Blink: Security camera system installation and impressions

Article By : Brian Dipert

After a blog post and two teardowns dissecting how the Blink consumer security system works, it's time to put it to work.

So far in this particular series, I’ve shared background information on how the Blink consumer security system works, followed by in-depth teardowns of both the Sync Module at the nexus of a network and one of the cameras at the network edge. To wrap up, I thought I’d devote this concluding post to sharing some insights on how well (or not) the Blink system works, along with some nuances on my particular installation.

Note that the screenshots that follow were captured prior to the launch of the Blink XT2 second-generation outdoor camera line, which requires granting additional access permissions (specifically to the smartphone or tablet’s microphone) during setup, commensurate with each camera’s built-in speaker; more generally, the setup process has also been slightly streamlined since I went through it.

I’ve already shared “unboxing” shots as part of the two earlier-mentioned teardowns, so I won’t repeat them here. The only nuance that bears mention is that whereas my prior coverage discussed standalone Blink Sync Module and Blink XT cameras, my initial purchase-for-use included a two camera/module combo; a bigger box with more stuff inside, but the same per-unit stuff you’ll see in the past photos.

Based on pre-purchase research, I did do some initial upgrades to the out-of-box feature set, however. Specifically, I acquired several sets (one per camera) of a “silicone skin” plus metal mounting bracket combo:

security camera mounting bracket

The silicone skin, others had reported, was useful in protecting the cameras’ plastic cases from premature degradation due to sun and other environmental exposure; its top-edge “hood” also kept falling-from-sky moisture from collecting on the lens. And not only was the metal mounting bracket more orientation-flexible than the plastic one Blink bundled with each camera, its comparative sturdiness was also functionally beneficial. Reviews posted by others indicated that it, by holding the camera still when in the wind, significantly decreased the number of “false positive” triggers that would otherwise result from camera motion misidentified as motion within the scene being viewed. Here’s a shot of a setup in action on my upper deck:

security camera mounted

For the Sync Module, as well, I did a modest upgrade. This inexpensive mounting bracket tidies everything up nicely, bundling the Sync Module and its companion “wall wart” power supply together right at the AC outlet.

sync module mounting bracket

Here’s an in-operation shot (yes, that’s a WeMo switch above it):

sync module mounted

System setup begins with the Sync Module, to which you initially connect your smartphone or tablet over an ad hoc Wi-Fi tether initiated by a QR code scan (manual serial number entry is also supported as backup):

(RockyMountainBri … get it?)

As usual, I initially neglected to turn off my Google Pixel’s cellular data connection, which resulted in a fumbled transfer back to the premises Wi-Fi network post- configuration, but the cellular-less second time was smooth sailing.

Next up, each of the cameras, similarly started by QR code scans. In these cases, initial ad hoc Wi-Fi networks weren’t necessary since I could communicate with a camera via the already-connected Sync Module intermediary (which set up the camera over the alternative 900 MHz LFR wireless tether between them):

(as previously mentioned, this version of the software predated the Blink XT2)

Here’s the configuration screen for each camera; as you can see, this up-to-date version of the firmware supports both 1080p video capture and region-based triggering (neither initially supported … 720p was the highest resolution originally offered):

(Address obscured for privacy)

I’ve been running the cameras for more than three months straight as I write this, and they’ve been glitch-free so far; according to the app’s user interface report, the batteries are still going strong. Initially, I just manually checked each of them every evening before retiring for bed. However, after the juvenile ursus americanus visit to the upper deck that I previously told you about, we decided to turn on motion triggering (using the default settings) for two of them. We didn’t capture any footage of our friendly bear (ironically, he or she made a return visit a few days after I re-disabled triggering) but I did capture plenty of clips of squirrels, magpies, and a suspicious-looking tie dye-clad dude (yes, that’s me):

So that’s what I’ve got for you so far. I’ll report back any further developments as the camera and Sync Module firmware, along with the app, further mature, and as I become increasingly adventurous in dabbling with the various settings. For now, as always, I welcome your comments and questions!

Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company’s online newsletter.