SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Smart enough for ya?
I have always been a big fan of a well-made Surveillance solution. I have covered the subject of surveillance solutions here several times before, typically in conjunction with NAS surveillance use. The growing trend towards Deep Video Analysis (DVA), facial recognition, Thing recognition for categorization and retrieval and bundling that into a lean, mean network video CCTV solution is incredible vogue right now. Into this popular and expensive field, SimCam has introduced it’s latest AI-powered, smart surveillance camera – the SimCAM S1 Smart IP Camera. However, with its unusually low price point at £100-120, and big, BIG promises in the features department, is this a surveillance device that is providing the £2000+ AI algorithm based Surveillance options that the Synology and QNAP NAS Servers are offering, but letting you do them at a fantastically budget level? Let’s take a closer look at the hardware and software of the SIMCam S1 web camera for home/SMB and see if they have succeeded.
SimCam S1 Smart AI IP Camera – Fast Review
It’s tough to argue with what you are getting here in terms of value. The design looks nice at first glance, but a closer inspection shows a few compromises as mentioned, but that being said, for around $100-120 there is a lot that this camera does well and the potential for what it could become with some new software updates may well be worth the price. If you’re looking for a fairly inexpensive way to add some peace of mind to your home and like the potential of what this thing could do, definitely go for it. There are a lot worse ways to spend £100-120 in an IP Camera right now in 2020 and if the thrills of the NAS Surveillance software from the likes of Synology/QNAP seem insufficiently smart for you, but you still want to store your recordings on a NAS, the SimCAM Smart AI Camera serves as a GREAT middle ground for the budding surveillance/NVR buyer this year.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Design
Unlike the majority of AI-assisted devices that mostly all look the same (look at all the smart assistant devices, with each gen, similarities appear), security cameras come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The new S1 from SimCam has a circular base that looks like a large oreo cookie and the camera looks sort of like a rectangular-shaped egg sitting on top.
The front face houses the camera and an array of sensors. Around back there’s a speaker so you can actually talk to whoever is in the field of view/coverage.
There’s also a reset button and a Micro SD card slot located behind a screw-locked hatch.
On the back of the base, there’s a charging port and a port for the optional mount if you want to install your camera on a wall, but the tilt angle on the base is only around 55 degrees, so it’s far more effective for desktop/horizontal deployment.
All-in-all it’s a simple and effective design but despite it’s rather rugged feel in turns of rigidity, it still has that slight plastic shine to it. In fact, the entire external casing is made entirely out of plastic and it honestly feels like pretty low-grade plastic to the touch, glossy and not matt/brushed. There are lots of manufacturers building really high-quality products out of plastic but this, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.
I think it is fair to say that there is not anything vastly ‘premium’ about the design at all, but for the price, you can’t expect too much. At this price point for a Smart AI Camera, the SimCam S1 is not a device that is trying to get by on its looks, but with what is inside that matters most!
This also means that the previously mentioned tilt mechanic is manual in operation, a bit clicky and where it holds the camera up at an angle, seems a little weak and wouldn’t actually hold the camera at certain angles so that could be a problem. However, the same can’t be said for the Pan operation, which is completely automatic, AI-controlled when needed and supporting a very, VERY fluid 360 degrees.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Set Up
Once you set the camera up where you want it, you download the app and connect it to your phone. Once you do get it set up, the app displays a barcode that you hold in front of the camera that connects it to your phone and your WiFi as well.
Again, this was a neat idea and something I have seen done in reverse before, so it’s good that the camera was already doing something smarter than regular IP cameras. The smartphone app for the camera is pretty straightforward. The apps is broken up into five tabs: Camera, Alerts, Magics (I’ll get to those in a bit), Library, and Settings. Very briefly, the camera tab is where you can click on your cameras to see their live feeds.
Alerts is a list of all the alerts the camera has sent, Library is where you can view all the photos and videos you’ve recorded, and the settings are, well…the settings…go figure.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Software GUI
Within the interface for the camera feed, there’s actually a lot going on. On the left side of the screen you’ll see options to take a picture, use the built-in microphone to actually talk to whoever’s in the room, and record a video. On the right, there’s Object Selection and Active Zone Selection. I’ll touch more on these later.
Along the top of the camera feed you’ll see the live timestamp, the speeds of the data feed, the specific camera you’re viewing, a mute button that will let you hear what’s going on in the room, and even an option to switch from an SD feed to an HD feed. The HD feed is pretty high quality, even for an AI-powered camera at this price point and this was because it relied on the power of the mobile device’s own output too.
The result was that it ran beautifully well on my Google Pixel 2 XL, but struggled on my HTC One a bit, and would stutter and get really slow – which transferred into the recordings too and the picture didn’t even look that much better so I’m not sure how useful that will be to you unless you have a relatively modern mobile phone to control the SIMCam Application locally over the network or via the internet.
Back in the Camera tab, underneath each camera feed you have options to view the alerts, take the camera Private which basically just turns the camera off, turn person detection on or off, and explore the settings for that specific camera. Truthfully there’s a lot going on here with this camera with a lot of great features that will be very useful and a whole lot more than I expected for a Smart/AI IP Camera at around 100-120 pounds.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Features
The key utilization of ANY smart AI IP Camera is that it should take the work out of monitoring a camera in real-time, as well as saving valuable seconds, minutes and hours later when it counts. As the name would suggest, a SMART camera is designed to be smarter than the average camera, supporting the ability for a camera to know WHAT it is seeing. Not just acknowledge that pixels have changed in a field of view, to suggest movement, but to understand WHAT has moved, what HASN’T moved, to know what kind of things should/shouldn’t be in a field of view and ultimately give send you alerts ONLY when necessary – not just when a leaf has fallen off a tree, or a car drove past your window.
