How to video-monitor my farm, on demand, on battery, on cell-data
November 23, 2019 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for help finding the right remote camera system to see what's happening at my farm (far from my home) without having to drive there. There isn't electricity or internet out there yet, so I need a battery powered system. All I can find are "trail cams" for hunters, chock full of expensive features I don't need. Any tips?

I'm building a farm on newly leased land, about 45 minutes away from my home, and I generally am only out there 2-3 days a week. I'm hoping to set up a remote surveillance camera monitoring system to let me see what's going on out there, on-demand, probably less than once a day — just to see that everything's OK, in times of high wind or heavy rain or frost. One camera is plenty. I don't need high quality images— i just want to be able to check in occasionally to see how flooded it gets in heavy rain, if tarps are blowing away, how much ice there is. There is no electric or internet hookup there, so it would have to be battery-powered and cellular-connected. I could change batteries as often as every few days.

It seems like there's a big market for hunting cameras that are mounted remotely, on a tree where you think there will be deer or whatever, some of which can use cellular data to text or email you pictures (with a plan you have to subscribe to monthly). But these mostly come with a vast array of features I don't need: motion-detection, night vision, infrared flash, internal storage, camouflaged casing, very high-resolution imagery, etc. And i'd rather not have to pay for those features.

Anyone set up anything like this before? Or, do you have any tips for how to put something together on the cheap? General other advice about brands for trail cameras? I'm pretty tech-savvy but don't have time or money to really dig into building a cool DIY hacky solution like raspberry pi.
posted by the_arbiter to Technology (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've got the exact same situation happening, so I'll be watching this ask with interest. In the meantime, what little research I've done in the past brought up a few battery powered (either solar rechargable or not) cellular cameras, that work off cell towers like a mobile phone.
Here's one. but if memory serves me I think there was an Arlo brand camera that was battery operated/cellular that seemed a better fit, it's price was around $600 or so at the time.
posted by newpotato at 3:27 PM on November 23, 2019

I think the search terms you want are "security camera 4g" or similar. You just want a security camera that has a battery/solar and cellular connectivity.
posted by ssg at 6:01 PM on November 23, 2019

My experience is with Arlo cameras. Like most things, the designers chose between easy, cheap, and good. Arlo is first and foremost easy, then good, but not particularly cheap.

Arlo does make a camera that runs on a battery and connects over LTE. It's called Arlo Go and looks like you have to buy a specific model based on which of 4 providers you plan to use: AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular (out of stock), or T-mobile. The price is about $350 - $400 with some variation depending on the carrier's intentions. I have no guidance as to how much these cost as far as a data plan but I imagine each carrier will treat it as a separate line or whatever and charge their usual leg-arm's worth.

I don't have an Arlo Go and haven't used one. I have a non-LTE Arlo Pro system, wherein the cameras connect wirelessly to a base unit and the base unit connects to my home data network over ethernet. The Go is 720p which sounds like it should be fine for you.

You say you don't need a bunch of specific features, but as far as I'm aware most of that stuff just comes part of a turn-key solution like Arlo. There might be other systems out there though. I went with Arlo because I had to get a camera system up immediately following an incident, and they sell Arlo systems in brick&mortar stores that I could go pick up that day. I didn't have time to do a lot of research.
posted by glonous keming at 9:27 PM on November 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just got a cheap, Chinese clone camera with a 6000 mAH battery built into it, and it's been working for two damn weeks! It's weathertight, and hangs from its mount with a strong magnet. It does infrared at night. It does motion-sensing if you want it, or not. I think it was like $79!

It has speaker and microphone, which are not great but that's not what I want it for.

They want me to pay $3/month but I didn't sign up yet and I won't because, like you, I just want to take a peek sometimes.

You would still need a cellular dingus for backhaul, but keep it in mind as a backup solution if you can't find an all-in-one.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:46 AM on November 24, 2019

I use a Reolink Argo 2 with their solar panel. But while I can check it via my phone over cellular it needs a WiFi network (I believe). Worth checking out. Inexpensive and well made. Has a silicon hood to protect it from elements. I live in snowy cold Vermont.
posted by terrapin at 12:07 PM on November 24, 2019

Dont know if this fits but I did something like this with an old phone set to auto answer video calls. I had a large external battery hooked up and used a cheap tmobile plan with just a little data. It was definitely cobbled together but it worked.
posted by dstopps at 2:43 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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