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Following article was published in the USA Home Automation Magazine June-July 2003 edition

 


Farco Technologies Wachit VMD-19M
Video motion detector evaluation by Doug Smith

There are a number of good motion-detector technologies for use in security systems or to help an HA system adjust conditions to your occupancy. Some of the most innovative solutions are those using video cameras to sense movement in the picture.

Most video-based motion detection systems use a computer to analyze the picture and trigger actions based on movement. But an interesting new option from Farco Technologies brings some of these features into a small standalone device. Their Wachit VMD-19M combines video motion detection with VCR control to record the action.

Basic installation consists of simple wiring and a little configuration. The video cable from a camera is plugged into the video input. A video output connector is used to pass the signal along to a VCR. The VCR must be set to record from this line-in signal. An infrared (IR) emitter cable is included to control VCR recording. This is plugged into the Wachit, and then positioned near the VCR's remote sensor, using a suction cup that is attached to the cable.

When the Wachit is first powered up, the arm LED flashes to indicate that it is ready to learn VCR commands. It works like a learning remote, in that you hold the VCR remote a few inches away and press the keys to learn. In this case you must press Record, Pause, Stop, and then Power in that order while waiting for the LED to flash after each one.

For more advanced installations, two sets of contacts are provided for integration into security or HA systems. One set triggers recording mode when the terminals are shorted. The other set provides a relay output that is activated when motion is detected or when there is a loss of video signal.

Switches inside the unit can be changed to adjust the sensitivity, if needed. This may be handy to eliminate triggering by small pets or to avoid false triggering due to video noise with low-quality cameras.

Once set up, Wachit looks for movement in the picture from the video camera. When motion is detected, it flashes the arm LED, then sends an IR command to put the VCR into Record mode. The relay output is activated as well. Recording will continue as long as there is motion.

The VCR is given a Pause command after 30 seconds with no motion. If there is still no motion after 2 minutes, a Stop command is issued. A VCR can start recording more quickly when paused than when stopped. However, most VCRs cannot remain paused for extended times. This two-stage pause-and-stop technique is a good solution.

Motion detection worked well, but we had some trouble getting our VCR to reliably record and stop on command. It turned out to be a problem with the angle of the IR emitter cable.

If the suction cup is used to attach it to the front of the VCR, then the emitter is pointing sideways to the sensor in the VCR. We could not find a suitable location where the suction cup would stick, and ended up abandoning it and taping the emitter to a block of wood so it could be positioned in front of the VCR pointing directly at the sensor. A stick-on emitter, like those used with many other IR products, would be much preferred.

Wachit did a good job of recording motion and not wasting tape recording inactivity when used for video motion detection, it eliminates wiring that would be needed for a separate PIR motion detector. It is also not limited in detection distance as a PIR is.

The product works best for indoor use, but could be used outdoors in controlled conditions. A view that includes the sky with moving clouds or trees waving in the wind, would be troublesome.

We like the reliability that comes from not having a PC with software that might crash. However, some of the advanced features of a computer-based solution are missing, such as setting detection zones or masking out areas of the picture to be ignored.

The Scorecard
Product Name: Wachit VMD-19M Video Motion Detector
Company Name: Farco Technologies
Contact Info: ++64 3 366 0155 (New Zealand),
www.farco.co.nz
Street Price: $199
Lowdown: Wachit may seem a little pricey at first, but is unique in doing video motion detection without a computer. The ability to control an ordinary VCR also saves the cost of an expensive time-lapse surveillance recorder. It worked well after we dealt with minor IR control cable issues.

Ratings: Ease of Use 4, Install 3, Features 3, Reliability 3
[4=Excellent, 3=Good, 2=Fair, 1= Poor]