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

Advertisements

Smartphones as Surveillance Cameras

The main selling point of Gotya is that it is an app and cloud service that turns your smartphone into a security or surveillance camera.

Recently a friend suggested that the Gotya app needs a product line expansion in the form of a compact, low cost camera with night vision. E.g. $29

This could expand the addressable market to include those users with only one smartphone to use as a remote controller for the “Gotya Cam”.

The Gotya mission remains simple: security and surveillance for the masses via smartphone cameras.

Gotya
-Bring Your Own Surveillance

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

Setting up a Spycam

You can make your own hidden or camouflaged Gotya camera (aka spycam)  to capture pictures of people snooping around stuff they shouldn’t be, or to take pictures of what people are doing in a certain area, without them knowing. A classic way to do this is to use a box with a small hole cut out to enable the camera lens to see out.

If you suspect somebody is up to no good, Gotya plus your own creativity in the form of a DIY spycam enables you to satisfy your curiosity about what they’re really doing.

In the two pictures below, I’ve shown my office desk with a camouflaged Gotya camera. It’s the light blue Nokia Lumia 900 in the darker blue beer cozy on the left hand side. Somebody coming into my office would in all likelihood not give a second thought to the beer cozy with a phone in it. To them, it just looks like a spare phone stored there, especially with the other two phones stacked up in front of it.

gotya spycam

The setup – camouflaged Gotya cam in beer cozy on office desk shelf

spycam

The setup – Gotya spycam (Lumia 900) camouflaged in blue beer cozy (closer up shot)

The sequence of pictures captured by Gotya is shown below, taken when somebody who wasn’t supposed to be there comes into my office and takes my stapler! My Gotya spycam captured it all!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, and by the way – even if the culprit had taken the Lumia 900 that I was using  as my Gotya spycam,  all of the pictures are auto-saved to the Gotya cloud for evidence, so I would still know what happened.

Let us know in the comments if you have set up your own Gotya spycam.

DIY Smartphone Stands

In order to use your smartphone as a Gotya motion detection surveillance camera, you’ll need a smartphone stand to mount it in a stable and fixed position, aimed at the area that you want to monitor.

There are thee types of smartphone stands that you can choose from:

1) Commercial Smartphone Stands

The two manufacturers we use and can recommend are JOBY Griptight ($30-$35) and WOXOM SlingShot ($20). Both of these are a combination of tripod+mount (=stand) that can be detached from each other. JOBY also has the Mpod Mini which is a small integrated stand ($15). The GripTight product line has different tripod sizes and features like flexible/bendable tripod legs, magnetic tripod feet, and detachable mounts, which gives you more ways that you can set up your camera. For example, you can wrap these around poles or posts, or attach to a magnetic surface.

As noted above, the GripTight and SlingShot mounts can be detached from the tripod, so that you can use the mount with any standard camera tripod (see 2) below).

2) Smartphone mounts for standard camera tripods

If you already have a camera tripod with a standard 1/4-20 UNC screw thread, you can purchase a smartphone mount from JOBY, WOXOM, or iStabilizer. The JOBY GripTight Mount is $20.

3) Do it Yourself (DIY) stands that you can make from everyday things

There is an amazing range of ways to use everyday items to make a simple and inexpensive (free) stand for your surveillance camera. The ones we’ve seen range from a Pringles potato chip can to binder clips and paper coffee cup sleeves to Lego.

We also made a few of our own:

Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone

PVC Pipe Smartphone Stand

Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone stand

Paper towel roll (with binder clip stabilizers)

Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone stand

3-Prong to 3-Prong Electrical Adapter

Did you make your own smartphone stand? Let us know in the comments.

What Price Surveillance?

Disclaimer: This post isn’t about government surveillance and all that entails. It’s about private/personal/consumer surveillance products and services.

Consumers have never had more choice when it comes to home monitoring and surveillance solutions. For years there have been the usual alarm companies with 24/7 monitoring with video cameras and motion detectors. Companies like ADT and Bay Alarm. These require professional installation, proprietary hardware, up front hardware costs, and long-term (typicaly 3 year) monthly service/monitoring contracts. We’re talking hundreds of dollars up front and $30-$40/month for three years commitment. And of course these are fixed (stationary/non-mobile) solutions that monitor a pre-determined fixed location (your hoouse).

Next we had the advent of smartphone-based monitoring solutions so that consumers could break free from the alarm panel and monitor cameras at their house or property and get alerts via a smartphone app like ADT Pulse or AT&T Digital Life. But still, these are costly (while being feature rich) solutions and have long-term contracts attached.

Now we’re seeing “Over the Top” (OTT) video surveillance, motion detection, carbon monoxide, and temperature sensing solutions like Dropcam and Canary. These are self-monitoring solutions and 100% smartphone based. No alarm panels to deal with. However, they are still expensive (Dropcam starts at $149, Foscam at $79, HomeMonitor at $179) requiring dedicated cameras, and are fixed solutions. What do I mean by fixed? I mean they’re stationary and are difficult or cumbersome to move to another location and are not at all suited for “ad hoc” or temporary surveillance use cases where you might want to watch a particular location for just an hour or two, pick up, and move on. They also require WiFi, and don’t work over mobile data networks like 3G/4G so for remote locations with no broadband connectivity, won’t work at all.

Now, having said all of that, these are great solutions for a particular range of use cases and budgets. Some have have 720p video, night vision, wide angle lens, digital zoom, 2-way audio, so they do pack some pretty cool features.

So the price points have come down and the flexibility/autonomy of the consumer to set up and monitor their own independent surveillance system has increased massively. That’s all good.

But there’s still something that until recently has been missing. There are millions of smartphone cameras out there that now have high quality cameras on them and operating systems and hardware sophisticated enough to run high-performance motion detection apps. And the best part is, they’re always with their owner. This has opened up a new opportunity that we like to call “casual surveillance”.

Casual surveillance is surveillance that isn’t necessarily mission-critical, but rather is a super low cost way to leverage hardware (smartphones) that you already have to deliver a motion detection and photo surveillance solution for both fixed or on-the-go mobile locations. A great example is if you’re visiting a shared workspace and have to leave your backpack in a place that could put it at risk of theft. Using a self-made “stand” out of a coffee cup or making a hidden camera inside a small cardboard box (like a cellphone box or tissue box) , you can monitor that backpack for a short period of time, then take it down when you leave. All motion (including the smartphone itself being used as the motion detection camera) is immediately detected, pictures captured, in some cases auto-uploaded to the cloud, and the user alerted immediately so that they can stop the theft or at least, capture pictures of the thief.

There are several motion detection camera apps out there now that are filling out the spectrum of surveillance solutions for consumers at the low (casual) end of the price/feature spectrum. Go and check them out at your app store of choice. You’d be surprised at what you can do with your smartphone these days, whether it’s the one you use on a daily basis, or an old one that’s sitting in a drawer somewhere. And this type of casual surveillance solution costs next to nothing compared with the previously mentioned solutions.

Happy surveying.

Image