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How to create an app-based CCTV system with no PC

App-based CCTV ideal for small businesses and home usersIf you’re a small business or home user, you’re probably seeking a simple CCTV solution. For example, by using a free app on your phone or tablet to access live video and recordings. Making it easy to safeguard your business or home with no complicated set-up or configuration.

Until recently, it’s not been that easy. Typically, a PC was required during the installation of the IP camera.

Now it’s possible to do using just a mobile app. Although we probably wouldn’t use the phrase “Plug and play”, the solution is certainly very straight forward.

Both Axis and Hikvision support this app-based approach. We’ll outline how to get up and running, weigh up each brand’s offering and consider the limitations.

How to get up and running

The method is basically the same for an Axis camera using the Companion app or a Hikvision camera and their Hik-Connect app.

  1. Install your camera and connect it to your network (using either a network cable or using WI-FI for wirelessly cameras)
  2. Insert an SD card into each camera for simple on-board storage
  3. Install the relevant app on your mobile device – it’s free!
  4. Run the app and register your camera(s) with the app’s cloud based service
  5. Use your app to view live video and play back recordings

The cloud-based service does all the hard work here, removing the need for network or router configuration. If you want to visualise the set-up, picture it like this:
Illustration of IP cameras being accessed using mobile apps via a cloud based service

By using an SD card, you can record footage from your IP cameras without the need for central recording hardware. This is a very simple and cost-effective set-up for a home user or small business.

The Axis Companion and Hik-Connect apps include the basic features that you need for security monitoring:

  • Video motion detection alarms can be configured to trigger recordings and issue notifications
  • Recordings can be easily reviewed via a timeline
  • Snapshots can be taken in live or playback viewing modes – ideal for quickly gathering evidence.

Both apps are free to download and available as iOS and Android apps. So, if mobile set up is essential for you, which should you choose?

Companion or Hik-Connect?

You can see examples of the timeline view which is used to play back recordings from each app below. In basic terms, both apps do essentially the same job and at first glance appear similar. When you dig a little further there are real differences between the brands.

Example of viewing recordings in Axis Companion application

Axis Companion application

Example of viewing recordings in Hikvision Hik-Connect

Hikvision Hik-Connect


Axis is a world leader in IP camera innovation – they introduced the world’s first network camera after all. This experience means their products are more mature. The cameras are proven to be reliable while the application has been developed with years of end user experience in mind.

Hikvision has increased in popularity in the UK over the last 18 months. Their support is improving however, the offering is not as polished as Axis. The Hikvision products are relatively young in the UK and their long-term reliability is yet to be determined.

Ultimately, both suitable for a straight forward CCTV system that’s quick to get up and running and simple to use.

If you’re looking for the peace of mind that comes with reliability and support, then we’d recommend Axis.

However, if your budget is tight then Hikvision’s lower price point is attractive. Remember the adage “you get what you pay for”.

Limitations and technical considerations

To utilise an app based approach your camera needs a persistent connection to the Axis or Hikvision service. This means your data is transmitted securely over the internet. If you need to understand exactly where your data goes, then this approach may not be suitable.

There are also limitations in the functionality of an app-based approach. For example, if any of the following apply:

  • See details in your cameras’ images
  • View at high resolution
  • Record for more than a few days
  • Watch more than one camera at the same time

Then you’ll really need a solution using a dedicated computer with a screen. For this, Axis and Hikvision offer free PC software with more features as an alternative to the mobile app. The Axis version is known as “Axis Companion video management software” and Hikvision’s PC software is known as “iVMS-4200”.

The PC versions are suitable for users that would like to configure settings in more detail. It also allows you to use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) for long-term footage retention. Note, we’ve used the Axis Companion PC software and it works well, but we have not tested the Hikvision software.

In summary

App-based setup and viewing is the fastest way to get up a smaller CCTV system up and running. It’s also perhaps the easiest way to make sure your CCTV cameras are always ready for viewing.

If you’d like further assistance choosing a suitable Axis or Hikvision camera to use with this app-based approach, just contact us.

Published on August 11th, 2016 by Network Webcams

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