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June 20th 2014 8:52 pm

Nest just bought Dropcam.

Back in January, we had a healthy discussion after Google acquired Nest. Some of us were horrified by the idea ("now Google has direct access into our home!"), and some of us were excited by it ("maybe Nest will support open standards and foster a new home automation platform!"). See more here: www.engadget.com­/discuss­/google­-buys­-nest­-noooooo­-...

This evening, we find out that Nest will purchase Dropcam for half a billion dollars to help bolster their home automation lineup. I have to say, the deal makes sense. With Dropcam's recent new push into sensors that can help monitor your home and track objects, it seems like a natural fit for bolstering their home automation / home monitoring portfolio.

That said, I still remain creeped out by it. For me this means Google (via my Nest) now knows when I'm home and what my schedule is like. With Dropcam (yes, yes, the video feeds are supposed to be secure and all that), Google now has the ability to see what I'm doing. This is hitting (forgive me) a bit too close to home for my tastes.

Potential good things that could come from this though:
  • Maybe their expensive yearly service plan will become much cheaper?
  • Maybe Dropcam's platform will become a bit more open (I really dislike how you're locked into using their site and I wish it'd integrate with other services and storage options).
I'm interested to see what Google does with this new hardware division they seem to be building, especially in light of how they mishandled and mis-managed Motorola while they owned it. Anyway, as always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this (especially you @Dignan17!).

Via: www.engadget.com­/2014­/06­/20­/nest­-is­-acquiring­-drop...

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The video is one thing, but I am bothered way more by the microphone, especially as sensitive as the one in the Dropcam is. This is the final straw for me. I will be deleting my Google account as soon as I can get completely disconnected from Google services. I have been working on separating from them for my big stuff for a while now, but now I am ready to go the rest of the way. For all their talk about data liberation, though, they still have me locked in with certain pieces. I know some people will call me alarmist, but this was never what I wanted out of the internet, and I don't like companies that have this kind of power.
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You'll be happy to know Fastmail now has Calendar support! It's pretty good too!
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I'm also curious to see where this goes, and whether Google has a larger plan for this stuff.

Fear from the anti-Google side is inevitable, especially with a product like this. I'll admit that this is the first time I've thought that there was actually any reason to think twice about the privacy implications of something like this, but only because Google doesn't have the best track record when it comes to unintended consequences of their technology. I'm not the type that assumes Google will use your cameras to analyze your eating habits and sell that data to grocery stores. I'm more concerned about things like what happened with Buzz when data got out that really shouldn't have. I think, however, that Google learned that lesson and if/when they integrate Dropcam with any other services, they'll be sure to keep that data completely safe. Otherwise they're going to have some seriously bad and deserved press,

But lets put that privacy issue aside and talk about the tech. Anyone who has read what I've said about home automation knows that my only beef with companies like Nest, Dropcam, Hue, etc is that they aren't designed to work with any other products. In most cases, it seems like the opposite was true, that these companies wanted to develop their own ecosystems, without realizing how expensive it would be to create an enormous line of home automation products to cover every aspect of the home. In the end, it's just not feasible to be the only device provider.

What's unclear is whether Google even has plans to remedy this issue. They have two companies now, with a combined 3 products (though who knows how long the Nest Protect will be on the market). These products are starting to talk a little bit - talk with each other and with other products - but there's certainly now cohesion yet, and I do not consider IFTTT to be a proper framework for an automated home. So in the end, it's all just a lot of wait and see. (*edit* I just saw that Dropcam has a physical motion sensor, so that's 4 products)

Sorry, that wasn't actual tech, more like tech philosophy. I think the most interesting side of the Dropcam acquisition is all about the data storage. If anyone can help make Dropcam a more appealing product, either Google or Amazon would be the company. Nobody else is capable of productizing cloud storage like these players, and Google probably has the cheapest rates of anyone around. The main thing that kept me away from Dropcam was the cost of their cloud storage solution. It just seems too expensive, and the basic plan just isn't enough for anyone who's gone on vacation for more than 7 days. Dropcam charges $100/year for 7 days of recording from a single camera, and half that for each additional camera. Perhaps if it was just that base charge for all or at least a few cameras I'd be less critical, but the fact is that I'd be far more comfortable with 30 days of recording, and that's three times as much. I suspect that Google could get those prices down using their data centers.

I feel differently about Dropcam than I do about other recent home automation products. I merely think Dropcam is too expensive. Other HA products seem to be offering slight improvements in usability with the large sacrifice of interoperability. Dropcam, however, addresses an area of the industry that doesn't have anything even close to the simplicity of their product, and that's a huge deal. There are plenty of better cameras out there, and you can get a lot more capabilities from roll-your-own setups (I'm working with one now), but everything else is FAR more complicated to use than Dropcam. We're talking port forwarding and dynamic IP services and static local IPs and careful configurations and dedicating a computer to be your NVR, and that's as simple as the competition gets. That's a huge deal for Dropcam, and I'm excited to see what, if anything, Google can do about the cost of the service.

Epilogue ;)

If you're interested in the cameras and software I'm using in my DIY camera setup, here's the info:

My main camera is the Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I bullet camera. It's a stationary POE camera with a 3MP sensor and great night vision thanks to a ton of LEDs. For the cost, you can't match the video quality (far higher resolution than the Dropcam, though Dropcam doesn't offer that info). You can also mount this outdoors. Here's a link: http://goo.gl/uqmvkV

My secondary camera is the Foscam FI9821W V2. Foscam has been the main player in the consumer home video surveillance game for a long time, and used to be the most consumer friendly product before Dropcam blew them away. Still, their hardware easily competes with Dropcam for features, including better night vision, pan/tilt capability, 720p video, and the option for onboard storage. With these cameras you don't even need a dedicated computer, you can just record straight to SD media. Link: http://goo.gl/k7KUFg

Next you have to choose how you'll record your video. The cheapest option for recording all streams to one computer is to use a program called Blue Iris ( http://goo.gl/noQJNq ). For less than $50 you'll get NVR software that will work with a wide array of cameras (including your webcam). The issue with Blue Iris is that it's a resource hog and requires a beefy computer. Also, you can only play back one stream at a time. The software I've been playing around with is something called XProtect from a company called Milestone. XProtect has a free version that supports up to 8 cameras and watermarks your exported video (among other minor limitations). Their base paid package is $100 for the software and support for 2 cameras, with each additional camera costing $50 (these are one-time expenses). Here's the best spot for that software: http://goo.gl/XmyeM3

I can do some crazy stuff with these cameras, which I might elaborate on in a future discussion :)
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Here on campus, someone requested a camera and I didn't want another coax lie acting as a lightning rod between these 2 buildings, so I started looking into some network cameras and was dismayed to find that it is really hard to find network cameras without a mic these days. I ended up ordering a Trendnet because it looked like it would be possible to take it apart and sni the wire and because it can record to SD card without needing a DVR. I discovered while setting it up that is supports recording to an SMB share, which is rather cool and eliminates the need for DVR software if you don't want to deal with SD cards.
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I don't know, I can see dozens of IP cameras without mics. Most of the outdoor-suitable models don't have audio in/out until you get into the over $250 range.
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