FAQ

Click on a question to see the corresponding answer.

Q: Do cameras deter crime?

Like many things, a simple question but a complex answer (no single answer fits all situations):

  • Studies have typically involved cameras that are not monitored real-time. Multiple such studies have concluded that cameras without real-time monitoring do little to deter violent crime but can result in a significant reduction of property crime.

  • Studies have typically involved sparse deployment of cameras across a large city area. Multiple such studies suggest that more cameras over a smaller area could produce a better deterrent.

The AwareNet approach involves many cameras (i.e. at least one per block) with real-time monitoring and real-time response to disrupt criminal activity while it is occurring. Although success is not guaranteed and nothing deters all crime, we believe the AwareNet approach will be successful.

Studies:

Q: Is AwareNet a business?

Technically, yes. But AwareNet is a proof-of-concept project conceived by Tom Scheifler for his neighborhood, St. Louis Hills, MO. He has developed AwareNet in his spare time and is currently covering the cost to run the AwareNet system.

The plan is to provide AwareNet "at cost" to all 79 neighborhoods in the city of St. Louis.

Q: Who pays for the service?

A neighborhood organization pays for the service by signing up as an AwareNet customer.

After a neighborhood becomes a customer, a neighborhood resident becomes an AwareNet "member" (not a customer) when they enroll a camera with AwareNet. There is no cost to the resident to enroll a camera.

Please contact us if you know of a business or organization that would like to sponsor the AwareNet service for your neighborhood!

Q: Who pays for the cameras?

Typically, residents of each block purchase their own cameras. However, we are always looking for ways to reduce or eliminate the cost of the camera for residents.

Please contact us if you know of a business or organization that would like to sponsor cameras for your neighborhood!

Q: Are there terms of use available?

Yes. The terms are available here.

Q: Which cameras are supported by AwareNet?

See the Supported Cameras information page. To start with, it is only Reolink brand cameras because that is what I have and can easily test. But please request support for other brands/models of cameras that you own that meet the minimum requirements. I will work to support as many different cameras as possible.

Q: I already have home security cameras. Do I have to replace them to enroll a camera with AwareNet?

No. You can keep your existing home security cameras and simply buy a camera that is compatible with AwareNet (see previous question).

Q: Who owns and operates the cameras?

Each resident owns and operates their camera(s). Residents can also work as a group to purchase and install cameras for their block.


Q: Is there a monthly "subscription" fee?

There is no cost to neighborhood residents to operate the camera (other than the nominal cost of the electric and internet usage). Many camera manufacturer's offer "premium" services for a monthly subscription fee that may be of interest to residents. The premium services offered by Reolink are not required for the Reolink cameras to work with AwareNet.

Q: Where can residents buy the cameras?

AwareNet does not sell cameras. The cameras are available for purchase at Reolink and Amazon.

Q: Does AwareNet configure and install cameras?

We can offer assistance when possible but we are not an installation business. The Reolink Argus 3 Pro is very easy to configure and install (it connects to your wifi, it is battery powered, and a solar panel charges the battery). Configuration takes about 45 minutes and installation takes about 30 minutes more.

Hopefully, each block has a "block buddy" who has some experience with DIY home security cameras and can be the person to install a camera or help someone else on the block. But please, do contact us if you have issues with configuration or installation and we'll try to help (help@awarenet.us)

Q: Do I need a computer to setup or operate the camera?

No. You do not need a traditional laptop or desktop computer. But you do need an Android or Apple smartphone or tablet (and of course, you need home internet service too).

Q: How do I get started? Is there a cost?

A: Follow the steps outlined on the Getting Started page. You need to supply your own camera but the AwareNet service is paid for by your neighborhood organization.

Q: What is a data card? What size should I buy?

A: The data card stores the video clips so that you do not need to pay a monthly subscription to store video clips "in the cloud". You need one data card per camera. They are not very expensive so get at least a 128GB, class 10 data card. For the Reolink Duo cameras, get a 256GB card unless your camera is in a low-traffic area.

Q: Can I enroll more than one camera with AwareNet, say, one for the street and one for the alley?

A: Yes! Please do.

Q: Should I enroll my indoor security cameras with AwareNet?

No! Please enroll only OUTDOOR cameras with AwareNet.

Q: There is already someone on my block with a camera enrolled with AwareNet. Would it help to have another?

Yes! The technology is good but not flawless. A second camera, especially one located on the opposite side of the street, can be very beneficial (if the first camera misses something, the second one may catch it).

Q: What email address should I use to automatically send alert event information to AwareNet?

You can use any of your existing email addresses but you can also create a new email address (e.g. Gmail) just for this purpose.

Note, most email services, including Gmail and Yahoo, will require you to create an "application password" to send email from a security camera smartphone app.

Q: How do I configure my camera to automatically send alert event information to AwareNet?

See the Reolink Email Setup page for step-by-step instructions.

Q: How much of my internet data is this going to use?

We have designed the AwareNet system to use very little of your internet data but it depends on your specific camera and the configuration of the camera. The Reolink cameras will store the video clips locally on the card in the camera. And you control which video clips are sent to AwareNet by email. If you follow our camera configuration guide, clips sent to AwareNet will be about 1MB in size and it will send videos only when it has detected a person between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Most nights, that will happen only once or twice.

Note: Some cameras offer additional features which will increase use of your internet data.

Q: What information is AwareNet collecting about each alert event?

AwareNet is collecting the information sent to it via email from the cameras owned and operated by neighborhood residents. For each alert event, it typically includes the name of the camera, the date/time of the event, the type of event (i.e. person, vehicle, other), and the event video recording or snapshot picture of the event.

