Dropcam's Online Video Monitoring Includes Growing Number of Public Cams


SF-based Dropcam, which provides HD WiFi Video monitoring and online DVR recording so you can check on your kids, pets, or anything else remotely, manages a massive amont of of video in the cloud.

“We take in more video than YouTube by an order of magnitude,” says company co-founder and CEO Greg Duffy. “And that video is accessible for all devices, laptops, android, iOS, including the iPad from anywhere in the world.”

Since introducing its first camera three years ago at a price of $279, Dropcam has steadily added features and lowered its price point to where a small powerful camera is now available for $149.

It features easy online setup, 24-7 viewing (it plugs into an electrical outlet, so battery life is not an issue), motion and audio detection, night vision, two-way audio talkback, a digital zoom capability, plus email and push alerts when the camera senses something is going on you may want to know about.

The company’s “computer vision team” is constantly refining this latter capability.

“The camera is adaptive based on the environment,” explains Duffy. "Our computer vision team is helping it learn because while motion detection is easy for humans, it is actually quite hard for computers.

“But it becomes smarter over time. Our team feeds in massive amounts of video, to teach machines how to recognize significant moments in a video. The result is that people waste less time sorting through video, if they use our DVR option, to find what matters.

“It acts like your personal assistant. Today it is capable of motion and sound detection. Tomorrow will be significant event detection. That is a difficult AI problem, but data will win and solve it.”

Besides the home camera usage, Duffy and his co-founder Aamir Virani say there is a significant trend toward public Dropcams, especially by small businesses, non-profits, or people wanting to share news-type videos online.

“It came as a surprise to us that the public cams have become so popular,” says Duffy. “Originally, we thought home security would be the big market. But quickly we learned back then it was baby cams -- new parents wanting to monitor their baby while at work.

“Now it is the public cams. During Hurricane Sandy, people used Dropcams to film and share video of the storm. One guy mounted his on a boat and in no time he had 300,000 views.”

Although the default settings are private–and the company takes privacy so seriously that not even their customer service reps can view a private video unless you share a link with them–the company also can supply you with a URL to share video on Facebook and Twitter, etc.

There is also a curated collection of public cams on the company’s website.

Among the more curious examples are a camera mounted on the back of a tortoise in a pet shop, so you can experience life at the pace of this lumbering creature as it moves around the shop.

Another public cam is in an animal rescue facility, and has led to a number of animal adoptions. Small businesses are also using them to build audiences or attract customers.

An additional market in recent years has been by military families.

“Lots of military people use it,” says Virani. “They often have to be a long way away from home for a long time, especially when people are deployed abroad. We have a discount for them. Some have told us the very first time they saw their new baby was on Dropcam.”

All of the apps for Dropcam are free. The DVR option starts at $9.95 a month and provides the most recent week (168 hours) of video stored in the cloud. The company says 40 percent of its users convert to this service, which does not require an annual contract, but can just be used month to month.

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