Iris Cameras

4 posts in this topic

As most Iris users probably know, Iris cameras are designed and manufactured by the Chinese company, Sercomm.

These Sercomm cameras are resold by many other organizations throughout the world.  For this reason, they are manufactured in much larger quantities than would be the case if they were only resold through Lowe’s.  As anyone with a knowledge of manufacturing electronic equipment is aware, larger production volumes mean higher product reliability and lower production costs.

We became aware of the size of the market in these camera when we mistakenly purchased a RC8221 that had been resold by ADT in South Africa.  Not knowing the default password, we were unable to gain access to it.

We do not know the full extent of Sercomm’s international penetration with its cameras, but it is certainly worldwide, and goes well beyond just Iris and ADT, which in itself has an international presence.

We currently have 2 x OC 821, 3 x RC8221 and 5 x OC830 Iris cameras in use, all of which were purchased pre-owned via eBay.  They all function perfectly, and consistently within each camera type.


Neither Sercomm, nor any of the resellers, make the camera configuration information readily available.  Many people have gleaned what information they can, and have hacked their cameras sufficiently to get them operational for their own purposes.  We faced a slightly different situation, because we needed to gain a full understanding of them, so that we could cater for all aspects of their operation with the Control System.

After extensive research on the Internet, and a lot of trial and error testing, we are now able to exercise 100% control over all three camera types.  In total, across all three camera types, there are nearly 550 individual Parameters that can be set.  While some Parameters are just two state, true or false, others have multiple selections, and others require actual values to be entered.  There are also Parameters that have to be set in combination with other Parameters.

It is anticipated that other types of Sercomm camera will have similar Parameter settings.  Although they may evolve with the introduction of new products, as happened in going from the OC821 to the OC830, there is a limit to the extent that they can be changed.

This large number of settings reflects the inherent capability of these very smart cameras, which are capable of satisfying many diverse requirements as standalone devices.  Fortunately, much of this functionality is handled already within the Control System.  The Control System also applies most of the settings automatically, when it configures a camera.  This leaves only the essential manual settings that need to be exposed to the user.

We are now able to deliver the full camera functionality, which is being introduced gradually to a small number of users, prior to being made more widely available. 

This functionality includes:

  • Fully integrated with the Control System at device level.
  • Fully integrated with Advanced Actions, such as trigger alarms, generate alerts, control lights, etc., in response to video motion detection and audio level detection.
  • Multi-video streaming to local Dashboards, with users being able to design as many different dashboards as they need.
  • Recording to a memory device, which can be anything from a memory stick to a hard drive, plugged into the Raspberry Pi’s USB port.
  • Full screen streaming at higher resolution and higher frame rates with two-way audio.
  • Recordings triggered by IR and video detected motion, and audio level.
  • Scheduling video recordings.
  • Full screen viewing of recorded videos.
  • Management of recorded videos, archiving, deleting, etc.
  • Adjustable camera settings, including video quality, frame rate, camera orientation, and IR.
  • Use of the Cloud Console for remote access for streaming and viewing recorded videos.

With a maximum resolution of 720p, frame rates of up to 30fps, rich colors, and the ability to adjust their brightness, contrast, and color settings, and audio streaming, these cameras are more than adequate for security purposes.

Unfortunately, the performance of any WiFi camera can be degraded by the bandwidth limitation imposed by the WiFi network.  If the network is unable to handle the data being delivered by a camera, then the stream becomes fragmented, delayed, and may fail completely.  The user is faced with striking the best balance between improving their WiFi network, to achieve a higher bandwidth, and reducing the resolution and frame rate of the cameras.

We are feeding the streams from 10 Iris cameras into a multi-screen Dashboard.  The cameras are set to a low resolution (320 x 240 pixels), and a low frame rate (10 frames per second).  Even so, to achieve smooth reliable streaming, we had to make significant improvements to our DrayTek based WiFi network.  This included the addition of more routers / access points, and the use of powerline adapters.

We have also included a snapshot option, as an alternative to streaming, to cater for the bandwidth limitations on some users’ WiFi networks.  This option reduces the load on the network by only sending a static image periodically, and with the user being able to select the optimum period.

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If you’re just connecting a WiFi printer to your desktop computer, then installing it is a fairly straightforward plug-and-play procedure.  If, on the other hand, you are using many different WiFi devices as part of a home automation system, then it gets more complicated.

Video and audio feeds from WiFi cameras place particularly high loads on WiFi networks.  If the bandwidth of the WiFi network is inadequate, then the quality of these feeds is degraded.

