This week I’ve been testing external webcams with this video. Specifically, the Logitech 4K Pro Magnetic Webcam, the Opal C1 4K, and Apple’s Continuity Camera beta feature planned for macOS Ventura. I got some surprising results…
The Opal C1 Webcam is meant to be the webcam everybody actually wants to use. It’s got tons of software features and a better lens system than anything you’d find in most (all?) other webcams. It’s time for me to kick the tires…
I continue to dig my Eufy security cameras. However, one issue I have is the camera that looks down at my driveway and the front of my house. It’s a battery camera, and I have to get out a ladder to pull it down and charge every so often.
It was getting just tedious enough for me to consider running a dedicated electric line through the garage when I saw that Eufy now makes a solar charger for their cameras. I ordered one, and it has been running for six weeks. The camera is now always fully charged, and my ladder has not moved.
Over the past few years, home security cameras have got better and cheaper. That’s good. Now anyone can set up a home security camera and keep an eye on the front door or the dog. The problem, however, is that all of these cameras are not created equal. There are two issues you need to consider when purchasing a camera that manufacturers don’t often mention: commerce and security.
A lot of the camera racket has turned into a razor and blades style business. You get the cameras but then you end up spending around $100/year to have their cloud storage. That may be worth it to you, assuming the vendor knows what they’re doing and they have a good security model. I have trust issues with all of these vendors. How much of a stake do they really have in protecting your privacy? How much effort are they putting into keeping all that video from your house safe?
It’s called a security camera but is it actually secure? This is particularly a concern if you do use the vendor’s cloud storage. Do you want anyone in the world able to look at your front door or your dog? Vendors are slowly coming around on this. Ring just announced that you can add end-to-end encryption to your video on their servers but it is (currently) off by default.
I continue to be happy with my Eufy cameras. They didn’t break the bank. They’re holding up fine and they work with Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video service that gets me encrypted online storage as part of my iCloud account (that I’m already paying for).
A year ago, Apple announced a new HomeKit feature, dubbed Secure Video, where Apple would agree to store your security camera video on its servers for you without an additional fee. I like this idea. Not only do I not want to pay someone to store this data, I also don’t necessarily trust third parties with home camera footage either. Apple’s a big company. They are not going to get acquired and they have a stated interest in protecting user privacy. The whole idea of HomeKit Secure Video makes sense.
I left WWDC last year thinking it wouldn’t be long before I had HomeKit Secure Video working in my home. Well, that was over a year ago, and there has been very little progress. Logitech released a HomeKit update for their nearly $200 Circle 2 camera. I bought one as an experiment and it has never worked satisfactorily. The camera is often unavailable with no explanation of why, and it feels like Logitech dropped the ball on this one. Moreover, the price is prohibitive if you want to put several of them in your home. There are almost no other vendors supporting HomeKit Secure Video.
Things are getting better, though. Eufy, a subsidiary of Anker, recently announced that their home line of Eufy cameras is going to get full HomeKit Secure Video Support (9to5 Mac has all the details). It sounds like they’re going through an approval process right now. I have a few Eufy exterior cameras, and I’m much happier with them than my prior Canary cameras. The Eufy cameras stay connected, have an option for local storage, and seem way more reliable than anything else I’ve ever used. Best of all, their indoor cameras start at $40. There may be hope yet for HomeKit Secure Video, but it sure has taken a long time.
While HomeKit, as a platform, has made a lot of progress over the last few years, the Achilles’ heel remains cameras. There are very few options, and all of them are expensive. In June, Apple announced new support for cameras in HomeKit, including a service where, as part of your iCloud subscription, you can store HomeKit connected camera video safely on Apple’s iCloud. It’s called HomeKit Secure Video. This makes a lot of sense from a security standpoint and it will save HomeKit users some money.
As I sat in the room and listened to the announcement, however, I couldn’t help but wonder which vendors would support it. Most of the camera vendors make a lot of money charging customers to store their video in the cloud. Generally, you should expect to pay about $100 a year to have someone manage that storage for you. Why would vendors build in support with their cameras for a system that makes their lucrative add-on service obsolete?
This is an issue of particular interest to me because I want to upgrade my cameras and home security system to something more HomeKit friendly but have been unhappy with the available options.
In the last few days, we’ve had some promising news. The popular Arlo system now supports HomeKit. However, Arlo isn’t currently planning on making its cameras work with Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video. (Arlo has its own cloud storage subscriptions component for $10/month.) We also got news of an upgrade to the Eufy Cam 2 camera system. The company behind the Eufy cameras is Anker. I have been buying their portable batteries for years, and I’m glad to see them expanding. Indeed, it appears they have a lot of interesting home security/camera products in the pipeline. They don’t have a cloud service but instead, give you the ability to save video directly to a memory card on your local network. Not surprisingly, it appears the new Eufy Cam 2 will support HomeKit Secure Video. The new Eufy Cam 2 ships next month.
It is too early to tell, but these announcements are promising. I’m going to sit tight for a few more months to see how things pan out, but the ability to build my security system inside HomeKit is starting to look more like a possibility and less like a pipe dream.