Before 2012, Dropcam was a software outlet famous for integrating its camera tech into other people's hardware. However, it knew that in order to grow, the company needed to get into the hardware business as well. So, it hired some of the team behind Cisco's Flip video cameras to create the Dropcam HD -- one of a few IP shooters on the market that offered 720p video at an affordable price. Little did the Dropcam folks know, of course, that the device would be a big hit, pushing revenues 500 percent higher than it'd ever experienced.
The Dropcam Pro, then, is version two. The new unit is a considerable upgrade from its precedessor, with an entirely redesigned optical system that includes a six-element all-glass lens. This is still a rarity in WiFi cameras -- even the HD lens is mostly glass with plastic making up the rest. "There's a limit to how good of a resolution you can get with plastic... it's just not as exact as glass," CEO Greg Duffy tells us. There's more to the Pro than just the glass lens of course, and we'll detail more of what's new about the Pro and give our hands-on impressions after the break.
Another Pro improvement is that its 130 degree field of view is much wider than the 105 degree on the HD. Duffy informs us this lets the camera capture the entire room at once without the need for a motorized component to remotely pan and tilt the camera. But perhaps more important than that is the Pro's new high-sensitivity camera sensor that captures twice the light than its predecessor. This means better performance in low-light conditions of course, but it also means superior image quality in general. We tried it out in our home, and were impressed by the clarity and sharpness of the images, even at night. As you might imagine, night shot mode greatly benefits from the new sensor as well.
Combine the glass lens and the new camera sensor together, and the Pro is able to churn out some of the highest video quality we've ever seen from a WiFi camera. During our extensive hands-on time with the Pro and Dropcam's new iOS app, we were able to not only zoom into a particular area of a live video, but also select an "enhance" button that kicks up its resolution. "The communication tells the camera to enhance the resolution of that particular point," Duffy tells us. "It will then use real resolution in that area instead of digital zoom, resulting in better video quality." We have to admit we're very impressed by this feature, likening it to those CSI shows where the cop tells the technician to "zoom in and enhance" a clip. Unlike television however, the enhance feature on the Pro is only available for live video, and not past recorded events.
A few more enhancements to the Pro include a more sensitive microphone for better audio, the addition of dual-band WiFi for less interference and the introduction of Bluetooth LE. The latter is particularly intriguing, because it allows for instant camera setup without the need to plug it into a computer first. As soon as we plugged the Pro into a power outlet, its LED started flashing, indicating that it was in pairing mode. We paired it with our iPad, launched the Dropcam app and was able to set up the camera with the proper WiFi credentials then and there. As a result, the Dropcam Pro was up and running literally within minutes of plugging it in.
But the purpose of Bluetooth LE doesn't stop there. Duffy hopes it'll make Dropcam Pro a hub for other Bluetooth LE devices, which means it could be part of a connected home. "Any Bluetooth LE device could talk to your Dropcam while you're away from home. You could have it so that a dog collar sensor automatically activates the camera when it's in the room, for example... There's potential for the camera to be integrated with security sensors so that it turns on when the front door opens." He also says it could work in conjunction with something like the Nest Protect smoke detector, so you can see exactly what caused it to go off.
Aside from the Pro, Dropcam will also release new apps for iOS and Android along with a software update to Dropcam HD. The update will bring pinch-to-zoom functionality to the HD cam, though not with the same quality as the earlier "enhance" feature of the Pro. Last but not least, the company is introducing a beta feature called Activity Recognition, which uses machine learning and computer vision technology to recognize certain motion patterns in the video and group them together into separate events. For example, you can set it so that a highlight occurs whenever the door to the closet opens. The analysis is done entirely via the cloud thanks to Dropcam's new Cloud Recording service. Duffy tells us they're still figuring out what Activity Recognition can do, so they hope to get feedback from users on how they like the service before figuring out next steps.
