Hey Kev – Hows The Driveway Camera Setup

I wrote about the basics of our Blue Iris camera setup last year and I’ve wanted to continue with some specifics since. Might as well start specifics with the camera utilizing the most components, the end of the driveway camera. Before we first moved to the property, and lived in the shed and a fifth wheel full time, we decided to bite the 5-digit cost to install Wave Cable for internet. To reduce the cost of the cable install I trenched the driveway to run the cable in. While the driveway was open we ran 00AWG 4 conductor direct bury wire [1], 1.5″ water line [2], and two 2″ conduits. The power wire pops up a few places along the driveway for future use.

The finished walls in the house are about 13″ thick, isolating us sonically from the outside world. Unless there is a window open, or we’re looking outside we hardly notice a car drive up when we’re inside the house. I wanted to be notified when anyone touched the driveway. The driveway is too long to run Ethernet down without powered repeaters, and wireless would have required towers due to trees, so we had to run a fiber optic cable down the driveway to provide connectivity; no problem we have conduits and pull strings. I ordered a premade [3] SC to SC fiber cable with pull sock from Infiniti Cables out of Canada. The Fiber came beautifully spun on a spool with pull sock; Super sexy product. I gazed at it for a while before using it. Mike, the neighbor, helped me pull the fiber down the conduit. He feed and I pulled yelling at each other with FB radios.

Trenched driveway filled with a Maddex and the sexy orange spool of fiber optic cable.

The Short List of Kit used for Cameras

There’s a pile of kit at the end of the driveway and I tend to get wordy when talking about things I’ve built and have passion for. If all you are after is a list of what we used here it is:

The Driveway box

At the end of the driveway we have 2 cameras and a wireless access point running off some hardware housed in a Steel Truck tool box. Our setup has organically grown over a few years. We started by planted a 6×8 treated beam in to some concrete, placed a steel truck tool box on it, and ran a bunch of conduits into the box. I wanted a telco outdoor utility box but they were about four times the cost of the truck box, and the truck box was local pick up and well-sealed. On the pole we terminated the electrical in an 8×8 outdoor box and reduced the wire to 12-gauge wire. You’re allowed to reduce as long as you still meet minimums for breaker amperage, 15amps for this circuit. From the box we ran wire into a GFCI plug to use as a breaker at the box, and comply with code. From the plug we ran power into the tool box to power the gadgets.

The fiber terminates in the box hooked to TP-link Media Converter with an SC end. It’s attached to an 8-port 100MB switch with Ethernet. Both cameras are hard wired into the switch with Ethernet cables. There have been a few occasions the cameras have locked up and needed to be restarted over the years. To avoid walking down the driveway in the rain or dark we installed an Ubiquiti M-power 3 port power strip to integrate with the Ubiquiti M-power kit we have around the house. It’s much simpler for Michelle to click a button in the Mfi console vs. walk down the driveway when I’m not home and three kids are jumping around the house. Happy Safe wife, happy life; Bruce would be proud.

The M-power uses wireless connectivity only. To connect it to our network we added a Ubiquiti Outdoor AP to the back side of the camera pole. I’ve always wanted wireless at the end of the driveway anyhow, so this was a double win install. The Wireless will allow us to add a few more cameras further up the driveway later this summer. All of these bits results in Power control for the cameras, wireless network, and 100MB of network connectivity to some cameras.

The box is a complete mess right now on the inside. I Installed the Ubiquiti kit in the rain in a rush. Cleaning it up is on my list.

The Driveway Cameras

When we setup first the camera our budget was smaller, we used a Foscam 720p PTZ camera in an outdoor dome housing that did not support IR light pass through. We could see head lights at night but no details and the 720p meant there was not enough picture quality to capture license plates. When you turned on the IR lights they bounced off of the plastic housing resulting in only bright light. I tried a few external IR night lights but they all burnt out after a few days. Cheap stuff I guess. For motion detection and capturing people and cars 720p was perfect, but I wanted license plates. We recently upgraded and added the 1440p version of the Foscam outdoor fixed camera which I had to call Foscam directly to order because it does not seem to be on their Us website of amazon yet.

We kept both cameras at the end of the drive way for redundancy and options. The PTZ camera has Audio out and in, 1440p does not. We can hear audio with the PTZ camera right now. This summer I’d like to add a PA speaker and wide angle microphone to the end of the driveway. I’d be nice to ask people to turn around before they even walk down the driveway, or talk to people when the gate is closed; The ever growing list of things to do has some cool things on it.

Camera Monitoring

Both cameras at the end of the driveway are monitored by a dedicated instance of Blue Iris running on a machine mounted in our entry sever Rack. Blue Iris is always watching the cameras for motion. When it sense motions it plays sound through the house stereo to notify us someone is coming. Plus, it records the motion, and emails us and the neighbors we share the col-de-sac with. The 720p camera is slightly more accurate with motion detection and false positives. During the night time the 1440p camera captures motion from dust, spider webs, bugs, and occasionally has bugs land on it due to the heat from the IR LEDS. During the day leaves moving can set it off as well. I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking the 1440p camera to work as the primary trigger for motion. We might roll back to the 720p as primary at night and 1440p for the day; Another thing to add to the list.

Some more pictures

I think every post needs more pictures.

Looking up at the cameras and wireless AP from the ground.

What it looks like when you approach our driveway – Gate to make people feel fear, like yucca mountain permanent monument project, on the list

Conduits are awesome things – I don’t think you can ever have too many. You can see the empty fiber spool in the left of this image

Fiber terminator on shelf by the Shed Half Rack.

Shed half rack with left over fiber spooled and hanging – not clean at all. Cleaning is not really on the list.

Closer look at the box. Finger pointing at the outdoor GFCI plug.

Example alert of the budget / FEDEX truck leaving yesterday after dropping off a package. He called to make sure it was ok to leave at the gate. Great driver!

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Entry Server rack – Not the cleanest of wires here either. On the list

Foot notes

[1] 127 volts over 1100 feet required big wire to mitigate voltage dropping below acceptable numbers. 10 Gauge would have meant 71 volts at the end. Math and science were needed here.

[2] there is a water system termination at the end of the drive way we could hook up to if we wanted to vs. using or own well. Figured it was worth the pipe to have the option.

[3] turns out Fiber Termination is not very cheap or simple. Was much cheaper to go premade and spool the left overs.

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