Amazon's Blink XT2 Surveillance Cameras

Discussion in 'Communications & Tech' started by Sentry18, Aug 31, 2019.

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  1. Aug 31, 2019 #1

    Sentry18

    Sentry18

    Sentry18

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    So this summer my oldest boy moved into a "deluxe dorm room" so he could attend tech school. This studio apartment started out as a motel but was very recently converted into a very nice luxury studio apartment complete with built in desk, shelves, entertainment center, kitchenette, etc. It has one large window in the front and one small window in the bathroom. His assigned parking space is right outside the front door & window. The first thing we did before he moved in was buy and install a 3 camera surveillance system with an add on camera. The system we chose was the Blink XT2 from Amazon. https://blinkforhome.com/ We purchased a mixture of new and refurbed units so the price was $219. Our units do not have the two way audio that the newest version has.

    blink.jpg

    The basics of this system include easy to mount weather-resistant wireless cameras that run on lithium ion batteries, or solar power, or direct USB power. They are 1080p with night illumination, motion activation, a ton of sensitiveness settings, and audio. The package includes a hub that connect to your wireless network and allows the cameras to send the images to the cloud for storage and viewing on your smart phone. Of course this is paired with his fiber optic fed wireless router and uninterruptible power supply, so even if he loses power the system will continue to work. The Blink cloud storage is free, but is limited in how long it will retain the video. You receive a motion activation alert on your phone and you can see what's going on wherever you are at. My son has already found a way to record the video clips directly to his phone as well via a video capture app.

    With permission from the manager we installed one camera on the wall above his door on the exterior of the building, we then installed two inside his apartment, and the add on camera on the back of the building to cover the smaller sliding window. One interior camera is focused on the door, the other covers the majority of the space. The overall package basically cover his vehicle, both methods of entry/exit, and his living space. The building is white so we purchase white mounts and white silicone covers on the exterior cameras. They are easy to spot if you know they are there, but far less so if you are not. The rear camera requires a ladder to get to. The two exterior cameras have been running for 6 weeks now and still show 100% battery. Amazon claims 2 years with normal use, but I think that might be a bit exaggerated. The 2 interior cameras will likely fair longer due to the stable temps and environment. He has received a few false alarm notices, but has also watched as UPS & FedEx have dropped off packages, and as his property manager came to fix a minor issue. So far he is pretty happy and his Momma feels better about her big boy not sleeping under our roof.

    In the interest of OPSEC has also has an additional hidden camera with battery back up that records to a micro SD card. It is built in to an alarm clock which he has on his desk in the far left corner of the room. And of course he has a door brace, window alarm, and gun safe. ;)
     
  2. Aug 31, 2019 #2

    snappy1

    snappy1

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    Always good to be prepared! That sounds like a good system and good price!
     
  3. Aug 31, 2019 #3

    Haertig

    Haertig

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    Does this system upload videos to 3rd party servers, and then you need an account to login to those servers and download/stream them?

    I want a system that is (or optionally can be configured to be) totally independent of any 3rd party. Whether such a beast exists, or I'll have to build it myself, is unknown. I have successfully set up several video cameras that stream from my personal servers, but I have not moved to the next step of setting up motion alerts from those cameras, etc. It would be nice if I could buy a system like that, but I have a hunch most every manufacturer wants to insert themselves into the middle of things so that if not now, sometime in the future they can begin charging you to view your own videos.

    I am not familiar with the Blink system. Can you tell me, is it stand-alone? Or is it tied into Blink's 3rd party servers?
     
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  4. Aug 31, 2019 #4

    Sentry18

    Sentry18

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    This is not the system for you then as it is tied in to their server system. I do not believe you can run it without.

    This is also why in my house I run a wired POE system using an NVR and my own "cloud". But even it is partially tied into a 3rd party server, if I enable network mode.
     
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  5. Aug 31, 2019 #5

    MoBookworm1957

    MoBookworm1957

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    Sentry 18,
    Thank you for the valuable information.
    Will be looking at this one seriously.
     
