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Nest Cam installation & use:
This article describes first-hand experience in installing Nest Cams in buildings. To evaluate the ease of installation and use and to find out what can give you trouble (and how to get past it) we installed eight Nest Cams in buildings in the United States and in Mexico in 2015 and 2016.
This article series describes the Nest Cam installation procedure and includes advice on settings that can get you out of trouble if your camera installation does not go smoothly. To get the very best performance from your Nest Cam (or Dropcam) we give advice on camera location, use of lighting, and securing the cameras and their wiring.
Practical Tips for Installing, Troubleshooting & Using a Nest Cam®
[Click to enlarge any image]
Above: the home page for one of our Nest Cam and Nest learning thermostat installations. With the building occupants away, at night, in cold weather, the Nest Cam images include a mix of scenes lit by lights left on in the building or where there are no external lighting sources, the scene is lit by the Nest Cam's own IR lighting. Clicking on any of the little round Nest Cam images will open a full page window showing what the camera is seeing right now. That page can also give access to a history of what the camera has seen.
You'll need just a few things to install your Nest Cam.
One or more Nest Cams or Dropcams.
A computer (PC or Mac) or a smartphone. A desktop computer will work but a laptop computer or smartphone for Nest Cam installation is more convenient as you can perform the first part of the Nest Cam installation right at the location where you intend to install the camera.
The Nest app to guide you through installation. If you plan to use a smartphone to install your Nest Cam the phone needs Bluetooth LE enabled, and you'll need to download the Nest app from the Apple App store (for Apple products) or from the Google Play store (for Android phones or PCs). Just search the appropriate store for "Nest app".
A building Wi-Fi system connected to the Internet and the Wi-Fi network password. Your network must support DHCP and the number of simultaneous users allowed must be large enough to support the present users plus all of your Nest Cams and Nest learning thermostats to be installed.
An electrical power source (wall receptacle) close enough to the intended Nest Cam location to allow connection of the Nest Cam's power cord and USB-power supply between the camera and the receptacle.
Nest Cam Installation Sequence
Above: the field of view of the Nest Cam shown on an Android cellphone display. To obtain this service you can follow the general Nest Cam installation procedure below.
Define the purpose of your camera installation and then choose the number of cameras you'll need. If your chief concern is monitoring people entering or leaving a building, you'll need enough cameras to watch all of the spots where someone might enter the structure, such as doors and windows. To reduce nuisance-notifications of movement detected by the Nest Cam, later you can fine tune this "watching" later by telling your camera to report only movement in certain areas of the camera's view
Purchase one or more Nest Cams. We bought our Nest Cams at Best Buy and directly from Nest, online. The Nest Store is at https://store.nest.com/
For beginners I suggest buying one Nest Cam and installing it at your most-important monitoring location. Usually the installation procedure is easy and very fast - just minutes, but the installation and adjustment of your cameras will be faster after having learned on the first unit. But if you are sure you'll use three or more Nest Cams, check out the Nest Store. Nest offers discounted package deals that can save you $100 when purchasing three cameras at once. No one at Best Buy mentioned that little detail when I purchased five cameras at the start of research for this article.
Choose your Nest Cam or Dropcam camera location(s). Generally you'll want to mount the Nest Cam security camera in a protected indoor location, fairly high but not necessarily at ceiling height, and in a location from which the camera can see as much area as possible of the room(s) it is to monitor. Nest suggests not mounting the camera higher than thirteen feet above the floor. If you want the Nest Cam to be able to look out through a window or door then you may need to install it a bit lower to give a better angle of view.
Curiously, while the installation instructions for Nest Cam specify a protected indoor location, a user satisfaction survey from Nest asked me if I installed the camera indoors or outside. (The device, wiring and connections are not waterproof.)
I put most of our test cameras in high locations close to the ceiling. Where possible the camera is located along the center of a wall so that its view of more distant areas will suffer the minimum distortion caused by its wide angle lens. If you locate the camera close to the ceiling you'll see that you'll need to adjust its aim downwards to avoid wasting your Nest Cam's brains on staring at the ceiling surface itself.
To avoid a sloppy extension-cord installation, it's best if your Nest Cam (Dropcam) can be installed close enough to an electrical outlet to connect directly. A small power supply provides a USB cable connection that will ultimately connect the camera to power. The Nest Cam's USB cable is ten feet in length.
Watch out: Nest warns not to use USB cable extenders to add length, probably because USB extensions interfere with the data transmimssion of the camera.
Keep in mind that if the power source for the Nest Cam is in easy reach of an intruder it won't take much to simply un-plug the device, thus shutting it off. (You'll be notified that the camera has lost power or that it is off.)
