webrtc

WebRTC Well Suited to Smart Home WiFi Security Cameras

WebRTC (Real Time Communications) is an open source IETF/W3C standard that adds a full-blown media engine (audio and video codecs, jitter buffers, echo cancellation, synchronized streaming, data channel) to Web browsers so that they can do cool stuff like video calling, VoIP, screen sharing, file sharing, and audio streaming without any need for plugins, extensions, or app downloads.  Google and Mozilla are at the forefront of this initiative and Chrome and Firefox browsers have WebRTC built-in. Microsoft recently announced support coming for IE and Skype in the form of a WebRTC API called ORTC.

Although WebRTC was initially conceived as a browser-browser play, it’s now spreading to mobile apps such as Vonage, Amazon Mayday and Snapchat via it’s acquisition of AddLive.  Disruptive Analysis forecasts that there will be over 6 billion WebRTC-enabled devices and over 2 billion WebRTC active users by 2019. In short, WebRTC is a big deal and is quickly ramping to become a ubiquitous mainstream platform for RTC on not only the Web but also mobile and now smart home and Internet of Things devices.

That’s the back story. But how is WebRTC relevant to the smart home and WiFi security camera space?

  1. The WebRTC architecture lends itself very well to secure streaming. All media is encrypted end-end .
  2. WebRTC architecture is native P2P meaning all media is transported P2P (there are exceptions such as when transcoding or TURN servers or other server-based functionality such as mixing are required) and therefore is not subject to surveillance or interception by a server.
  3. It’s low-cost, making it ideal for consumer smart home cameras. The video codecs (VP8, VP9, and OpenH264) are royalty free meaning the barriers to entry for developing a WebRTC-powered video camera and app are drastically lower than with standard H.264 or other royalty based codecs.
  4. Both the content (audio and video streaming) AND camera remote control are supported by the WebRTC architecture. Camera pysical remote control such as panning, tilting, and zooming can be controlled via the dedicated WebRTC data channel.
  5. WebRTC architecture inherently supports NAT and firewall traversal via ICE, STUN, and TURN. This means that port forwarding is not required, meaning a consumer does not have to open up their home network to the public Internet in order to use a WiFi security camera, which makes a WebRTC solution more secure than cameras that require port forwarding.
  6. Purpose-built low latency via VP8 video codec and NetEQ for voice.
  7. No app required! Access and control your cameras from any Web browser (Safari excepted for the time being pending Apple support).

There are currently two WebRTC smart home WiFi security cameras out there:

  1. Camiocam – clever solution that turns any PC or laptop webcam, or camera on an Android device, into a smart home WiFi security camera with some pretty advanced searching and filtering capabilities (e.g. “show me anything with the color blue that moved on Monday between 2PM and 4PM).
  2. Amaryllo iSensor HD – this camera has remote pan/tilt control by swiping across the screen of the app

In addition to the home security market, we’re also seeing WebRTC based solutions in the commercial CCTV space. The Flashphoner WebRTC Media and Broadcasting Server can broadcast streams from any IP security camera using RTSP to multiple browsers or mobile devices, ideal for security teams where multiple people need access to multiple cameras.

As we can see, WebRTC is spreading quickly from browsers to mobile and now to smart home and IP appliances such as security cameras. Expect to see it show up in a lot more places including the Internet of Things. For info on the latest WebRTC news I’d recommend starting with this blog.

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windows phone, mango, wp7

9 Ways To Reuse Your Old Windows Phone 7 Now That You’ve Got Windows Phone 8

With the recent launch of the iPhone 6, there have been several articles on how you can continue to use your old iPhone if/when you upgrade,  including this one from Business Insider.

