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How Do Wireless Cameras Work? | All You Need to Know

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There’s no denying that wired security cameras are a little… ugly.

Chances are, the aesthetically unappealing sight of bulky wires and old-fashioned looking cameras are what motivates many people to consider wireless surveillance cameras instead, which not only look better, but promise to be more efficient and replete with more modern capabilities, including Wi-Fi-enabled features and Smart home integration.

But how do wireless cameras work? Are they any good, or just a modern gimmick?

Let’s clear up the myths and misconceptions around wireless security cameras.

How Do Wireless Security Cameras Work?

Unlike their wired counterparts, wireless security cameras function with fewer cables—‘fewer’, as opposed to none at all, because there’s a high chance it will still need to be plugged into a wall outlet or USB port unless it is battery-powered. 

What makes them ‘wireless’ is that they don’t require wires to communicate information. That being said, it inevitably avoids the clumsiness and inaccessibility associated with wired cameras.

Simply put, wireless cameras transmit video and audio through radio waves. The video is sent to the receiver, whether that’s a hybrid DVR, a computer, or a smart device, where the data is stored either to disk or on the cloud.

Can Wireless Cameras Work Without Internet?

The way the wireless camera interfaces with its control source differs depending on the camera. ‘Wireless surveillance cameras’ doesn’t necessarily mean Wi-Fi enabled, although this is a common misconception (because they usually do function with Wi-Fi).

There are also cameras on the market that can utilize cellular data and Bluetooth to stream, share and save data.

Let’s take a look at the options.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is an almost universal wireless technology that allows for the short-range transferal of data with no wires.

Considering that over the last two decades, broadband has made its way into the houses of over three quarters of Americans, it’s hardly surprising that adjacent markets of Wi-Fi enabled products have experienced similar growth. 

The global Wi-Fi Cameras market size is projected to reach a staggering USD 42110 million by 2026.

Nowadays, even affordable wireless security cameras tend to boast features that utilize Wi-Fi. It can be used to transfer video and audio to DVR, the cloud, a computer, or a mobile device.

In other words, no matter where you happen to be, it will allow you to observe footage. 

Since it’s a short-range method of data transmission, it’s particularly useful to use around the home. That is, unless you happen to live in a mansion.

Wi-Fi still has a notoriously weak signal if you aren’t within a couple of meters of the hub, so you may anticipate signal dropouts if using outdoor wireless security cameras connected to a hub several meters away and inside the property.

Cellular

Mobile data achieves the same thing as Wi-Fi: it allows you to access the internet. Though Wi-Fi provides a more reliable connection, the advantage of using data is that you can use it anywhere within the signal range of your network provider.

If you live in an urban area, you’re likely to be covered in most places.

Though it is far less common to find cameras that support cellular communication, it certainly isn’t unheard of.

Indeed, alternative wireless surveillance cameras, like AlfredCamera, operate on smart devices, meaning you can use mobile data to transmit the data to a recipient device should you wish to do so.

US households are increasingly going without a landline. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 62.5% of American households now just use mobile phones, meaning broadband-landline packages are also significantly decreasing.

This would suggest that there might be a growing demand for affordable wireless security cameras that provide the option to use cellular data.

Graph representing the declining use of landlines and the increasing prominence of cell phone only households in the US.
Graph representing the declining use of landlines and the increasing prominence of cell phone only households in the US.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is actually an almost identical technology to Wi-Fi, in that it uses the exact same frequency. The difference is that Bluetooth devices ‘pair’ directly to one another, with a single device controlling the others.

That means it only works over very short distances.

As a result, Bluetooth is somewhat useless when it comes to wireless security cameras, because not only is the range even less than that of Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth is essentially incapable of transmitting footage out of wherever the device is located.

Top 5 Best Wireless Security Cameras

Available on Amazon.

The Reolink Go PT next to it’s solar powered charging panel.
The Reolink Go PT next to it’s solar powered charging panel. Image via Amazon

Reolink’s flagship security camera is an Amazon bestseller beloved by tech critics across the globe. It’s an affordable yet easy to install wireless outdoor security camera that also functions inside. 

As the name suggests, it can use 3G and 4G mobile networks to transmit footage in real-time to either livestream or save to a device, making it an ideal option for those without broadband who still want the advantages of remote functionality.

Footage is captured in full 1080p HD, and solar powered rechargeable battery means you don’t have to regularly change out batteries.

Google Nest Doorbell (Battery)

Available on Google Store. From $179.99. 

The Nest Doorbell (Battery).
The Nest Doorbell (Battery). Image via Google

Google’s home security line, ‘Nest’, intelligently mixes smart devices with home security. One of the standout products, the Nest Doorbell, is Google’s answer to video doorbells, which have been around for a few decades. It comes in both wired and battery-operated versions.

It streamlines the technology to make it smarter, adding smart alerts (push notifications) which can tell the difference between people, packages, animals, and vehicles in real time. ‘Nest Aware’ uses facial recognition to even notify you when a familiar face is at the door.

