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Security systems can be expensive, so this relatively low-cost modular offering from Blink could fit the bill for some businesses. When I met up with the company, representatives noted that while the system is primarily marketed for home use, it could equally suit a small office.
The price is certainly compelling: a one camera setup costs £109.99 (inc. VAT, or $99 in the US). There are also two-camera (£189.99/$169) and three-camera bundles (£259.99/$229). Additional cameras can be added as required for £89.99, or $75 in the US.
A setup involves one or more cameras, each powered by a pair of AA batteries that should last at least two years, and a mains-powered Sync Module that provides the internet connection. Both cameras and Sync Module are configured through, and provide information to, an Android or iPhone app.
The app can act as the control centre for more than one setup, each with its own Sync Module. So someone could cover their home, another home (say an elderly relative), a holiday home (don't we all have one of those?) and work premises, all from one app. You can buy additional Sync Modules for $50 in the US, but these are not currently available separately on the UK website.
Blink gave me a two-camera system for review, which I tested at home.
Setup is straightforward, with the app (Android in my case) walking you through the configuration process step by step. This involves entering the Sync Module's unique serial number into the app or scanning its QR code and then connecting to the module via wi-fi. This disconnects normal wi-fi, but reconnection is built into the configuration process, and if the wi-fi password is to hand the process takes literally just a couple of minutes. The Sync Module can be connected to wi-fi by Ethernet if you prefer, but as it needs access to mains power this may not be convenient.
Cameras are added individually via their unique serial numbers, and again the process is fast and straightforward. My two-camera system was ready for action in about 15 minutes.
More time consuming is locating the cameras to get the best possible view of an area, and configuring them through the app. Getting the right location can involve a bit of fiddling with positioning, although the camera's wide field of view is helpful. Each camera comes with a hinged mount to help you get the perfect positioning -- if you don't mind making a permanent fixing.
Video capture starts as soon as motion is detected. Clips are saved on a server and Blink says there's no limit on storage. It's up to the user to manage old clips, deleting those that are no longer wanted, saving any that are needed away from the server. Blink makes no ongoing charge for server storage.
An alert is sent to the app every time a clip is saved, so it's possible to view a clip within seconds of it being taken. I found that wait time varied from a few seconds to maybe half a minute. Sound is recorded as well, although I found that volume could be quite low. Video quality is captured at 720p and provides enough definition to see what's going on.
To avoid getting masses of clips of yourself as you wander through the camera's field of view, you can arm and disarm individual cameras. This is easily done either by using an on/off slider or by setting up timers for each camera. If you know nobody is in between certain hours of the day, then that's the time frame within which to arm the camera. There's no Netatmo Welcome-style face recognition here.
Be aware of pets. I got multiple cat-movement alerts, and there are only so many times I want to watch one of my feline friends wandering around the front room.
You can also use the app to take a still shot from any camera and to see a live feed. Unfortunately you can't shoot video while watching a feed, so if there's an intruder while you're doing a virtual tour you'll have to turn the feed off and hope they move into shot again.
There are some other issues too. Clips are limited to 10 seconds at present, although I was told the limit will soon be raised to a minute. There's a lag between one clip finishing and another starting, and it's long enough for someone to leave the monitored space and/or do something the camera can't record.
Perhaps the biggest issue is camera lights. A small blue LED comes on when a clip is being shot, and in low light the light the camera turns on an LED that, at the user-set lowest intensity, is bright enough to draw attention. Both lights are a massive 'hello' to anyone lurking about who doesn't want to be caught snooping.
In the end Blink might not offer what you need for a home security system at the present time. It's easy to set up and easy to control from afar, but there are some issues and these do compromise its effectiveness.
Still, it's early days, and Blink seems keen to add new features and clearly has a roadmap for development. If the company takes comments on-board, this could be one to watch.