Home surveillance at the Crossroads of Hardware and Software

by M Qamar

Cameras as surveillance devices have been around for quite sometime. But since the mobile device market has erupted in the last five years, many new startups have been building cameras as wireless accessories to mobile apps. Webcams, like the original iSight, were large and bulky objects compared to the almost invisible FaceTime camera's on newer iMacs, MacBooks and iOS devices of today. While companies like Dropcam and Withings have been selling stand alone webcam hardware, coupled with web and mobile apps for viewing your streams online, its seems that there is a potential convergence of existing hardware and specialized software that can be beneficial to users, as well as create effective business models for these startups.

Being a first time parent and a little obsessive about new technology, I have invested in two Dropcam devices. Having started with the first one in the living room, I decided to buy a second one for the bedroom to maximize coverage of the apartment. With my obsessive surveillance on their website dashboard and free iOS app, I realized that the entry/foyer/study/corridor/vestibule between the living room and bedroom lacked coverage. 

Despite moving the cameras around a bit to maximize coverage, I concluded that I needed another Dropcam on my desk, next to my iMac in the vestibule. However, this third camera however would have set me back another $150. After spending $300 on two devices, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be this heavily invested in one company's hardware. Noticing the almost invisible FaceTime camera on my iMac, I wondered, what if…?

Dropcam provides a free app to view security streams, but could they build an app to use the idle camera on your home computer as a Dropcam device? This could be a very cost effective solution for the end user, and a compelling addition to the Dropcam ecosystem. There are apps available where this is already possible, although Dropcam could likely provide a comprehensive solution by coupling their stand alone hardware with the capability of existing products into a unified surveillance dashboard. Dropcam may have already considered this approach, but as a customer, I would welcome the option.