So why am I referencing an article about how you can reuse your  old iPhone, when the title of this post is how you can reuse your old Windows Phone 7? Because all of them apply to Windows Phone 7 and there are plenty of apps that still support WP7. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Extra (local/on-prem) storage (the Samsung Focus has 8GB)
  2. Music player –  TuneIn Radio 
  3. Fitness/sports tracker – Endomondo
  4. Entertain kids  – Mou + other kid-friendly games for WP7
  5. Ultimate travel camera – although there are no lense hardware accessories that I’m aware of, there are plenty of tripods . In any case you can use it as a spare camera, if not the “ultimate”.
  6. Baby Monitor (note: you can’t use the phone as the camera/mic – that has to be a Windows 7 or Vista PC)
  7. Security Camera – Gotya
  8. Party stereo – connect it to wired (via the 3.5mm audio/headphone jack) or bluetooth speakers
  9. Watch Netflix

There are still 8-10 million WP7 devices in active use. Assuming that half that number have already been retired,  that makes a grand total of  12-15  million WP7 devices that can still be put to good use even when all current active users move on (WP7 devices are not upgradeable to WP8). And with Microsoft ending support for WP7 on October 14th, the retirement rate might accelerate, making these use cases all the more real.  Please sound off below if you have other ideas. Happy reusing!

tripod, smartphone stand

A $10 Kickstarter pledge could get you an ultra portable smartphone stand that doubles as a key fob

This nifty key fob smartphone stand called Snapshot has 11 days to go on Kickstarter and you can get one for ten bucks (including free shipping).

It  actually consists of two parts  i) the Snapshot itself which is the smart phone grip/mount (the keyfob+chain) and ii) a separate flexible tripod appropriately called the “Stand”. It works with various smartphones including iPhone 4/5/6 and Samsung Galaxy (although it might not work with the new iPhone 6 Plus – but you can ask them at the bottom of their Kickstarter page). Snapshot also works with any camera tripod with a standard 1/4″ screw thread.

The $10 is a good deal considering the lowest-price smartphone tripod I’ve seen is $15 (Joby MPod Mini) and the Joby GripTight Mount by itself (no stand) is $20.  Caveats: they’re not U.S. based and their website is a little strange given that it shows leather goods and not smartphone stands – but maybe they’re just expanding into new product lines.

If you’re using or plan to use a spare smartphone as a security/surveillance camera with an app like Gotya, you might want to check it out.

revolv

IFTTT adds Revolv to smart home channel arsenal

As noted in a previous post about the new MyFox IFTTT channel, IFTTT keeps adding smart home channels (actually, smarthome vendors keep adding their own IFTTT channels via the IFTTT Channel Platform).

Today it was revealed that the Revolv IFTTT Channel will be available by the end of this month and will include the unique capability to create IFTTT Recipes right from within the Revolv app.

Revolv is the second major smart home Hub vendor after SmartThings to have their own IFTTT Channel.  Smart home Hubs bring in even more devices into the IFTTT fold via indirect integration (IFTTT <-> Hub Channel <-> Devices that work with Hub).

Wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the big smart home vendors like Google/Nest or Samsung/SmartThings scoop up IFTTT. This would give the acquirer more leverage, control, and faster time to market  in increasing the size and reach of not only their automation-compatible smart home device/sensor ecosystem but also mashups with external Web services like The Weather Channel, Dropbox, Twitter, and so on. The more devices and sevices that consumers/end users can automate and stitch together via recipes, the higher the value and more use cases available.

Also expect IFTTT to add “compound” recipes where more than one trigger (“THIS”) can result in one or more actions (“THAT”), like Wigwag does.

Party on, smart home!

myfox, ifttt

IFTTT Adds to their Smart Home Channel Arsenal with Myfox

Automation service IFTTT recently added  the Myfox Channel.  Myfox is a French home security and automation platform  that consists of three things:

i) Door/window intrusion detectors called TAG

ii) Video surveillance camera

iii) App for control and monitoring for iOS and Android

This brings the growing number of smart home Channels on IFTTT to three: SmartThings, Manything, and Myfox.

As noted in a previous blog post about IFTTT, any IP/WiFi home security camera that has motion detection and email alerts (which pretty much all do)  can be used as a trigger using the IFTTT Gmail channel, enabling a given camera to trigger actions by connecting the Gmail channel to any other IFTTT channel by creating or using an existing Recipe.

