When it comes to consumer technology… brand names really matter. A brand is a quick and easy shorthand for establishing trustworthiness, quality, and reliability. Why take a risk in buying an unknown make when you can go with a well-known name where the brand’s owner has a precious reputation to protect? We humans don’t like taking risks, especially when it comes to something we’re not too familiar with, and there is an awful lot of people who aren’t too sure about technology and gadgets like security cameras.
A classic example of a trusted brand is the UK telecoms giant BT. The letters BT stand for British Telecom and this is the behemoth that grew out of the old General Post Office telephone service and was subsequently hived off before being privatized by the Thatcher administration back in the 1980s. The legacy, scale and reassurance of a large state enterprise still lingers on.
Not only is BT the largest provider of wholesale broadband, home telephone and mobile services in the UK, it also makes a tidy sum from selling branded cordless telephones, answering machines and smart devices like this new security camera. The company’s brand recognition, however stodgy and slightly unexciting, projects dependability and that counts when it comes to security.
This new Wi-Fi security camera from BT is aimed at someone looking to take their first steps into the world of home security. It’s nothing particularly special and sports an entry-level 720p HD sensor, infrared motion detector, night-vision capability, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Most importantly, it has that BT logo on the front and buyers know they can simply pick up a phone and get some help if they have any trouble setting the thing up. That kind of reassurance matters for first-time users in this sector of the tech market.
The BT Smart Home Cam is lightweight and features a plastic stand with two holes for screws so it can be mounted upside down from a ceiling if required. The plastic stand is fine for placing the camera on a shelf and the camera can section can be easily adjusted to point up, down, left or right. Thanks to an ultra-wide-angle lens, an entire room can be covered by one camera if it’s placed in a corner.
The most important part of installing a security camera is the ease of setup. Crack that part of the process and it’s more than likely that your customers will buy more of your cameras to add to their home security system. User experience matters here and, thankfully, the BT camera is easy to set up. Using a smartphone, users simply need to download the BT Smart Controls app from the Android or iOS app stores and then create an account. An email is sent to the user for one-time verification step. Next, the camera is connected to the supplied Micro USB power supply, then the BT Smart Home Cam is turned on and the user just has to press the button labeled “Link”. The app guides the user through the steps which involve connecting to the camera using the smartphone’s Wi-Fi selector which then connects the camera through to the user’s home Wi-Fi network automatically.
The BT Smart Controls app enables the user to log into the camera from virtually anywhere in the world where there’s an internet connection. They could be sipping margaritas next to a pool while watching what their cats are getting up to back home. They can even capture a movie or a still of what’s going on. With motion detection enabled, the security camera will start recording or capturing stills the moment it detects any movement in the room. If it’s dark, the camera switches automatically to night-vision mode, otherwise, it records a fairly standard color image. The resolution at 720p isn’t the best, but a higher-resolution 1080p camera would take up more bandwidth and possibly cost more.
The BT camera also has a microphone so users can hear what’s going on in the room which means it can double as a baby monitor. There’s also a speaker on the camera and the app can play a choice of five melodies over the speaker as a kind of lullaby, or users can even press a button to talk to the person in the room. This is the bit where the user threatens an intruder with the police before informing them that there’s a hungry wolfhound in the bedroom upstairs which is about to be unleashed… or more likely reassures the baby being monitored.
With the ability to snoop visually and audibly there are possible privacy issues at stake here, but the BT Smart Home Cam has a bright blue LED on its front to show when it’s working, so hiding the camera for spying purposes wouldn’t be easy. And don’t forget, the camera needs its Micro USB power supply to keep it powered, so the risk of it being used for covert surveillance is pretty low.
With the motion-detection function turned on and notifications enabled, I thought my smartphone would ping the moment any movement was detected by the camera, but that’s something my iPhone stubbornly refused to do. I still haven’t worked out how to enable real-time notifications, which is the point of the exercise. I tried enabling notifications in my iPhone Preferences settings and turned them on in the app too, but they still wouldn’t play nicely. However, when I logged into the app, all the motions that the camera had detected were recorded as still images. There’s an option to switch that to movies, which may be more useful. I selected the PIR motion-detection setting and it was smart enough not to be triggered by my three plump and wayward cats, but it’s clever enough to be set off by a large dog or a child.
Also built into the camera is a slot for a MicroSD memory card so movies can be recorded. The BT Smart Home Cam records the movement to the memory card and then the video can be replayed from the smartphone and even downloaded and shared it with someone else, such as the police or a neighbor. All of this can be done from anywhere in the world where there’s an Internet connection. Memory cards with a capacity no greater than 32gb can be used, which should provide plenty of recording time thanks to the camera’s fairly low-resolution. If the card does become full, the app cam be set to delete the oldest 10 movies to free up space on the card.
Verdict: Setting up this neat little home-security camera from BT is simple. The app could have a bit more polish by being a bit less clunky, and the notifications need more work. However, for dipping a toe into the work of home-security without spending a fortune, this is a good device. The image quality isn’t brilliant and that may be an issue if you want the highest image quality. As a form of reassurance, this is a simple and easy device to set up and provide homeowners with a little peace of mind. However, For reliable notifications and the highest resolution images, this starter camera may not be the best.
More info: https://shop.bt.com/
- Resolution: 720p HD video
- Night vision
- Record clips to a smart device
- PIR Motion Sensor
- MicroSD slot for motion detection video
- Two-way audio
- Three-Step set-up