Nest Cam Recording Options: Nest Aware and CamioBy - 09/09/2016
Storing events from your Nest Cam can be done through different platforms. One of those platforms is Camio, which I started using because of their free cloud storage for Dropcam. Camio has since dropped the free storage option, and they now charge $9.90 per camera per month. As they offer so much, I’ve been a paying customer for months, but things are changing. Here is a look at how Camio stacks up against Nest’s own Nest Aware.
What is Camio?
Camio is an app that allows you to use your existing hardware as a video surveillance solution. You can record with your iPhone, iPad, Android phone/tablet, computer, IP Camera (more on that here), CudaCam, Nest Cam, or Dropcam. You can view the recorded footage or live footage from your iPhone, iPad, Android phone/tablet, or your computer.
When recording, the video streams to the cloud for storage. What is included depends on the device you use. The software functions differently when combined with Nest Cam or Dropcam than it would with other devices. When recording through a Nest Cam, you must use one of the paid plans. The entry-level plan is called Plus. It is $9.90 per month per camera and includes 30 days of video history, Camio Daily, and Search and Alerts. You can view the stored video at any time. If you need more storage, Pro is $19.90 per month per camera and offers 90-day video history as well as advanced video analytics and priority support.
What is Nest Aware?
Nest Aware is Nest’s subscription service. It adds both a layer of intelligence and cloud storage to your Nest cameras. There isn’t a separate app to access the service; instead, you use the Nest app, which conveniently controls your Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect, Nest Cam, and Dropcam.
Your Nest Cam purchase includes a free trial of the service, but after the trial expires, you must pay. The entry-level plan is $10 per month and includes 10 days of video history. Interestingly enough, Camio never charged me tax on their service, Nest does, making the price a little more than $10/month. Nest Aware’s plans include video storage, video history access, activity zones, smarter alerts (thanks to advanced algorithms), sightline, person alerts, and a timelapse feature.
Finding Events Using Camio is Tough
Not too long ago, I wrote a review of Camio, praising its ability. Fickle as it may seem, I’ve changed my mind.
Excited about Camio’s features, I found myself bragging at a Super Bowl Party. I told my neighbors all about my nifty porch camera that could filter cars from people and filter purple packages from white ones. It wasn’t but one month later that a neighbor asked me to put this technology to use. She gave me a timeframe and asked if I could filter the footage for a black car, exactly what I told her Camio could do. But what I found is that putting the feature into practice is challenging, and the frame-by-frame footage quality is borderline useless.
Besides the fact that using the search feature is difficult, there is another downside. Camio breaks down Nest footage into frame-by-frame action. So instead of one video, you have multiple pictures that are sewn together, flipbook style. While I was aware of this before, it was only when I put Camio to use that I realized how inconvenient this is. The week after my failed attempt to filter the footage, I caught a shadow of someone walking down the sidewalk. I wanted to see who it was. But while Camio was recording, it completely missed the person walking down the street. I realized that if someone moves fast enough, they can actually evade being recorded because Camio’s footage isn’t capturing a live stream. No bueno.
After my embarrassing black car fail and Camio’s inability to capture the sidewalk creeper, I decided it was time to brush off Nest Aware and to run both software solutions side-by-side.
Camio vs. Nest Aware for Nest Cam Storage
While the two services may sound the same on paper, there are subtle differences that are hard to detect unless using the two side-by-side.
|Free Nest Cam Storage?||3 Hours, Snapshots Only|
|Entry Level Plan:||$9.90/camera/month||$10/month + tax (discount for additional cameras)|
|Video Storage Included:||30-days||10-days|
|Ability to View Live Footage:|
|Works With:||Multiple Smartphones, Tablets, Computers, Dropcam, Nest Cam, IP Cameras, CudaCam||Nest Cam, Dropcam, Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat|
|Apps:||Android and iOS||Android and iOS|
|Continuous Recording:||Records continuously, but records clips instead of a video stream.||Yes, but requires 140GB upload bandwidth per month.|
|Video History:||Includes Video History Summary||Alert summary to quickly scan your Video History|
|Quick Video Scan:||Smart Search lets you “Google” your footage and Camio daily emails clips of the day’s top events.||Timelapse and Sightline|
|Smart Motion:||Learning Algorithm||Activity Zones and Person Detection|
|Recording Style:||Clips, easier on your bandwidth, but less effective.||Higher resolution videos, hard on your bandwidth, but more effective.|
|View footage on computer or app?|
|Supports Multiple Users:|
|Downloading Video:||Can download clips to your photo gallery from the app and can download from web portal.||Can download videos from the web portal only.|
Getting started is easier with Nest Aware than it is with Camio, but Camio isn’t difficult. To sign up for Nest Aware, simply access your Nest account, head to the settings menu, click Nest Aware, and add/manage your subscriptions.
Camio setup is done through their website, and it takes about 2 minutes. The app should be installed on the devices you want to use. Then you can either sign up using Facebook, Google, or email. All you have to do is sign into your account and select which device you want to use as your camera and which you want to use as your viewer.
How They Detect Motion
One way Camio and Nest Aware differ is in the way they detect motion.
