Camera recommendations for video monitoring for both medical monitoring & security?


I’m finally getting started with SmartThings. I have some ideas of things I want to do but also know that the folks in this community have put so much time, effort, and thought into systems that I’d love to hear your thoughts. Someone already suggested I post questions for feedback and ideas so I’m taking them up on it.

A few basics. We live in an apartment. It has indoor hallways and a balcony. I’m disabled at a fairly young due to a rare genetic disorder. I have the SmartThings kit on the way. In addition, we have a Nest Thermostat on the way (hopefully it should work, the only one that will), an Okidokeys smart lock (although I may change to a different brand), Amazon Echo, and Philips Hue lighting. I recently upgraded the router to improve coverage and stability.

One of the things that I need to integrate is some video monitoring. Because of our apartment layout, it’s a little less straightforward. I’m looking at 2-3 cameras inside our place. I’m thinking I want to add a camera outside on the balcony (we’re only on the second floor and it’s fairly easily climbable. In addition, I need video outside of the front door. This becomes more challenging as I don’t have access to power outside the front door. I’ve seen a couple of options for this including Arlo and Homeboy. While I doubt either of these will integrate well with the other cameras, both have ifttt channels and we’ll just have to figure it out. The other thing I was considering was a video doorbell of sorts but I’m not sure if the lack of power will be an issue. If you have any thoughts or ideas along this line, please let me know.

As far as the other cameras go, I have two goals the primary one being video monitoring, the second increasing safety and security. Due to my disorder, I have a severe respiratory issues which could cause me to be unable to breathe. My husband wants to be able to check in on me, even if I’m sleeping, to make sure that I’m OK. It also means he can check on me even when he’s not at home. We had this for awhile with some non-integrated WiFi cameras, and in principle it worked just as expected. However, after purchasing the cameras, Samsung changed significant features (removing them) and the cameras lost a lot of functionality and we returned them. I only mentioned this because we at least know that the video is helpful and my medical team is encouraging me to do this as well.

My question for now comes down to this - is what I’m wanting to do best done by:

a) using one of the limited models of d-link or Samsung cameras that work directly with ST

b) using a camera that can interface with the ST hub radios but not directly compatible (like the Nest, Dropcam or similar device)

c) using a more video/security monitoring system that can somehow work with ST (such as Scout, Canary, etc). I got this idea from reading someone’s suggestion in the forums. No idea how to integrate but they specifically mentioned Scout with ST.

d) using cameras that interface via ifttt (I’ll likely have to rely on this at least somewhat to get the front door part sorted whether with Arlo, Homeboy, video doorbell, or whatever your ideas are).

I’m keeping my eyes opened for deals on cameras etc and there are some right now. But I don’t want to goof it up whichwould is why I need your help with this. If you can understand, I have no frame of reference for how any of the integrations/integrated devices actually work when it comes to interface, etc as I’ve never used ST or the app for real. So I don’t understand all the nuances of which camera will work best in my situation. I get the concepts just not what it actually means for use.

If you could please share your thoughts and any ideas about which cameras or security setup would work best for me, I would appreciate it so, so much. Please feel free to share anything else you feel would be helpful in my planning and getting started. I really appreciate this fantastic community. Thanks so much!

Pretty sure the Scout/SmartThings interface is via IFTTT.

I’m sure others who do a lot with cameras will have more to suggest for your set up.

Video integration is not SmartThings’ strong suit. For example, even with the Samsung model that has an official integration you cannot trigger SmartThings events off of the motion sensor in the camera. So you may end up wanting to have a separate system for the video with just partial integration to ST.

Plus, to be honest, I wouldn’t put anything that might involve medical emergencies solely on SmartThings at the present time. It’s just not reliable enough.

I have both a security system and a medical monitoring system. But I don’t run either through SmartThings.

Again though, others will be able to say more about specific camera models that might suit your needs. :sunglasses:

Medical Monitoring: Continuous or patterned?

I’m not sure if @jmay33 has done anything with cameras, but he works with the VA and has done a lot of medical monitoring. He might have some additional ideas.

One of the issues that I know people may run into with medical monitoring systems is unlike a typical home security system, you sometimes want the camera to run continuously. That’s going to eat batteries. So some of these depend on mains-powered cameras instead.

On the other hand, many medical monitoring systems, including mine, incorporate the idea of “wellness checks” where individual sensors pick up activity patterns over the course of the day and only report things that seem off the norm. For example if there’s a medication you should take every day at three, you can put it in a drawer And have the contact sensor for that drawer notify someone if the drawer is not opened by say 3:30. Or if there’s been no activity in the kitchen or bathroom for six hours, that probably means the person is still in bed and may need to be checked on. Or if a step counter has a very low count. Things like that. So maybe instead of running a Camera continuously, you only use the camera to check on someone from time to time. But again it all comes down to your specific needs.

