Home Security with WebRTC

By Chris Vitek

Recently, I spent some time at the Machine-2-Machine conference and was more than a little surprised by what the attendees were interested in. There was keen interest in two specific areas. The first was home automation and the second was device telemetry. What really surprised me was people standing three and four deep to see demonstrations. These systems offered a wide variety of tools. Most easily I can describe these toolsets by listing a few verticals applications like consumer home automation, manufacturing floor automation, weather stations or geographically dispersed sensor arrays. Each had their own set of unique features and functions but all of these demonstrations included the ability to stream video.

Most of the demonstrations that I observed were using some form of licensed video technology. Further, the platforms that I looked at that were using IP-based video were exclusively using the H.264 codec. This last part is about to change. Last month Amarylloo introduced a new WebRTC-based, Wi-Fi camera for home security and it’s not just a point and shoot camera. It has integrated controls that allow you to rotate 360° with a swipe of your finger across the screen on your tablet or smart phone.

The ability to support both device control and streaming video is native to WebRTC. This dramatically reduces the cost and thereby should substantially increase the adoption of WebRTC based security systems.

The other dramatic shift in technology that WebRTC delivers is the ability to stream video to any smart phone, smart TV, tablet or personal computer. If a Chrome or Firefox browser is used on any of these devices then there is literally no need to download an app or a plug-in.

The Web RTC specification defines Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP) and HTTPS for transport and signaling to any device. SRTP subscribes to Advanced Encryption Services (AES) that are defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force. One of the key attributes of SRTP is that the transport packets cannot be stored and decrypted at a later date. They must be broken in real time. This makes it exponentially more difficult for hackers to break into a WebRTC session. Further, this encryption is implemented from end-to-end.  This last point is very difficult for legacy technologies to duplicate without substantial investment.

WebRTC communications infrastructure is an order of magnitude less expensive than traditional or legacy technologies for communications and device control. Add this benefit to all the other features discussed above and you can see how hard it will be for legacy, proprietary technologies to survive in the home automation or device telemetry spaces.

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