Comet Video Technologies' Comet 600 links

CometVT's Comet 600 pipes your video surveillance system to your cell phone so you can keep an eye on what's happening at the office even when you're offsite. (Courtesy:

February 8, 2006

4 Min Read
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Many small businesses spend considerable amounts of money installing video surveillance equipment. These cable-connected video cameras typically display their images on a monitor screen in the back room, and are connected to a VCR which captures the action on tape for later review. But although these systems work well for after-the-fact review of activities, sometimes it's important to be able to monitor what's going on in real time, particularly when it isn't possible to return to the location for extended periods of time. That's where Comet's Comet 600 can be helpful.

Comet Video Technologies' Comet 600 links as many as six of your CCTV cameras to its network connection, and streams video to your cell phone, PPC, laptop, or other networked device for real-time surveillance from afar. The unit connects through its Ethernet cable to a broadband connection.

A typical problem with streaming surveillance video is that the image stream is intended for local cable connections that can handle its relatively high resolution. The Comet 600 formats the video to accommodate the lower bandwidth of the cell phone and its small display.

Setup and view

The Comet 600 hardware is simple to set up. It is a small plastic box with six BNC cable connectors on the front, and Ethernet and power connections on the back. In order to connect it to an existing CCTV monitoring system, one Y connector is attached to each camera line in order to send the video signal to both the monitor/recorder and the Comet 600. I attached two cameras to two cable connectors, then connected the unit to my Ethernet switch and plugged in the power unit.

The Comet 600 can stream video from as many as six video cameras to your cell phone.

The Comet configuration and viewing applications need to be loaded onto a PC attached to the network. My review unit had already been set up with a static IP address, so it was necessary to reconfigure my PC to the same IP address range as the Comet. Once that was accomplished I reset the Comet to use DHCP to acquire its network address automatically, then reset the device.

I ran the Comet viewer application on my Windows XP desktop computer which detected the Comet unit on the network and asked me to log in to my previously established account to view the video feed. The image appeared in the viewer immediately, and because there were two cameras attached to the unit, I was able to select which camera to view by selecting the camera number in the viewer application.

The images were small, but that is precisely the purpose of the Comet 600, which converts the full-size image to make best use of the bandwidth and screen size of the viewing device. The image quality was very good. The quality is a combination of the capability of the Comet 600 to code the image stream to the small-sized image, and also because the cameras attached to the unit were high-quality surveillance cameras rather than consumer-grade webcams.Remote viewing

Being able to view my cameras remotely requires a connection from the Comet 600 to a host system that will relay the broadcast to the cell phone. I used Comet's service host as the relay by configuring the Comet 600 to connect to the service rather than to the local LAN. My LAN happened to have a broadband connection, so the connection to the relay service is always on.

I installed the Comet viewer application on my Sprint PPC6700 pocket PC running WindowsMobile 5, and when I launched the program on the phone for the first time it asked for the relay host and my account login information. Once connected I was able to view both cameras (one at a time) on the PPC. The image quality was equal to the quality I saw on my desktop computer, though there was about a 10-second delay in the video feed.

The Comet 600 sells for $1,695. Its counterpart, the Comet 900, includes motion detection with automatic pre- and post-motion video capture, and can be set up to send an SMS message to a pre-established phone number. The Comet 900 sells for $2,095. If you already have a video surveillance system for your business, one of the Comet units can help you extend your reach, letting you keep an eye on activities "back at the shop" even when you're on the road.

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