Adding a Camera to your Z-Wave Home Automation Network

With the addition of the super-inexpensive RC8021 cameras this week, it fired up the help lines at Our attempts to educate some of our site visitors created as many questions as we answered, so here are the answers; all here in one place.

Some of this was covered in Into The Camera’s Why, but we will add a few tidbits here and there for our valued reader.

Most of our cameras have a stern warning: Not Z-Wave enabled; An IP camera only, or Use a wired or WiFi connection to operate. But you have Z-Wave, not IP (whatever that is). Let me explain:

Z-Wave is a radio protocol that allows a little bit of information to be shared. Bits are sent then acknowledged, and through this process your gateway tells your door lock to open, or your hall light to turn off. There is only enough information for directions, but not enough for any real meaty information. This is important, because while many devices have unlimited power (plugged in or wired to 120VAC), many are battery powered. This information has to be powerful enough to automate an entire house but also not drain the battery life of motion sensors, thermostats, and door locks. That rules out any bandwidth-heavy information draws like video, music, emails, and security cameras. Items like that are usually left for WiFi or cellular transmission.

So, why doesn’t Z-Wave use WiFi to communicate? Because WiFi is a very crowded place, and Z-Wave has proprietary means of securing information, so your neighbor isn’t turning his lights on and unlocking your back door, etc. What the home automation industry has done is in the form of integration. So your Z-Wave gateway handles all of your Z-Wave devices, and allows a connection to IP cameras via WiFi or a corded connection. Not to mention WiFi would really tax those battery operated devices and you’d be sending us your battery bills.

OK, I hear you. If the Z-Wave interface allows the connection to a WiFi camera, why is there a need to broadcast it in your product descriptions? There are many different kinds of gateway, hubs, and controllers on the market. Many are described as ‘all inclusive’ or something similar. Some have WiFi built in. Some rely on the house internet, WiFi, or other connection. Many of our customers were purchasing what the home automation market describes as “Z-Wave Cameras” then returning them after they found they needed something else to work. It wasn’t fair to our customer.

I have “Z-Wave Controller X.”  Will any of your cameras work? Just like Z-Wave, all these devices are expected to work, regardless of make or model. I find a lot of that to not be true. Our cameras will not work with WINK, and will not work with Nexia Bridge unless expressly made for this purpose. Our cameras will work with many of the major alarm companies with two caveats: Some will not let you include 3rd party cameras into their systems, and some will not let you include any cameras without paying for a plan.

If your gateway instruction manual is vague about the types of cameras it will support, here are the basic steps for including a camera. (If you view the RC8021 instructions under DOCS, you will find very comprehensive instructions on how to pair an IP camera with a Vera Edge).

Adding a Camera to your Home Automation System

1.    Choose Add Device/Add Camera from your gateway.

2.    Plug in your camera via a CAT5 cable, and plug it into power.

3.    Find the IP address of the new camera on your network.

4.    In your gateway, add camera manually, select generic, and add the IP address.

(Note: Some gateways require a string of text to return an image; check in your instructions for that particular phrase ie: http://YOURCAMERASIPADDRESS/img/snapshot.cgi?size=3)

5.    Click finish, and your gateway will install the camera into your gateway interface.

6.    Log into your camera (sometimes this can be done from the gateway) and enter your user name and password.

7.    Change the wired connection to wireless; enter the information from your WiFi network (different user name and password from step 6).

8.     Restart and test connection.

These steps are extremely generic, but if you find you can’t get past #1 the odds are you cannot install 3rd party cameras into your “Z-Wave” network.

Our most popular cameras:

RC8021 For less than $20, these cameras work great. I have mine turn on my lights when I view it.

Vista Cam This is a great camera for inside a child’s room, in an office, or anywhere you don’t want to give away a location or wake someone up with a light. The IR Night Vision function is terrific.

Vista Cam 700 This camera works great to hear what you see, all in 720p (1280 x 720) resolution. Also works as a motion sensor and can be used to trip scenes and send notifications. I need about 4 of these in an outdoor version!!

Still have questions? Find me on the Live Chat (bottom corner of the website) or Ask The Experts for a more comprehensive answer.





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