Over the past couple of years, there have been a few companies out there that have attempted to create consumer-friendly networked video systems which allow you to monitor your home remotely via the web or mobile phone. These systems have improved over time in terms of reliability as well as ease of setup. However, they do have a few shortcomings.
That is where the Dropcam comes in. The Dropcam is a network-enabled Webcam produced by 88 Volts which uses hardware by the company Axis. Currently there are two models available: the standard Dropcam, which runs $200 and only captures video, and the Dropcam Echo, which costs $280 and captures both video and audio.
Your Dropcam, depending on which one you choose, is connected to your router/computer via a wired Ethernet connection. Then you have to sign up for a Dropcam account online, insert a number associated with your Dropcam and then set up the camera. The process is similar to linking a Netflix account with a Blu-ray player or game console.
Both models are wired at first, but during the setup you are prompted to link the Dropcam to your wireless network. After this is completed, you are free to disconnect the Dropcam from the wired connection and place it anywhere you want. Each Dropcam comes with a mounting accessory as well as an AC adapter.
You can have as many Dropcams as you want to in your house, pointing them in the direction you want to monitor. You give each camera a name, and each camera is added to your online account. Each camera must be selected individually for viewing however.
Quality for the Dropcam is fairly good. You can’t blow up the image too much without it pixelating, and the camera cannot handle direct sunlight nor complete darkness, though it does work well in low light and bright light.
The frame rate is said to be fairly smooth with the web cam capturing 30 frames per second. However, this number may vary depending on your web connection. Tests do show that the picture quality is smooth enough.
One good thing to note is that the basic “live” video monitoring is included as part of purchasing a Dropcam free of charge. This allows you to view live video feed over the internet at Dropcam.com or stream video to your iPhone via a free Dropcam app. There isn’t any news on an Android app just yet, but that shouldn’t be a problem for long.
All this free stuff is nice, but if you want to use Dropcam’s DVR functionality, then you are going to have to upgrade to a paid service. The bad thing about these services is that while they do start as low as $8.95 a month, you have to pay per camera or the Plus Plan. The Plus Plan gives you seven days of online recording on Dropcam’s secure servers.
In addition to that you can download screenshots or video clips to archive footage permanently as well as sign up to get email alerts when any movement is detected on your cameras. The Pro Plan is $24.95 a month per camera and offers 30 day of recording.
There are other options out there besides the Dropcam. One major competitor is the Logitech Alert consumer video security system. The one advantage the Logitech system has over the Dropcam is that its cameras offer higher resolutions. Logitech’s system also uses Powerline adapters to connect to your network instead of Wi-Fi ,which may work in newer homes but many older homes do not have up-to-date wiring.
Overall the Dropcam system offers some good stuff and is perfect for anybody who currently has a Wi-Fi network in place. The cameras are a bit pricey at $200 and $280 though they are competitively priced and do cost less than the previously mentioned Logitech system.