Outdoor Cameras and False Alarms

I've been searching for the perfect outdoor camera but they all seem to have one connected flaw...excessive false alarms. It seems like every mosquito and passing car becomes a target worthy of notification and all of a sudden my camera goes from trusted security adviser to super annoying nuisance.

I'm trying to be patient. After all, just a few years ago outdoor wireless cameras for the home weren't a thing. The world's first 100% wireless camera for the great outdoors just launched last year. It's crazy really, how far we've come and yet...we have a ways to go.

Why Are Outdoor Cameras So Glitchy?

Perhaps the biggest contributor to glitchiness is lack of intelligent software. A good example of this would be the iSensor Patio which I tested earlier this year. The camera was equipped with a motion sensor but didn't include any sort of intelligent software to help sort a wasp from a burglar. All day long I was bombarded with pictures of bees and swaying trees and anything that moved. Some cameras include ways to minimize this type of annoyance through software like that used by FLIR.

Intelligent software can be called many things, smart zones, activity zones, etc so let's just call them Smart Zones. Smart Zones work by allowing you to virtually draw a square around the areas you want to monitor. For example, let's say that you have a camera pointed at your driveway but the camera also has the street and sidewalk within its field of view. Monitoring the street will really pick up tons of activity that you don't really care about. To combat this you can draw a square around your driveway to tell the camera to focus on the driveway while ignoring other areas like the street and the sidewalk.

Another contributor to glitchiness is basic motion detection. Basic motion detectors detect motion. Period. To go back to my example above, a basic motion detector would pick up anything that moves including swaying trees. By contrast, advanced motion detectors detect motion but can do things like ignore pets under a certain weight and some can even sense heat thus ignoring non-human objects. Advanced motion detection is critical in an outdoor camera as the outdoor world is in constant motion.

A final contributor to glitchiness is motion detection that is one size fits all. Though not as important as the other two, it's still important to find a motion detector that includes adjustable sensitivity. Playing with the settings and finding one that works for you can mean the difference between reliable protection and irrelevance.

Pick The Best Outdoor Camera

Of course, finding a quality outdoor camera is more complex than just motion detection. When we review outdoor cameras we use a completely different set of criteria than we use for indoor cameras. Features like quality night vision become critical as well as quality weatherproofing that is IP rated. Then of course you should consider things like the power source and wireless range. While picking an outdoor camera may be a bit of work, don't skimp. Make sure you dig deeper when someone tells you a camera has "motion detection". Ask what kind of motion detection is included, if sensitivity is adjustable, and if the sensor is backed by intelligent software.

Features Photo: Gathering by Tom Gill used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

1 comment

  1. Dawn Slawecki 18 August, 2015 at 08:24 Reply

    You raise some good points in your article. False alerts are one of the most frustrating aspects of current DIY outdoor IP cams for security. When users get so many false alerts, they end up turning the notification feature off, meaning that they use their cameras like CCTV, just streaming live 24/7. So they lose all the benefit of being alerted to suspicious events. (Streaming live 24/7 also eats up bandwidth like crazy, so if users have more than one camera on a network, it can cause serious drag or overage fees.)

    At iWatchLife, we’ve been writing about video analytics for DIY IP cameras for some time now. See

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