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  6. Sep 3, 2019 #6

    Haertig

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    I picked up one of the Wyze Cam V2 cameras. Amazon had it on sale for 20% off, so it was about $20. They reportedly have them at Home Depot too - for the same $25 price that Amazon normally charges.

    https://www.amazon.com/Wyze-Indoor-...ords=wyze+cam&qid=1567562702&s=gateway&sr=8-3

    Normally, this camera uses the 3rd party login/website/cloud that I mentioned in a previous post I didn't want. However, the company just came out with a new firmware that supports RTSP. This grabbed my interest since that is local streaming, not streaming out to the internet. This new firmware is BETA now, but it will soon be an official release. You can get this firmware from the official Wyze website. It is not hacked firmware, it is supplied by the company that makes the camera.

    I just received the thing today so haven't had much time to play with it. It appears (subject to changing my opinion) that I will have to use my firewall to block the camera from going out to its 3rd party website, even after I enable the RTSP. I'm not sure about that, I'll need to do more testing. There is a companion app (free) for both Android and iOS that gives you remote access to the camera. I played with that a little today, and it was actually quite nice. But it is not the solution for me, since I want my camera to be local, not internet based. I found that streaming video was good to my mid-range smartphone (a Motorola G7). I installed the Android app on my Amazon Fire HD8 tablet. It did display the streaming video, but I found it too slow. There was a several second lag between actual motion and that motion showing up on the tablets screen. But keep in mind, the Fire Tablets are quite underpowered. My cellphone did just fine streaming the video feed.

    There does not appear to be a way to access the camera using your computer and web browser, it looks like the only access is via Android or iOS apps on your cellphone. You can get around that limitation when using RTSP however. You will need to set up your own local NVR (Network Video Recorder) to access the RTSP feed. Or you can use the familiar VLC program (this is available for just about every platform you could want) to access the RTSP feed.

    For what this camera costs, it is very good. Impressive quality, really nice 110 degree FOV, HD image, easy setup, infrared illumination so it will work in darkness, can save locally to a microSD card, two-way audio. A pretty impressive feature set for a $25 gizmo. My decision to move forward with it (or not) will be based on how well the RTSP feed ends up working, and how well I can secure the camera so that it is local-only and not connected to the internet-at-large. As with any IOT device ("Internet Of Things"), I recommend putting it on a separate network than your household computers. Most routers these days support this, often times called a "guest network". So if the camera ever gets hacked, it won't be able to get to your good stuff. I have a separate network set up for this camera, my Alexa devices, my TV, DVR, alarm system, etc. All these IOT's are segmented off by themselves so they can't do any damage to my "real" computers.

    This post has gotten a bit technical, but for the technically oriented among us, maybe it will be of some help. FWIW, I will be experimenting with "Shinobi" in a Docker container as my NVR. I also plan to look at the simple "Motion" program as well.

    If having 3rd party connectivity to your camera is not an issue for you, at first glance, I will tentatively recommend this Wyze Cam as it comes straight out of the box. It's pretty amazing for how cheap it is.
     
  7. Sep 3, 2019 #7

    Weedygarden

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    I recently purchased a Wyze camera for around this price. I know someone who recommended it. His is set up so he can watch his dog during the day on his phone while he is at work. I haven't set mine up yet.
     
  8. Sep 4, 2019 #8

    Sentry18

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    I believe that company was started by a group of people who wanted to find a way to make good video security affordable. Sounds like they were at least moderately successful. I might have to pick a couple up to play with. Thanks for the review.
     
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  9. Sep 4, 2019 #9

    backlash

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    Looks promising. I'm going to Home Depot today to look at them.
    Thanks for the info.
     
