Customer Review

61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Way To Monitor Your Burglar Alarm, December 21, 2010
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This review is from: Panasonic BL-C210A Internet Security Camera (Electronics)
A year or so ago, we installed an Ademco burglar alarm which we found we could not hook up to a monitoring service because we had dropped our landline. There are services that will monitor your alarm system through the cell phone network but they are expensive. So I decided to make a project out of this. I would find a way to monitor the alarm system with zero net monthly cash outlays. I spent idle hours wondering how I might cobble together some homemade piece of equipment that can capture the alarm signal off the Ademco and fire a programmable event on one of our computers through a USB port or something like that. Tricky stuff. Iffy.

Then I discovered the fact that this ip camera (as well as many others) have e-mailing functionality. After a little research I bought a couple and they are now in service. I connected the bell circuit on my Ademco, through a relay switch, to one of the two open alarm circuits on the Panasonic and now whenever the Ademco sends an alarm, we receive an e-mail with an alarm message plus, as a bonus, a photo of what the camera is seeing at the time. When we get the e-mail, we can go online either with a computer or our cell phone and see what is going on in the house. If the situation merits, we can then call the police or we can ask the neighbor to peek over. This is intelligent alarm monitoring as opposed to the automated kind you get when your alarm system sends a signal to the monitoring station every time the system is tripped for whatever reason (I read that almost all reports sent to the police by these systems are false and are placed on low priority). I am going to document this system and send it to my insurance agent asking for a premium discount in line with the standard discount you get with automated monitoring. We have achieved our goal of a no-cost alarm notification system.

Two very good features of this unit are that you do not have to have a running computer to make it work and it receives its power over the ethernet cable. As long as your run is less than 98 feet, you can snake cable through your walls to your heart's content without worrying about how you will power the camera.

Since this camera has, in addition to its ability to take a signal from your burglar alarm, its own internal motion-heat-sound detectors, you could also use it as a sort of burglar alarm all by itself. But it does not have the capability to act as a perimeter alarm as would be the case if you have an alarm system with door and/or window sensors. And it does not turn on sirens to 1.) wake you up, 2.) scare the intruders away or 3.) if they are not scared away, heighten the level of insanity that is already going on in their minds.

Like the others, I find that the camera does not perform well in low light. But I have several lamps in our home that are hooked up to X-10 switches. These X-10s are programmed through the burglar alarm to turn on when the alarm goes off. I have not tested them with the camera yet but I am hoping that they will provide enough light to let us see what is going on in the event of an alarm.

There is one glaring vulnerability in all of this: your camera gives you notification and visual access through the internet; your house connects to the internet through a wire; burglars know how to snip a wire with a wire cutters and the more experienced burglars are going to do this before they attempt to break in. I circumvented this problem by changing my ISP. My new ISP connects the internet to my house wirelessly and that fixes that. If you do not have the wireless option, however, this issue needs to be addressed. Many alarm systems now can be fitted with an auxiliary backup device that calls you and/or the police through the cell phone network if your wire is cut. They cost extra both for the equipment and the ongoing use of the cell phone network.

We got a lot of value for our money here. It proved to be an elegant solution to our problem and added many more features to boot. I love gadgets and my heart sings whenever I see it up in the corner of my living room ceiling with its lights blinking down on me. What other people might think is 'beyond the scope of this review'.

ON PANASONIC SUPPORT: I'm not going to lower the rating on this camera because I think it is a fine product. But I will say that Panasonic support falls far short of the mark. In trying to get the camera viewable over the internet, I talked to 4 different representatives each of whom offered a different solution all of which were wrong. I wrote them a letter a week ago with no reply so far. So I did what I should have initially done which is to learn a little networking, specifically port forwarding. After my research and armed with some actual knowledge, I set up the cameras properly and they are now humming along. I can credit the reviewer who praised Panasonic support. However, that was not my experience. All these people had to do was to ask the right questions and then tell me what to do to configure the system properly. It took me, an amateur, a couple of hours to figure it out on my own and yet all four of these professionals failed to come up with the correct solution. And yes, I am fully aware that this is partly a result of a lack of committment on the part of management and not entirely the fault of the individual on the other end of the phone. 1-14-2011 UPDATE: Yesterday, I came across a puzzling issue having to do with sending sensor messages from the camera to our Panasonic Viera TV. Since I already know how good they are at fielding support requests over the telephone and through the postal service, I thought it might be interesting to send them an e-mail message via their website. The model of the camera was stated in the e-mail by way of the e-mail setup fields and I gave the model of the TV in the body of the e-mail. Later that day, I received this reply which I quote in full: 'Thank you for your inquiry. What is the model # to your cameras? If you have any additonal questions or concerns, please contact our technical support hotline at [...]. Thank you for choosing Panasonic.' Additional questions indeed.

SETUP NOTE: If your network sits behind two in-line routers (one connected directly to the internet through the phone or cable TV wires, the 'outside' router; the other sitting between the outside router and the LAN: the 'inside' router) and you are having a hard time of it, identify both the public and private IP address of the inside router. Do a little googling to get yourself squared away on what the public and private IP addresses of a router are. Then, when you are setting up port forwarding on the outside router, you need to forward requests to the public not the private IP address of the inside router. Then use the private IP address of the inside router as the Default Gateway in your camera settings. There are other pitfalls but this particular one was my mine.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 9, 2011 4:44:09 AM PDT
T.K. says:
I know this is an old post from Dec. 2010, but I too had difficulty setting up a security system due to the lack of landline. If you're still interested, I'm very happy with NextAlarm.com. They are VOIP using an ABN adapter (converting your landline signals to go over broadband). Thanks for the review!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2011 3:46:55 PM PDT
Aynsley says:
There are also some cool stand along systems like Visonic which can work thru land line and cell-GSM and internet all at the same time. When there is any issues with the system it will text you, and if you want, thru it's internet connection you can hook up their cameras and view the zone which is having problems. Probably the coolest thing of their system (I have had Ademco and GE in the past) is that if there is a problem with the internet access (and land line) it will fall back onto cell and still contact you.
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