Security cameras have come a long way from being the bulky, obtrusive surveillance boxes they used to be. Nowadays, security cameras are small, aesthetically designed, and way more functional than their predecessors. And the improvements aren’t only in the camera’s design and visual prowess, but also in their network and transmission capabilities.
Smartphones and a robust internet have made remote viewing not only possible but relatively very easy. And it’s in this feature that P2P cameras excel, compared to regular business security cameras.
What is P2P Camera Technology?
P2P or Peer-to-Peer refers to a networking architecture different from the conventional centralized system. This other internet allows direct sharing of devices, without having to go through a central entity, like a cloud or a server. It makes things easy, especially in terms of connectivity and speed.
Before we look at what a P2P camera technology is, let’s have a look at how an IP camera or Internet Protocol Camera works.
IP or Internet Protocol Cameras are security cameras that can be directly connected to the internet. They may or may not need a central device (called an NVR–Network Video Recorder), to patch them to the network. This internet connectivity feature makes them ideal for remote monitoring and easy installation.
IP cameras are easy to install and setup because they rarely need wired connections. Instead, they on WiFi connectivity to connect with the NVR. We can also use them as single units: A single IP camera connected directly to your home or work’s network. You can control it using your cell phone or a computer.
All IP cameras aren’t necessarily wireless. An Ethernet cable can connect an IP camera to the router. Some IP cameras use the same Ethernet cable for power. It’s called a Power over Ethernet, or PoE, connection.
P2P IP Cameras
Explaining P2P cameras without getting very technical might not possible, but we will try to make it easier to digest.
Put a P2P camera is an IP camera. It can be connected to your smartphone and other devices quickly, using the internet. It can live feed to you, whether you are inside and connected to the same internet connection, or at a remote location and using a different internet.
You might ask that if a P2P camera uses the internet like an IP camera, what the difference is.
The first thing to understand is that a P2P camera is an IP camera, or rather, a specific IP camera. The difference between a P2P camera and a regular IP camera is–how it connects to the internet.
Difference Between P2P and Conventional IP Camera Networks
When a regular IP camera connects to the internet, it uses the conventional client-server approach. Like the one you use when you access the internet from any device. It runs all the data you access through the internet through a central server.
Similarly, when your IP camera is connected to your home’s internet, and you use it to monitor the feed from your camera remotely, or to control the camera, it’s run through a central server. But since security is a serious issue remote monitoring of a conventional IP camera isn’t as easy as it sounds.
It has introduced additional protocols and technologies to make the remote monitoring of an IP camera easy and secure, like the DDNS – Dynamic Domain Name System. This allows you remote access to your IP security camera through the customized domain name. Many times, use port forwarding to connect to your IP security camera.
Though all these protocols and limitations make accessing an IP camera relatively secure, they rarely produce the best results for the quality of video feed. Also, they connect to your IP security camera, a real hassle. Most times, add exceptions to your firewalls so you can access the video feed, which makes your network vulnerable.
In contrast, P2P cameras need not be connected to a central server to relay their video feed to your remote location. In a P2P network, all connected entities (peers or nodes), have the same privileges and authorities. It means that you need not take down or make exceptions in your firewall. You need not go through the DDNS protocols, port forwarding, or mapping, to remotely access your camera’s feed.
A P2P system is called a decentralized system for this very reason. Unlike a standard IP camera that depends upon a centralized system (where the central server can be considered the center, through which it routs all the data), it decentralize P2P cameras. They depend upon others in the network, their peers, for connectivity and data relay. This is the same system this is utilized by Skype and torrent clients.
Setting up a P2P Camera and Remote Viewing
Setting up a standard IP camera isn’t hard. Whether it’s a unit or a whole set that is connected through an NVR, IP cameras can be easily installed and connected to the home network. The problem comes when you are trying to set up remote viewing of your IP camera. This is where a P2P camera, far outshines a regular IP camera.
Where a standard IP camera takes time and many preparations to set up for the live feed, a P2P camera is straightforward. All you have to do is download the app provided by your camera’s manufacturer, enter your camera’s UID (Unique ID Number) that is generated at the time of the camera’s development and help the manufacturer’s P2P server recognize your camera. It can also do this with a QR scan code. And you can easily access the camera’s feed.