  10. Sep 4, 2019 #10

    Haertig

    Haertig

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    They are reportedly in all the Home Depots around here, according to "in stock" listings on their website. But they are also shown as "special purchase", so you might want to check the Home Depot website to see if they are showing in stock at your particular location before driving over there. They list dozens of them in stock at each store in my area. There is an upgraded model that swivels/tilts/zooms under remote control for about $10 more. If the cheap model I bought works out for what I want to do with it, I will definitely look at the swivel model as well. That one can do a full 360 degree circle, so you can see everything if need be. It will also track movement that it detects and follow the person around. That's pretty cool too. I have no experience with these advanced features mind you, I just read about them.
     
  11. Sep 4, 2019 #11

    Haertig

    Haertig

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    p.s. - While setup is easy for this camera, don't expect much in the way of documentation to come in the box. That is available on the Wyze website, including tutorial videos. If you run into issues as I did, check the website. My issue was that my camera and cellphone were on different networks during the setup process. That doesn't work. Once I put them on the same network, setup worked perfectly. After completing setup, I could then move them back to different networks and things continued to work fine.
     
  12. Sep 4, 2019 #12

    Haertig

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    p.p.s. - I tried out the infrared nighttime mode last night. It worked well. I was impressed by the quality of the picture. It was just as good as in daylight (except being infrared, it was B&W rather than color). Those infrared lights built into the camera won't illuminate out to infinity, but they did a good job out to the advertised 30 feet.
     
  13. Sep 4, 2019 #13

    backlash

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    I just got home with my new Wyze camera.
    Setup went OK. Camera would not connect at first but I unplugged it and tried again and it connected right away. Image looks good. You can clearly ID who is being recorded.
    At $35 with a micro SD card it's a good deal. I will see how it works for awhile and report back, if I remember.:)
     
  14. Sep 5, 2019 #14

    Caribou

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    Any recommendations on a hard wired camera system?
     
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  15. Sep 5, 2019 #15

    Sentry18

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    My home system is made by Swann. When I bought it Swann was considered to be one of the best "budget friendly" brand of camera system, and they still seem to be. Mine has 8 indoor/outdoor 1080p wired cameras that receive both their power and send the video signal back over the same wire. It also has an NVR (networked video recorder) with a 3TB hard drive that records events locally but also allows remote viewing on my smart phone or laptop.

    This is similar to what I have, but a newer version.

    I have supplemented that system with a 4 camera Zmodo kit I got off of Amazon for around $200. It is also power over ethernet with an NVR, and is also 1080p. The overall quality is okay, not as nice as Swann but it works and was under half the cost.
     
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  16. Sep 10, 2019 #16

    Haertig

    Haertig

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    I've completed a bit of testing with the Wyze Cam.

    I found that you can indeed cut off internet access to the Wyze Cam (while leaving connectivity to you local network) and the RTSP stream will work locally. This is good, because it means the camera will operate totally locally without requiring a 3rd party internet connection. This is only in RTSP mode however, the "normal" way to connect to these cameras is via the Wyze App on your smartphone. This "normal" connection method will be broken if you cut off internet connectivity to the Wyze Cam.

    BUT, and it's a big BUT, the Wyze Cam will not initialize without internet connectivity. What this means, is that when you power on the Wyze Cam, it must be able to connect to the internet to get itself up and running. But once that has completed, you can take away internet access (assuming you have configured RTSP) and the camera will continue to work with RTSP.

    In other words, if you cut off internet to your Wyze Cam, you'll be working fine (RTSP only), but you better not have a power failure. If you do lose power while the internet is not available, the Wyze Cam will attempt to reboot once power is restored. It will fail to boot due to lack of internet. And the Wyze Cam will hang indefinitely. So even if you restore the internet, the Wyze Cam will remain in a hung state and will not work. Not until you unplug it and plug it back in and have it reboot again in the presence of an internet connection. This is far from an ideal situation, but it is what my testing revealed. Maybe, since the RTSP firmware is still in BETA status, Wyze will fix this issue before they make the RTSP firmware an official release.

    Note: If you segregate the Wyze Cam onto a separate network from your home computers (I recommend this strongly!), in order for your home computers to be able to connect to the Wyze Cam's RTSP feed, you will need to open a hole in your firewall - specifically, you'll need to open TCP port 554. Also note: in order to change settings on your Wyze Cam you will have to re-open the internet connectivity because all settings are changed via the Wyze App. Once you have changed the settings to your liking, you may close the internet again.

