02 November, 2010

Logitech Alert 750i

First of all, the blurb.

See the following address for the publicity stuff


This is part of Logitech's range for the current boom in the video security business. Available in indoor and outdoor versions. Among its features are that it can store photos and videos locally, on a micro SD memory card. The 2 GB card supplied is enough for a week of storage.The software detects motion in your appartment and can send an alert to your email  or mobile phone as well as triggering a recording.
The camera can be installed anywhere and comes with a range of mounting accessories, such as a suction cap and a wall fixation. It connects to the internet via a powerline link to your broadband box. The camera power supply unit acts as an ethernet transmitter over the house's power wiring. Only a single cable - like a long thin black string of liquorice - links the power supply to the camera. It carries both the power and the data, so you mustn't use a regular ethernet lead in its place. Too bad if you break the plastic clip that I have always thought was the weak point of ethernet leads. The box contains a second brick, which looks just like the camera power supply unit except for a colour coding. This is the ethernet powerline receiver and simply connects to your broadband box.

Once it's set up, all you need to view your appartment is a web browser. No problem about which operating system you use. But you do need a Windows computer to set it up. You will have to borrow a laptop from a friendly neighbour if you only have Linux, but at least the setting up procedure only takes a couple of minutes. 

While the printed instruction sheet is multilingual, the software installs in the language of the main computer operating system. Too bad if you are an English speaker working on a French computer. Or a French user with a borrowed operating system in English! There wasn't an easy way of overiding this aspect.

I measured the power consumption with an in-line meter. It read 4.5 W for the camera PS and 2.5 W for the powerline reciever.
Power consumption: Camera psu, 4.5 W, CPL receiver, 2.5 W. As my power meter has a resolution of 0.5 W, I measured the power taken by the two units together, which hovered between 7 and 8 W. This doesn't sound like much, but it works out to an annual consumption of 61 KWH. So the amount it adds to my annual electricity bill comes to about €6 - not a lot in the security business. My DSL box takes about double that, and I have to leave it on all the time to supply bandwidth to the FON adapter.

To begin with, I found the powerline transmission rather unreliable. The reason turned out to be interference with the home's existing powerline system. Once I had identified the problem, the solution was easy: just use the Logitech powerline unit as the home's main powerline transmitter. The whole system then worked perfectly and I even found the performance of the home system had improved.

The CPL boxes update themselves online.

The camera has a rather bright red LED on the front.I didn't find it very useful for low light vision. Worse, it brings the camera to the attention of any visiting burglars. 

Setting up was incredibly easy. Nothing like the very complex procedure to set up a D-Link DCS 5300G  IP camera a few years ago. Just install the set-up software, give the camera (or cameras) names and set up an account. That's it. No DHCP configuration, or any of that. In fact, I never did get the D-Link to work in all the ways it should.  

One major security problem: after you have set your password, you can change it from wherever you have logged in. So, no anyone else you give the login details to, so they can monitor your flat while you are sailing in the Carribean out of reach of any network, can change your password. It would be easy to imagine two levels of access, one that can only view and one with full administrator privileges. A James Bond scenario maybe, but then we are dealing in a security system after all.