New Mobotix Mobile App
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Product Reviews | April 10, 2013, 7:00am AEST
WE first mentioned the new Mobotix App in SEN after the company’s CSO Magnus Ekerot suggested the company’s new interface could become the way end users interface with door stations, cameras and possibly in the future, alarm inputs as well. Given the potential the Mobotix App to impact on the nature of future solutions it was with a degree of curiosity that I got a demo with Chris Watt down at Pyrmont.
“Here it is,” says Watt, powering up his iPad as we sit down. “This is the new Mobotix App. It’s a mobile application that allows the management and control of Mobotix cameras and door stations on any compatible Apple mobile device. We are looking at the first version and I should point out that future versions have massive road maps – so cameras and door stations first and later on, maybe, alarm sensors and access control.”
As Watt’s is talking I’m taking in the system. Like all Mobotix product the App is well – simple. There’s nothing overly complex about this product, it’s simply designed to allow full functionality of Mobotix devices to be accessed by an iPad or iPhone (or iPad mini or iPod Touch) mobile device. In short, it’s an enabler. Because the company knows its customer base, the App’s smarts are all dedicated to minimising operator confusion while ensuring full functionality, often with a single touch.
The Mobotix App fits very well with the Apple iPod we’re reviewing it on. It’s very slick. The high quality cameras and the proprietary compression Mobotix employs are working well in the demo environment which is WiFi to the local network with storage on the local NAS.
Looking over the screen as Watt shows me the functions I can see there are 3 primary views, being Live, Player and Events. You just select the view you want to employ, whether than be Live monitoring, Player for searches or Events to check out alarms. Data storage, alarming and recording take place directly inside the cameras making all these operations bandwidth-light.
Each of these views is made up of a series of programmable camera scenes with adjacent multi-functional sliders handling stuff like zoom, image settings and audio. There’s also a toolbar and a series of function buttons including tap and hold shortcut. Above the camera views – and there are 12 populating the screen in our demo – there are PIN-protected basic functions managing the network, online help and App functions.
When you first install the app it will search the network and look for Mobotix cameras just like other pieces of software do. It also does this when you change location – from one office to another or from work to home. And cameras that are outside of the local network can be connected via DynDNS.
Once set up, the App remembers all the settings and automatically switches to the right configuration as soon as the iPhone/iPad joins a familiar WLAN network. There’s also a mask management facility here that allows you to save camera configurations as projects and send them by e-mail to clients or other users. When the mask is opened the App automatically sets mask features on the receiving device.
“I’ve set this App up with just a few cameras and a door station it’s running on WiFi right now but I can flick it over to the 3G and get very similar quality,” Watt explains. “The App operates over an extended http connection – what I have done is got my local URL and a remote URL include the port so when I disconnect it fails over to wireless.
“These cameras are running at 1024 by 768. Performance is very quick with the new firmware running on the new cameras (it’s the 41470 version). This firmware includes the event streamer. While the camera is open, it have a fast connection to the App but when the App is closed I have a text only connection open with the cameras. And when there is an alarm event or configured event the device will send a notification.”
Now Watt starts driving the cameras, switching between cameras and zooming and panning. Control of functions like pan, tilt and zoom are standard iPad pinch, touch and swipe, there are slider controls, that allow things like preset positions. You can call a camera into full screen and then tap to switch to the next camera. That’s a nice feature on a 10-inch screen.
“There’s playback, fast scan forward and fast scan back by swiping across the page, the player has time search – it’s very quick at searches using event streamer. Event search can be one image per 30 minutes going back in time or forward, one image an hour going forward in time. You can also take snapshots and these are saved to camera roll. And there are going to be more search specific features.”
The virtual PTZ function available in the App enables remote digital panning, tilting and zooming of the video systems, including recordings. Image quality is given from the 3.1 megapixels is good – it’s sharp and with good colour in this demo application – and there’s full support for hemispheric cameras.
“The event player shows a live overview – in this case it’s showing me all 5 of the connected cameras. I can take that down to categories – this might be only the office cameras, only the external cameras or only the remote site categories, or you could make each remote site a category of its own. You tap the storage card to get all the events that have been recorded. You can then request the system only show a particular type of events.”
Where are the recordings held prior to access by the app?
“In this case they are on a NAS here in our network room but they could be on a remote camera or any other network storage device,” Watt explains.
When used to manage the T24 Door Station, the App automatically provides mobile notifications when someone rings the doorbell, as well as offering options for 2-way communication with the visitor and for remote door opening. The App's video player also plays back any new mailbox messages and when the App is used on the road it adjusts to changing network quality.
If the connection is too slow for hi-res video, the requested live feeds and recordings can be compressed and scaled down inside the camera before being transmitted to the App. If an image area is zoomed in on, the camera transmits not the entire image but only the zoomed section to the App, at the most suitable resolution. It’s all very clever and it’s also very simple, I say.
“Yes it’s not complex – we tried to keep it very simple on the surface and all the power of the application is behind the scenes. There are a lot of functions you can dig down into,” says Watt. “This is the most basic use case. From the event player if I double tap an event it opens up for and I can play back through it.
“We also have the ability to separate out event notification – I might program the door station to notify the app but request video motion not notify the app. I only care if the door station button is pressed. You might not want notifications all the time. We can also change our settings, we might tell the door station not to contact the app, or to play an announcement if the call to the app goes unanswered.
“The other nice thing the app will do – we have a door here and we have lights – it will show me any I/O connected to any of my cameras so if I had multiple door stations I could open any of the cameras connected to them and open a front door lock if it was connected to a camera. With the lights, I can turn lights on and off.”
So Mobotix engineers are in the process of evolving the app?
“Always – there will be more features as we go along,” Watt says. “This particular version focuses on the T24 so there are things like the phone icons that are specific but it lets you comfortably manage your other cameras, view them, single tap to the next camera, see how many events have taken place on that camera. I can also check temperatures and if it’s connected, I can control air conditioning.”
Now, Magnus Ekerot talked about sensors being incorporated into the system as well as cameras – is that something that is happening in the future?
“That’s part of the future MX bus development,” Watt explains. “The new devices will be MX bus devices – the door opener, the keypad – and they will offer other ways to bring functionality into the system. Because the cameras otherwise have feature-parity given they are based on the same board, it means you just choose the camera that suits the app and add whatever external sensors give you the added functionality you need.
“It’s going to be great for retail – and for people who don’t need to use the system all the time – they might look at the app on weekend or when they are away and then not look at it for a while.” Watt says.
“They might forget how to do things. Taking this sporadic use into account we have a feature that uses tags as a form of basic instruction – its tells everything about every function on a given page and it’s on every page. It’s a nice help file.”
Features of the Mobotix App
• Two-way communication, door opening and video mailbox access
• Doorbell and alarm notification, privacy protection
• Convenient search functions, playback of external MxPEG videos
• Automatically find cameras in the local network
• Integrate cameras from outside the local network via DynDNS
• Digital pan, tilt and zoom cameras (virtual PTZ function)
• Adjust image settings (brightness, color, contrast)
• Quick overview of all cameras and recorded events
• Group cameras and recordings
• Player for playing back recorded messages and events
• Play videos forward and backward using the shuttle wheel
• Export snapshots to photo album.