Roger Fingas / Android Authority
I recently had the chance to try out the Blink Outdoor, one of Amazon’s many intelligent surveillance cameras. Without spoiling the rest of my mind, the Early Notification option in the Blink app was a standout feature. This triggers alerts as soon as motion is detected, at least within your sensitivity settings. The technology is so fast that if you have a stable connection and are already looking at your phone, you can often capture seconds of events while they’re still in progress.
This is in contrast to most surveillance cameras – whether from Ring, Nest or others – which often take a few seconds to deliver a notification, let alone open a live stream. The gap may be small, but in situations where it is important to act quickly, like scare away a thief or catch an accident before it happens. Security cameras are most valuable when they deter problems instead of just recording them.
The gap may be small, but it can make all the difference in situations where acting quickly is important.
Not only are hair trigger notifications rarer than they should be, but oddly enough, they are under-sold by Amazon / Blink. Early notifications aren’t mentioned in the company’s marketing, and even in the app, the option is labeled as “beta”. Why is this technology not the norm in smart security?
The issues holding back notification speed
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
Granted, there is at least one obvious risk with faster notifications: battery drain. Frequent rapid fire alarms can burn out the batteries that many cameras rely on. In the worst case scenario, some people complain that they have to recharge or replace their batteries every few months, resulting in poor reviews and / or customers migrating to other camera brands. As much as people want speed, sometimes they crave convenience more.
The Blink Outdoor is a bit “deceitful” in that the camera itself uses two AA batteries but sends them to a hub that plugs into an indoor socket – many cameras use built-in Wi-Fi or 4G to communicate with the cloud who are naturally more power hungry. However, if those AA batteries can last for half their estimated two years, then it’s not unreasonable for other camera manufacturers to keep up.
Related: The best wireless surveillance cameras
Another bottleneck that Blink avoids is object recognition. Many cameras can now identify people, pets, vehicles, and packages, which is helpful in prioritizing alerts. Nest devices go one step further with an Aware subscription and distinguish friends from strangers. Object analysis requires additional processing time, whether it’s done on the device or through the cloud – and the cloud option is more common, adding additional delays from network traffic.
Granted, there is at least one obvious risk with faster notifications: battery drain.
One final deterrent is the need to minimize false positives. This is likely why Blink’s technology is still in beta – people would start ignoring warnings when many of them were useless, and the company is undoubtedly trying to dampen expectations until it gets its way Refined algorithms. In fact, I occasionally received “blank” recordings during my tests, even with limited detection zones in the outdoor field of view. But those were few and far between and can happen with any camera, so there doesn’t seem to be an excuse to ditch early notifications here either.
Security camera notifications can and should be faster
For some people, a slight delay in notifications may be acceptable. You might feel like the odds are in no rush to act, and you might be more concerned about battery life and the quality of the alerts. That is, they prefer to be told that a package has just been delivered or that instead of a bird, a person is approaching the door while ignoring everything else. And that’s perfectly understandable – when I’m head down while typing, I’m trying to block out anything unimportant on my phone.
Do you prefer the fastest camera notifications or slower ones with improved reliability and object detection?
The fastest notifications – I want to react quickly
Slower, but with improved reliability and object detection
However, I imagine that if you were showing people extreme scenarios – like preventing someone from smashing your car window or preventing your child from burning their hand on the stove – they would likely insist on better response times from their cameras. False positives here and there would be a small compromise.
Continue reading: The best smart home devices you can buy
The solution I think is to bring some version of Blink’s early notification option to the fore in every camera app, even if it’s not enabled by default. If necessary, manufacturers could disable object detection when this mode is active, but there’s a good chance that processing on the device will be fast enough over the next few years to offer the best of both worlds.
An Alexa-compatible surveillance camera that can withstand rain.
The Blink Outdoor is a weatherproof surveillance camera with features such as two-way conversation, Alexa integration, night vision and the ability to record via cloud subscription or local storage.