WiFi Security and Monitoring Via DropCam



Over the past few weeks, I’ve been visiting various hardware and software options that add what I’ve been referring to as increased usefulness to my iPad (and occasionally to other devices in my home). Some of you have emailed me with your own suggestions, and I’ll be examining some of those for a future update, and I certainly appreciate the heads up!

This next one isn’t so much for me as it is for my wife. She rarely uses the iPad 2 when she’s at home, but when she travels we use it for FaceTime (so the two boys can see and hear her). She really misses her boys, and they miss her… especially at bed time. We have a home video security system in place, but no camera in the 2 year old’s room. I’ve been looking for some sort of solution that would let my wife look in on the youngest, especially when she travels. I’d prefer it to be portable so I could easily transfer its monitoring capabilities, and I’d like it to work with the iPad as well as be accessible from any other net-connected device. And it’s gotta have night vision for obvious reasons.

There are a number of baby monitoring systems out there, but many of them have a matching hand-held viewing device or only allow for viewing on a home PC that’s on the same network as the camera. Many of these systems are also over-priced (IMO) and seem to take advantage of nervous parents wanting all the bells and whistles. I’ve looked at a lot of different setups and it wasn’t until CES 2012 that I found a great solution — Dropcam HD.

Dropcam HD is a brand new device that’s only been released in the last few months. It’s a WiFi-enabled camera (720p) that connects to your home network via 802.11 b/g/n and is capable of both full-color video and night-vision (when the light level drops below a threshold). It can transmit sound in both directions (you can turn this off) and can be configured for private viewing or you can share the feed with the world. It runs 256 bit encryption (AES) and can even give you alerts (that you configure) via your mobile phone or computer. (It’s Mac and PC compatible.)

The Dropcam device does require a power outlet, so it’s not a camera that you can place just anywhere. But it’s extremely small, portable, and easy to move. Once it’s identified your WiFi network, it’s keeps the details stored so you can unplug the Dropcam, move it to a different location, plug it in, and immediately resume a video stream.

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The video is accessible via an app on my wife’s iPad (also available for iPhone and Android), but you can also view the feed by simply visiting dropcam.com and logging in. Each camera has a unique ID, so if you have more than one you’ll be given a listing of the various cameras and can tap one to start viewing. (And if voice support is enabled, a Talk button in the app allows you to transmit your voice to anyone within listening distance of the Dropcam.)

Daytime video is excellent. It’s not the highest resolution possible, but you can get quite a bit of detail from the camera’s output. Nighttime video isn’t that great, however, so if you’re planning on using it in low lighting, I don’t think the police will be able to make any positive identifications unless the perp is staring right into the camera point-blank. This isn’t a big deal for me — I just want my wife to be able to see that my son is safe and sleeping in his crib. (We’ll use it soon enough to make certain he’s not getting out of his toddler bed!)

Speaking of the police… Dropcam.com offers a service that records your video stream and stores it using their cloud-based server system. Motion detection is flagged in recorded video with a series of small visual indicators, so the Dropcam system can easily be used as a home security system with no risk of the video being deleted or disappearing with a computer that walks out the door. Businesses can make the stream available to the public with a simple URL, or they can password protect video and make that available to only those who need it. The recording service has two different tiers, so if you’re interested in the Dropcam you’ll want to check out the tier information here.

The Dropcam comes with simple mounting hardware that lets you attach a base to a wall or shelf — the Dropcam then snaps into and out of the base. I haven’t mounted the base anywhere yet, but it’s an option thats available should you want a more permanent mounting solution other than simply sitting the camera on a shelf like I do.

All in all, I’m quite impressed with the Dropcam HD, especially its price — $150.00. Portable, accessible via most mobile devices or any computer, night-vision capable, and an available subscription service if you wish to record and store your video.

By the way, if you’d like to see not only the quality of the video being shot but also some interesting places around the globe, be sure to check out Dropcam’s Public Cameras – over a dozen public Dropcam cameras for your viewing pleasure, including some cute puppies, Printrbot HQ, and a California ocean view.

Note: I’d like to thank Dropcam for providing a Dropcam HD to test.

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