IFTTT is becoming an increasingly valuable service for smart home and Internet of Things users.

IFTTT, motion alerts, Gotya

Use any WiFi Security Camera as IFTTT Trigger with Gmail Channel

IFTTT (IF This Then That) is a freemium service that enables you to connect your smart home/IoT (Internet of Things) devices including WiFi security cameras to a world of Web apps such as The Weather Channel, Instagram, Twitter, Gmail, and Dropbox, to name but 5 of the 128 available “Channels”.  In addition to Web apps Channels there are also native Android and iOS Channels such as notifications and location, as well as email, SMS, and phone call channels. When something happens on a (Trigger) Channel, IFTTT enables something else to happen on another (Action) Channel.

Any IP/WiFi camera that has motion detection and email alerts can work with IFTTT as a Trigger using the Gmail Channel. For example this recipe uses Dropcam motion alerts to turn on a WeMo Light Switch.

Gotya can also turn on your Wemo Light Switch just like Dropcam does. All you need to do is i) replace noreply@dropcam.com with gotya.alerts@mobiapplines.com in the Gmail from address field as shown below and ii) make sure the Gmail address that you enter into the Gmail Channel  is the same as your Gotya Alert email address (in the Gotya app, go to Camera->Settings or Remote Controller->Select Camera->Operation).

IFTTT, trigger, wemo

As a second example of using Gotya to trigger an IFTTT channel, when Gotya detects motion it can send you an SMS alert using this recipe (you’ll need to modify it to specify your own mobile phone# and Gmail address). As with the first example, make sure the Gmail address that you enter into the Gmail Channel  is the same as your Gotya Alert email address (in the Gotya app, go to Camera->Settings or Remote Controller->Select Camera->Operation).

The  SMS alerts include the URL with the picture stored on the Gotya Cloud. For security reasons you’ll need to login to the Gotya Cloud Service each time.

motion detection sms alert, IFTTT

Gotya motion detection SMS alert with link to picture in Gotya cloud

 

There is currently only one WiFi home security camera (actually an iOS app) called Manything, that has it’s own “proper” / native IFTTT channel, enabling it to be connected to all of the 128 Channels and can be used both as a Trigger and an Action in a Recipe (and not just as a Trigger via the Gmail Channel as this article has focused on). Expect this list to grow dramatically as IFTTT has recently raised a $30M Series B Round and is going to make their Channel Platform available to a lot more developers.

SmartThings has done an unofficial integration with Dropcam and SmartThings has their own IFTTT channel, so there’s potentially other stuff that you can do with the combination of Dropcam, SmartThings, and IFTTT, but that’s perhaps a topic for another blog post. A quick search of “SmartThings Dropcam” on IFTTT Browse Recipes returned zero results.

Let us know if you have created or use any IFTTT recipes for your IP/WiFi security camera in the Comments!

webcam, security camera, geckoeye

3 New Crowdfunded Video Security Cameras For Your Smart Home (and Car)

The Smart Home is going mainstream, part of the broader Internet of Things trend of  increasing  billions of Internet-connected/smart devices and sensors  that communicate with each other, the cloud, and people (in the case of consumers, via smartphone and Web apps and text messages). Popular examples of Smart Home devices include the Nest Learning Thermostat, Dropcam Security Camera, Hue Light Bulbs, and WeMo switches. These devices can connect directly to the Internet via your home WiFi network (as is the case with all of the cameras in this post), or can connect to each other and the Internet via Hubs like SmartThings which typically employ a low-power RF network such as ZigBee or Z-Wave out to the sensors.

There are three clever new crowdfunded smart home security cameras that have been in the news lately that have advanced physical designs and unique features beyond the “table stakes” features  listed below that are found in Dropcam (often considered the reference for smart home security cameras particularly after being acquired by Google/Nest for $555M in June) and other popular home security cameras. Dropcam has many more features and capabilities than those listed below including  Two-Way TalkZoom,  Time Scanner,  Custom Activity Zones as well as Tabs and People Detection).