During installation the camera itself will connect to a local Wi-Fi network in the building, allowing you to see its view from a computer or smartphone. Nest Cams include a microphone and speaker allowing the user to speak to people who are in the viewing field, though we found its sound tinny and a bit difficult to understand.
Install the Nest Cam app downloaded to your computer or smartphone.There are two installation methods for Nest Cam, using a laptop computer (PC or Mac), or using your smartphone.
In either case you'll download a simple installation program for your computer or app for your smartphone. With the app loaded on your device you'll need to set up your Nest account (basic information such as an eMail address for notifications) and to log into your new Nest account. Once logged in to your Nest account you'll see a simple "Add" button that starts the installation process.
Install the Nest Cam. Using the computer is easiest as you'll have a real keyboard needed to enter camera names, wi-fi passwords etc. Later we're going to discuss the Nest Cam installation procedure and to offer suggestions to avoid a few trouble spots. You can find some comfort during waits in the installation process by watching the Nest Cam's light. See NEST CAM STATUS LIGHT CODES.
If your camera installation does not complete in a few minutes and without error codes you may need to look up an error code on the Nest website. But not all installation failures produce error codes that Nest explains. We had trouble installing some of our cameras and we document what went wrong and how we fixed it. See NEST CAM INSTALLATION TECHNICAL TIPS.
Check the Nest Cam operation from your computer or smartphone. Check that you are satisfied with the Nest Cam location before drilling holes and turning in screws to install the permanent / magnetic camera mounting pad. You may find that you need to re-position the Nest Cam a bit to avoid obstructions or bright lights that may interfere with its night time performance. Examples of these glitches are discussed at NEST CAM INFRA RED for DARK VIEWS and at NEST CAM LIGHTING RECOMMENDATIONS.
Fine tune the Nest Cam operation by adjusting its settings. We'll discuss fine-tuning the Nest Cam later. The same screens that shows the Nest Cam operation and image give quick easy access to the camera controls. On your smartphone or computer open the Nest app, select the camera, and click the little gear icon in the upper right corner to choose your camera's settings for resolution, notifications, name, and other features.
Use the Nest Cam. Depending on your requirements, check in on your Nest Cam frequently. By the end of the free trial period you'll decide whether or not you want to subscribe to Nest Aware - Nest's Nest Aware data storage service that will save the last ten days or the last 30 days of activity or sound detected by each camera. I set up our Nest Cams to notify me when the camera detects either sound or motion in both of our test buildings. I receive an email notification that also buzzes on my smartphone.
Below: the nest cam installed in the kitchen of a home in Mexico is unobtrusive (red arrow) and would be more so if we chose to turn off the green light indicating that the camera is in operation. The photo at the top of this page provides a close-up image of the Nest Cam atop the blue spice shelf.
While you can install a Nest Cam anywhere that you have adequate internet access and speed, Nest Cams installed out of the United States may not include the Nest Aware service that records a history of activity detected by the camera.
The view provided by the nest-cam shown above is illustrated below under night time conditions. Later this article shows this same view lit only by the Nest Cam's IR source.
What's in the Box With Your Nest Cam?
What's in the box when you buy a Nest Cam?
The instructions: these are really easy. Try reading them.
The Nest Cam itself. Remember to pull off the little protective sticker over the Nest Cam lens or your images will be ugly.
A magnetic base (as well as sticky pads and some really nice screws) used to secure the Nest Cam to a surface (wall, shelf, ceiling, whatever)
A USB cable that can connect the Nest Cam to your computer for the first steps in installation and later you will connect this same cable directly from the Nest Cam to ...
The Nest Cam power supply that plugs into a wall receptacle
Assorted advertisements, brochures, and a sticker that warns intruders or visitors that Nest Cams are installed in the building
Usually you can install a Nest Cam in just minutes using your smartphone or computer and the Nest Cam installation app.
When you download and install the Nest Cam installation app on a Mac (Nest Cam Setup (Macintosh).app it will appear in your Applications directory. If after plugging in your Nest Cam to your computer's USB port the installation app does not start you can double-click the app name in your Applications directory (or equivalent on a PC).
If you download and install the Nest Cam installation app on your smartphone, as there is no USB connection between the Nest Cam and your phone, you'll be asked to use the installation app to photograph the square QR code on the back of each Nest Cam (photo shown below) to identify the camera and get the installation going. The Nest app will open a window showing a green square that you position over the QR code rectangle. Alternatively you can manually enter the Nest Cam's 12-digit serial number found on the camera next to the QR code by plugging the camera in to a power source and then entering the serial number.
In both procedures you'll need to select your Wi-fi name and enter the Wi-fi password.