Q: What does AwareNet do with the information collected?

The information for each event (see previous question) is stored in the AwareNet system for later reference and reporting. The information may be shared with the public, law enforcement, city officials and neighborhood organizations as appropriate to support neighborhood safety and security. Camera owners still have complete control of the video copy stored on their camera.

In addition, AwareNet has the ability to send real-time notifications to appropriate persons (e.g. safety committee volunteers or a professional security guard) to review the event information and take action as appropriate.

Q: How long does AwareNet keep the information collected?

There is currently no hard-and-fast rule for retention of information. But practically speaking, the event pictures and videos will likely be purged 30 days after the event. The data about the event will likely be kept indefinitely for statistical summary reporting.

Q: My camera can be configured to send automatic email alerts during specific times of the day. How should I configure it?

Generally, it makes sense to send automatic emails to AwareNet from 11pm to 5am. But don't worry if your camera does not have the time-of-day configuration. AwareNet will automatically discard emails for other times of day.

Q: Who decides where the cameras are located?

Each camera owner decides where to place their camera. Here are some location tips to consider.

Q: After my camera is setup and working with AwareNet, is there anything I need to do?

If your camera is battery-powered, it would be good to check it once a month, using your smartphone app, to verify it is staying charged by the solar panel.

If your camera is powered by an outlet, it would be good to check it once a month, using your smartphone app, to verify it is still working.

Q: Should I contact AwareNet if I move my camera or change where it is pointed?

Yes. Please tell us if the camera has been:

  • Relocated from the street to the alley or vise-verse.

  • Pointed in a different direction (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW).

  • Relocated to a different street address.

Q: Should I contact AwareNet if I change the setup / configuration of my camera?

Yes. Please tell us if you change any of the following:

  • Camera Name

  • Email address you use to automatically send alerts to AwareNet.

Q: Who has access to the live video for each camera?

Access to live video for each camera is controlled by the owner (typically using the smartphone app for their camera).

Live video is not made available to AwareNet and is not available using AwareNet.

Q: Will I be notified if my camera recorded criminal activity?

Yes! When a designated reviewer enters comments for an alert, the comment is saved in the AwareNet database and an email is automatically sent to the camera owner with the alert information, including the reviewer's comment.

Keep in mind, AwareNet usually has only a low-resolution copy of the video clip. As the camera owner, you have access to the high-resolution version of the video clip stored on the camera or with your camera storage service.

Q: Can I get real-time alerts from other AwareNet cameras in my neighborhood?

No. The AwareNet system is not designed or intended to send residents real-time alerts. It is designed to send real-time alerts to a designated set of contacts (e.g. safety committee volunteers or a professional security guard) responsible for reviewing the alert and taking the appropriate action.

Q: What about privacy?!?

Like any home security camera, it is the responsibility of the camera owner to ensure the camera is not recording something private. We ask that you point your cameras at public settings such as the street in front of your house or the alley behind your house.

Many cameras have a "privacy masking" feature that allows you to "black out" areas in the field of view that should not be seen or recorded. This feature can be used to help ensure your privacy and the privacy of your neighbors. Please, please discuss your camera location with your neighbors and show them a sample of what will and will not be visible to the camera. It is best to be open and collaborative with your neighbors.

The camera owner controls the audio recording. Cameras that are capable of recording audio with the video will have a configuration setting that determines whether the audio is recorded. Audio can be very helpful to the people monitoring the alerts sent to AwareNet but audio is not required.

Q: Can these cameras "read" a license plate?

No. The cameras do not have automatic license plate capture capability.
If a vehicle stops in the field of view, it may be possible to determine the license plate by reviewing the video clip.

Q: Do these cameras have "facial recognition" technology?

No. Not at this time. But the facial recognition technology is starting to appear in residential cameras such as these. The AwareNet system is not designed to use facial recognition technology even if cameras enrolled with AwareNet start using it (and it is the camera owner who would decided whether it is used on their camera).

Q: How can I see what my camera has sent to AwareNet?

Simple. Just look at the "Sent" folder of the email account that is configured for your camera to send the items to AwareNet.

Q: How does the alert process actually work?

Q: What if my camera sent a picture or video to AwareNet that I want deleted?

To delete a previously sent item, simply go to the "Sent" folder (for the email account that was used to send the item to AwareNet) and send a reply email with just the word "delete" in the body of the reply.

Shortly after, you should receive a confirmation email that the delete request was successful.

Q: Can I stop participating with AwareNet?

Yes. Participation is completely voluntary. At any time, the camera owner can turn off the notifications sent to AwareNet or simply turn off the camera.

Q: What does a designated reviewer see when they get an alert?

Q: Where is this available?

Currently, AwareNet is available in only one neighborhood, St Louis Hills, MO (as a trial program). Based on the results of the trial, AwareNet may be expanded to other neighborhoods across St Louis City and the US.

Q: On a Reolink Duo camera, how do I watch / download the high resolution version of a recorded video clip?

As indicated by the name, there are two separate cameras in the Reolink Duo. Currently, the app does not allow you to watch the high resolution version of live or recorded video when you are in "dual camera" mode. You must first switch to "single camera" mode. See details here.

Q: I still have more questions that don't seem to be answered here. How can I contact AwareNet?

First, try the search feature just in case the information is here but elusive (click the magnifier icon in the header of this page).

If that doesn't work out, send us an email at help@awarenet.us. Be sure to tell us who you are, where you live, what information you would like and how you would like to be contacted (email or phone).