With Camio, the software has the potential to be mind-blowing. It doesn’t use traditional motion detection, which makes false alarms virtually non-existent. Camio actually records every movement that it notices. But over time, it learns – with help from you. You teach it which events to record by giving clips a thumbs up or a thumbs down. It learns quickly and then it categorizes the clips. While it records everything regardless of what you’ve deemed important, it puts non-important events into the “all” category and important events into the “top” category. You only get alerts for the important events, but you don’t have to miss out on anything.
The problem with Camio’s solution is that searching through all the footage is terribly cumbersome. Camio uses a feature called Smart Search. In theory, all you need to do is type in keywords or pick a date and Camio should retrieve all recordings related to your query. For example, you can search for footage of people, cars, colors, etc. You can also set smart zones and search for activity within zones. While this is all great in theory, in practice, it doesn’t work well. Scrolling through the footage is difficult and disorganized. You may start by looking at footage from Friday, but make one wrong click and you’re actually looking at footage from Wednesday. To make matters worse, Camio doesn’t record streaming video; it records clips; short clips. When sorting through footage, keep in mind that you have to sort through an entire day’s worth of footage broken down into 15-30 second videos. It’s time-consuming and confusing.
With Nest Aware, you can also record continuously, but searching footage is a lot easier thanks to activity zones. With activity zones, you are only capturing footage of events that occur in important areas, and can easily organize events. For example, I have one zone for my porch, one for the street, and one for the sidewalk – everything else (the sky, other people’s homes) is ignored. If I want to find footage of a black car, I can search footage from the street zone. Instead of suffering through the process of sorting hundreds of 15-second clips, I can easily select a date, a zone, and review my timeline. The timeline will show color coded dots that correspond to activity in my selected zone.
From the timeline, I can hover my mouse over the colored dots to view a preview of the activity and quickly decide if the footage is relevant (black car) or not. Better yet, I can quickly swipe through days’ worth of footage using either the mobile app or web portal.
The app uses a feature called Sightline. Using Sightline is similar to using the timeline shown above. With the feature, you can view events directly from the mobile app. You can see when the event started, ended, and even preview a snapshot of the event so you know if it was relevant or not.
NEST AWARE MOTION DETECTION PROS: Activity Zones are surprisingly accurate and make filtering footage easy. Timelapse means you can watch hours of footage in minutes.
NEST AWARE MOTION DETECTION CONS: Continuous video recording is great, but sucks bandwidth.
CAMIO MOTION DETECTION PROS: Records everything, but only notifies you of important events.
CAMIO MOTION DETECTION CONS: Difficult to filter footage, even using Smart Search. Has activity zones, but they are inaccurate. Records clips instead of videos.
Notifications and False Alarms
Both Nest Aware and Camio are capable of sending alerts to your smartphone via a push notification when activity is detected. During testing, I found that occasionally one would miss an event that the other would catch, but I wouldn’t say one is more reliable than the other. If I had to choose, I would say Camio may be slightly more reliable in terms of sending relevant alerts.
In regards to false alarms, I have false alarms with both Nest Aware and Camio. What’s annoying about false alarms with Nest Aware is that you can’t provide feedback when they happen. And they do happen. A flash of light from a moving vehicle is usually enough to trick Nest Aware. However, Nest Aware has recently launched a person detection feature. I haven’t had sufficient time to test to see if this will reduce false alarms, but so far, it seems like alerts are becoming more intelligent. Camio is occasionally tricked by moving lights too, but it’s comforting that you can give feedback and (most of the time) issues improve after doing so.
NEST AWARE FALSE ALARM PROS: False alarms are rare and activity zones and person detection help to filter out unwanted notifications.
NEST AWARE FALSE ALARM CONS: The system isn’t a learning device and occasionally something like a moving light will throw the camera off.
CAMIO FALSE ALARM PROS: You can provide feedback by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to Camio alerts. It’s also easier to retrain Camio if you physically move the camera. If you move the camera with Nest Aware, even slightly, you may have to reset your activity zones.
CAMIO FALSE ALARM CONS: None.
In the end, what I originally loved about Camio is still true. It provides more storage for the same price as Nest Aware. It also includes the smart search feature and cuts down on false alarms with integrated intelligence. However, the reason I have a porch camera is to do my part in keeping my neighborhood safe. With this as my goal, Nest Aware is a better option.
It’s also important to note that video surveillance is often about capturing evidence of a crime and not necessarily about stopping a crime. With this in mind, Nest Aware’s better resolution, though slight, is important. Also, I can get actual videos of events, which I prefer over photographs. Finally, the process of sifting through footage is faster, more accurate, and more efficient with Nest Aware. Though I’m sad to be canceling my Camio subscription, I think Nest Aware is my best bet for keeping my neighborhood safe.
9/9/2016 with Sightline, Person Detection
3/4/2017 If you read about Camio Box or Box VMs online, please note that these options are not compatible with Nest, only Camio cloud software, as described above, works with Nest. Camio supports all cameras that expose an RTSP stream. Unfortunately, Nest does not.