Blink camera

tl;dr: The Blink home camera security system is a simple and inexpensive way to set up photo and video monitoring.

The Background

I could almost taste it. The sticky juices running down their chins, drying on their (red) hands, filling the air with the sharp, pungent aroma of organic citrus. They would fit as many as six, even seven into their pockets and stroll away down the sidewalk. Not even a by-your-leave. Not even a furtive glance. Not even a peel kicked back into the bushes. They just strolled.

The thieves were at it again.

My mother-in-law grows four giant mandarin orange bushes in the front yard. Periodically the branches would weigh heavily down into the earth, bearing the sweetest and juiciest mandarins you can imagine. I was appalled when I heard about the orange thieves. It was time to set up home monitoring.

The Setup

I bought Blink's two-pack camera kit off of Amazon for $184.21 (after tax); that includes the sync module, two cameras, and included AA batteries. The setup was super simple. I went from 0 to monitoring in less than 30 minutes. The sync module requires wifi access and a power outlet. It sits nonchalantly on a glass table next to the front door.

sync module

The sync module acts as a centralized server for the entire Blink system. Think of it like a hub-and-spoke system. This model allows the whole setup to be cheaper as each camera only needs to take care of one communication protocol. The downside is that the range of the entire Blink system is limited by the range of the sync module. I ran into this problem as one of my cameras seemed like it was physically close enough to the sync module, but it turns out a few feet of walls and whatever else is inside of them was enough to disrupt the signal. The ladder had to come out again to readjust.

Camera Placement

The first camera watches the four main bushes. Like I mentioned, I placed this one too high up on the roof overhang at first, and the camera was out of range of the sync module. Moving the camera closer, down the sloped edge, put it back within range.

front overhang camera

Aside from the four main bushes, there is a series of smaller bushes along another side of the house that also faces the street. I placed one camera here to take care of this other side.

side camera

The App

I have the app installed on three phones. We needed to use the same login information as the app does not yet support multiple users. Only one person can be viewing Live Video at any time. The home screen gives you an overview with photo snapshots of each one of your cameras.

home screen

(stock photo)

On demand, you can take a quick photo just to get a snapshot, or you can start a Live View for up to 30 seconds, which includes audio. I found these on demand features to be slightly laggy but sufficient, and I suspect the speed of my wifi has something to do with the lag.

To catch a thief, we need to “arm” the cameras to detect motion and record up to 30 seconds of whatever comes into their purview. The settings for motion detection, clip length, and illumination are all adjustable from each camera’s individual settings menu.

camera settings

(stock photo)

All of your clips get stored on Blink’s servers for free. They provide up to 7200 seconds of recordings, after which clips will get deleted first in first out. For any clips that you would like to keep or share, you can directly download them.


Epilogue

The Blink cameras are meant to be used indoors, but so far they are working just fine on the outside of the house. I am still waiting patiently to catch the mandarin thieves. I am confident their day will come. In the meantime, I also just got an Echo Dot (in white to match) that I am going to integrate with my Blink system. I hope to have good news soon.


Addendums

Update 11/5/16:
Blink just announced their first outdoor camera, the Blink XT (preorder page), for $119. It is weatherproof and has infrared night vision. Stay tuned.