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Motion Alerts

Another important feature in security cameras is remote notification. It's great to be able to use the viewer to scroll back in time looking for events, but often you'll want to get a notification if something occurred while you're not home. For example, you could set up an interior camera to monitor the front door so that when the door opens, you'll get an alert.

WiLife provides a couple of different ways to deliver remote alerts. Figure 13 shows the Email Setup screen where you can define how you want to get your email alerts.

Email Setup

Figure 13: Email Setup

The features looked pretty complete, but when setting up this capability, I quickly ran into a limitation. The "Send Email from" section allows you to provide the outbound mail server the device can connect to and send an alert from. That's fine, but I had to enter a username and password for my SMTP server, and the problem was that my ISP, Comcast, didn't use usernames and passwords to verify account usage. Comcast limits the usage of its server to machines using an IP address they control.

To use the email alert feature, I had to find another SMTP server that would accept username and passwords. Luckily I had a free gmail account that included such a server, but your mileage may vary. Some ISPs, in order to reduce spam, block all outbound SMTP traffic, instead of insisting that all mail go through their own server. Hopefully WiLife will make entering a username and a password optional in future software releases.

Once I had the gmail account set up, I started getting alert emails. As you can see in Figure 13, there are three types of email alerts that can be sent. Text-only, is just that: you get a plain-text email indicating that a motion alert has been fired, which camera it was on, and what time it occurred. The "Video Frame" option gives the above information with the addition of a jpeg image of the event. The last option is to get emailed a short video clip of the motion event. The video is encoded in a Windows Media Video (WMV) format, so you'll have to make sure the recipient of the video can handle WMV files.

You'll also need to be careful about setting up your motion parameters. Some of the short videos I received were nearly four megabytes, so if you're getting a lot of alerts, your mailbox could fill quickly. As well as email, you can also set up the system to send an alert to your cell phone. Figure 14 shows the setup screen where you can enter your phone number and provider.

Cell Phone Setup

Figure 14: Cell Phone Setup

I did a quick test of this feature by forwarding alerts to my teenage daughter's cell phone. I thought it was pretty cool, but she got annoyed quickly; so, I suggest using this carefully. In addition, some cell phone services drop picture and video attachments. So depending on your plan, you may or may not be able to receive images or video alerts via a cell phone.

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