"UFO Detector Hidden IP Camera": Flawed by design?

Oct 12, 2016

This is not a smoke detector, but it is hardly a usable IP camera either!

What were they thinking?

The idea itself of an IP camera hidden in a fake smoke detector is not bad, and the ceiling is an ideal location for any 360° degree cameras, except that this one is a traditional directional 120 degree lens which:
1. ...fails to pass as a smoke detector due to the 2 LED's inside: the red one is steady and acts as a power indicator, that's fine, but with the blue one flashing when connected, it's hard not be noticed.
Thankfully there are several solutions to that problem, but the best is the next point.

2. ...cannot actually be mounted on the ceiling: the mini USB port used by the power cable, is located on the base of the camera. It would have been better to have it on the side! Of course, one could argue that the camera is meant to be used on battery, and that would be fine if only the autonomy was bigger than 3 hours!

This could be the end of my review, but I like to give these lost-cause gadgets a chance, so I dug a bit deeper.

The initial setup is simple,
1. install P2PLiveCam,
2. Turn on the camera and connect to the new Wi-Fi AP appearing after a few seconds on your phone.

3. start P2PLiveCam,
4. scan the QR code on the base of the camera, and you're ready.

The P2PLiveCam application itself is fine and used by many other IP Cameras models.
The 1280x720 resolution of the camera is spoiled by the below average quality of the pinhole lens. The night vision quality is just not good enough.


The port 80/HTTP suggests there could be a web interface, which tends to be rare nowadays.
This port can be used to intercept the video stream:
http://<IP Addr>/videostream.asf?user=admin&pwd=&resolution=64&rate=0

The web interface looked familiar and the Tenvis JPT3815W was actually using an older version of the same UI. It gives access to a bit more options than the phone app, like disabling the blue blinking LED.

The port 554/RTSP, serves 3 channels for the different resolutions. I found the right url with ONVIF Device Manager.
rtsp://<IP Addr>:554/rtsp_live0 , /rtsp_live1, /rtsp_live2

The port 81 is the UPnP/ONVIF channel and the camera is detected as such by ODM, Onvifer and Synology Surveillance Station.

While this later tests the camera successfully  as an ONVIF device, it fails at keeping the connection afterwards (I would blame Synology rather than the camera in this case)

At least, it can be configured to use the RTSP url directly, but there will be no audio (another limitation from Synology as the same URL in VLC does stream video+audio)

The overall quality of the camera is not worth the DIY work required for a permanent installation.
By its characteristics, this is rather a portable spy intended to be temporarily mounted (with Blu-Tack gum or any removable adhesive, it's well light enough) to watch a particular place for the duration of the battery autonomy.
And yet, the battery life is too short (claimed autonomy: 5 hours, actual: ~3h) in this situation. Also, the LEDs need to be neutralized to ensure discretion and the night vision is mediocre at best.

The UFO Detector Hidden IP Camera is sold by Gearbest for 34.83$/31.32€
For that price, I would rather recommend to buy a proper IP camera, and if you're after a the ceiling-mounted solution, consider spending the extra bucks in a fisheye 360‎° camera. Personally I consider a visible camera more efficient for crime prevention.

Just for the fun, I relocated the components of this camera into the casing of a dead unit.

Good for:
- occasional use for recording punctual events (3 hours max)

Not good for:
- permanent use on USB power (connector location does not allow that)
- night surveillance (the picture is already not great during the day, but is terrible in night mode)
- smoke detection: it is only a camera, not a smoke detector (these dual-devices exist on the market)
- HD video recording (pinhole lens not sharp enough)

1 comment:

  1. I've struggled with some cameras on Blue Iris in the past but this camera was easy. I'm happy with the microphone and speaker quality and the video quality is excellent, especially the night vision which exceeded my expectations. Melbourne Alarm Systems Installed