In spite of its advantages, IP technology remains the poor relation when it comes CCTV which is widely seen as cheaper, easier to install and simpler to operate. Cloudview addresses this by enabling analogue systems to be brought into the digital IP world without the need to either rip out and replace existing hardware or install a whole new IP infrastructure to handle digital recording and monitoring. Moreover, it offers customers something analogue systems struggle to deliver – secure remote access to both manage their setups and view surveillance footage.
Cloudview is made up of two components, starting with a cute little box called a Visual Network Adapter (VNA) used to connect analogue video cameras to an IP network. Priced at around £100 (ex. VAT), one VNA is needed per camera, the camera simply plugging into a BNC connector at the back, optionally using a T-piece to allow existing monitoring systems to carry on working.
An Ethernet port at the front then connects the VNA to a local network, or you can plug in either a Wi-Fi or 3G dongle for wireless connectivity with the option of using wireless for failover or, for remote and inaccessible location, as the sole connection.
Power is picked up from the 12-Volt supply to the camera with a connector block alongside to interface PIR and other sensors and provide output power to, for example, remotely open security gates and doors. There’s also a microSD slot on the front to take a memory card for so-called edge recording, the Cloudview hardware storing footage locally should the network link fail for any reason.
Cloudview sent us both a VNA and an analogue camera which took just minutes to get up and running. Moreover, just as with analogue CCTV, the VNA started working as soon as it was powered on, immediately digitising the analogue video stream from the camera and forwarding it to the other Cloudview component, the Visual Network System or VNS.
As you can guess from the name, Cloudview VNS software is hosted in the cloud so, unlike an on-premise IP solution, there’s no need for a local Network Video Recorder (NVR) or monitoring tools although, importantly, these can still be deployed if local storage is a requirement. For the most part, however, all you need is a browser to both manage the way footage is collected and remotely view that video, either in real time or recorded.
The hosted VNS is licensed per site at £40 to £350 (ex. VAT) per year depending on video traffic and storage, with the same simple interface regardless of the size of the installation or its use. This opens with dashboard listing the available cameras and their status, each with an associated inbox where recordings are stored plus the option of viewing a live video feed from each camera to, for example, verify an alarm from a separate detector.
It doesn’t take long to familiarise yourself with how everything works with scheduling tools to tell Cloudview when to capture and store routine recordings and when to monitor for trigger events such as a door sensor being activated or motion detection.
A big plus here is that this is all done by the VNA independently of any technology that might be built into the camera, with tools to remotely set the area to be monitored and the sensitivity level. A separate schedule can then be defined telling Cloudview when to issue alerts by SMS and email should such an event occur. Added to which it’s possible to minimise false alarms by activating a “double-knock” option to only issue alerts in response to both motion and a trigger from an external sensor.
Of course storing CCTV footage in the cloud raises inevitable security concerns so, as well as using SSL to encrypt all communication between the VNA and Cloudview, recordings can also be encrypted and an optional digital watermark applied for legal verification. Plus it’s possible to redact (blank out) areas to protect the privacy of neighbours and prevent sensitive information, such as number plates and faces, being videoed.
Cloudview In Action
We were pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was to get the Cloudview VNA working with no need for any initial setup work – just plug it in and it starts, the hardware using DHCP to get the necessary network address. Switching to a fixed address does require the VNA to be connected to a PC, but it’s all done through a browser and is pretty straightforward, as is configuring a Wi-Fi or 3G dongle.
Video resolution is limited to 640×480 digitised at 5fps, but we found that more than adequate for basic surveillance and there are plans to enhance this and allow customers to choose the frame rates they want to employ. Support for IP as well as analogue cameras is also planned for later this year.
We were also impressed by the snappiness of the interface and its ability to playback video over low bandwidth links and, although there’s no custom app for mobile devices, we found the browser GUI worked well even on smartphones and tablets.
Lastly we checked out the local recording capability, the VNA automatically saving video to a microSD card when the network was disconnected. There’s even an option to be alerted should the camera stop sending video for any reason. For example, due to vandalism or accidental damage to the coax.
A lot more than just a digital encoder, Cloudview is a complete and very affordable solution to a number of issues associated with both analogue and IP-based CCTV systems. When upgrading from analogue to IP, for example, there’s no need to replace existing cameras plus, instead of updating them all at once, you can start with just one or two. The cloud angle also means being able to get away without a costly supporting infrastructure and local storage, although these can be included if needed.
Another use for Cloudview is as an add-on to a basic alarm system to minimise false alarms by providing independent visual verification when an alert is raised. Moreover, it can be securely managed and monitored from just about anywhere without the need for complex VPN and other security measures. One of the first of a new breed of Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) solutions, Cloudview has a lot going for it and is very much one to watch.