You probably have read a lot about 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE already. In the wireless scouting camera world, we will try to make it easier for you. Let’s start from 2G. 2G signifies second generation wireless digital technology. We always use GSM wireless scouting camera to indicate it’s a 2G device.
GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communications. GSM is considered a 2G protocol. It is the system that AT&T and T Mobile uses in the United States and associated with the cameras that use SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards. GSM has the advantage of using SIM card in the US. Sprint, Virgin Mobile and Verizon Wireless use the competing CDMA standard. The SIM card, which acts as your digital identity, is tied to your wireless service carrier’s network rather than to the camera itself. This allows for easy exchange from one camera to another without new service activation.
When we enter the 3G world, things become a little bit complicated. 3G is the third generation of mobile standards and technology. 3G supersedes 2G technology and precedes 4G technology. 3G technologies have enabled faster data transmission speeds, greater network capacity and more advanced network services. UMTS-HSPA is the world’s leading 3G technology. Different carrier may use different 3G technology. In US, AT&T and T-Mobile use UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System). UMTS uses WCDMA and HSPA. Wideband CDMA (WCDMA) is the radio technology used in UMTS. As a result, the terms UMTS and WCDMA are often used interchangeably.
Virizon and Sprint use CDMA2000. CDMA2000 is a code-division multiple access (CDMA) version of the IMT-2000 standard developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The CDMA2000 standard is a 3G mobile technology. CDMA2000 devices are activated remotely, by the carrier, using the camera’s MEID number. Since each carrier has a database of all the MEIDs that are approved for its network, this lets most CDMA carriers refuse to activate cameras not originally intended for their network.
None of the scouting cameras utilize the 4G/LTE technology right now.
SMS stands for short message service. The service allows for short text messages to be sent from one cell phone to another cell phone or from the Web to another cell phone. Typically a maximum of 160 characters. When it is mentioned in the wireless scouting camera industry, a common function will be related to SMS: SMS control. This function allows you to send a SMS text message to the camera to change the settings or request a realtime picture. The SMS command can be sent from a regular phone or from a server via internet.
MMS messaging, which stands for multimedia messaging service, takes SMS text messaging a step further. MMS allows for longer message lengths beyond the traditional, 160-character SMS limit. MMS, which is often used to send pictures, extends upon SMS and allows for longer content lengths. MMS feature is used widely in the scouting camera industry. With the MMS feature over AT&T or T-mobile cellular network, the user can send the pictures to a cellphone or an email address by using the MMS text message plan.
How to check if a MINE & ICE camera can work in your country or not?
To determine if a MINE & ICE camera can work in your country or not, one of the main thing you want to check is if the camera has the frequency band your country’s wireless carrier uses. Our MINE 2G camera is Quad Band, which means it works on 850/900/1800/1900. Our MINE 3G camera is Dual Band, which works only on 850 and 1900. Please click here to find out if the frequency matches.
In the world of Wireless trail cameras megapixels and trigger times always seem to get top billing. No one stops to think about the lowly antenna, which is until the camera gets deployed in the field and the signal strength leaves something to be desired. At that moment all eyes turn to that little rubber coated protrusion coming out the top of the camera. Luckily there are several options available to anyone that encounters this situation. The solutions range from very inexpensive and easy to install, to a bit more of an investment in time and funds. With this in mind, the following is a guide to all things antennas, at least as they relate to trail cameras. Before we get any further let’s get some of the technical details in order. If this all starts to seem too much like a radio frequency engineering lecture, fear not, the comparisons below will be based in real world conclusions. We just need to understand the basics of the terminology so that the reference figures aren’t coming out of nowhere. The only real figure we need to be familiar with is the dBm, this stands for decibel of radio power per one milliwatt. The power range that we will be discussing, will be from approximately -60 dBm to around -113 dBm. These figures are approximate values not absolute thresholds. A real world example of signal strength would be -87 dBm, which is where most cell phones or wireless trail cameras will show full signal. Considering -60 is a near perfect signal we can then say full signal on a 5 bar signal indicator would be between -60dBM to -87dBm. This of course would be the ideal range that we would like the signal to reach. On the other end of the spectrum would be -113 dBm which is the approximate value where a cellular connection can’t be maintained, let’s call this the bottom of one bar limit. All of the other figures relating to how many bars of signal are achieved at what dBm value are much harder to pin down as they vary from model to model based on the manufactures desires. In other words what is 3 bars on one model may not be 3 bars on another model. The most important thing to take away from all of these numbers is that the measurements are on an exponential (logarithmic to be accurate) scale. This means that relatively small numeric gains represent large actual signal improvements. For the sake of having some real world application let’s just say that most wireless trail cameras need at least 3 bars of steady signal to function reliably with a decent transmission time.
