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It's quite the Vue
By Nick Burklow

 

As a homeowner, the desire for a whole house video system may not be at the top of your renovation list. Avaak and their Vue Personal Video Network may cause you to rethink that notion.

Their wireless video camera system is great for a nursery, keeping an eye on your pets, security surveillance and even sharing special events with family members who are far away.  

After securing a grant from the U.S. Navy and the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, Avaak engineered a new mesh wireless transmission they have dubbed FrameMesh. The end result is a truly wireless video camera system that runs up to one year on a single standard lithium ion camera battery. 

Typical wireless camera systems still require electrical power from a wall outlet, adding the need for at least some wiring. Not the Vue system. It runs on battery power, for a very long time. The secret to the battery's longevity is in the newly developed FrameMesh technology.  

A wireless connection using a standard Wi-Fi signal requires that every bit of data be verified. That Wi-Fi connection would drain that same battery in about four days. But the new FrameMesh network forgoes that error checking process. The only main side effect would be a few dropped pixels from the video every now and then, an acceptable trade-off if you ask me.  

The long battery life is helped along by the fact that FrameMesh also requires fewer data transmissions to maintain its connection, and those transmissions are smaller in size. Plus, the cameras are equipped with sensitive antennas that are able to pick up the low power signal from the base station, further reducing its need for power consumption.

Let's move on to the hardware. The heart and soul of this system is the FrameMesh-equipped gateway. It simply plugs into an available Ethernet port on your router, and that is it. The system is designed to be easy and hassle-free. The gateway is capable of supporting up to 50 cameras, and up to three gateways can be used per system.

Now onto the cameras themselves. These little guys weigh in at a svelte 28 grams. The camera body gets stuck to a round magnetic wall mount that has a peel-and-stick backing to it. This allows for perfect placement anywhere, with near limitless viewing angles. The cameras have a range up to 300 feet from the gateway.

Once the camera bodies are in place, you can view the video via Avaak's Web site, my.VueZone.com. At their portal, you are able to not only view the video, but record what is going on, schedule future recordings, take jpeg snapshots and share video with friends via YouTube and Flickr. Recording takes space however, and Avaak provides you with 2GB of storage, which is expandable for an additional cost. My.VueZone.com account storage is free for the first year; after that it runs $19.95 per year.  

One thing to take note of is the fact that the cameras are off until you access them via the Web site. Unlike a constantly on surveillance system, the Vue Personal Video Network is not always on and does not continuously record.

My assumption here is that this is to save battery life. You do, however, have the option to easily set recordings via a calendar function on the my.VueZone.com Web site.

Looking to the future, Avaak is developing a version of this technology that can be deployed in the battlefield.

The system could be deployed into a combat zone before troops arrive by an unmanned aerial vehicle to check out the situation.

The good news for you is that there is no need to join the armed forces just to get your hands on this modern technology. You can simply order the starter kit, which includes the gateway, two camera units, and four wall mounts for $299.99. Each additional camera will run you another $99.99. Pre-orders are being accepted online at Avaak's Web site (vuezone.com/buy) and expected to ship this summer.

Camera specs

Video resolution

  • VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
  • QVGA (320 x 240 pixels)
  • QQVGA (160 x 120 pixels)

Video format

FLV (Flash Live Video)

Snapshot quality

  • VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
  • QVGA (320 x 240 pixels)
  • QQVGA (160 x 120 pixels)

Image sensor

CMOS Full Color

Security features

FrameMesh wireless video encryption

Battery

Lithium Ion CR123 Photo

White balance / exposure

Auto-adaptive white/black balance and exposure

Battery life

1 year under normal use

Focus range

Fixed focus (60cm to infinity)

- Source: http://vuezone.com/products/technical-details


Nick's pick
In keeping with the camera theme this go around, I introduce to you the Timelapse Garden Video Camera from Hammacher Schlemmer.

This nifty little device can show you the development of your entire garden thanks to its 54-degree field of view. Or you can narrow it down to just 20 inches to watch just one specimen develop. There are six predetermined intervals to choose from, ranging from one photo every five seconds all the way up to one photo every 24 hours. The added light sensor automatically turns the camera off at dusk and back on again at dawn. The photos are stored on the camera's built in 2GB flash drive, which is capable of holding up to 18,000 photos. The camera automatically compiles the photos into a 1280 x 1024 resolution AVI video, and all you have to do is download it to the computer and watch the magic happen. As you would expect, it is weather resistant. Power comes from four AA batteries that will last up to four months (assuming its set to one photo per hour), and a ground stake for placement is included.

Visit www.hammacher.com and hand over $159.95 to make this one your very own.

 

 

Story published Friday, July 3, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 4 )

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