Nest Cam Installation Technical Tips to Get Past Unusual Error Codes
Your Nest Cam will notify you by email if it detects movement or sound. But what if you are traveling in the Costa Rica jungle on a seven day birding tour? Nest's Nest Aware service will record ten days or thirty days of activity detected by your Nest Cam, allowing you to later review what happened while you were searching for the Quetzal in Costa Rica.
Watch out: even with Nest Aware, Nest's video history recording service, you may completely miss or lose data if your cameras are turned off. That may seem obvious. But we found that from time to time one or all of our Nest Cam's "spontaneously" turned off.
We asked Nest Support why we lost a week of recording data. Our consultant posed two possible explanations, and we add a third.
If a building's Nest Cam system was changed from "Away" to "Home" by a visitor or by the Nest Thermostats' sensing of someone in the home, then the cameras may be turned to "Home" and thus to "Off". As Nest explains, the Nest Cam can work with other Nest products such as the Nest Thermostat. If you link these products and then set your Nest Thermostat to "Away" the Nest Cams can automatically turn on. Or off. But we had not made that connection.
Wi-Fi system interference or overloading can cause odd behavior of devices connected to the local Wi-Fi system and thus loss of connection to the Internet. In addition if other Wi-Fi uses in the building are very demanding (such as streaming internet movies) your cameras may give trouble. Nest suggests scheduling your Nest Cam to turn off during hours of frequent movie watching. Keep in mind that Nest's upload bandwith data numbers are per camera. So adding that third or fifth camera may find you running up against bandwith limitations.
Loss of electrical power in the building will of course turn off the cameras during that time. In our test building in the U.S. a power loss resulted in temporary loss of Wi-Fi and Nest Cam operation. Our Nest Cams automagically re-booted and re-connected themselves when power was restored. Indeed without that feature the prospects of relying on your Nest Cam security system while traveling would dim considerably. And of course even if electrical power is maintained, if your Wi-Fi service goes down so do your cameras.
Deterrent effects of a Nest Cam
Should your Nest Cam be obvious or hidden? If you want the Nest Cam to be unobtrusive locate it on a surface above eye level and where it is surrounded by and/or backed by other dark objects: photographs, woodcarvings, or that stuffed panda you had when you were a kid.
But do you want the camera to be noticed or not?
Both independent research and security experts we've interviewed point out that often the most valuable effect of a security system is its action as a deterrent, discouraging people from poking around in your building uninvited. For a deterrent effect leave the camera light on and locate the camera where it can be seen but where it'll be hard to un-plug or simply steal. Nest includes a door sticker with some of its cameras to provider additional notice that cameras are installed on the premises.
Watch out: no web cam, Nest Cam, nor most home security systems will keep a determined intruder out of your home. To make your building into a secure fortress you would need a hardened and protected electrical supply, underground entry of telephone wires and electrical power to make them safe from being cut, an alarm system, a notification system that calls a command center, the police or fire department, and other measures. Such systems must comply with UL 1023, "Standard for Household Burglar-Alarm System Units". Where a combination alarm and fire warning system are installed they should also comply with the "Standard for Household Fire Warning Systems" UL 985. A list of alarm and intrusion detection system standards is given at REFERENCES.
However the presence of security cameras, as with good door locks, can deter amateurs and less serious intruders.
Research on the deterrent effects of security cameras
Fujii, Yusaku, Noriaki Yoshiura, and Naoya Ohta. "Creating a worldwide community security structure using individually maintained home computers: The e-JIKEI Network Project." Social Science Computer Review 23, no. 2 (2005): 250-258.
Abstract: This article describes a project for creating a community security structure spread worldwide that uses individually maintained home computers connected to the Internet. The basic concept of the project is that every individual person watches in and around his or her house using cheap cameras as his or her eyes, personal computer as his or her brain, and Internet as his or her communication means by his or her own expense. The purpose of the project is to re-create, in the present day, a mutual watch system, which widely existed in old Japanese communities, as well as in other countries in the world, but in a much more powerful and flexible form with the aid of the information technology. In the first stage of the project, a preliminary system with the minimum necessary functions for realizing the concept has been developed, which consisted of free software and operation manuals.
Hui-Wen, Koo, and I. P. L. Png. "Private security: Deterrent or diversion?." International Review of Law and Economics 14, no. 1 (1994): 87-101.
Introduction: Window bars, chain-link fences, and guard dogs are ubiquitous in wealthy Asian
homes from New Delhi to Taipei. By contrast, all of these are rare in similar British,
Canadian, and U.S. residential districts without the rate of property crime being
Generally, private security expenditures have two effects (Clotfelter, 1978; Clarke,
1983; Cook, 1986; and Shavell, 1991). First, they may deter some potential criminals,
i.e., persuade them not to attempt crime at all. Second, they may also divert criminals
towards other potential victims. 2 To the extent that security expenditures divert
crime, their marginal effect on crime will be lower, which would be consistent with
the contrast between Asia and the West noted above.