The Enhanced Antenna: A step in the right direction
Let’s start with the simple solution. For a slight boost in reception with almost no effort to install and very little funds spent, consider the enhanced antenna. This antenna is a simple screw on replacement of the original antenna. It can provide perhaps 3dBm, at most, of signal improvement. More importantly it has an adjustable joint near the base that allows the antenna to be adjusted into several different positions. This allows the antenna to be positioned away from objects such as trees that could be blocking signal strength. This antenna is best used in a situation where the signal reception is already sufficient, however additional gains are being sought to improve transmission times. This antenna is not a good choice if then signal reception is very poor to start with as it will most likely not produce the gains necessary to make the camera function properly. All of our MINE and ICE cameras have this as the standard antenna.
Real world improvement: .5-1 bar of signal. Actual signal improvement: 1-3 dBm
The Booster Antenna: Now we’re getting somewhere
The next solution would be the booster antenna. This antenna has several significant improvements over the stock or enhanced antennas. First, the actual antenna itself is significantly larger in length and diameter. This is definitely a case where bigger is better. Secondly, and in some ways more important, is the fact that this antenna is a remote mount with a cable attachment. This allows for significant flexibility in where the antenna is placed. No longer is the antenna directly on top of the camera, now it can be placed away from potential signal interference or signal blocking objects. Be careful though, cabling is both friend and foe as it causes signal loss over its length. In this case the cabling type is RG58 cable which has around .18 dBm signal loss per foot. Since there is almost 10.5 ft of cable the approximate signal loss due to cabling is 1.8 dBm. On the plus side the antenna generates over 6 dBm of signal improvement. This takes the total improvement to almost 6dBm. Remember what was said about gains being exponential, right?
Real world improvement: 1-1.5 bars. Actual signal gain: 5.12-6.12 dBm
Impedance 50 ohms
824-894 MHz Gain 5.12 dBi
1850-1990 MHz Gain 6.12 dBi
Wavelength 0.9 Wavelength 824-894 MHz
1.95 Wavelength 1850-1990 MHz
Ground Plane Built-in Ground Plane
Connector SMA Male
Material Whip – Stainless Steel / Extension – Fiberglass
Coaxial Cable RG58 − 10.5 feet / 3.2 meters
Height 32.0625 inches / 81.45 cm
The Directional Antenna: When “I really want my wireless camera to work”
Finally we come to the high gain directional antenna. Up to this point all the antenna options have been non directional, meaning they don’t care what direction the signal comes from. In order to produce the best gains an antenna needs to be unidirectional, meaning it must be aimed directly at the transmission source. With this antenna it is held straight out and moved in 10 degree increments until a signal peak is detected. This peak represents the direction of a cellular transmitter. Research your area for the nearest and most compatible tower available, you can also visit http://www.antennasearch.com/. For best results a complete 360 degree circle should be made as there could be multiple towers to receive from and there could also be a peak when the antenna is facing exactly away from the antenna as it is perfectly lined up but facing away. This “back course” peak would obviously be much weaker as the antenna is designed to be pointed at the tower not away from it. Similar to the magnetic antenna, the directional antenna is a remote mounted design. This time the antenna comes with 15 feet of RG58 cable. This is necessary when using longer lengths as RG58 loses only .18 dBm per foot. Using 15 ft of included cable gives us around 2.7 dBm of signal loss. However the directional antenna produces a whopping 11 dBm of signal improvement. This provides a net gain of 8.3 dBm. Make no mistake, this is a lot of signal improvement. This means that if any signal is present in the area of deployment, this antenna can be used to make the camera transmit successfully. Finally there is an intangible factor to be considered with any remote mounted antenna, altitude. Altitude does wonderful things for cellular reception. Since cellular transmissions are a high frequency, short wave length type of signal, the do not adhere to the curvature of the earth. That means, that for all practical purposes, cellular transmissions are line-of-sight signals. Having the ability to mount the antenna almost 15 ft higher than the camera can provide a huge boost to usable signal, simply because it has a better “view” of the cellular tower that it is pointed at. This altitude gain can also compensate some amount of terrain blocking due to hills or valleys. Having said that, it won’t compensate for placing the camera in a deep ravine, remember there has to be some signal present for any antenna to work as they don’t invent signal, they just receive the ambient signal with more efficiency. The directional antenna comes standard it what is affectionately referred to as “snow camo”. However it readily accepts a customized finish from a can of spray paint or any other type of crafty finish that can be thought up. Keep in mind that it is an antenna, so things like metallic paint (seriously metallic paint for camo?) or large amounts of items adhered to the antenna for camo should be avoided. The best results seem to come from the obvious color choices such as OD green, tan and brown. A single color or combination of these colors based upon the area of deployment, go surprisingly far in making this antenna blend in.