Table Stakes Features available on most smart home video security/surveillance/monitoring cameras:

  • Fast and easy DIY setup
  • Web and smartphone apps for camera control and monitoring
  • motion and sound triggered alerts (in-app push notifications, SMS, email)
  • remote live view (720p HD video streaming)
  • cloud video recording (Dropcam streams continuously to the cloud, does all analysis (e.g. motion/sound detection) in the cloud, and charges $10-$30/month depending on size of CVR (cloud video recorder)
  • 107 – 130 degree field of view (wide angle)
  • encrypted video
  • night vision/IR

The three clever newcomers are in the pre-availability phase (some further out than others). Let’s take a look at three which have been featured in the last 30 days on popular tech websites, and highlight the new things (“Cleverness Cred”)  that they bring to the table that differentiates them from the  Table Stakes features above.

Here are the three clever new smart home video cameras in order of estimated delivery date / likelihood of shipping:

iSensor HD

Availability status: Exceeded goal on IndieGogo. Ends Aug 30th. Estimated Delivery: Sept 2014

Price: $99 limited time early-adopter special ($160 MSRP), free worldwide shipping

Techsite review: GeekyGadget

Cleverness Cred:

  • uses Skype for 256-bit video encryption (compare to Dropcam 128-bit), low latency video ( (sub 0.5 second), remote camera pan control, and push picture alerts
  • built-in motor and gears for remote panning (180 degrees) on top of 60 degree lense for 240 degree view
  • compact cylindrical form factor (shorter than an iPhone 5, less than 2″ diameter)
  • USB power for more placement options
  • embedded microSD for local video storage if no WiFi available
  • intruder warning light and beeper
  • Configurable to continuously upload video to the cloud, only when motion/sound is detected, or disabled
  • 15GB free cloud video storage on Google Drive
  • no image curvature distortion, fish-eye lense free

Note: iSensor HD does not have night vision/IR – it does have a “super bright white LED for use at nighttime.”

Blink

Availability status: Exceeded goal on KickStarter. Ends Sept 14th. Estimated Delivery: May 2015

Price: $69 in USA, $99 outside ($30 shipping)

Tech Site Review: TechCrunch

Cleverness Cred:

  • no power plug-in required for placement pretty much anywhere – camera has a replaceable battery that lasts for >1 year and operates on “ultra-low power mode” and is woken up when needed by the  required Sync Module (which does have to be plugged in)
  • temperature sensor and temperature-triggered alerts
  • LED light and optional beep warning
  • free cloud storage (no monthly fees) – up to  5 days/120 hours, then overwritten
  • records video only when motion is detected
  • USB port on Sync Module for local video storage
  • optional battery-powered 105 dB siren Alarm Unit  ($25 for Kickstarter backers, $50 MSRP)

Note: Blink does have IR/night vision.

GeckoEye

Availability Status: 14% of goal on IndieGogo.  Ends Sept 21st. Estimated Delivery: N/A

Price: $189 (shipping not specified)

Techsite review: Digital Trends

Cleverness Cred:

  • camera battery is solar powered  – no power plug required for placement pretty much anywhere
  • double-sided HD cameras so you can see what’s happening in front of and behind the camera
  • compact 1.7″ hockey puck-like form factor
  • Required base station does require power plug-in,  but also has 240-hour battery making it portable for temporary use as a car DVR
  • base station has a SIM card slot for cloud recording while mobile (in a car)
  • can be mounted on basically any surface  (including a car windshield) using supplied sticky tape
  • 128 GB onboard memory for local video storage if no WiFi available
  • 50GB free cloud video storage
  • GPS tracker

Note: GeckoEye does not appear to have night vision/IR support.

Let us know if you’ve already contributed to any of these projects, if you’re thinking about it,  or if you’re planning on going with a more established smart home camera from the likes of  Dropcam, D-Link, Belkin, Foscam, or Samsung. Or if you’re planning on using an old smartphone as a security camera with an app like Gotya for Android and Windows Phone or Manything for iPhone.

Featured Image courtesy of Geeky Gadgets