More and more companies want to help you monitor your home or apartment via your iPhone or iPad, and Simplicam has a new system that is attracting some attention.
Simplicam provides a camera that works with your home WiFi, free iOS apps to monitor that camera from anywhere, and a sophisticated software/server based system that keeps recordings of movement in the hours and even offers face detection so the family dog won't set it off, but a person entering your house will.
- 720p HD Quality output
- Powered by a wall-USB connection cable
- Infrared night vision
- Motion and sound detection with alerts
- 107 degree field of view
- iOS software allows settings changes, and camera off/on remotely
- Once there is an intrusion that video can be reviewed and forwarded
- Video is SSL encrypted
- Camera comes with wall mounting bracket or tiltable desktop stand
The camera itself is small, weighing just 6.7 ounces. It can tilt to almost any angle, even looking straight up. The iOS software is easy to use. Launch the app and you will see live camera output and a timeline that shows any activity in the house. You can move easily between events and watch any activity.
Setup and Use
Setup was not as easy as I had hoped. The included instructions show a computer and mobile setup, but don't indicate that you don't have to do both. I tried setting the camera up with my MacBook Air and the laptop simply failed to recognize the camera. I was later told there are some issues setup when using a MacBook Air.
Setting up via smartphone or iPad was easier. Press a button on the back of the camera with the Simplicam app running on your device, and a QR code appears on the iOS device screen. Show that code to the camera and the setup is automatic from there on. When I first got the camera running, the image from it was pink. It looked like a white balance issue, but it sorted itself out without any intervention from me, and then the colors were accurate and the picture was sharp.
The iOS app lets you trigger alerts by sound, movement or both. It will also detect a person in the house, so your dog or cat won't cause alerts.The face detection feature seems to work well, but understand that face detection is not face recognition. It will detect a person, but not tell you who they are. If the person is wearing a mask or has their face obscured, the face detection will likely not work. In my tests, the face detection worked reliably with regular people walking in and out. A burglar with a mask might not register. Night vision looked very good: although the image is black and white, I could see into every corner of a dark room with good focus and detail. Simplicam also supports two-way audio. You can talk to people in the house, and they can respond.
Buying the system
The camera alone is U$150.00, either direct from Simplicam or as a bundle from Amazon. The Amazon bundle is $200.00 and includes one year of one day recording services. The camera does not require any kind of subscription, but you will likely want one. With the camera alone you get remote live streaming and event notifications. With a subscription (there are three plans) you add Face Detection and the ability to schedule on-off times and view recordings remotely.
Plan 1 is $49.99 a year, and lets you review the last day's recordings, saving one hour of clips. Plan 2 lets you review the last 11 days of recordings, and saves up to three hours of clips. That's $139.99 a year. A third plan lets you review 21 days of recordings, and save up to five hours of clips. That plan is $229.99 annually.
The Simplicam system is a solid entry in the home monitoring business. The setup is easy, other than the glitches noted. The Simplicam is a direct competitor to the popular Dropcam camera, and it is a little cheaper. Dropcam is also $149.00 for the camera, and a Pro HD edition is $50.00 more. The cloud-based recording plans are similar, but with different pricing. The cheapest Dropcam plan is $99 a year, but gives you seven days of video to review and 168 hours of storage. The deluxe option offers 30 days of video, and 720 hours of recordings at $299.00 annually. Dropcam gives you more storage, but costs more. You can get into the Simplicam system for less of a financial outlay. There are some differences between Dropcam and Simplicam. Dropcam supports activity zones, letting you fire off an alert when something happens in a specific area the camera covers. Simplicam doesn't have that, but does have face detection, which I think is more useful.
The cost of home monitoring is dropping, and the Simplicam package is an attractive option. If you want something really inexpensive, there are things like the iCam app ($4.99) for iOS, which mates with just about any webcam, and you can monitor from anywhere. There aren't any fees for monitoring but you can make a small contribution to help with the bandwidth costs. The iCam system also supports sound and motion detection. The updated iCam Pro is free, but to see your camera if you are not on the same LAN you need a one-time $9.99 subscription that never expires.