Connecting a camera to a home security system or even directly to the Internet is not easy despite the marketing hype found online or told to potential customers by high-pressure salesmen. If you have never done it before, you will find it a bit challenging.
The Protect America camera is no different from any other. For DIY (Do-It-Yourself) systems, camera connections are the most difficult part. Since all Protect America only sells DIY systems, homeowners have no choice, if they want video, to muddle through the installation process themselves. While the company has video, web and phone support, the connection process is not something that can be done in five minutes. Even experienced technicians must go through a relatively unforgiving process, or start all over.
The Protect America Brand
Protect America has branded, indoor wireless cameras for sale compatible with their home security systems. The cameras have infrared for low-light conditions. None of the package offered to homeowners comes with a camera though the business package includes a camera as part of the free equipment. The company advertises only one type, a fixed lens though users report that sales personnel will offer a pan and tilt model if customers express an interest in video monitoring.
The company saves a certain amount of video footage to the cloud, which can be accessed by smartphone or online portal. Users can also view video images in real-time and have video or notifications that the video has activated to their phones.
If you want monitored video, you must pay an additional $5 per month monitoring fee, plus the cost of the camera. Camera costs appear to vary depending on specials and dealers but range from $150-$199. To learn more about Protect America read my full Protect America review.
The small, rectangular camera comes with a detachable swivel base and sits on a flat surface such as a shelf or top of a cabinet. You can also affix the camera to a wall using the mounting screws that come with the unit.
There are six infrared sensors surrounding the fixed lens in the middle. There is also a small LED light to the right of the infrared that changes color depending on the status:
Red – Power Up
Light Green – Connecting to Network
Flashing Dark Green – Connection to Network Successful
Steady Blue – Privacy Mode
Flashing Blue – WPS Discovery Mode
The camera uses AC power and, though wireless, can also connect to your home LAN using the Ethernet cable provided.
It is important to follow each step carefully and in the exact order given in the instructions to successfully connect your camera to the system. This includes how you power up the camera.
Before plugging the camera in for the first time, make sure you have connected the Ethernet cable to your camera and directly to the LAN. You must first connect your camera using the Ethernet cable before you can attempt a wireless connection. Once you can see the live footage on your screen, then you can try a wireless connection.
Once you plug the camera in, the light in the front should first turn red, indicating that you have power, then immediately go from light to flashing dark green. This means that the camera has successfully connected to your LAN.
Connecting to the Internet Portal
Once you know you are connected, it will take several steps to get your camera connected to your Protect America online account. As with the LAN connection, it is critical that you perform each step in the exact order given in the instructions. You should make this first connection with your camera and PC close together, as you will be going back and forth between them when connecting.
Once the camera is powered up and you have a flashing dark-green light, login to your account. If you are using a PC, then make sure you use Internet Explorer (IE) 8 or higher and if using a Mac, use Safari only. Do not use Google Chrome or Firefox, as you may not be able to get an image. For PCs, Active X should be installed. Theoretically, other browsers with QuickTime or Java should work, but to avoid potential problems it is best to use IE 8 or higher and Active X.
Next, go to the camera settings screen and press “add camera.” You will be prompted to enter a “MAC” (not Apple Mac!) number. The number can be found on the back of the camera, underneath the model number and FCC code.
If you have done everything right and in the proper order, you should start receiving live video images from the camera on your PC screen. The dark green light will stop flashing.
You can connect wirelessly by manually entering all the information, which takes some time and requires contacting your Internet provider. If you are lucky and have a WPS, (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) enabled router you can use the built-in, one-touch WPS connection button on the Protect America camera. Most new routers have WPS.
If you do not have WPS, you will need four bits of information to configure the wireless capability of your camera with your routers. Your Internet provider can tell you the information. Usually, there is a plate on the back of your wireless router that has most if not all of it. The four things you will need to know are:
- SSID Number or Network Name (if you have named your wireless network)
- Network Key or Password
- Network Security Protocol (WEP, WPA-PSK, or WPA2-PSK)
- Algorithm; OPEN, TKIP, or AES (AES is the most common)
The next step is to go back to the camera settings on the portal and click on “wireless configuration.” Once there, you can enter the SSID or name, or just click on “search all wireless networks,” find yours can click on it.
Then enter the other information and press “configure.” It will take at least 1-2 minutes for the system to find and recognize the signal. Once it does, a screen will pop up telling you the camera is configured.
Do not unplug the Ethernet cable until this screen pops up.
You should test the signal to make sure you have successfully linked the camera wirelessly. To do so, unplug the Ethernet cable and disconnect the power from the camera. Wait at least 60 seconds, then plug the power back in.
If the wireless is working properly after the red power light comes back on, the dark green light will start flashing, and you will have a live image from the camera showing on the portal screen.
There is an automatic connection button for WPS on the left side of the Protect America Camera. For WPS-enabled routers, once you have set your camera up using the Ethernet, just press and hold the WPS button for about three seconds. Once the LED light flashes blue, that means it is searching for your wireless system. When found, the LED will start blinking dark green, and you will see the image on your PC.
NOTE: If you have a password connected to your wireless system, you must enter the password in the camera settings under wireless configuration. It may or may not prompt you to do so.
Pressing the WPS button on the side once and quickly releasing it will put the camera in privacy mode. The LED light on the front will turn blue. The Internet portal will show a blue screen instead of live video. The monitoring center will also only see a blue screen.
Touching the WPS button again will restore the video feed. The LED should flash dark green again.
The Protect America camera connection is not any more complicated than any competitor’s camera. All wireless home security cameras require more or less the same steps to connect with all the other components and the control panel.
The WPS button on the Protect America version makes it slightly easier to connect than many competitor’s cameras.
Finally, remember that despite modern technology, wireless cameras can be finicky. If you do not get a picture the first time, the cause is likely operator error and not the camera. Just unplug everything and start all over at step one. You will eventually succeed!