There are so many things to change an upgrade. Initially, this page will show our ideas and plans on some of the major changes. When our RV is delivered, we’ll change from plan to actual walk throughs of the process.
Electronics | WIFI | Data
It’s pretty simple. We want to view the outside and inside of our RV and view the cameras from any device, at any time. We don’t want to pay monthly subscriptions, but we also don’t want to configure a Linux system to do a DIY hack of a camera system.
WYZE: The Wyze outdoor camera is currently taking pre-orders and will ship product in October, 2020. The system has a required base station that will accommodate four units.Our plan called for five or six cameras, so we would need two bases. The base/single camera package is priced at an amazing $49.99. Additional cameras come in at $39.99. Recorded video can be stored on an internal memory card or uploaded to the cloud. It appears to be a no-brainer, but there was one catch that kept us from going forward. When the Wyze camera starts, it will stop recording after just 12 seconds of video, then it will lock itself out for the next five minutes. The work-around it to subscribe to the CamPlus service at $14.99 USD per camera, per year. This service gets you additional features including 14 day cloud storage, alerts and full length videos.
You can purchase the Wyze system on Amazon. The indoor system offers a weather tight housing system for outdoor use. The new Outdoor camera will be available in October, 2020.
Ultimately the 12-second cap and $15/year package decided it for us. Our goal is to minimize expenses and monthly and annual subscriptions are things we’re trying to minimize.
Logitech Circle2: We’ve been a fan of the Logitech Circle2 since buying one for our sticks-n-bricks about a year ago. The connection and user-interface are very easy, intuitive and loaded with a number of features. When deciding on a system for the RV, we thought it would be easy to just buy a few more. The price point for a single wireless camera comes in at $126 USD. While more expensive than Wyze, the Circle2 will record up to 60 seconds of video at a time, and send it straight to the cloud with out the need for a paid account and with out the 5 minute lockout.
Once we factored the cost of the annual subscriptions for five cameras, we found that after four years of ownership, the cost of both brands is equal. After that, we’d be paying more to continue service with Wyze.
While waiting for delivery of our rig, we bought a second Circle2, in order to put it through its paces. We will install them on the outside of the rigs roof area when camped, as well as one inside. By logging into our no-cost Circle2 account, we can view multiple screens, and call up individual cameras, download clips, playback and sections with movement. We can also adjust sensitivity camera viewing angle and resolution. Logitech does offer a subscription with additional features, but for our purposes, we are satisfied with the no-charge features offered.
Installation: Installation was a breeze. The Wireless Circle two comes with a pivoting base and with a surface mount. Two small drill holes secured the surface mount, and the base snapped right on. I needed my tablet with the Circle2 app nearby to complete the connection process. I did learn that using a laptop and browser to access your account, does not allow you to make camera connections. You will need to have their app on a smart device to connect. The process was very straight-forward and we had an image up in minutes.
Review: The screen interface is easy to use, quick and responsive. You have the option to view a high-speed recap of all recorded activity that day. The battery appears to stay charged for at least 30-days, and we’ve seen posts showing it will hold a charge up to 90-days. We will update as this evolves.
10 Sep 2020 update: I am exchanging the wireless camera, as it failed to connnect to WIFI, or to reset on day two.
Cellular Data (Internet Access)
What do we need and how do we get it on the road?
Getting stable, reasonable, non-throttled, internet for your motor-home/RV is damned near ridiculous. In your sticks-n-bricks house, it is really no problem. You call up, place the order, the device arrives, you plug it in and away you go. It doesn’t happen that way when you’re on the road. For obvious reasons, there’s nothing you can just plug in to?! So, we are stuck with a couple of less than perfect options: shared RV Park WIFI (never a good choice), or get your data from the cell-phone company cellular tower network. Cellular data is what most digital nomads utilize. The problem is that the cellular industry doesn’t really see us as a market that is worth going after. Therefore, we’re left to scrounge up whatever we can. Early adopters were able to get access to unlimited data plans with no-throttling. And all these people seem to have a RV blog where the tout this as the best solution! Great for them, but it does nothing for the rest of us. So… what do we use?
To get the internet into your laptop in your motorhome, we will use the cell towers you drive by throughout the country. These towers purpose is to transmit wireless cell phone signals from an underground wire out to the surrounding area. This signal is primarily used by your cellphone so you can have phone calls, but that signal is also used to send and receive data packets. When you’re using your smartphone for something other than talking on the phone, the data needed comes into your phone via these towers. What we need is a system to get us data, and not be too worried about the phone call side of things. A nifty solution is a small device called a “Jet-Pack” or MIFI device. It works just like a phone (you need a SIM card and an account from the company). The Jet-Pack then sends out a low-level wireless signal that your laptop and phone can connect to for internet access. This device is also known as a ‘hot-spot’.
Most plans for a hot-spot come in at around $95 per month. The plan provides you with “unlimited access” to the data, and will tout that you get the fastest speeds available from the tower, but there is a catch. After you consume 15-gigabits or 20-gigabits of data, your provider will “throttle” you. This means, you will still have access to unlimited amounts of data, but it will come to you much much slower. Instead of 30 megabits per second (Mbps), you will get 1/2 of 1 Mbps. Think of the old days of 14.4 kbps modems… It’s that bad. You will be able to check your email and browse the web, but streaming movies, and gaming are out of the question. This is the current status of access in the industry, and it sucks.
The Solution: Visible
Each of the three big cellular companies have a secondary company that markets low cost solutions for cellular access. They offer less expensive phones and pre-paid/no-contract budget plans. The catch is that as a customer, your plan is prioritized lower than their primary customers. If there are 1000 people accessing a tower, the main customers get priority over you. Not great, but not bad either. As mentioned earlier, Verizon provides the most number of cell towers around the country. This is great news for RV’ers since we’re typically set up away from city centers. The best access we can get is typically provided by Verizon.
Verizon’s secondary company is VISIBLE. Visible uses the same cell towers that Verizon uses. Instead of $95 a month for high speed service which gets throttled, Visible offers a slower speed (5Mbps total for both download and upload), that will never be throttled. Visible also requires you to buy one of their phones, which will be used as the “hotspot” device. The best part: plans start at $40 per month. That’s it… Even better, they have a group rate feature that can lower your overall bill to just $25 a month!
$25 a month for UNLIMITED, UN-THROTTLED, and multi-devices accessible wireless cellular data that can be accessed wherever you are in range of a Verizon tower.
The ‘catch’: As noted, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile start you off with a fair level of internet speed, but then they will slow you down to 1/2 Mbps (or 650 kpbs) after you consume a certain amount of data. With Visible, you start off with an adequate amount of speed (5 megabits per second), and keep it at that level. No throttling.
What can you do with 5 Mbps? Just about 90% of what you need to do on the internet. You will browse, check email, read forums, and do social media with ease. You can stream a movie, or Youtube. You can participate in a Skype or Zoom call, all with no big issues. What can’t you do? You won’t be able to watch a 4K resolution movie, or play Call of Duty, or watch three movies at the same time. In our initial test, we connected three iPhones, two iPads, one 40″ TV playing Netflix and two laptops (One playing the news on Youtube). All this happened with relative ease.
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