Traditionally, Smart cameras in your home are really designed to serve two functions in a practical way. The first is to keep an eye on those inside the home such as kids or pets, and the second is to capture footage of any intruders into the home. In that sense, most cameras have the same basic functions. They can see and record pictures or videos at either specified intervals or when motion is detected. Most of them can also send instant notifications to your phone when unexpected movement is happening inside the house. The S1 Smart AI IP Camera from SimCam has all those basic functions as well. However, there are some things that it does a little differently and some things it promises to do down the road that could be a game-changer.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – AI Functionality
This is where things start to get a little more interesting. SimCam and it’s S1 has built an artificial intelligence system into the camera that it claims will give it some really cool features that you don’t get on other cameras. They claim this AI will eliminate false notifications because it can differentiate between things like a moving tree, a pet or animal, and a human intruder. SimCam S1 can also recognize faces that you have setup and input into the camera and will alert you to unrecognized people in your home, such as an intruder, or even potentially a dinner guest. As touched on earlier, the potential for this is actually pretty awesome. Once you set up someone’s face, you can set it up to automatically turn on lights, fans, TVs or anything else you can connect to a smart plug. This is done with integration with platforms like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and bridging services like If This Then That (IFTTT). I did not get a chance to test this in the review but have read up on the success with other users in getting tailored alerts between a camera trigger and smart devices in the local area.
The SimCam S1 AI also enables things like object tracking and activity zones. From within the camera feed, if you click on object tracking then you can draw a box around a specific object in view of the camera and if that object is moved, it will let you know. So if your colleague tries to borrow your laptop again, you can catch him in the act. This can also be useful to for keeping tabs on very important items in your house if you’re worried about them going missing. Activity zones are zones you can set up within the camera view that will alert you when there’s movement detected. For instance, you can be notified when the kids come in the front door after school, if the dog happens to sneak his way out of the bedroom.
SimCam also says that the AI software will allow for something called first sight. Basically, if you want it to, the camera can start recording a video the instant it detects a human in the frame and will send you an alert. They claim this is much faster than the standard infrared sensors on other smart cameras. The benefit of this is that the camera will be able to record up to 60 seconds of footage before a motion event is even triggered meaning you can capture every second of what happened.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Storage and Recordings
The SimCam S1 Smart IP Camera features three main ways to store your recordings. An SD Card Slot, onto a NAS server or to it’s supported cloud service(s). The fact the camera performs the analysis of footage INSIDE the camera means most of the hardware is not having to be done via a web server/cloud AI or a NAS server with deep video analysis hardware (Synology DVA3219 or QNAP TVS-672N with Face Tiger, for example), which HUGELY lowers costs and heighten efficiency. Additionally, the NAS is only being used as a storage target (with use of supplying it’s IP to the SIMCam software).
The SD card slot supports up to 128GB and that storage is ONLY accessible to authorized account holders. You can set storage recycling settings so that recordings are recorded over after a pre-set amount of days#storage quota and when you access a recording via the mobile application, you are accessing the recording on the camera, not having to download it to your mobile to watch (though you can if you want).
It wouldn’t be a camera or connected technology without talking about the cloud. My favourite thing about this camera is how they handle cloud storage, or more precisely how they don’t. This camera has the ability to store and analyze all the footage locally so there is never anything uploaded to any servers, anywhere. Any footage that is stored in your library is local to the camera itself so any saved footage you’re viewing on your phone is just footage you are accessing on the local SD card. SimCam S1 is also able to analyze the footage locally on the camera because it has the Intel hardware and AI software build into the camera itself so nothing has to get offloaded somewhere else to be analyzed. It’s all done locally and securely. This is really cool to see and I wish other companies would take note.
SimCam AI S1 AI-Powered IP Camera Review – Conclusion
There are a few other cool things to note. The SimCam has night vision that can see up to 50ft in the dark which is super helpful. They also claim that it’s usable outdoors with an IP65 rating but honestly I’m not sure how I would feel putting this thing out in the rain, due to that plastic external casing and large rear speaker. It doesn’t seem like it would do too well but they do say it’s weather-resistant so you apparently have that option within the warranty. Affordable and fluid 1080p video recording is cool, as was the dual-band WiFi support (so none of the limitations of a 2.4GHz ONLY setup that plagues older IP Cameras).
There’s also an extension cable included in the box so you don’t have to worry about where you set this thing. SimCam also includes some mounting hardware if you want to install it on a wall or ceiling if you can move past that rather shallow Tilt angle of 55 degrees. Bringing the power of AI directly onto a camera and storing the footage locally on the device are both pretty great ideas, as well as making this previously high end/enterprise type of hardware far, FAR more consumer accessible.
The design looks nice at first glance, but a closer inspection shows a few compromises as mentioned, but that being said, for around $100-120 there is a lot that this camera does well and the potential for what it could become with some new software updates may well be worth the price. If you’re looking for a fairly inexpensive way to add some peace of mind to your home and like the potential of what this thing could do, definitely go for it. There are a lot worse ways to spend £100-120 in an IP Camera right now in 2020 and if the thrills of the NAS Surveillance software from the likes of Synology/QNAP seem insufficiently smart for you, but you still want to store your recordings on a NAS, the SimCAM Smart AI Camera serves as a GREAT middle ground for the budding surveillance/NVR buyer this year.
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