You don’t have to chase around the right IP address to access the feed. You don’t have to worry about your firewall. The video feed is uninterrupted and undisturbed. Even if you are using a bunch of them with an NVR, P2P cameras are much easier to set up.
One problem that you might experience with a P2P camera remote viewing is when you will try to view them through a PC. Internet browsers on PC aren’t equipped to deal with P2P connectivity, so you might need to use port forwarding to view your P2P camera’s feed via a browser remotely. You won’t have any trouble with the smartphones or tabs, however. And sometimes, even the PC issue can be taken care of, if your client has provided a dedicated software or add-on for the remote view of your camera.
Another benefit of a P2P camera is that multiple devices can remotely view it. Conventional IP security cameras only allowed remote viewing to one device at a time.
Advantages of P2P Cameras
There are many advantages of using a P2P camera, some of them we have already discussed.
- Ease of installation. Thanks to QR scans and simple entry of UID codes, installing a P2P camera is much easier than any other security camera like the best battery powered security cameras.
- Relatively cheap. Compared to a conventional IP camera, the services like remote storage and backup of P2P cameras cost comparatively less. Or you can bypass it in favor of on-site recording on an SD card.
- Video transmission is very stable. Compared to DDNS and port-forwarding based live feed, a P2P camera’s feed is relatively higher quality and is not as susceptible to pauses and stops because of problems in the connection, as the conventional IP camera’s feed is.
- Your internet connection doesn’t have to be recognized by your P2P camera to allow you a link to the live feed. This makes it easy to view your P2P camera’s feed on your device, even when it’s connected to a new or different internet provider.
- Centralized systems fail if the client fails. Similarly, devices connected to a centralized system suffer from a client’s poor quality. If it hack the client, the hackers may have access to everyone and everything connected to that client. Compared to that, the P2P servers and cameras are relatively secure. There isn’t a single point of failure (client). And even if some peers in the network face an attack or go down from a virus, the damage is not as extensive as it is with a single client-based system. This makes P2P cameras relatively more reliable.
Problems with P2P Cameras
Very few things in this world are perfect. Everything has its flaws and weaknesses. The weakness of P2P cameras is security, or rather, the distribution of the security. With the P2P connection, you can view the live feed from your camera to your cell phone. But you are not the only one who has access to this data.
In a P2P network, there isn’t a conventional client that allows and controls every bit of data that goes through it. But they still rely on your client’s server for permission to establish a connection. It’s not the same as the centralized system’s server. But it means that the security of your video feed depends a lot on your client’s server security.
This is one reason I always recommend it to buy a P2P camera from a verified and reputable vendor. A P2P camera purchased from a shady seller might not only lack in quality but might also be easily hacked. Reliable vendors always ensure encrypted data transfer and provide additional safety layers like establishing a connection after permission from at least two servers (nodes). Security measures like these make P2P cameras relatively more secure. But there are still a couple more things you can do.
It’s also recommended that you disable the uPNP feature in your P2P cameras. It will make your P2P connection relatively more secure.
A way to make a P2P connection very secure is to always use a VPN for remote connectivity. It might require a bit of setup, and some investment, but with the right VPN setup, your P2P connection can be even more secure than a conventional IP camera.
The manufacturers are always working on improving the security features of P2P cameras. It is why you should always keep your P2P camera’s app updated. So you can enjoy the latest changes your P2P camera’s manufacturer, has made in terms of security and additional features.
Uses of P2P Cameras
Like any outdoor wireless security camera, P2P cameras can be ideal for home security. They are as common as conventional IP cameras and can be found in outdoor and indoor varieties. It usually sells them as single units, but you can make a network of them using an NVR. Or you can install three or four cameras and access their feed separately.
They are straightforward to install and setup, so they can be ideal for people who frequently move. P2P cameras are also commonly used by parents as baby cams. They are usually equipped with useful features like motion detectors, night vision, and two-way audio. These features make them ideal for monitoring babies or your pets.
Similarly, businesses can use P2P cameras for the security of their premises. They can be ideal for construction or renovations sites, where you frequently have to change the position of the cameras.
Many people are wary of using P2P cameras because they think they not as secure as other camera types. But this perception is slowly changing. P2P camera manufacturers are continually improving their server security and are using innovative encryptions to relay the feed. And there are measures you can take yourself to make your P2P cameras more secure.
The chances are that P2P cameras, being more accessible and more efficient, may one day make conventional IP cameras obsolete.