Oct 2010

WiLife video system (aka Nanny Cam)

Today's post is about the Logitech WiLife Digital Video Securityir. Recently there has been an increase in usage among parents using hidden video surveillance systems to watch over their young ones while they are being cared for by nannies and babysitters.  Sadly, you can't trust everyone.  Soon after our son was born, we had a need to hire a nanny.  Thus, the need for some sort of surveillance.  For the past year my wife and I have been using this system and it's been working great for us.  I did a LOT of research prior to getting this system.  Some of our requirements was that it was simple to install and that the videos can be seen while away from home.  I ended up choosing the WiLife System by Logitech.  I will take you through the in's and out's of the system.  Please note that this is not sponsored at all by Logitech or anyone.  I find myself recommending this system to all my friends and family, so I thought I'd share it with you.
The system is comprised of two components, the master system and the cameras.  The master system is software that is installed onto your own computer.  It's the brains of the system that links all the cameras together and records all the videos.  The system only records when motion is detected, so you can leave it on all day/night without necessarily taking up a whole bunch of disk space.  When disk space becomes full, the old recorded videos will get deleted.  You have the option of saving specific video clips for things you want to permanently save.  Keep in mind that the more cameras you have, the more powerful PC is needed.  When viewing recorded videos, you can narrow down by camera and time of day.  It's a very simple screen control.


The systems allow for some granularity when it comes to  camera control.  You can adjust brightness, motion sensitivity, recording times, and video resolution.  It even offers limited pan & zoom.  You also have the option of sending email alerts.

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There are 3 types of cameras to choose from:
indoor, outdoor, and spy.  The spy camera is a hidden camera that looks like a digital clock.  My biggest wish is that Logitech would come out with better looking or a larger variety of cameras.  The system supports a maximum of 6 cameras which you can mix n' match.  The indoor camera comes with a base stand where you can sit it on a shelf or table or you also have the option of mounting against a window via a suction cup.  Each camera will run you about $200.

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The neat thing about the cameras is that you don't need to run cables throughout the house, nor do you need to setup a wireless network.  The master system and the cameras communicate to each other via the electrical system in your house.  The catch is, the cameras need to plug directly into the wall outlet and not into a surge protector or any sort of power strip.  If you do, you might run into problems with the system seeing the camera.  In my house, I have 3 cameras downstairs and 2 upstairs.  Originally I put the computer (running the master system software) in a downstairs office and everything worked great.  Later on, I moved this computer upstairs, but for some reason, issues with the system seeing all the cameras started.  Needless to say, the PC is downstairs again.  My word of advice, before you go buy a bunch of cameras, test one out first from different parts of your house to make sure you don't have any connectivity issues.
Now that the system is up and running, how do you view the videos remotely?  WiLife offers an online system that allows you to view live video feeds of your system for free.  If you want to view recorded videos, and/or store videos online, that will come at a price of about $80.00 per year with  a "platinum" membership.  If you have a Windows based cell phone, you should be able to access the WiLife website to view live feeds of your home.  In our case, we have iPhones which do not have a native way of viewing our cameras.  As a workaround, we use this service called "
LogMeIn".  I installed this on both my home PC and my iPhone.  The PC software is free, but the iPhone app is not.  This service allows me to remote control my home pc using my iPhone.  By doing this, it's as if I'm sitting in front of the PC at home.  Of course the video lags a bit, but it works!


The main drawback of the system is that there is no sound in any of the videos.  You can see, but can't hear what's going on.  Another is the price.  With multiple cameras, the overall system can get pricey.  The starter kit will run about $280 which is the master software and one camera. The advantage is that you don't need to run any video cables anywhere, just plug into the nearest power outlet.  Personally, I think this is one of the best systems out there.  It's just peace of mind for knowing what's going on at home with your little ones.  Let me know what you think of this post.