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TechnologyTell Review: Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera

Sections: Internet of Things, Reviews, Security, Smart Home, Streaming, Video

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At CES 2015, there was no shortage of home monitoring and surveillance cameras. Now that there are so many models from different brands available, it may seem that they’re mostly the same. In terms of hardware, it could be true. However, when you get down to it, it’s the software and interface that can make a huge difference between rival products.

Design

The Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera shares a striking resemblance to another video monitoring camera I’ve recently reviewed. Personally, I don’t mind since they share a fantastic physical shape. What’s not to like about satin silver and gloss black? I assure you that it’s easier to disguise than all-white cameras. And even if there may be some subtleties in hardware, it’s the software that going to make the biggest difference in experience.

All you need is right in the tiny box: the Oco camera, a wall adapter with flat USB cable for power, and a wall mount with mounting screws. That’s it. This video surveillance camera transfers data wirelessly through the mobile app, eliminating any need for PC setup. Take note that there is no Micro SD card slot for local storage, which means that all recordings are saved in the cloud.

Oco cloud camera box contents

The tiny box has all the essentials required.

When working, there’s only a small green LED above the camera lens. Even the infrared emitters are muted and not very noticeable unless you’re looking for them.

I particularly like the aluminum base with swiveling camera head. The Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera provides a wide range of viewing angles, none of which will end up tipping the device over.

This is on top of the already wide-angle lens, which is ideal for broader viewing areas such as rooms. The wall mount is easy to install with just a few screws. This camera has zero weatherproofing whatsoever, so keep it inside. The heat vents and speaker grille are large enough to allow water and/or dirt to damage the internal electronics.

When you’re done playing with the Oco camera and found a place to set it, download the Ivideon app. Registration is quick and simple, and the app steps you through the process of adding the camera. My only bump in the process involved holding up my smartphone so the camera could acknowledge the QR code shown on my screen. It requires a bit of patience, since it’s the worst part of the entire process. And when you stop receiving motion/sound alerts, you have to delete and re-add the camera. Boo. I had one attempt continue beyond two minutes.

After the loud beep of success, you’re absolutely welcome to cheer aloud as you’re on the way to explore what the Ivideon app has in store.

Ivideon App

One great thing about using the Ivideon service is that it provides browser viewing. You can be anywhere else with a desktop or laptop, log in, and view all the connected feeds you have. This can be very convenient for those who need to monitor, yet want to do it on a much larger screen. Or when your mobile device has a weak signal or a low battery.

Oco cloud camera top

It’s about the size of a hockey puck, or the top half of a cupcake.

Overall, the Ivideon app has a clean interface for easy interaction. You get just the right amount of options to configure and no more. But for the wide majority of users, this is all that’s needed. The main landing page shows the camera feed(s) with a recent (timestamped) still image. From here, opening the menu lets you review the history of recorded events, each with a timestamped image. Otherwise, the only other choice to play with is App Settings, but that merely sets up your account, push notifications, and overall video quality for viewing. Simple, right?

Take note that if you’ve unplugged your Oco W-Fi cloud camera, you may have to delete it in the Ivideon app and re-add. I noticed the lack of push notifications and email alerts rather immediately when the Oco camera was off all night (twice), even though the settings had everything set to on. After re-adding, everything went back to normal. You can also expect the video feed to refresh/reload itself regularly. So if you see it gray-out or pause with a loading circle, that’s normal.

Push notifications arrive within seconds of an event occurring, with the email notification arriving shortly after. However, the app won’t spam you each time something else moves or makes noise right after the initial trigger. There is a ‘cooling off’ period. Those who choose a recording service will be able to review the snippets of recorded video. Otherwise, free accounts only get a timestamped still-frame to look at.

Clicking on an individual camera expands the feed and gives you a little more to do. The Ivideon app does auto-rotate for either portrait or landscape orientation. I mention this because I have used some systems that did not do this, which is always annoying. From here, users can review events (specific to this camera feed), take a snapshot (saved to the mobile device), or talk via the camera’s microphone and speaker. The push-to-talk records messages only in 15-second bursts before sending it through. This is different from other apps that let you talk as much as you like.

Oco cloud camera ivideon app

Simple layout and options while viewing a live feed.

But I think that Ivideon has the right idea to package a message and then send it. Things get a little strange when you’re talking to someone on the other side of a camera, and then start hearing your own voice through your mobile device.

There are also a few setting that can be changed for each specific Oco Wi-Fi- cloud camera. Video quality can be low, medium, high, or auto. Both the motion and sound sensors can be on or off individually. Motion sensitivity can be set to low, medium, or high, complete with a brief description and area selection (just one). Sound detection has four settings – 25% increments – also with a brief description.

You can rename the camera, toggle nightvision, rotate the video orientation by degrees (if you have the camera mounted on the wall, for example), or delete the camera. Again, it’s a simple settings menu where options go down only one level. You can’t possibly get lost in here. One feature I like in particular is the ‘Always Listening’, which, when enabled, lets you always hear sound from the camera. So you can switch to a different app on your mobile device, yet remain sonically aware of what the camera hears. For the modern parent, the Ivideon app makes a fantastic baby monitor.

The app is quite stable and hasn’t crashed on me once (yet). Once in awhile, the camera feed goes gray and says ‘disconnected’, but then loads back up within 10 seconds or so.

