System: Cernium Archerfish
Pricing: Solo indoor/outdoor cameras cost $399 each; Quattro four-camera setup costs $1399.
Resolution: 640 x 480 pixels
Mobile Alert: Remote viewing is free; analytics and alerts start at $6/month.
The most sophisticated camera analytics comes from a company called Cernium, which got its start selling more advanced stuff to airports. Cernium's Archerfish Solo system has much of the same "regioning" functionality as Logitech's cameras, but Solo can also perform image analysis to tell the difference between a person and a nonperson or distinguish a vehicle from other objects. That reduces the number of garbage alerts and lets you zoom through a day's footage in moments. Unlike other cameras, the Solo requires no separate base station—it communicates directly with Archerfish's cloud-based service using either your Wi-Fi network or a direct Ethernet connection (as with other systems, the free basic service lets you check in remotely, while access to the more sophisticated functions requires a monthly fee). The Solo sent fewer false alerts than the Logitech camera, but it was the most frustrating to set up. Getting the software to recognize the camera took forever, despite the camera's indicator light signaling that it was connected and functioning. Also, my testing showed that although the camera is impressive in its detection abilities, there are still enough false positives (it thought my son's teddy bear was a person) to make one question the analytics.
The Integrated Solution
System: Schlage Link
Pricing: Camera is part of a $644 system that includes Schlage digital locking system and one lighting controller. Additional cameras are $169.
Networking: Proprietary wireless
Mobile Alert: Alerts from lock (not camera) are $9/month.
Finally, I tried the Schlage Link system, which is a bit of an outlier here, as it is not a pure camera solution. In fact, the Schlage camera is an accessory in the larger Link system—you can buy it individually or as part of a home security and automation package that also handles locking, lighting and thermostats. As it turns out, the Link camera is the least "intelligent" in this lineup, yet the overall system is the most sophisticated. The Schlage Link system is ostensibly a DIY package, but because it is centered around the company's digitally controlled door locks, if you are at all uncomfortable with the process of lock installation, you may want to call a locksmith. (The Link locks fit into a standard lock bore.)
The camera allows remote monitoring via a Web page or smartphone app (as with other providers, there's a fee for cloud services), but it has no event detection or analytics. The Link lock, however, can record, and alert its owner when anyone enters the house. This gets pretty interesting: You can give your kids a separate code to punch into the lock's keypad and the system will alert you when they get home. If you're having work done on your house, you can give the contractor a separate key code that only works during a prescribed time of day. And you can use the remote access to turn on the lights and open the door from a computer or smartphone and let people inside while you're away. In this scenario, the camera acts as a remote verification system—playing backup surveillance for the lock. If someone is at your door, you're able to see who it is before letting him or her inside.
For some, computer-accessible locking might just be a bit too creepy. (What about hackers?) But it's worth remembering that many people already use a remote control to open their garage doors, and that for every hacker who can crack a computer code, there are probably thousands of thieves who can pick a standard door lock.
So after several weeks of testing various systems, no one attempted to break into my home—then again, nobody had attempted a break-in before, either. The lesson I've learned from my surveillance experiment is that when I'm away, my house is actually quite a boring place—which, I suppose, is exactly as it should be.