Security camera notifications are slow, but Blink has a solution


Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Recently, I had the opportunity to review the Blink Outdoor, one of Amazon’s many smart security cameras. Without spoiling the rest of my thoughts, the ‘early notification’ option found in the Blink app was a standout feature. This triggers alerts when instant motion is detected, at least within your sensitivity settings. The technology is so fast that if you have a stable connection and are already looking at your phone, you can often capture events lasting a few seconds while they’re still in progress.

This contrasts with most security cameras – whether from Ring, Nest, or the like – which often take a few seconds to send a notification, let alone open a live stream. The gap may be small, but it can make all the difference in situations where it’s important to act quickly, like scaring off a thief or catching an accident before it happens. Security cameras are more useful when deterring trouble rather than just providing a recording of it.

The gap may be small, but it can make all the difference in situations where it is important to act fast.

Hair trigger notifications are not only rarer than they should be, but strangely under-sold by Amazon / Blink. There’s no mention of early notifications in the company’s marketing, and even in the app, the option is labeled “beta.” How is this technology not the standard in smart security?

Problems that slow down notification speed

Google Nest Cam Review 2021 forward

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Granted, there’s at least one obvious risk with faster notifications: battery drain. Frequent and prompt alerts can burn the batteries that many cameras rely on. In a worst-case scenario, some people might complain that they have to recharge or replace their batteries every few months, resulting in bad reviews and / or customers switching to different brands of cameras. As much as people want speed, sometimes they crave convenience more.

The Blink Outdoor is somewhat ‘cheat’ in that while the camera itself uses two AA batteries, it broadcasts to a hub plugged into an indoor AC outlet – many cameras use built-in Wi-Fi or 4G. to communicate with the cloud, both of which are inherently more power hungry. Still, while those AA batteries can last half their estimated two years, it’s not unreasonable for other camera makers to keep pace.

Related: The best wireless security cameras

Another bottleneck that Blink gets around is object recognition. Many cameras can now identify people, pets, vehicles, and packages, which is useful for prioritizing alerts. Nest devices go even further with a Conscious subscription, distinguishing friends from strangers. Object scanning requires additional processing time, whether managed on the device or through the cloud, and the cloud option is more common, resulting in additional delays caused by network traffic.

Granted, there’s at least one obvious risk with faster notifications: battery drain.

A final deterrent is the need to minimize false alarms. This is probably why Blink’s tech is still in beta – people would start ignoring alerts if a lot of them were unnecessary, and the company is undoubtedly trying to temper expectations until it refines. its algorithms. Indeed, I sometimes had “empty” recordings during my tests, even with limited detection zones defined in the field of view of the Outdoor. But these were rare and can potentially happen with any camera, so again, there doesn’t seem to be any excuse for leaving early notifications out.

Notifications from security cameras can and should be faster

The Arlo Pro wall-mounted security camera.

For some people, a slight delay in notifications may be acceptable. They may feel like the odds are against having to react quickly, and they might be more concerned about battery life and the quality of alerts. That is, they prefer to be told that a package has just been delivered, or that it is a person approaching the door instead of a bird, while ignoring everything else. And that’s perfectly understandable – when I’m head down in my writing, I try to turn off anything irrelevant on my phone.

Would you prefer the faster camera notifications or slower notifications with improved reliability and object recognition?

4 voices

I imagine, however, that if you present people with extreme scenarios – preventing someone from smashing your car window for example, or preventing your child from burning their hand on the stove – they will likely insist on better times. response from their cameras. False alarms here and there would be a minor compromise.

Read more: The best smart home devices you can buy

I think the solution is to create a version of Blink’s early notification option in the foreground in every camera app, even if it’s not enabled by default. If necessary, manufacturers could turn object recognition off when this mode is active, but there’s a good chance that processing on the device will be fast enough over the next few years to provide the best of both worlds.

Amazon Blink Outdoor Security Camera on a white background.

Blinking in the open air

An Alexa-enabled security camera designed to survive the rain.

The Blink Outdoor is a weatherproof security camera with features like two-way talk, Alexa integration, night vision, and the ability to record via cloud subscription or local storage.


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