Last year I had the pleasure of testing a STEM Innovation IZON Remote Room Monitor, a small WiFi webcam that at the time had the honor of being the easiest webcam I'd ever set up. STEM has just come out with the second-generation device, the US$129.95 IZON 2.0 WiFi Video Monitor, and the company has outdone itself on making the little room monitor even easier to set up.
The external design of the IZON is pretty much identical to last year's model, except the company has fortunately dropped the lower-case "i" on the name in favor of all caps. It's still a diminutive cylinder about 1.25 inches in diameter and about 3.25 inches tall, resting on a magnetic swivel base. It has a tiny cylindrical AC adapter that provides power through a standard USB-to-mini-USB cable.
The company also supplies mounting screws should you decide to slap the camera on a wall or ceiling. It's interesting -- last year's marketing seemed more targeted at parents of newborns, while this year the product appears more oriented towards people who want to keep an eye on their homes. There are even two green "Monitored by IZON" stickers supplied that can be stuck on a door or window to scare away potential thieves.
The big difference doesn't seem to be with the device, but with the accompanying iOS app. The name has changed -- it used to be called "Stem: Connect" and is now known simply as the IZON app. The app is free, but really has no functionality unless you have one or more IZON cameras.
There are some other changes in the app. Previously, it was possible to automatically upload video to a YouTube account. Due to a change in YouTube's terms and conditions, the company now provides its own video hosting to which you can upload up to 25 videos -- either manually recorded or set off by motion or sound detection -- per day. Those videos can be viewed through the app up to seven days later. If you need to save a video of your new puppy ruining a $2,000 Turkish carpet, no worries -- IZON lets you save up to 100 video bits indefinitely.
As mentioned earlier, the setup process is simpler than before, befitting of a product from a company run by an Apple industry veteran. Now you plug in the IZON, log into the IZON app on your iOS device, tap a large button showing the flashing light pattern that's on your device, enter your WiFi network's password and then hold an app-generated QR code in front of the camera. Within a few seconds, the IZON is registered with the network and you're ready to roll.
Like the previous version, the IZON app can be used to set up noise and motion alerts. For example, you can aim the camera at a particular area and be alerted whenever something in that area moves. There are also audio alerts, helpful for those situations where you might want notification if something noisy (like a window being broken) happens.
Alerts usually showed up right away in the app, although iOS push notifications were sometimes delayed by several minutes. Apparently, the 30-second video clips that can be captured are supposed to show up under the alerts tab of the app, but twice I had to kill and restart the app before I saw any listing of videos or alerts on that tab. It may take a while to get the sensitivity set so that you're not getting alerts for every little movement of leaves outside a window or for every meow from your cat, but it is nice to get the notifications.
One of my few complaints about the earlier version of the IZON is still valid -- there are no infrared lighting capabilities built in for viewing night scenes. Once the lights are out, you're going to see nothing but black on your iPhone or iPad screen. On the other hand, the IZON gives you much better color matching for brightly lit scenes, while the infrared-capable cameras usually do a deplorable job of making colors look realistic. STEM says that the equivalent of a 7.5W night light will do an adequate job of making a room visible.
Finally, there's one other feature -- the ability to listen in on what's happening near the camera. The audio is adequate, with a bit of hiss, but definitely useful when you're trying to see and hear what's going on back at the house or office when you're away.
All in all, the combination of the updated camera hardware and the new IZON app makes a worthwhile product even more useful. This is a webcam you could give to your parents, and they'd be able to set it up in minutes -- and if they run into any problems, there's a support hotline they can call instead of haranguing you.
- Same compact and clever design
- Excellent color matching
- Even more easy to set up than the previous incarnation
- Noise and motion alerts work with iOS push notification
- Can store up to 100 video clips on STEM's secure server
- Price tag is high compared to other less expensive models that provide tilt/pan capabilities
- App has a few bugs, particularly in the area of alerts and video clips
Who is it for?
Anyone who wants an iOS-based home monitoring camera that's incredibly simple to set up and use right out of the box.