Fences, gates, dogs and locks – these have been the cornerstones of home security for centuries. But modern technology has given homeowners the ability to supplement such measures with camera-based DIY systems that, in addition to acting as a deterrent, can help catch criminals either in the act or afterwards. One such system is the Oplink TripleShield system, which we recently had the opportunity to try out.
Right off the bat I need to point out that my review unit came courtesy of My Home Connect, the residential/consumer arm of Melbourne, Australia-based security company OmniVision, which sells the Oplink Connected line of products in Australia. Up until recently, the system was sold under a subscriber model, with users required to shell out a monthly fee after purchasing the hardware at a reduced price. But presumably to compete with similar systems that don't charge ongoing fees, the Oplink systems are now sold in Australia for a (higher) one-off purchase price and no recurring fees. Those outside Australia will need to check whether this is the case in their neck of the woods.
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What's in the box?
There are a number of different bundles available under the Oplink Connected Banner, each of which include various bits of wireless hardware that work in conjunction with a companion app. My review centers on the TripleShield bundle, which comes with the following items:
- One Oplink Processing Unit (OPU)
- One 16 GB USB thumb drive
- Two IP cameras with night vision
- Two pairs of window/door sensors
- Two key fob remote controls
- One motion detector
- One siren unit
Setting upI'm probably not alone in only resorting to reading to the instructions when I can't get a new purchase to work, but in the interests of a thorough review, I decided to do the prudent thing and follow the instructions on the installation guide booklet. But wouldn't you know it, I would have been better off sticking to my usual routine and ignoring said booklet. This is because the instructions and URL supplied therein were out of date as they applied to the system being based on a monthly subscription.
As a result, the only step I need to follow was pretty much the first one, which involved downloading and installing the Oplink Connected app from the relevant store, be it the App Store, Google Play or Windows Phone Store. Once installed on your mobile device, the app will walk you through creating an account and setting up the hardware. Thankfully, this is idiot proof.
Setting up an account allows you to receive email notifications and access the system remotely through the app. The only hiccup I encountered doing this was a 404 error when trying to access the app's terms and conditions – again out of the interests of a thorough review. I was later informed that once again, this was a result of the subscription model being ditched and the website being in the process of being updated.
The app will then prompt you to connect the OPU to the internet, which is done by plugging it into a spare Ethernet port on a DHCP-enabled router. Unless you have an antique router, it will support DHCP and it will most likely be enabled by default – if it isn't, you may need to go into your router settings. Thankfully, DHCP was enabled on mine, so all that was required was to connect it to the router and slot the supplied 16 GB USB thumb drive for recording images and video captured by the system into the side of the OPU.
The sensors, which wirelessly connect to the OPU, then need to be powered up for the first time while within 5 ft (1.5 m) of the OPU. Once the app confirms that a connection has been established, the various bits and pieces can be moved to your desired location.
For the IP cameras and siren unit, this means somewhere within reach of a wall outlet, while the motion sensor and pair of window/door sensors are battery-powered, (with batteries supplied in the box), so can be placed just about anywhere within range of the OPU. The entire system comes pre-configured out of the box, so nothing else needs to be done beyond initializing the connection between the OPU and various sensors. It’s also easy to add additional sensors to the system at a later date, simply by scanning a QR code printed on each new component in the app.
There are various screws and double-sided stickers included with the kit for attaching the motion sensor unit and cameras, along with stands for each of the cameras. The stands feature a ball and socket connector so you can direct the camera view as you like it.
Although there's the dedicated motion sensor, the cameras can also be configured as motion sensors, with a slider in the app used to set the level of sensitivity. This lets you extend the range of coverage in the house as you don't need to locate the motion sensor in the same room as a camera to have the alarm trigger.
The door/windows sensors are attached by placing (using the provided double-sided tape) one half to the frame and the other half next to it on the moving part of the window or door. Spacers are included if the frame and window or door aren't sitting flush.
Once you've placed the various components in a way to maximize effectiveness, the system can be armed via the key fob or the app. The key fob is pretty self explanatory, functioning just like a car remote. However, you do need to be within range of the OPU. So if you're like me, you'll probably want to hit the "arm" button just after you've exited the house so as to avoid setting off the alarm before you leave.
All in all, setting up the various components took around 10 minutes.
The app for that
While the OPU is the heart of the system, the companion app is how you interact with it. You use it to arm or disarm the system from anywhere you have access to the internet. In addition to the armed and disarmed settings, the system also has a "Stay" mode, which activates only user-specified sensors. For example, you can leave the door and window sensors armed and disarm the motion sensor so you don't set off the alarm as you stumble bleary-eyed to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
If the system is triggered, you'll be sent an instant notification via the app, along with an email containing a time stamp and screen grab from the captured video (or videos if you have more than one camera connected). The video, which is saved on the thumb drive plugged into the OPU, will actually begin five seconds before the system detects movement and continue for 25 seconds after. The video can be viewed in the app, with the full video or a snapshot able to be forwarded as a "Videogram" via text message, email or social media.
