When Greg Duffy’s father called saying he’d like to know which neighborhood dog was fertilizing the family lawn, the younger Duffy made an interesting observation: of the available do-it-yourself home security cameras which existed, few seemed easy to set up and operate.
That problem led Duffy and his friend Aamir Virani to develop a technology that’s now being courted by Google’s Nest Labs in a $555 million cash deal.
San Francisco-based DropCam is gunning to dominate the $28 billion home security business by offering a low-cost inexpensive alternative to homeowners wanting a simple system.
When the Nicholas family of Rancho Penasquitos wanted to install a security camera to watch their daughter inside and any approaching strangers outside, they opted for DropCam.
“You don’t have any setup at home, you literally plug it in, connect it to your WiFi and you’re done,” said Elijah Nicholas.
The high quality, plug and play web-based cloud camera can be controlled and monitored from anywhere in the world. A paid subscription allows the video to be recorded in the cloud and accessibly for playback from any computer, tablet or smartphone.
Since DropCam first launched in 2009, designers have added night-vision capabilities and an optional high definition model.
The built-in microphone is another desirable feature.
“You can have two-way conversations,” said Nicholas.
The uses range from home and business security to pet or baby monitoring.
Google is interested in adding DropCam’s technology to its Nest home system that controls thermostats, smoke alarms and others, and sounds emergencies with a calmer human voice.
Because video clips can be shared, the cameras have hooked into social media. Some examples are the live stream of Beluga whales from the Georgia Aquarium (right) and the pups at JR's Puppy Cam (below).
Those who authorize the live streaming offer views of everything from beautiful beaches to dangerous intersections.
Security expert Jim Stickley said these do-it-yourself systems are not perfect.
While consumers don’t need to hire a home security company to wire the home, the main drawback with a system like DropCam is that your home or business is not monitored by a company with an employee who could step in and call 911.
Though a password is required to view the camera’s signal over the web , there are concerns that a system could be hacked.
Also, the camera relies on electricity and the reach of your wifi, so if either goes out, the cameras don’t work.
“When you have the full bells and whistles of those alarm systems – they’re tied in to the police, they’re set up so if the power goes out at your home you’re going to get notified – there are a lot of things tied back that make them generally a stronger solution,” Stickley said.
But it is clear, this technology is poised to at least rattle traditional home security companies which may be coming up with their own, lower cost, stripped down, camera systems to get a piece of this emerging business.
And yes, Greg and Aamir caught the neighborhood dog.