Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Workplace

By Dan Muse | Posted September 04, 2003
Worried about workers working? Employees raiding the supplies? Thieves stealing? If you subscribe to the "while the cat's away, the mice will play" philosophy — or if you simply have a need to keep an eye on things — Linksys and Toshiba have products for you.

The LinkSys Wireless-B Internet Video Camera (WVC11B) and the Toshiba IK-WB01A are designed to let you view live video of your office from any Web browser anywhere — from across town or around the world.

We're aren't just talking about attaching a Web cam to your PC — these products are more sophisticated than that. Both products operate as Web servers, which allows them to work as standalone devices. All they need is a network connection to let you slip into surveillance mode.

Linksys Goes With the Motion
The Linksys Wireless-B Internet Video Camera has its own IP address, so you can connect it directly to any existing Ethernet or wireless network. It captures and transmits video in MPEG-4 compression at 320x240 pixel resolution. You log in and see what the camera sees. If you want the camera to take a more proactive role, it has a Security Mode that when activated, according to Linksys, sends an e-mail with a short video attached whenever it detects motion in its field of view.

At a price of $229 and a weight of half a pound, the Linksys Wireless-B Internet Video Camera is a light load in more ways than one.
According to LinkSys, the camera, which has an estimated street price of $229, weighs half a pound and is designed to be easy for users to mount it in a variety of locations. Or you can take a more straightforward approach and slide it into the included stand for desktop use.

Users can create password-protected accounts to manage access to the camera. Up to four users can simultaneously view the camera's live images from outside the office network. If you want to check action when you return to the office, the Viewer & Recorder utility is designed to allow users to record the video stream with date and time stamp to a local hard drive on a predetermined schedule.

Linksys also announced that it is offering its SoloLink service for a free 90-day trial. Because many Internet service providers may on occasion assign a new IP address to a connection, SoloLink is a DDNS service that keeps track of the IP address of the camera with a Web address the customer selects so the camera's video stream. This makes it easy to can be found easily even when the IP address changes. The price of the SoloLink service starts at $19.99 for a one-year subscription.

Toshiba Takes It Up a Notch
The Toshiba IK-WB01A camera has a suggested retail price of $599, making it about twice as expensive as the Linksys camera. That's fine with Toshiba. Network Camera Sales Manager Joe Cook said that knowing the network cameras would be purchased for both small office and enterprise security applications, the company conducted research that revealed that customers were more concerned with image quality and size of image than with price.

With that in mind, Cook said, Toshiba added features such as alarm input, the capability to work in low-lighting environments (for example, the IK-WB01A automatically switches from color to black and white when light levels are low).

Like the Linksys WVC11B's SoloLink service, the Toshiba IK-WB01A also features a DDNS service that allows for a dynamic IP address for the camera at a static address.

At a price of $599, Toshiba opted to focus on advanced features over price with the IK-WB01A.

While the Linksys product supports four simultaneous users, Cook said Toshiba added a reflector feature that's designed to allow an unlimited number of viewers to connect to the camera by adding bandwidth.

"We found that one main concern is the slow refresh of cameras over the Internet due to slow connections in SOHOs," Cook said. "Toshiba allows the user to send a single stream of video to www.camerawebpage.com or another hosting company that will reflect the images to any number of users for an additional fee."

The IK-WB01A features a 350,000 pixel progressive scan CCD that delivers high-resolution (640x480) JPEG video images with audio at frame rates as high as 15 frames per second. Users can remotely control the camera's pan, tilt and zoom operations, according to Toshiba.

Toshiba reports that anyone who purchases an IK-WB01A will receive a free 90-day trial homepage at www.camerawebpage.com, where they can watch their camera. User Web pages can include features such as chat, guest books, counter, calendar, time-lapse recording and archiving, a photo album, blog, buddy lists, Web page skins and more.

The IK-WB01A's built-in Web server eliminates that need for an on-site PC. Only a wireless access point and a power source are required, according to Toshiba. In addition to the wireless 802.11b connection, the IK-WB01A can be connected to a LAN, cable modem or DSL modem for 10/100 Ethernet connectivity.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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