Security is a bit of a hot topic here in South Africa. With reports of crime in the news every day, many South Africans are highly security-conscious and are constantly on the lookout for ways to lock down their homes and businesses. Alarms are a popular measure, but measures that would help catch criminals rather than simply deter them – like surveillance cameras – present a much better option.
But up to now surveillance setups have been expensive and required professionals to install. An entry-level digital video recorder (DVR) that supports up to four cameras can cost as much as R4 000 on its own, plus you still need to add individual cameras at a minimum of a thousand rand a pop. And that’s before you’ve even bought cables or paid for someone to install it all for you.
So I was surprised when I was told about a new range of security cameras called Aurora from DIY security outfit KGuard, which are both easy to set up yourself and cheap. Like, really cheap.
The range, which has individual setups for four, eight and 16 cameras, starts at R3 999. That R4k gets you a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), the software to run it, four cameras and 18m cables. Almost everything you need to set up surveillance for your home or business is in the box (you’ll need to buy your own hard drive), and installing it is as easy as installing a DSTV decoder. Even installing the hard drive isn’t difficult – simply unscrew the DVR’s cover, find the SATA port and plug it in. About the mst complex skill requirement is the ability to mount the cameras in the proper position; otherwise, it’s a plug and play affair.
The proof is in the pudding
At least, that was the claim by Esquire’s KGuard product manager, Duran Naidu. Being a natural sceptic, I asked him to prove the system’s ease of use in a live demo, which he duly agreed to.
When I got to Esquire, Naidu took me to a demo room with a four-channel demo box in hand. He simply opened and unpacked the box, plugged the DVR into the wall, plugged a network cable into the DVR’s Ethernet port, connected the camera to the DVR and hit the On switch. Within seconds, the system had booted and I was looking at myself from the perspective of the table the camera was resting on. And the quality was good, too – the cameras in the box record at 960H, a resolution that’s just under that of FullHD.
The monitor the DVR was hooked up to via HDMI was split into four quadrants, and the tiny little mouse that comes with the system was used to navigate the simple interface. The Aurorora’s menu is used to change settings for things like the video quality, what happens in the event of a “trigger”, when and where to back video up to the cloud and many other useful aspects. And yes, using everything appeared as easy as looking at the screen and clicking the mouse on the appropriate options.
Live feeds on your phone
What really blew me away, though, was how easy it was to get access to the live camera feeds from a cell phone. Naidu showed me how he downloaded KGuard’s KViewQR app which took no more than a few minutes; he then snapped a shot of the QR code on the DVR. Apparently that contained all of the information needed to pipe the camera’s live feed through to the app via the internet, and within seconds we were looking at ourselves from Naidu’s Android smartphone.
Obviously, the quality of the feed was limited by available bandwidth, but the image was easily clear enough to see what was going on. The app also lets the user switch between any of the DVR’s cameras by simply choosing the right channel, giving the user a great degree of control over the system. So basically, as long as the system has internet access and you have a smartphone, you can see what’s happening wherever the cameras are set up from anywhere in the world that has internet connectivity.
The other feature I quite liked was the option to back up video files to DropBox. Not live, of course, but as a backup, and the quality of the videos that are backed up can be set to save on bandwidth costs and storage space.
As easy as it was to set up, the fact that this four-camera DVR setup costs just R3 999 took the cake. Naidu said that boxes are flying off the shelves, and the customer I got to chat to briefly during the demonstration told me that he has no regrets setting it up in his business.
At the end of the demo, I came away thinking that KGuard’s Aurora series of DIY security camera systems really are good options for home and small business security, not just because they’re cheap but because of the features on offer for the price. If you’re interested or just want more info, contact Duran Naidu at Esquire’s Jo’burg office and he’ll sort you out.