Welcome to the Marine Electronics Forums presented by Panbo and SeaBits.
Security cam cellular connectivity method?
I've enjoyed reading Panbo over the years - so much useful info, well told. Thank you!
I've downsized to a trailerable boat, so now I can worry about it while it's in storage as well as at the dock. I keep it in an individual storage garage when I'm not out cruising. To help me sleep at night, I want to set up a security cam where I can "check in" to see how things look, and/or get notifications on my iPhone if there is activity (normally zero activity unless I am there).
After researching I think I have decided on some Blink XT2 cameras. I'm a privacy nut and the word "cloud" makes me shudder but I guess it's inevitable?
Where I'm getting stuck is how to connect to the Internet. I don't have any access to wi-fi there, so it will need to be cellular (Verizon preferred). I do have 110 power. At first I thought I would use a spare Jetpack, but what I don't like about that option is that they admonish you to unplug it as soon as it is charged (and indeed, a buddy who likes to just leave them plugged in has had several swollen battery failures). Reading the net, they apparently don't work without the battery installed (even if plugged in). I hate to set up a camera just so it can notify me the Jetpack has caught fire...
Although I have 110 power at the storage, bonus if whatever I buy could work via 12-volt house battery bank (vs. small internal battery). Then I could use it in my RV, and/or on the boat while off exploring and boat at anchor. For now let's assume I only need to do this where I have cellular connectivity.
(I did look at the Arlo cellular camera but it got pretty so-so reviews.)
Feel free to let me know if I'm barking up the wrong tree completely.
You definitely have a good base to start from. I have both the Arlo Pro and the Blink XT cameras. Each has their own pros/cons. Both can be tuned enough that they won't eat up too much bandwidth for the cloud side. There are solutions that you could get which leave the recording locally, but if someone breaks in, and sees the camera, you are far less likely to be able to get the footage in any reasonable amount if they can get to the camera. There are also much better post-processing motion features in the cloud enabled devices, as they can add and improve their algorithms in one place - in the cloud - and do a better job of filtering out false positives. But I do understand the concern with having video of private stuff in the cloud.
I have a dedicated Peplink router on the boat for my stuff, which is overkill for your setup. I also agree that using a MiFi / hotspot type device permanently is not the best solution because they were not intended to be left unattended and running 24x7.
I tried to summarize a list of Best Boat Internet Systems based on what I have been recommending the last couple of years. It might be that you could use a piece or two from one of those systems, namely the Netgear LB1120 series. You could pop a SIM in one of these, and run it off of AC or DC (I lopped the connector off mine and run it from my DC bank) and have an ethernet port you can use to connect to a device. If you need a WiFi network, grab a MikroTik hAP AC or a home system like a TP-Link Archer.
I have played with several cellular enabled cameras, and while they do work, there are so many limitations and caveats, I would rather have those pieces be separate - LTE from a router, and cameras just be cameras. That also gives you the flexibility of adding a second camera, or adding more WiFi IoT devices for security, temp monitoring, and the like if you needed. And potentially using the LTE router/thing for while you're on the boat!
I think Steve has given you a really good starting point. I'd second the Netgear LB1120 as a good, simple device for giving you reliable connectivity without the pitfalls of MiFi type devices. I wouldn't want to use any of the MiFi / hotspot devices in an unattended application, they all tend to require manual resetting frequently enough to drive you nuts.
The other consideration you will need to keep careful watch over is the bandwidth consumption of the camera you settle on. I don't have a very good handle on how much bandwidth a camera will take -- and it's highly variable depending on how many motion events it sees -- but depending on the plan your SIM has you could use up the (high-speed) bandwidth allotment in very little time.
Thank you so much for these responses (super fast and full of info). I will read through the linked post and look into your suggestions.
It's nice to hear corroboration on not using the Jetpack (which is what the various tech people I called suggested). I've been using one for my day-to-day internet for about five years now, and as you say, they need re-setting relatively often, and I basically don't trust them out of my sight when plugged in anyway due to the internal battery.
Also good to have my hunches confirmed about keeping the camera separate from the cellular part. I feel a bit like I'm "settling" with the Blink but didn't see anything better.
I *think* I should be okay on bandwidth. I say that because in the enclosed garage stall, there should not be any motion unless something falls or someone tries to get in. Hopefully both are rare. (Of course if I can't stop "looking in" to see how my lonely boat is doing, that could eat up some gigs!).