@pstuart @smart @jody.albritton @Carinda

Also more on specific camera models in the following thread:

Video Monitoring - V2 Hub - Intergration with existing camera systems

Video Doorbells

For video doorbell, it depends on the exact use cases you’re trying to solve. For example, I am in a wheelchair and it can take me several minutes to transfer from the sofa to the chair to go answer the door. I can send my dog to open the door more quickly, but of course only if it’s someone that I want to open the door to. Also, some people have codes to come in but still wait to be told it’s OK.

So I wanted to be able to see someone at the door, to have two way audio communication, and to be able to do a check of the video at any time, not just when someone had pushed the button. I got this from the Kuna porch light that has a Wi-Fi camera in it. I’m really happy with that, but it does require power.

The ring doorbell can be operated just on batteries, but you can’t watch video on demand, it only works when motion is detected.

The Arlo cameras are very popular because they also run on batteries, but then you don’t have the two way audio.

None of these integrate directly with SmartThings. They still all good choices for somebody, just depends on your exact needs.

BTW, If you are renting in the US, you might be able to ask to run power to a device in the front door area as a “reasonable accommodation” but you will have to pay for the modifications yourself, and you might have to pay to remove them when you move out. And it has to be something specifically related to mitigating your disability. But it is an option for some cases, just like someone might need a wheelchair ramp or automatic door opener put in.

One more thing I wanted to mention: the feature requirements for medical monitoring are often different than the feature requirements for security monitoring and you have to review each potential camera carefully to make sure you’re getting what you need.

For example, some popular inexpensive security cameras like homeboy have good video quality and save video clips for review later, but they typically are activated only by motion, not sound, and do not have two way audio intercoms.

You can find baby monitor cameras is in the same price range that will not save full video clips, but will allow you to do “live stream” video monitoring where you can look through the camera at any time. They also typically trigger to send you an alert for either noise or motion. And many also have two way audio.

For a medical monitoring system, the ones that are triggered by noise can be really helpful because a person lying in the bed can just say something and cause an immediate alert to go to the caregiver. The two way audio is very useful. And The caregiver’s being able to turn on the video at anytime is also good. On the other hand, triggered by noise means that if you have the television or the radio on The camera will come on also. That’s not usually such a big deal, but the notification alerts to the caregiver may not be what you want.

Anyway, the point here is to know what you need and where you need it. Where do you need to play audio? Do you need long video clips that are stored for review later? Or is a slideshow of stills enough?

Many times these products are trying to hit a specific price point like $99 or $199. So they include some features and drop others in order to hit the right price.

All of which means you may want some cameras which have security camera features for things like your balcony, but you may want One or two cameras with features more like a Baby Monitor for caregiver observation of your respiration patterns when you are asleep and A two way intercom. Also, you may need to go for more a expensive camera with more features if you’re going to watch television in the same room where you sleep and you need medical monitoring of both situations.

It’s good to make a checklist of different possible features and record each candidate camera was specifications as you go. It’s almost impossible to remember whether “video clips” means five seconds of animation or five minutes after you’ve looked at six or seven different models. :wink:

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I just realized that I never replied and thanked you for these posts. Incredible information and super helpful! I’ll definitely dig into the features and list them out like you suggested. I have wondered if I may need to get different cameras for different areas due to needing different features in different locations. It was helpful for you to verbalize this so I can ust embrace it if I can’t find a single camera model that accomplishes what I need each area and not stress that one model for all may not exist. Many thanks!! I’m so grateful for you sharing your time and expertise. :smile:

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I was thinking about you recently because first alert one link announced a new camera for their lineup that is supposed to be released for holiday 2016. (Although you never know for sure.)

Anyway their ideas that it can be used as either a baby monitor or a security camera. As a baby monitor, they’ve added several features that I think fit your situation extremely well. It does have a two way audio intercom and a good quality video. But the really new feature is respiration monitoring that is done from across the room. You can actually trigger a red alert for a parent/caregiver if the person being monitored has slow or no breathing. So that sounded like a very good fit for what you wanted for your medical monitoring use case.

Again, we can’t know exactly what features will be present when they finally release it for sale, and it is intended for use with HomeKit. But I would keep it in mind as it might be something you would want to add later.

They had a demo running at CES this month, but the unit is not yet available for sale, and again we won’t know for sure what it does until it is released to market. But good to know that somebody’s thinking about this feature, anyway.