Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Answer: I'm having trouble with my WiFi security camera and need help/advice.

WiFi cams are just not reliable. Anyone that tells you diff is just not monitoring them that close. I work from home and have 4 dedicated monitors plus automation monitoring my systems which makes it painfully clear to me when a camera (and a lot of other devices) are having an issue.

But maybe they / you don't really care. Maybe you just want something simple that works most of the time. That is a legit opinion too. Not everyone wants much less needs solid coverage but if you do, read on. 

Better WiFi might help but not solve it

It is important to note it is not just WiFi strength. My level WiFi coverage of 10 AP is extreme for the few acres I'm covering but to align all my cams I need solid WiFi for my tablets over a good bit of my property plus I have a fair number of non cam devices that require WiFi like weather monitoring, irrigation and even some remote smart plugs and lights where Z-wave and ZigBee are not practical.
Note there actually 3 more APs besides the 10 shown here. An Ethernet Over Power at the gate and another at the creek side plus one on a separate test network

Then there is interference 

With interference on the rise from neighbors WiFi and other devices, multiple APs are becoming common and pretty much guarantees at least a few dropped frames from lost packets. Even out here on the edge of town. Here is an example of some of the APs in my logs of neighboring APs from just just one day of the cars passing by over 200 feet from the nearest AP of mine.

Some cams will stick to a channel or an even an AP till restarted. 

From my personal experience with multiple models of cams from over a dozen brands, if, for one of a multitude of reasons, they lose connection for a second they might:

  • Wait for THAT AP to be reachable again. 
  • Switch to the nearest AP on that channel even if the signal is too weak to be usable. You can work around this one a bit if your network supports min RSSI.
  • Not even notice the disconnect for X amount of time
  • I've even seen the occasional reboot though it is hard to say which was the cause and which the effect there.
Rarely is it anything close to a quick automatic reconnect.

But does it matter?

Granted in most cases we are just talking a few short outages which you might never notice if you you were not sitting in front of the consoles or checking the footage. Note too that depending on your NVR software and settings WiFi issues, might manifest as low frame rate or hung video for awhile before disconnects get long enough to get an offline indication on a console much less a notification. A few dropped frames may not seem like a big deal but if you are trying to get a usable shot of a face or plate it could mean everything.

The WiFi range of cameras varies wildly too. 

Off the same AP and the same time I've have had WiFi cameras "work" 200 feet away while others could not connect 50 feet down the same line of sight. The Wyze cams are so bad about dropping offline I have scripts for repower them via smart plugs if they are offline more than a couple minutes.

But if you really must

Sometimes WiFi really is the only practical option but if you are talking security find some way to use a wired cam even if it means Ethernet Over Power or point to point wireless. If WiFi is your only option I strongly recommend putting them on smart plugs and setting up scripts to restart them as needed.

Plus this

Then there is the whole other discussion on recording 24/7 vs on motion much less only to the cloud when the camera having the issue is battery powered and or recording to the cloud such as Ring, Nest, Wyze, Arlo ect.