Get peace of mind after a break in with the Y-cam HomeMonitor Indoor Camera - review

If you’ve been burgled or if you just want to keep an eye on a room in your house the Y-Cam HomeMonitor Indoor Camera can give you peace of mind. 

It’s a wireless camera that, combined with an iPhone/iPad app, lets you call up a stream of video anytime you want to spy on your living room, or, should someone enter the room, the camera will be triggered to record them and you’ll get an alert. 

The implications are obvious for crime, but the company who makes the product emphasize a number of other uses. For example, you might want to keep an eye on the baby sitter, or the cleaner, or you might want to know what the cat gets up to when you are at work. There is presumably a use in an office environment as well. We commented on the fact that this seems a bit creepy, but there are no laws against it, apparently.

The Y-cam HomeMonitor Indoor Camera is small and square (85mm x 85mm), with 30 infrared LEDs on the front, along with a status LED and a microphone. There’s also a small Wi-Fi antenna. It’s small enough to not be too much of an eye-saw in the living room, but we imagine that it will not go unnoticed by a burglar, especially since the LEDs glow red at night when it’s recording. 

That said, if burglar bill thinks he can dismantle the camera he’s out of luck because as soon as the HomeMonitor spotted him the video would have been uploaded to the cloud, and with it, hopefully a good clear shot of his face.  

Setting up a Y-cam HomeMonitor

Setting up your Y-cam HomeMonitor is a very easy process. Start by plugging your HomeMonitor into your router using the ethernet cable provided (this is just for set up, it is completely wireless). You then access the web-based user interface at monitor.y-cam.com to register your camera (you’ll need the serial number), add a email address for it to send intrusion alerts to, and devise a password. Then you can unplug it from the ethernet and find the best position in the room for the camera.

Along with the ethernet cable there are plugs and a bracket included in the box for mounting. A corner of the living room or a shelf would be a logical location. It has a long power cable so you aren’t limited to power points. Once you have the camera in the position that suits go to the web interface and select settings. Here you can choose the sensitivity of the camera and the areas of the room where movement will trigger a recording and an alert to be sent to you. We got a bit carried away at first and had the camera on the highest sensitivity emailing us constantly to let us know a bit of dust had fallen in the room. This meant we were seeing dozens of alerts every day.

We later turned the sensitivity right down and picked areas in the room that we wanted it to monitor, e.g. doorways. You can draw marques around two areas where you want the camera to trigger. Avoid including windows unless you want it to be triggered every time someone walks past the house. Speaking of which, don’t buy the HomeMonitor Indoor Camera if you are hoping to keep an eye on the outside of your house. While it could be used in the day time to monitor people coming and going, or to spy on your neighbours, at night it would be rendered useless by the fact that the LEDs would glow red and all you’d see in your recording would be the reflection of those LEDs in the glass. If it’s an outdoor camera you want Y-cam sells a HomeMonitor Outdoor Camera for £250. 

You can also determine the times that your HomeMonitor will record. You don’t want it to alert you to the fact that you went downstairs and got breakfast, so time it to function during the day when you are at work, and in the night after you have gone to bed. You may be thinking that leaving it on all the time would be safest, as you don’t know when a burglar would strike. We found that while the company claims that it will save one weeks worth of video in the cloud for you to access for free, there was actually a point at which we lost a few days of recordings that were within the seven day period. This may have been because we had reached some sort of capacity limit, we’ve asked Y-cam to confirm if this would have been the case. In the meantime, our advice is to make the camera too sensitive and you risk losing the recording of a burglar to a fly. 

What happens in a break in? 

Should someone break into your house a recording will trigger. The camera actually buffers a few seconds so that once it is triggered it always has a few seconds before the person walks into shot - this would give you some context of where they came from it also avoids a scenario where the camera might only be triggered as the person leaves the part of the frame which you have set the camera to watch. The camera also records audio, so it will pick up any discussion that is going on in the room, and it is feasible that audio caught before the person walks into shot could be useful. 

HomeMonitor then sends you an email to alert you to the intrusion and uploads the recording to the cloud. You can view the recording on your desktop or mobile phone. There is even an iOS app. The desktop browser offers more functionality however, including access to settings as this part of the interface is Flash based. What matters though is the recording, and you can view that on any device. 

If you had set the HomeMonitor to not record during the day at the weekend but you were away from home you would be able to log on and adjust the settings from any computer. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, the settings can’t be adjusted from your iPhone. We would have liked to be able to turn the HomeMonitor on from that app, but we encountered a bug when we tried, with a grey box showing where the video should have been. It worked some of the time, but not all of the time (Check?). Note there is also a longer delay in the live view on your iDevice. Live video streamed to the Mac had a 5 second delay while the live stream to the phone was delayed by more than 30 seconds. 

What if you were going away on holiday for two weeks? As we mentioned, Y-cam store one week worth of recordings in the cloud. If you want more it costs £30 a year. If you decide you don’t want to pay for extra storage you just need to make sure you find a computer with internet access and download the video of the intruder should you get an alert in your first week of the holiday. We imagine you’ll probably want to head home at that point though. 

We couldn’t help but be concerned that the camera gives itself away somewhat on account of the red LEDs when recording at night, but of course that is the price you pay for night time recording (which is surprisingly good). During the day no lights are required but the HomeMonitor has a recording indicator light on the front that flashes green, we’re not sure why that’s necessary other than as a reminder when you are home and it’s recording. It also clicks when it starts recording. Hopefully the light and the click would be enough to encourage anyone with malicious intent to run away. 

Regarding the LEDs and window reflations we mentioned above, we would have liked an option to turn off the LEDs as this might have got around the reflection issue, and well lit pavements and porches may not need the feature. Of course Y-cam would prefer you to buy the Outdoor Camera, which is fair enough. 

Video quality from the HomeMonitor 

The camera records 640×480 resolution video at 30 frames per second. It provides very good quality video and audio both by day and by night. You’ll get a remarkably clear image at night up to about 15 meters away thanks.

Worried about how much of your data allowance this will eat into? Concerned you might not have adequate bandwidth? The frame rate automatically adjusts to the available bandwidth plus it uses H.264 compression, allowing the video to be streamed over lower bandwidth connections. That said, your internet connection needs to support at least 128kbps upload speed and since nearly all broadband connections support 256kbps
upload as a minimum this really shouldn’t be an issue. We checked a video clip and found that the 10 second Mp4 recording weighed in at 279kb, so that’s hardly going to push you over the edge. 

Buying advice 

Does this provide the same security as a more expensive system? The video isn’t completely smooth and detailed but it is sufficient for most people’s needs and the night vision is very good. Since it uploads to the cloud there is no need for tapes and hard drives for saving the video onto - and sending it to the cloud means that the burglar can’t get his hands on the video either. It’s also incredibly simple to set up. Just make sure you turn sensitivity down, after a few days of getting dust alerts you will become desensitized to the alerts, and you might miss an actual break in. 

OUR VERDICT

Does this provide the same security as a more expensive system? The video isn’t completely smooth and detailed but it is sufficient for most people’s needs and the night vision is very good. Since it uploads to the cloud there is no need for tapes and hard drives for saving the video onto - and sending it to the cloud means that the burglar can’t get his hands on the video either. It’s also incredibly simple to set up. Just make sure you turn sensitivity down, after a few days of getting dust alerts you will become desensitized to the alerts, and you might miss an actual break in.

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