Users Are Building Their Own AI-Powered Alternatives to Amazon’s Ring Cameras

Tired of privacy violations and a lack of control, smart home fans are building their own AI-powered alternatives to Amazon’s surveillance empire.
frigate
Image: Frigate

Tired of annoying walled gardens and widespread privacy abuses, a growing number of consumers are building their own alternatives to Amazon’s home surveillance system, Ring. In many instances, the home-rolled solutions have most or all of the benefits of Ring—but without being owned and controlled by one of the largest and creepiest megacorporations on the planet.

While it requires a little extra work, third-party cameras, NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices, or dedicated NVRs (Network Video Recorders) can be combined to build Big Tech home surveillance alternatives that can scale depending on the budget.

Many NAS devices make it fairly easy to duplicate app-based home monitoring. Both Synology and QNAP provide dedicated software solutions, both identically dubbed “Surveillance Station,” which allow you to monitor multiple streaming cameras in a browser across mobile and desktop devices.

Over at Reddit, many users have been taking things a step further, implementing NVRs with embedded AI technologies that can help mimic many of Amazon’s human detection features without indirectly supporting all of the pesky privacy, labor, and anti-competitive market abuses Amazon is increasingly known for.

Advertisement

One user bought eight Reolink RLC-811A Ethernet-powered cameras and tethered them to Frigate NVR, a self-hosted, open source AI-driven NVR with Home Assistant support. All processing is performed locally on a user’s own hardware, meaning that camera feeds and footage never leave a user’s own home, giving them stricter control over their own data privacy.

Much like Google Nest and Amazon Ring products, the software allows users to carefully tailor motion alerts and set up motion detection zones. In some instances, users claim they’ve been able to build home surveillance and monitoring systems with fewer false detection positives than Amazon Ring. 

“I went from around 10 false positive notifications a day with eight Ring cameras to around maybe 2 to 3, and my cameras constantly record…specific events like cars, dogs, bicycles, etc.,” Reddit user BloominFosters posted to the self-hosted alternatives subreddit. “People detected go straight to my phone through Home Assistant, which is proxied through cloudflare for remote access.”

“Seriously, get rid of Ring if you can,” they added. “It's a privacy nightmare.”

The retail giant has recently started provided law enforcement with  real-time access to home surveillance footage while at the same time carefully cultivating a fear of crime among suburban households. Ring products have been further promoted by a new Amazon-owned TV series intended to normalize the company’s dystopian vision of home security, which activists say poses a particular danger to already marginalized communities.

While installing and configuring hardware and software may require significantly more technical proficiency than out of the box Google or Amazon options, there’s no limit of helpful community support in subreddits like r/selfhosted or r/homesecurity. Most popular ad hoc components also feature tutorials on how to mix and match your own hardware and software options, and third-party installation is also an option for those that can afford it.

Such homegrown solutions are a great way to break free of corporate control—especially with cloud-based technology  where meaningful consumer privacy is often a distant afterthought.