But you don't have to wait for someone to break in or for the system to even be armed to check in on the live feed from any of the cameras at any time. Possibly a handy feature for distrusting parents wanting to check that their offspring aren't getting up to mischief while they're away for the night. While there are status lights on the cameras, these only indicate that the camera is on and connected to the OPU, so there's no way to tell if someone is watching proceedings just from looking at the camera. It's also possible to activate the camera unit's microphone so you can keep an ear as well as an eye on things.
The quality of the captured video can be set to one of three different resolutions – high (640 x 480), medium (320 x 240) and low (160 x 120). If you want to maximize your chances of actually identifying anyone caught on said video, you'll want to opt for the high setting as the others can get pretty blocky. The frame rate on all settings isn't that high either, but it's not exactly time lapse and clearly shows what the intruder is up to.
If you've attached a camera to a ceiling so it's hanging upside down, you can flip the view in the app. Although the cameras aren't intended for outdoor placement, you can also switch between outdoor and indoor settings, if the camera is looking through a window, for example. However, I found it hard to see much difference between the two settings with the cameras handling the contrast between indoors and outdoors pretty well.
The cameras will also automatically switch from day (color) to night (black and white) vision based on the amount of available light. The night vision will also work in pitch black, with infrared light emitted from the camera unit illuminated the subject. Unsurprisingly, night image quality isn't nearly as good as those captured in daylight, and the brightness of subjects drops significantly when further from the infrared light-emitting camera.
System modularityThe Oplink system is designed to make it easy to add additional sensors and components as desired. Optional add-ons include extra camera units, a water leak sensor, sonic heat sensor and a smart plug. These all require an existing Oplink system to work, to which they can easily added by using the app to capture the QR code on the side of the hardware. I got to try this out with the Smart Plug, which was included along with my TripeShield review bundle.
This is a surge-protected electrical outlet that connects to Oplink OPU via Wi-Fi so it can be controlled remotely via the same app used to control the security system. The plug, and anything plugged into it, can be switched on an off remotely via the "Automation" tile on the app home screen. "Automation" seems like a bit of a stretch as it isn't even possible to schedule a time for the plug to automatically switch a device on or off. Instead, you have to have to do this manually via the app, which seems a little like a lost opportunity. And like too many electrical plugs today, the Smart Plug isn't exactly compact either, and renders any neighboring outlets inaccessible.
That said, the plug does what it's designed to do – turn an electrical device (in my case, a lamp), on and off from across town. It's a nice trick, which could be useful if you are way from home and want to switch on a lamp for security reasons for example, but a timer could accomplish the same feat.
SummaryDuring my time with the Oplink TripleShield system, I can report no break ins or thefts at my place, which actually isn't that unusual so probably can't be attributed to the system. However, I did find it extremely simple to set up and use.
The system managed to detect me anytime it was armed and the subsequent notifications on my phone arrived within a few seconds of the motion detector being triggered. If the accompanying alarm, which quickly increases in volume, doesn't scare off the interlopers, then you will probably have time to call the police while they are still in the house. And even if they're gone before the cops arrive, then you'll have the intruders on video provided you've placed the cameras intelligently.
The subject of camera placement raises one of the potential downsides of the system. The camera units, particularly when paired with the supplied stands, aren't exactly small, standing at around 15 cm tall. So depending on where you place them and your home décor, there's the possibility they'll stand out like a sore thumb. Of course, this is something that will be common to other security systems as well, and could be a plus if you want them to act as a visible deterrent, but is worth considering.
Another potential problem is the reliance of most of the sensors and the OPU on mains power. If you've affixed one of the supplied stickers to the front of the house advertising the fact that it's protected by the Oplink system, then someone could disable it simply by cutting the power – that is, unless you invest in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
However, unless you have all your sensors arranged in a cluster close to the OPU and your router, then you'll likely need to invest in more than one UPS to ensure complete coverage. But then again, the prospective burglar won't know whether you've got a UPS inside or not. So unless they have a specific target, the sticker advertising the system could be enough to send them in search of easier pickings.
Currently priced at AUD$1,290 (US$1,045) in Australia through My Home Connect, the bundle might not sound cheap, but you do get some impressive hardware, and the lack of a monthly fee certainly sweetens the deal. It is exceptionally easy to set up and use, and adding additional sensors if required is also a simple affair. So if you're looking for some extra peace of mind to secure your home and belongings, this could be a worthwhile investment for you. The Smart Plug can be added to the Oplink system for AUD$65 (US$52).
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