Right now I'm only about 20 miles away and am there most days, but I still lie awake at night worrying about it, especially as I get further along in my refit and have more to lose. It will be a relief to get out and "only" worry about wind, dragging anchors, and running into things.
Once I get this sorted out, I can get back to going back and forth on my battery/charging upgrade choices (interesting to see Victron have made the Orion into a smart charger now - glad you wrote about that). That's for another post though. I will now read through the suggestions you have made and get back to you if I have more questions (or a summary of what I ended up doing).
PS: I just looked up the Netgear LB1120 quickly. I had looked that one up earlier and thought it seemed like a contender, but I think it's only T-Mobile (won't work at all for me), or AT&T (might work here - I'm going to take a friend's iPad and check). Verizon typically seems to have better service in the places I go. But did I miss a Verizon option on the Netgear? I may be able to answer this myself by reading your article, mind you.
I also noticed the Wi-Fi Ranger Poplar and called the company earlier today to see if it might work. They said right now it's only T-Mobile and AT&T but is scheduled (in the next few months, theoretically) to also be able to work with Verizon (granted the fellow on the phone sounded slightly unsure when I questioned further about this).
With the Arlo and Blink, as long as you don't have a lot of motion going on, you won't use a lot of bandwidth, as you discussed. If you constantly check on it (which I do as well!) you'll use a little more. Motion or sound based activation cameras seem to be just fine even on lower capacity cell plans as long as you keep an eye on them. Cameras like Nest and others are not suited for these sorts of setups simply because they stream 24x7.
I've also been using a few different Wyze cameras, and really like their quality, features, and price. They do not have a cloud recording option, though and store it all locally on an SD card. They are working on an outdoor camera which is supposed to be out in a few months, and I'm highly interested in that solution.
I can't remember if I tested the LB1120 with Verizon, and I can't find it in my notes which is unusual. I know I used both T-Mobile and AT&T plus some pay as you go solutions from both the US and Canada. You could order one from Amazon and test it and return it if you didn't find it worked.
Wi-Fi Ranger has a ton of new stuff coming out / just released that I am waiting to review. It's mostly geared towards the RV market, but their new architecture is very interesting with SIM slots and radios outside, and indoor high powered WiFi and router components.
Thanks again. I may have gone a bit "overboard," but I ended up buying a Pepwave Max BR-1 Mini. It was (ahem) a bit more money than the Netgear modem plus router, but I'm not that much of a whiz at getting things to talk to each other. Also, I started thinking how nice it would be to have this instead of Jetpack(s) when I'm out on the boat.
So in spring I'll sort of be back to square on on the storage solution (but the boat won't be there at least), and it doesn't solve for "leave it in tow vehicle at the ramp when I'm out boating" -- so I'll still be open to finding/adding something more downscale that would be a Jetpack substitute for those situations. The Pepwave gives me something (overkill) I can use right away at the boat storage to ease my mind (most important) and then move over to real use on the boat this summer.
(The obvious solution here is to go to a large boat in a slip and then security and boating are in the same location and there is no storage or tow vehicle - why do all roads always lead to a larger boat :D)
1) I was very intrigued by the Wyze as I'd actually rather have local and not Cloud storage, I think. But in reading the reviews there were things about them secretly using Russian and Chinese servers when they say they don't, and I just don't know enough to evaluate that in terms of risk (you probably do).
2) I found reports of people using a "work around" with Verizon on the Netgear modem, which involved using a SIM that had already been in something else. I didn't go that route due to the (perceived?) difficulty in my getting the modem to communicate with a separate router.
3) I re-considered the Arlo Pro 2 because it could have plugged directly into the Netgear with no router; but then I didn't like how unless you want to often re-charge the Arlo cameras' built-in batteries, when you plug them in it is still continuously charging the in-camera battery (that just gives me the Willies).
4) On the Pepwave, I didn't opt for the Wifi over Wan addition ($100) as so far I have not really been places where Wifi is that useful, but it could be added.
5) For the last few nights I've been using my Jetpack (unplugged, on battery) with one Blink XT to test out the whole camera idea. Yeah, I'm hooked at being able to see everything looks fine (even though the Jetpack doesn't even make it through the whole night). So like you, I may be checking *just* a bit more than strictly necessary in future.
The Pepwave is a great product. I recommend both that one and the MAX Transit for larger setups that need more than one SIM. I personally use the Pepwave even though I have lots of other choices and test units, and it has the best feature set and reliability out of all of them. Yes, they are quite a bit more expensive, but you get what you pay for, and I don't end up futzing around with internet stuff on the water - I end up being able to do other things like enjoy wherever I am 🙂
Wyze had some issues with security early on. From what I have been able to see in the last 6 months, they have fixed those issues and explained what was happening. I use several products that watch outbound traffic both on the boat and at my test network at home, and have not seen them doing this again.