Two-way communication lets you chat with (or scare off) whoever’s at the door, while the 3:4 ratio, displayed vertically, maximizes what you can see, from sky to ground.

AlkiVision

Available on Amazon. From $59.99

The AlkiVision security camera.
The AlkiVision security camera. Image Via Amazon

An inexpensive option popular on Amazon, AlkiVision sets itself apart from competition with a large battery life (purportedly up to 6 months!) and what it calls ‘PIR Smart Motion Detection’. The PIR sensor can send notifications to smartphones when it detects something unusual.

Its setup time is approximately five minutes, making it an especially easy to install wireless outdoor security camera. It also supports up to 1080p HD video and two-way communication via its corresponding mobile app. It is Wi-Fi enabled but doesn’t work with cellular data.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s pretty robust when it comes to weather—it’s able to withstand rain and temperatures ranging from -4°F to 122°F, so whether you live in an especially cold or especially hot climate, it’ll be more than capable.  

Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera

Available on Best Buy. From $249.99

The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera.
The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera. Image via Bestbuy

The Arlo Pro 3 is a smart security camera that features a floodlight. Unlike most floodlight cameras, it’s wireless!

Weatherproof casing protects both the camera and the light, which can illuminate your property up to 2000 lumens (3000 if using the outdoor magnetic charging cable). With lights that bright and video recording up to 2K, you certainly won’t miss anything.

Sync with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit to take advantage of additional smart features, or get Arlo Secure for cloud recording, advanced object detection, rich notifications, and more.

AlfredCamera

Available on the App Store and Google Play. Free, with the option for premium.

Image via AlfredCamera

AlfredCamera was created to close a gap in the market. By turning your old smartphone into a fully functional wireless surveillance camera, you get the features of all the best wireless security cameras on the market without the price-tag.

Experience two-way communication, smart push notifications, motion detection, and even simulated night vision. Safety is everyone’s right, and it’s AlfredCamera’s belief that money shouldn’t be the dictator of who ultimately gets to have that right.

So, if you’re looking for affordable wireless security cameras, look no further: you can’t get much more affordable than completely free!

How to Install Wireless Security Cameras

Once you’ve chosen the best wireless security camera for your needs, you’ll want to install it. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be too complicated. It is, after all, wireless. Here’s how to install your new wireless outdoor or indoor security camera.

1. If the camera functions via a socket, measure the length of the wire, and then the distance from the plug to roughly where you would like to place the camera.

2. Hold the bracket to the wall and use a pencil to trace it, marking where it will go.

3. With a wire detector, check the wall to avoid drilling into wiring.

4. Drill the marked spots.

5. Mount the bracket and screw in; Leave it to sit without the camera on it for an hour or so.

6. If it features it, connect the camera to the Wi-Fi or other data hotspot before attaching it to the wall.

7. Place it on the bracket and position it so that it views the maximum amount of space (check out our home security camera placement guide for inspiration).

8. Remove anything that overtly obstructs the camera’s view.

FAQ

How do you power a wireless security camera?

This depends entirely on the model in question. Most will in fact not be ‘wireless’, but require a connection to a socket or USB port. Cameras marketed as ‘outdoor wireless security cameras’, however, do tend to have other options, like solar powered charging panels or batteries.

Do you have to plug in wireless security cameras?

Again, this depends on the model. Many will require being plugged into a socket, since ‘wireless’ doesn’t denote ‘wire-free’. ‘Wireless’ in this context simply refers to the fact that no wires are required to transmit data.

Can wireless cameras work without electricity?

No, mainstream wireless security cameras all function via electricity. But this doesn’t necessarily mean electricity from a regular power socket. Batteries and charging panels are among other common options for generating the electricity needed to power them.

How long do batteries last in wireless security cameras?

Battery life depends on features and usage. Since you’ll presumably be recording 24/7 for security purposes, most brands do consider the need to maximize battery life when developing their camera models. For example, Google claims Nest Doorbell’s battery should last 2.5 months between charges, while AlkiVision claims to last up to 6. In other words, you won’t need to be recharging or swapping out batteries every other day.

How far can a wireless security camera transmit?

The type of wireless transmission being used will determine how far it can transmit; Wi-Fi should just about cope with the entirety of an average-sized property (and if it can’t, there’s always the option to buy third-party Wi-Fi extenders to improve reach). On the other hand, Bluetooth will struggle to transmit data beyond just a few metres.

Conclusion

With ease of use, affordability, and smart functionality at the top of the agenda for most developers of wireless surveillance cameras, there’s a lot to commend, and a lot of options to choose from.

That means that, 2021, most conceivable security needs are in fact catered to: whether you want affordable wireless security cameras that don’t compromise on high quality features, like AlfredCamera, a camera that illuminates your property, like the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, or something to round off your budding smart home, like the Google Nest Doorbell.