Last August, I wrote about converting a Webcam into a home security tool, and truth be told, the results were underwhelming. Sure there are services and specialty hardware that let you do it with very little setup, but there continued to be a notable gap in what you could do with some consumer solutions versus the considerably more expensive, professional surveillance gear.
One company that's tried to find a happy medium between those two groups is Dropcam. Based in San Francisco and founded by former Xobni engineers Greg Duffy and Amir Virani, Dropcam turns a fairly standard Webcam into a home security tool with an elephant's memory.
The hardware, which retails at $199, is actually made by another company, Axis Communications. Dropcam's service, which goes along with it, is where things get interesting.
How it works
Instead of offering just a live feed, as people are able to get with most IP Webcams, Dropcam's video can be sent to the cloud (actually a concrete bunker in Texas) for safe keeping. Compared to storing recordings on a computer that's located inside the place you're surveilling, this makes for a much more secure solution. And unlike some do-it-yourself solutions that use FTP to send video or photo stills to the cloud, Dropcam handles all those settings, so that you essentially just plug the thing into a wall socket.
Video can be viewed online, on any computer with Adobe's Flash player installed. The company also recently released an iPhone app that can pull up the live stream of your camera, and a handful of sample cameras.
On the Web, Dropcam can store up to 30 days of nonstop video. This appears as a timeline, which can be scaled anywhere from one second all the way to a week. It also makes it easy to see when things actually happened. Times when the camera sensed motion are marked as yellow dots, and when a user mouses over one of these dots, it pops up with small thumbnails of what was captured. The same thing happens if you hover over any part of the timeline.
Right now there's not much you can do with these images and video clips, but in the near future Dropcam plans to roll out a notification service that will send an e-mail or SMS text message to users, that includes a clip of what's been captured, every time one of these events occurs. Some of the software and Webware solutions we looked at last year did this, and it's definitely a must-have feature for people who want to use it for security purposes.
Who it's for
Dropcam is mainly a consumer solution, but the service has a pro service plan too. The basic service is free, but users at that level don't get any recording storage. The plus plan, which costs $8.95 a month saves a week of footage, while the pro plan, at $24.95, saves 30 days. That ends up working out to 50GB of video on the high end. Both of the higher-end plans also let you use two cameras instead of one.… Read more