Verizon and AT&T still require that you activate your device with them in most cases, which is what that workaround is. If you already have a device using the SIM, moving it to another device most of the time works. Often times, it won't and you have to call them to add your IMEI (the identifying number for the device) to the account so that it will work at all, or work properly / be classified correctly bandwidth-wise.
WiFi as WAN on the Pepwave is not worth the money IMHO. Spend $99 on the MikroTik if you want a good solution, stick it outside where it will work 99% better, and run an ethernet cable to the WAN port on the Pepwave and you're much better off. I use it almost exclusively that way while at my home marina as there is local WiFi via Comcast/XFinity that is much faster (and essentially free).
Sounds like you have a great base to start from. You'll love the Pepwave both for monitoring things remotely, and while on the water.
I sounded so sure yesterday, didn't I? Well, I am still sure about getting a Pepwave, but after I posted this, I waffled on which one. I did study your blog posts and learn a lot, thank you!
So now I have yet another question. (I hope this will end up helping other folks as well so it's not just me.)
For just in storage, I think the rock bottom Pepwave (Max Mini BR1, Cat 4 modem only, ~$299) would be fine. I have a really fast AT&T signal there, and there are not a ton of people around to clog anything up. So I'd just have the one SIM card in it, and it would talk to the camera base unit, and that's it.
But then I started thinking, oooh, maybe it would be nice to have one of these on the boat when I'm boating. I mean, otherwise I have this super cool modem in storage, while I'm juggling 5-year-old Jetpacks in every day use.
Okay, that's easy, I'll just add $99 and go with the same Max Mini BR-1, but the $399 version with the CAT 6 modem. No Wi-Fi over WAN but you've just explained why that's not such a great thing to have built in anyway. There is just one possible sticking point that I hadn't appreciated until I read your blog: Even if not using Wi-Fi as WAN, the Max Mini BR-1 series only has 2.4 ghz wi-fi for LAN. Prior to reading what you had to say, I hadn't thought of the fact that it pertains to LAN as well as WAN. Hmm, the next step up is the Max BR-1 Mk2. (Cat 6, 2.4 and 5 ghz Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi over WAN although now the latter sounds like it's a bit ho hum and now we are up to $599).
So, do I care about the "only 2.4 ghz" Wi-Fi as LAN? I have no idea. I suspect for the storage unit it doesn't matter, as there is not much competition. But if I buy an upgraded unit, I would like to take it with me when I boat. I looked up the specs for my ancient (2015) Jetpack, and it says it has both 2.4 and 5 ghz, so I can't use the fact that I've been successful with that as a deciding factor.
Gah. As of this moment, I've come full cycle to just getting the "cheapest" Pepwave (Max Mini BR-1 $299 Cat 4, SIM only, 2.4 ghz LAN), and leaving it in storage all the time, and then re-visting this in a few months if I want something for this summer on the boat (PNW), and then buying a different one then. OR, if the 2.4 ghz LAN on the boat would not be a problem, I can go back to "one unit does it all" and go with the $399 Max Mini that adds the CAT 6 capability (but still only has the 2.4ghz Wi-Fi for LAN). I don't have tons of users on the boat if that matters.
I'm laughing at myself because how is this harder than deciding on a chartplotter?
Thanks again and I do hope this will help someone else too since you've gone to the trouble.
PS: Thanks for the updated info on the Wyze.
Thanks for posting your experience.
I always recommend if you are spending more than $300 for boat internet that you choose the newest available LTE modem so it it supported the longest, and always get 5+2.4Ghz WiFi. The latter you can read about in Marina WiFi is hard but in general, 2.4Ghz is a way outdated protocol that conflicts with many other types of devices. In marinas, its even worse because of the interference around you and how close you are to your neighbor.
In an apartment or house, 2.4Ghz might work OK, and especially in larger properties, it is essential for longer distance signals. Boats are really close together in marinas, and have all sorts of things that reflect and affect WiFi - glass, lots of metal, power wires, etc. Relying on 2.4Ghz in a marina is definitely a losing battle. Out on the water or in an anchorage, you'll be fine.
And of course, vendors know this, so they price the dual band stuff higher, even though you can get a router from Amazon for home for under $100.