as opposed to 10fps on the original. It has two-way audio so you can talk and listen live. It also has night vision for picking out images and motion in the dark.

According to the website, a feature I was not familiar with is “Smart Sound Recognition: Wyze Cam recognizes the unique sounds of smoke alarms and CO monitors and alerts you to these specific emergencies.” That is a nice safety feature to have.

The cam includes free 14-day rolling cloud storage where events are automatically saved in the cloud for you. It also uses end-to-end encryption so your privacy is safe. Additionally, you can pop in a microSD card (not included, but very affordable) and you can continuously record locally; when it gets full, it just overwrites the card. You can record in HD or SD if you want to save space on your card. You can even set a time frame and intervals to easily create a time lapse that can be recorded to the microSD card.

There is a magnetic base and it includes adhesive tape and a metal bracket for mounting, so you have quite a few options there. It is meant for indoor use only.

The Wyze Cam only uses the 2.4GHz frequency from wireless routers, so no getting it on your 5GHz band.

It does not have a battery, so must be plugged into a power source. It comes with a 6 foot power cable, but can be extended to 11 feet with the mounting kit (sold separately at Wyze for $3).

Wyze has it’s own proprietary app that is available for Android and Apple/iOS. The app is pretty straightforward. You can see your cameras live or go back to a point in time. It can notify you whenever there is movement and you can watch those notifications instantly. You can even record or take photos directly from the live stream

Wyze Cam v2 even works with Alexa and the Google Assistant (if you have a compatible screen) so you can pull up your camera on a larger screen to view it. I generally just use the app.

All in all, I think this is a great security tool, especially for the price. If you have been debating buying a wireless security camera, then this is the one for you.

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Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found at gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Smart as a doorbell

Doorbell

This post was originally published in the May 19, 2017 edition of the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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I recently had the opportunity to test out two products available from Verizon Wireless, among other locations: the Canary security system, a video camera with motion alerts, and the Ring Video Doorbell, which is a one-way video, two-way audio doorbell system.

Canary has been on my wish list for quite some time, so when Verizon Wireless offered for me to try it out, I was looking forward to it. I already have a couple of IP cameras (wirelessly connected cameras) in my house, but the Canary is a security device, not simply a camera.

The Canary requires Internet connection. It has the usual HD camera with night vision and a 147-degree viewing angle with three times digital zoom.

Where the Canary begins to differentiate itself from other cameras is the built-in, 90-decibel siren and that it also tracks temperature, humidity and air quality. I could not pull that information to my Amazon Echo, so it appears to simply be useful information to know.

The Canary of course has native apps for both iOS (Apple) and Android smartphones.

What does it do? When I talk about it, I talk about it as a security system, not a camera system.

When opening the app, it does not automatically open to a live view of what the camera sees but rather a home page listing the environmental settings (temperature, humidity, air quality) with options to view live or view your timeline.

The timeline is pretty cool. Canary is set up to chirp at you (via your smartphone) when there is activity or motion in front of it. Other IP cameras can do motion detection, but they generally require some setup to enable that functionality. It also records a snippet of video around that notification so you can view, via your timeline, the video associated with the activity the camera saw.

Canary is a learning system and is supposed to have the ability to learn your schedule and automatically adjust the mode to home or away, but I have to admit it never thought I was home, so every movement in front of the camera triggered a notification. I have read that pets can trigger motion detection as well.

I had set my settings for when I was home to be private and not record video or give me notifications, but again, this didn’t work as set up.

According to Canary: “When set to private, Canary’s camera, microphone, and motion detection capabilities are fully disabled. Only temperature, humidity, and air quality information are uploaded to the Canary Cloud.”

Without membership, you get 24 hours of recorded video. With membership, starting at $9.99 per month, you get 30 days of stored video and reimbursement of your homeowners or renters insurance deductible up to $1,000 in case of a burglary, plus an extended two-year warranty for your Canary.

Unlike the Canary, the Ring Video Doorbells is meant to be installed at your front door. Ring Video Doorbell had never really interested me in the past, but I wanted to at least test it out.

I was very impressed. It is the product that I didn’t know I wanted or needed.

What does a video doorbell do, you may ask?

When someone rings your doorbell, you are notified on your smartphone (Android and iOS) and have the option to view the ringer through the installed HD camera in the doorbell. It also provides two-way audio so you can ask them what they want if you don’t recognize them.

Mind you, you do not even need to be home to answer the ring. I could be out and my kids alone at home and the doorbell rings; I can answer it, send the ringer away and notify my kids via phone that they should not answer the door.

You can turn on motion detection and get a notification each time there is movement in front of your doorbell, and you can always look in live.

With a paid account of $3 per month, it provides the ability to have all of your alerted events recorded and viewable in a cloud account for up to 6 months, plus a one-year warranty. You can even download or share the events — useful if it recorded an activity outside your door that you’d like to share with police. The free account simply doesn’t record anything.

You need to spend an additional $30 for the Chime accessory if you want it to ring a sound in your home. It’s free if you just want the ring on your smartphone. However, it is fully compatible with the doorbell you may already have wired, and it can use that doorbell for inside notification.

One drawback that I found with Ring was that it needs charging, even when hardwired.

If it is hardwired to your existing doorbell chime, that will hopefully keep it charged. But there is the following message on Ring’s website: “Note: Depending on usage and temperature, the power from the doorbell wires may not be enough to keep your Ring charged, and the battery percentage may drop slightly over time.”

From the forum posts I read, it sounds like you will have to take it inside to charge every once in awhile. Ring provides a proprietary screw and driver so that it cannot simply be removed by anyone who wants to steal it.

Unless you don’t mind a lot of false-alarm beeps, I would hold off on the Canary for now. But give the Ring Video Doorbell a try. It provides a fun, new experience and added security to your front door entry.

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Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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