Empirical evidence (from Britain) on the diversionary effect, however, is mixed.
The installation of additional surveillance cameras in selected London Underground
stations appeared not to divert crime to other stations (Mayhew, Clarke, et al., 1979).
By contrast, after steering column locks were required on new cars, theft of new cars
fell, while theft of older cars rose (Mayhew, Clarke, et al., 1976). Can these two apparently
conflicting observations be reconciled?
Mazerolle, Lorraine, David Hurley, and Mitchell Chamlin. "Social behavior in public space: An analysis of behavioral adaptations to CCTV." Security Journal 15, no. 3 (2002): 59-75.
Abstract: This paper explores how people behave when CCTV cameras operate in public space. We examine how behavioral patterns change over time, and assess the short-term influence of CCTV on behavior in public space. Using videotape footage of four CCTV sites, we document pro-social, anti-social, traffic and guardianship behaviors over a four-month study period. Our study of CCTV in Cincinnati found that surveillance cameras create somewhat of an initial deterrent effect in the month, perhaps two months, following implementation. We conclude that erecting signs to notify people about the cameras could possibly increase the level of deterrence of CCTV. Signs about CCTV cameras in operation would also address some of the fairness issues raised by civil libertarians. We also suggest that shifting CCTV cameras around on a frequent basis could solve two dilemmas: first, it would increase the number of hotspots under surveillance, and hence remove some of the inequities observed in CCTV deployment; second, short and periodic, as opposed to permanent, deployment of CCTV cameras would capitalize upon some of the initial deterrent effects of the cameras that are observed in our data.
Surette, Ray. "The thinking eye: Pros and cons of second generation CCTV surveillance systems." Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 28, no. 1 (2005): 152-173.
Abstract excerpts: The main difference between first and second generation surveillance is the change from a “dumb camera” that needs a human eye to evaluate its images to a computer‐linked camera system that evaluates its own video images. Second generation systems reduce the human factor in surveillance and address some of the basic concerns associated with first generation surveillance systems such as data swamping, boredom, voyeurism, and profiling. Their enhanced capabilities, though, raise new concerns, particularly the expansion of surveillance and its intrusiveness.
Swann, Don E., Christine C. Hass, David C. Dalton, and Sandy A. Wolf. "Infrared-triggered cameras for detecting wildlife: an evaluation and review." Wildlife Society Bulletin 32, no. 2 (2004): 357-365.
Abstract We evaluated the abilities of 6 infrared-triggered camera systems (TrailMaster 1500, TrailMaster 500, Buckshot RTV, Buckshot Scout, CamTrakker, and DeerCam) to detect 3 sizes of animal models at 2 heights above ground and from 3 distances. We also determined the size of the infrared detection zone and the relative sensitivity of different passive camera systems. All camera systems tested had a detection zone that was narrow in the vertical dimension (3–7°). Except for the TrailMaster 500, all systems also had a detection zone that was narrow in the horizontal dimension ( < 10° ). Sensitivity varied among camera systems. Most performed well at default or high sensitivities; the CamTrakker and the Buckshots set at highest sensitivity produced the most detections. All systems except the Buckshot RTV performed better at lower ambient temperatures. We review technical aspects of infrared-triggered photography and recommend how researchers can improve their success in detecting animals by selecting the appropriate system for their study area and target species and by careful placement and precise alignment of camera units in the field.
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UL 1023, "Standard for Household Burglar-Alarm System Units" - http://ulstandards.ul.com/standard/?id=1023_6 - Excerpt: Household burglar-alarm system units covered by these requirements consist of one or more unit assemblies of electrical components that are designed to detect the presence, movement, sound, or other activity of an intruder. Provisions are made for the connection of a power supply, remote control, and signal circuits by a prescribed method of wiring. These system units usually operate within the limits of Class 2 remote control and signal circuits as defined by Article 725 of the National Electrical Code, NFPA 70.
UL 985, "Standard for Household Fire Warning Systems"
UL 641, "Standard for Installation and Classification of Residential Burglar Alarm Systems"
UL 639, "Standard for Intrusion-Detection Units" - Excerpt: An intrusion detector, as covered by these requirements, consists of one or more unit assemblies of electrical components that are designed to detect the presence, movement, sound or other activity of an intruder. Provision is made for connection to the assembly of power supply, remote control, and signal circuits by a prescribed method of wiring.
UL 603, "Standard for Power Supplies for Use with Burglar-Alarm Systems", - Excerpt: These requirements do not cover power supplies for use at a central station. Such power supplies are covered by the Standard for Central-Station Alarm Services, UL 827.
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