Oco Camera Performance

With a solid connection (wi-fi or 4G), the image through the live feed is only about 6-11 seconds behind the actual action. In most cases, you’ll get a push notification before being able to see/hear what went on. So far, I’ve found that leaving the video quality set to auto works perfectly fine. The lower quality settings makes streaming easier with slower connections by sacrificing some framerate and resolution. As for distance, with good light and a clear view you can see over 14 meters. However, the Oco Wi-Fi- cloud camera is better for distances shorter than that.

The camera hardware is good, delivering a watchable framerate when you’re viewing the live feed. It’s not the smoothest I’ve seen, but it’s also far from being considered terrible. Moving objects/bodies will, momentarily, turn a little blocky around the edges as the Oco camera resolves it all. Even so, the video is more than enough to be able to follow activity within the camera’s eye. This is especially important when you are on 3G/4G and want to watch without frequent interruption for video buffering.

Oco cloud camera ivideon app night vision

This is the general level of brightness immediately after the Oco camera switches night vision on.

With sufficient lighting, color and contrast reproduction are very good, providing sufficient depth for objects further away. It’s good enough to tell the difference between a brown book and brown shoe (of similar sizes) from each other on the floor. The colors shown are very close to that of the actual objects. If it seems slightly off, it could be due to the overall lighting of the area. The Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera prefers to focus on points that are evenly-lit. So, for example, if the center area of the video is notably brighter than everything else, those other areas will appear darker than they should.

Two-way conversations work well, as long as each side gives enough pause for the communication delays. The speaker on the rear of the camera is louder than it looks. Anyone in the general vicinity (up to, say, 6 meters) can definitely hear words from the mobile user coming through. While the camera’s microphone can pick up sounds, the resolution is only ok. There’s enough detail to get an idea of what’s going on, but not a whole lot more. Those who want to talk through the camera and be understood clearly need to be up close (enunciation greatly helps).

When it comes to motion triggering, the detection area can be sized in order to monitor only what you want and nothing else. It can help in reducing false alarms. Even though the rectangle has only a coarse adjustment, the boundary line is quite precise. An object merely has to sneak itself within the detection area (relative to the sensitivity) in order to trigger the Oco camera. There are some home surveillance cameras out there that have much (too much) leeway when it comes to this.

Oco cloud camera ivideon app image

Daylight vs. (full) night vision – colors are good.

Regarding motion detection sensitivity, the descriptions are pretty accurate. At the highest level, it’s rather difficult to slowly sneak an object (like a tablet stylus) past the camera’s view. I’m talking about creeping it along a flat surface 2mm at a time, about 17cm away from the Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera lens. The low sensitivity setting is ideal for those who need things like swaying branches or bushes to be ignored. But objects passing through the field of view (e.g. cars, people, etc.) will trigger on this setting, no matter how slow the casual movement.

Compared to the motion detection, sound detection is much more forgiving. It’s a little harder to figure out, given the delays between alerts that sent push notifications. The most sensitive level for sound detection – “even subtle noises are detected” – can ignore someone sniffling or a pen hitting the floor. So, unlike motion, which is a bit more straightforward, you’ll probably have to play around with the sound detection and experiment. This could be easier done with a recording plan as opposed to the free subscription service.

The Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera maintains a pretty good level of brightness until the night vision kicks in automatically. Night vision – it’s darn good. The image as a whole shows up bright, with great contrast, making it easy to discern objects and depth. At times, especially when there is movement in the field of view, the image can appear a little coarse as it resolves the motion. Even so, the framerate remains smooth.

What I really like about the night vision optics of the Oco camera is the even illumination. There is no ‘hot spot’ in the center, leaving the other areas dark by comparison. Compared to live video during the day, the image is not quite as sharp under the infrared lights. However, it’s more than enough to see anything going on up to 14 meters (at least), even in the corners.

Subscription Service

The free subscription to Ivideon’s cloud video surveillance provides only some limited options. You’ll have noticed that I’ve yet to mention any video recording and playback thus far – events are marked only with a still image and nothing else. The Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera has no internal storage or Micro SD card slot.

Those who want to get more out of this device will have to subscribe to an upgraded plan. The prices you see on Ivideon’s site aren’t it – hit the option to manage cloud recording within the app. For $3.99/month (per camera), you can view all the video recorded within the past 24 hours. Once the clock ticks over, then they’re automatically deleted from the cloud.

For most users, this should be sufficient. If you’re away at work during the day, you’ll only really need to review the goings-on during that time. Video clips can be exported and saved on your own storage. But those who want extended recording windows, larger video files to export, and more users to share with can opt for the $9.99/ or $19.99/month options.

Verdict

Tech is always best when it just works, and the Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera is no exception. Aside from the QR code scanning part, setting up and using the Oco camera with the Ivideon app is a breeze. The camera itself is very compact, lending to placement almost anywhere within reach of a wall outlet. When it comes to video quality, the camera optics are good and very suitable for any average consumer. Night vision gets two thumbs up.

The Ivideon app is very easy to use and navigate. While some may feel a lack of in-depth control, the app does cover all the primary basics without overburdening. I can say with confidence that the Ivideon app is for anyone who wants to set up a camera with the least amount of fuss, experimentation, or customization. Personally, I prefer a clean-yet-simple app over a ‘more comprehensive’ interface that feels like a hot mess to use.

I’d say the $150 MSRP is a fair price. The Oco Wi-Fi cloud camera is a quick and powerful way to set up a nanny-cam, baby-cam, pet-cam, or just general surveillance indoors.

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