The last couple of years have seen the introduction of many security cameras aimed at the consumer market. Security and surveillance cameras used to be restricted to professional scenarios, and were primarily analog in nature. However, with advances in networking and the appearance of cheaper hardware, there is a shift towards the IP variety. The appearance of IP cameras has also brought in its wake units targeted at the consumer market.

In the IP camera space, large companies such as Bosch, Axis, Sony and Panasonic focus on hardware for professional security surveillance. The large companies make the security cameras, while large peripheral companies like Logitech and D-Link have solutions that make use of the local computer. D-Link, Linksys and Logitech have sub-$300 IP cameras meant for small offices and homes. They have been recently joined by companies like Avaak and Dropcam, which bring more ease of use to the table. These are startups with a focus on usage of IP cameras for casual monitoring.

As we are covering the Dropcam Echo today, let us take a brief look at the company.
 


Started in January 2009 by two ex-Xobni engineers, Greg Duffy and Aamir Virani, Dropcam has a team of 5 based out of San Francisco, California. The story behind the founding of the company makes for interesting reading. It clearly brings out the reason as to why consumer IP cameras have not gone mainstream yet.

Greg's dad, based in Texas, apparently bought an IP camera from a local electronics shop and spent four hours trying to set it up. After having little luck, he called up Greg and they worked on it for another few hours.  It took a lot of router and network tweaking, but the camera finally came online. A couple of days later, Greg's dad called again and said now he wanted to watch the video while he was at work. The problem with most consumer IP cameras is that they concentrate on features which are important for the industrial sector, where setup is performed by trained professionals. The average consumer prefers a plug and play solution, and the expectations are quite different too. Keeping these in mind, Greg and Aamir founded Dropcam in early 2009. A seed round was led by Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus), David Cowan (founder of Verisign, venture capitalist), and Aydin Senkut (ex-Googler).  

Now that we know about the company, let us proceed to look closer at their second product, the Dropcam Echo.

Unboxing & Setup Impressions
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  • papounet - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    Very interesting product, yet one caveat:
    your security system relies on Internet being up; If you go on vacation and switch off the mains, you won't have either current for the cam, nor for Internet.

    in europe, several companies are trying to lure small business into setting up IP surveillance cameras, intrusion detection and transmission onto a smartphone (on demand only, in order not to burst the data traffic cap). IP camera like the Axis) have both intrusion detection software onboard and a hardware current loop switch (which could be used for intrusion detector).

    the largest issue with video surveillance as i see it: (on my remote screen ;-)) is the lack of support for the megapixel cameras such as the Axis 207MW which have been around for a decent price for some time now.

    I highly suspect an artificial restriction by manufacturer of NAS on entry-level systems

    I have setup a surveillance DVR 24/7 with a Qnap 219 and 2 * Axis 207MW with few issues except that the QNAP F/W for that hardware does not allow the use of the camera in megapixel res: i am stuck with 15fps 640*480 AVI recording
    Yet, using curl, I was able to reach 10 fps at 1280*960 in JPG mode directly from the linux shell.

    I am looking seriously into switching to synology because of their more honest way to handle additionnal camera through licenses
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    Sounds like they have a good start, but I wonder if this model will be sustainable in the future. If a user installed more than one of these, or if/when they produce HD models, the bandwidth usage could quickly get out of hand for tiered access plans. Perhaps for a more extensive home installation they could offer some type of a base station, either a USB device or some type of nettop, that could handle the recording functionality of local cameras. This device could integrate its own access point, so that setting up individual cameras would be as easy as plugging in over USB or ethernet for an initial setup, then putting them on location. They could also then make the mobile app location aware, so that video would only be streamed to their servers when the primary phone was away from home, or on request. Then all other video, such as when they are sleeping and not watching their phone, can be stored locally and not take up bandwidth. Reply
  • rcc - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    The camera itself handles motion detection very differently. If set to motion detection the camera doesn't output data at all, until you have a motion event. Sounds like this is one of the features they disablled so they could charge you for continual recording.

    One of the advantages of IP cameras in general, and one of the things that makes them a bit more expensive that Analog cameras, is that there is a fair amount of intelligence built into the cameras for functions like this.

    Axis makes many decent IP cameras, this one is near the bottom of their line, as expected given the price point that people will want.

    Since drop cam is not making the camera, I think they should concentrate on the "cloud" end of things, and setup, and let the consumer pick from a range of cameras.
    Reply
  • jmke - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    Cut power & internet connection; if possible from a street service panel accessible to anyone with a large cutter. Reply
  • Rick83 - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    And wake everyone who has a UPS in the entire block?
    Because figuring out which internet connection goes where isn't that easy.
    And I expect the same for electricity.
    And then you have to hope that there isn't a backup battery and backup wireless internet connection....
    Probably not worth the hassle for a quick enter and grab....
    Reply
  • Roland00 - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    But since it operates on wifi, and wifi is a very select range of frequencies usually 2.4 ghz or 5 ghz and sometimes 3.6 ghz, wouldn't it be possible to "overload" those bands in a short range with something that produces enough frequency noise.

    Thus anything that isn't using cables won't be able to communicate. Doesn't matter if the ip cameras are storing there info locally or to the cloud, if you can't talk to the router than the effectively can't communicate.
    Reply
  • mados123 - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    This was on one of those CSI episodes where they jammed the signal. WiFi jammers do exists like any other wireless signal blocking.

    http://www.chinavasion.com/product_info.php/pName/...
    Reply
  • rcc - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    As I recall, that camera also has an Ethernet port, and works off POE if Dropcam supports it.

    Hook up the POE switch, router, and modem to a decent UPS and you are ready to go through basic power outages. If you are really concerned about someone cutting your Internet connection, Talk to one of the companies that provides video over 3G cell phone networks. Pretty pricey tho.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    Would something like this even be valid evidence? Even if you had this camera running and recording an area where something was swiped, assuming the criminal took basic precautions such as covering their face and any other distinguishing marks all you would get from a VGA video is a basic idea of their size. Anything that is going to help bring a criminal to justice is going to come from more traditional investigation.

    I would imagine the use of this is more as a nannycam, or for example if holes are being dug in your yard and you want to see if it is the neighbor's dog, or a situation like the author described.
    Reply
  • rcc - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    Look at the bright side. Reviewing the footage (byteage?) would show the forensics guys where to look for more evidence. Reply

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