    Bottom line: Using a Wyze Cam without internet connectivity, even with RTSP, is not ready for primetime. You can do it, but with severe limitations. You will need to know networking and how to cut off and restore internet access to the camera selectively, because you will not be able to leave the internet always cut off. And you will need to have physical access to the Wyze Cam to unplug/replug it into power in order to force it to re-initialize (reboot).

    My opinion: The Wyze Cam is a feature-rich and well made little camera. The quality of the image is very good. They are dirt cheap. You can even find the things at Home Depot, how convenient is that? The Wyze App (free) for your cellphone is nicely done and has a lot of functionality. If you do not mind having your camera connect to a 3rd party (and honestly, most users won't care), just go out and buy this thing. I can find no reason not to. It's a good little device. If you're a nerd like me and are overly obsessed with privacy, you're not going to get that with a Wyze Cam, and probably not with most other inexpensive consumer camera systems out there. This thing records video and audio and sends that out to the internet (albeit, allegedly encrypted) - that alone should give anybody pause to reconsider. I certainly wouldn't put one in my bedroom. But still, it might be fine to point out into your backyard (provided, of course, that you don't routinely run around naked out there). You can configure the thing to not record video/audio. It will stream it for live viewing, but it won't save recordings up in the cloud. It is your choice if you want it to save recordings or not. But we are ignoring hackers here. If the camera gets hacked, the hacker could do whatever they want with your video (save it themselves from the live stream). I will be keeping the two Wyze Cams that I bought for playing around with, but I will not deploy them in sensitive areas. They would make a reasonable poor man's replacement for those expensive Ring and Nest doorbells (those send your video/audio up to the internet as well). Those Rings are about 10x the cost of a Wyze, and you have to pay a monthly subscription on top of that. I have no experience with Ring/Nest to report on them. But my feeling is that if you're gonna violate your own privacy, why not do it cheaply with a Wyze?
     
  17. Sep 11, 2019 #17

    Haertig

    Haertig

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    I need to amend my report above. I tested again for the ability of the Wyze Cam to reboot successfully without having internet present. In this second test, it was successful. The camera still ended up in the FlashingBlue state (it is normally SolidBlue after a successful reboot), but the difference this time is that I WAS able to connect to its RTSP stream over my local network. This connection was not guaranteed (sometimes I could connect, other times I couldn’t). But it is promising that sometimes I could. So it appears that I was wrong when I said the Wyze Cam requires an internet connection to boot. Concluding that connections to the Wyze Cam are intermittent is quite different than concluding that it cannot boot. So I retract my initial conclusion about not being able to boot.

    Now I need to troubleshoot why the connections are intermittent. The cause could be instability in the Wyze Cam firmware, but it could also be problems in the clients I am using to connect to the RTSP stream. In my tests, I have been using VLC as the client trying to connect to the Wyze Cam. I have tested using VLC from a Linux computer, and also using VLC from an Android tablet. Connections are intermittent from both platforms, and sometimes a connection can be made, but it freezes after a few seconds.

    I did note a high occurrence of the following error message in the Linux VLC logs:

    avcodec decoder error: more than 5 seconds of late video -> dropping frame (computer too slow ?)

    The Linux computer running VLC is anything but slow, however, the presence of this error message it telling. Next, I will try using different software as the RTSP client. I need to investigate what other programs will access an RTSP stream. I am assuming that ffmpeg might, and possibly mplayer. We’ll see what I can find.

    I have noted that when I am able to connect to the Wyze Cam from my Android tablet, the connection appears stable. Funny, because that tablet is a very cheap and slow Amazon Fire HD8. That is NOT a fast tablet by any means. But once connected to the Wyze Cam, it appears to keep the connection better than my fast Linux desktop does. Hmmm.

    More testing to do…
     

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