Real world improvement 1.5-2 bars. Actual signal gain: 8.3 dBm
The information provided is informational or educational in nature. Signal reception is inherently variable, therefore the facts and figures are based upon the rated specifications of the products. This in no way guarantees that any antenna solution will fix a signal reception problem. The end user is responsible for accessing the reception in their deployment area, considering the antenna specifications and determining the correct solution. In other words “Your mileage may vary”.
iPhone Field Test Mode
Accessing Field Test Mode on the iPhone is relatively simple, just open the Phone app, switch to the keypad and dial the following code: *3001#12345#* and then press call. If you dialed it correctly, your iPhone will enter Field Test Mode and you’ll see the numerical value for signal strength in the upper left hand corner of the screen where the signal strength was previously displayed in bars. To exit and return your iPhone to normal status, all you need to do is hit the Home button. The mode is available on any iPhone running iOS 4.1 and all later versions.
If you want your iPhone to always display numerical signal strength instead of signal bars, you can perform the following process. Once in Field-test mode (accessed by entering and dialing the code above), hold down the power button until you see “Slide to Power Off”, then release it. Then hold the Home button until you’re returned to your main app screen. You’ll now see your numerical signal strength while you use your phone, and you’ll be able to tap the signal numbers to switch to signal bars, and vice versa. To exit this permanent field-test mode, simply reboot the phone or re-load Field Test Mode and exit it via the Home button.
Android Field Test Mode
Accessing Field test mode on Android phones is also straightforward. You simply need to find your way to “Settings” > “About Phone”, and your numerical signal strength will be available under either Network or Status, depending on the model of the phone you own.
This is a short list of the command codes. All other codes can be found on the quick start guide that comes with the camera or in the users manual.
Verizon Command Codes.
Take Photo and Send Now: *500#
Activate RF Trigger: *777#
Status Report: *501#
3G Command Codes.
Take Photo and Send Now: *500#
Activate RF Trigger: *777#
Test Signal Strength: *150#
Test Battery Level: *201#
2G Command Codes.
Take Photo and Send Now: #500#
Close MINE Gate: #210#
Test Signal Strength: #520#
Test Battery Level: #521#
Check battery connections, ensure 4 AA Batteries are in the 2 left banks or 12 AA Batteries are in all locations. Double check all battery polarities and that the batteries have 1.5 volts or better. If this does not resolve the problem, call for support.
SD Card not present or not fully inserted. Insert a formatted SD card or remove and re-insert SD card.
Ensure the SIM card is fully inserted. Remove and re-insert your SIM card. Turn camera off then back on again. Once you get a signal, click on “MENU”, right arrow twice to “System”, scroll down 7 times to the second page, highlight and click on “Information”, the IMEI number is located at the bottom.
Ensure the antenna is fully inserted. Ensure the SIM card is present and fully inserted. If you have low signal, employ a booster antenna.
Ensure the SIM card is present and fully inserted. Make sure your SIM card is on the proper plan and carrier. AT&T vs Verizon
Improper plan, SIM card plan expired, SIM card carrier changed plan. Check the time between photos, it should be set for 2-3 minutes, anything less than 1 minute and the camera may not have enough time to send the photo before attempting to take another. Do a manual send, click OK to take a picture and click OK to send, if you receive an error, see ERROR Code. Check to see if the batteries are dead, replace batteries. If you are sending it the command code to take and send a photo, make sure you are sending it straight to the camera as a contact, do not reply to a group text.
- Ensure your SIM card is on a basic plan. 10 cents per minute voice, add on unlimited texting. The basic plan is a pay-as-you-go plan, pre-paid and post-paid plans have many issues involved with them and usually do not work properly.
- Things to check is to make sure the IMEI number from the SIM card is not connected to a phone or tablet. The IMEI number should be a default number or all 1’s. Do not use the IMEI number on the camera. Our module is set up to work on any GSM network and not affiliated with AT&T.
