Thoughts on Dropcam

When people go to Amazon.com and buy a Dropcam, a popular companion product seemed to be diapers. It makes sense. The camera looks like a toy, it’s indoor only, and easy enough to set up that Apple users can do it. It looks almost perfect as a baby-cam.

However, Dropcam is 100% reliant on the cloud, and this has been pissing off a few babycam users (this is a link to a 3 year running thread, well worth a visit). The internet connection dependency means that if the internet is down/slow = no baby-cam. It’s also cumbersome to bring the baby-cam when travelling, and if you are on a metered subscription with your ISP, then Dropcam swallows a good chunk of your allocation. Local network access is a no-brainer for the consumer, but it would mess up Dropcams business model completely, so even though they know it’s a highly desirable feature, it hasn’t been implemented.

Instead Dropcam is being marketed as a security system, and the marketing dept. is busy talking about all the advanced analytics it does. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think they are trying to solve a non-existent problem, or at best they are using a lot of computational power to provide a solution that is only marginally better what already exist today (decent locks, PIR and other detectors). In our house we have a few PIR intrusion detectors, that are “clever” enough that our cat doesn’t trigger them – I really don’t know what else I would need.

Most of the tests I’ve seen seem to quickly divert from an attempt at traditional surveillance, to a more voyeuristic use; Checking in on your dog from the office (he’s fine!). Checking to see if friends actually DO water your plants while you are in SF (he didn’t). Watching yourself pet the dog and so on. And this is just what people are willing to state publicly that they are doing with the cams. God only knows how many roommates, boy/girlfriends and husbands/wives are being recorded while showering, sleeping, picking their nose.

Obviously, people that experience bad things are going to share them, but you are not going to get a flood of emails/videos saying “nothing important happened today”, which would account for 99.99% of the installs (your dog shitting on the floor or gnawing at the sofa is not considered important in this context). So the survivor bias obviously helps sell even more Dropcams (or clones).

I am not 100% sold on the all-internet-all-the-time idea just yet, but I think Dropcam Nest cam has demonstrated is that a simple and easy to use interface, is preferred over the myriad of options that we are offering today. Certainly in the consumer segment, but I am confident that the paradigm will eventually creep into the professional segments too.

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Author: prescienta

Prescientas ruler

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