Dropcam Pro will retail for $199 and is available today from the company's website and Amazon.com. The live video service continues to be free, though optional Cloud Video Recording plans start at $9.95 a month for seven days of continuous recording and $29.95 for thirty. To get a closer look at camera, check out our gallery of the hardware and software plus the promo video below.
Dropcam Continues Leadership in the Home Video Monitoring Market with the Introduction of Dropcam Pro
Completely Re-engineered Camera Includes Bluetooth LE, Making it the Ideal Hub for the Emerging Connected Home
SAN FRANCISCO – October 10, 2013 – Dropcam, Inc., makers of the leading Wi-Fi video monitoring camera and cloud service, today launched Dropcam Pro, again redefining home video monitoring and do-it-yourself security. Dropcam Pro, the company's next-generation product, delivers unmatched video performance, premium audio quality, better wireless connectivity, fast mobile setup and more. Dropcam Pro also incorporates Bluetooth low energy (BLE) for connecting to sensors and other devices in the home, positioning it as an ideal hub for the connected home.
Dropcam Pro and Dropcam (formerly Dropcam HD), are the only Wi-Fi video monitoring solutions that offer truly simple and fast setup with intelligent monitoring features to drop in on the places and people you care about from anywhere in the world. In addition to the great features Dropcam customers have come to appreciate, Dropcam Pro sets a new benchmark in home video monitoring with the following key advancements:
Stunning video quality. Dropcam Pro incorporates a six-element, all-glass lens, a first in the home monitoring category, and a larger image sensor to provide 2x sharper video during the day and 7x better performance in low-light conditions and at night.
Wider field of view. Dropcam Pro supports an amazing 130-degree field of view – 20% wider than the prior-generation Dropcam.
Zoom. Dropcam now offers pinch-to-zoom with an enhance feature that supports up to 8x zoom for Dropcam Pro and 4x zoom for Dropcam.
Better audio. Dropcam Pro has a new microphone with double the sampling rate and a new speaker for sound that's louder and clearer.
Mobile setup. Get up and running without a computer. You can now set up Dropcam Pro directly from your iOS device (iPhone 4S or later, iPad 3rd generation or later, and iPad mini).
Dual band Wi-Fi. Dropcam Pro supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks for improved wireless connectivity.
Activity Recognition (beta). Using advanced computer vision and machine learning technology, Dropcam Cloud Recording can now recognize motion patterns in your video stream and group together like activities. Customers can name these activities and customize alerts for them.
Bluetooth LE. Dropcam Pro integrates a low power Bluetooth LE radio that is used for mobile setup and allows Dropcam to integrate with additional devices.
"At its core, Dropcam is a software and services company. That means Dropcam gets better over time with hassle-free automatic updates to the camera, cloud service, and apps," said Greg Duffy, Dropcam CEO and co-founder. "With features like zoom and enhance, Dropcam Pro is an amazing camera today, and it will be even better tomorrow as we shape it into the ideal hub for consumers to see, sense, and control other devices in their home."
Dropcam utilizes bank-level security to encrypt all video streams so customers can rest assured that no one but them can access their video. Dropcam Pro and Dropcam include full 720p streaming, motion and sound activity alerts, night vision, two-way talk, and pinch-to-zoom. With the optional Cloud Video Recording service, customers can access stored footage for the past seven or thirty days.
Pricing & Availability
Dropcam Pro retails for $199 while Dropcam (formerly Dropcam HD) continues at $149. Both cameras are available today at Amazon.com and Dropcam.com with other retailers coming soon. Live video monitoring is always free. Optional Cloud Video Recording (CVR) plans are $9.95/month for seven days of continuous recording, $29.95/month for thirty days. Discounts are available for annual subscriptions and multiple cameras.
About Dropcam, Inc.
Dropcam is revolutionizing the way people stay connected to the places they care about. With Dropcam's Wi-Fi video monitoring cameras and optional Cloud Recording you can remotely drop in on your house, baby, pets, business, or anything else from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The San Francisco based company was founded in 2009 by Greg Duffy and Aamir Virani. To learn more, visit www.dropcam.com.