- T-mobile will differ. Price plan may be around 30 dollars and will include voice. They do not offer a text only plan.
- If you are on a mobile share plan where you added it to your existing account and are paying $9.99 a month, the camera was probably added as a tablet. Meaning AT&T used a tablet IMEI number for your camera. Your camera is sharing data and voice with this plan. AT&T needs to block text or emails being sent to this number.
- AT&T and T-mobile- the SIM card was not properly activated. The plan was placed on the incorrect plan. (Usually if placed on a prepaid plan this happens).
- I got the sim card last year and it was working. It suddenly stop working now. The carrier keeps changing the type of service on the SIM card. The carrier system does an automatic “Sweeping Search” and there is no way to tell when it will happen. When it finds a device during the search that their system is unfamiliar with, it automatically changes it to a data service (which you would think would still send an email). Unfortunately this is an ongoing issue and we have no control over it until we upgrade our cameras to data plans.
- 11 or 26: Improper SIM plan, MMS Error (See SIM Card)
- 3: Under Wireless, “recipients” ensure no dashes or special characters are in the phone number 706-555-1234.
- Parameter Error: Try using a different SD Card
MMS turned off on phone. Check under settings, messaging, ensure MMS is turned on.
May have dashes in phone number. Under Wireless, Recipients, ensure no dashes or special characters are in the phone number (706) 555-1234. It should only be the 10 digit phone numbers 7065551234.
You have reached the maximum number of photos set on your camera. Under wireless tab, highlight and click “Instant”, press OK, you will see “max num **”, click the right arrow to open the window. Change the max number to 999 or 0 for infinite.
Wait for the camera to get a signal and try again.
The ambient light sensor may not be working properly. Turn your camera off then on again and see if this resolves the issue. At night, walk in front of it to see if the IR lights flash, check your camera setting under System and set your flash power to “high”. If there is no IR flash, call for support.
The PIR sensor is not working properly, call for support.
When the batteries go low, it automatically turns SMS control and Instant to off in an effort to conserve the remaining battery power. Recheck the settings, ensure that send mode is set to instant and SMS control is on.
Transmitter not in sync with ctrl box. Sync transmitter with ctrl box receiver.
If it is the same time every day, there may be interference from a similar frequency in the area. Reset the receiver in the control box by holding the button for 6-8 seconds. Re-sync your camera and on site remote. If the problem continues, your transmitter may need to be replaced.
If it is for no reason, ensure the locking mechanism fully engages.
Will your on-site remote drop the gate? If yes, re-sync your camera to your control box. See how do I time my camera to my control box.
Check the battery strength inside the control box using a multi-meter. Make sure it is 11.50 volts or higher, if it is lower, recharge the battery. Recheck the connections inside the control box and that none of the connection have loosened or corroded. Check the batteries inside the onsite remote, press and hold the button for 2-3 seconds and watch for the light to come on. If the light doesn’t come on, check the battery or replace it. Re-sync the onsite remote and camera to the control box.
This is found in our user manual on page 18. THIS STEP IS ONLY A FUNCTION OF THE 3G M.I.N.E.™ CAMERA. THE 3G I.C.E.™ CAMERA DOES NOT UTILIZE AN INTERNAL TRANSMITTER.
The 3G M.I.N.E. Camera has an internal transmitter on the circuit board and must be located within 50 meters of the M.I.N.E.™ Gate to operate correctly. Users must manually calibrate the camera transmitter signal to each control box receiver the first time they are paired together. One camera will operate multiple control box receivers to trigger multiple gates simultaneously at a trap enclosure.
- Move camera selector switch from OFF to SETUP.
- Open control box housing and press the receiver button. The receiver red light will only emit for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Press the camera (A) left arrow and release then press the camera (B) right arrow and release to send a manual RF signal to the control box (You will see RF Trigger in the bottom of the screen). The receiver light should flash three times and shut off if performed correctly. Conduct a test by repeating this step, the latch will activate.
Repeat these steps on other control box receivers if multiple gates are used at the trap enclosure. Move camera selector switch from SETUP to ON and send SMS text command *777# to test transmitter and receiver calibration and gate operation.
To time or re-sync your onsite remote. In the control box, press and release the button, the red light will come on. Press and hold for 2 seconds then release the button on your remote, the light will come on, simultaneously, the red light inside the control box will blink 3 times and go out. Conduct a test by pressing the button again, the latch will activate. If it does not work the first time, try again.