This network degradation can also interfere with the operation of other devices, such as switching a WiFi plug on or off.  Fortunately, the amount of data being transmitted to and from these devices is relatively small, so it’s most likely that they will continue to function.  The transmission delays caused by the network degradation, which will normally last a few seconds, or less, will also probably go unnoticed.  It can, nevertheless, cause these devices to stop communicating.

The connection between the user’s cell phone, tablet, or other similar device, and the Control System is also likely to be via the home WiFi network.  As the user walks round their home, the distance between their cell phone and the nearest WiFi hotspot will vary, and the WiFi hotspot to which the cell phone is connected will change.

Again, this is not too important if the cell phone is just being used to switch a plug on or off.  Video streaming on the other hand can be disrupted in these circumstances.  The ability of the WiFi network to support the video streaming also drops off much more rapidly as the user moves their cell phone away for the nearest WiFi hotspot, than it does when controlling a smart plug, or similar device.

The simplest indication of the performance of a WiFi network is obtained by sending a small packet of data from the Home LAN to each camera, and measuring the round-trip time for the packet to reach the camera, and then be returned to the LAN.  This technique is known as Pinging, and the round-trip time is known as the Latency.

Leaving aside the jargon, and the technicalities, this round-trip time must be less than 10 milliseconds if the video from the camera is to stream smoothly at 30 frames per second, especially when viewing multiple camera feeds.

At the other extreme, if the round-trip time is more than about 100 milliseconds, then the camera can only be used in a snapshot mode, with images being sent every few seconds.  Once the round-trip time approaches one second, the camera becomes unusable.

The Control System automatically measures and reports the round-trip time for each camera, so that the user can decide whether to improve the performance of their WiFi network, or settle for lower resolution images that are sent less often.  Similar considerations apply to recorded videos, but to a lesser degree.

There has been a recent trend towards installing a WiFi hotspot in most rooms of the home in a mesh configuration, and certainly those rooms that are normally occupied,

We have attempted to use Range Extenders operating in a mesh configuration to link two cameras located in a sunroom in the rear yard to the main WiFi hub.  Even with 4 Range Extenders, at a total cost of just under $80, they had to be spaced closer together than we had expected, were unpredictable in their operation, and were unable to deliver the bandwidth required by the cameras.

We abandoned these Range Extenders in favour of a local WiFi Router in the sunroom connected to the main LAN via a Powerline Extension.  This has proved to be very reliable, and provides a more than adequate bandwidth for the cameras.  The combined cost of the WiFi Router and the Powerline Extension was less than $60.

These were all TP-Link devices.

Notionally, it sounds like a good idea to have a WiFi mesh.  After all, they’ve been doing it for years with ZigBee and Z-Wave.  Not so, in our opinion.  Perhaps because WiFi was never intended to be operated as a mesh, and consequently lacks the underlying network protocol.

Unlike the ZigBee and Z-Wave networks, which are encapsulated by the Control System, WiFi devices share the WiFi network with other devices in the home.  As with any shared system, conflicts can arise.  The WiFi environment is also very dynamic, due to it being used for other purposes throughout the day, such as streaming on demand video services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime in the evening.


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Iris cameras can now be used with the Control System.  They can be joined, configured, and streamed.  The feeds can be displayed on a dashboard, and individual feeds can be viewed full screen by tapping / clicking on the dashboard feed. 

Being treated in the same way as any other device, they can also be used to detect motion, by PIR, video, or audio, and trigger an alarm, such as by chiming the 1st Generation Iris keypad.

The Iris cameras OC821, RC8221, and OC830 are currently supported.

The Control System can also be used to control the cameras, and view their video feeds, without any ZigBee or Z-Wave network being connected.

Video recording to a USB memory device plugged into the Pi is being added, and will be made available to purchasers during the next two weeks.

We’re currently running a Black Friday -> Cyber Monday promotion, with a $50.00 discount until midnight tonight (user’s local time):


This includes the new camera facility, along with the rest of the Control System, so you can extend it to include Iris Gen 1 devices, modern HA and ZLL devices, and Z-Wave devices, just by adding the appropriate USB Network Adapter.

Although the Control System runs locally within your home, and without any reliance on an Internet connection, you do have the option of remote access via the Cloud Console, all included in the price.  No extras, no subscription.

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Works like a charm. I now have complete control of my four Iris cams and the ability to setup all streams on a single iPad page view with links to/from my main dashboard. Nice!

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