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Dropcam HD FirstLook

Webcams have been used as security cams ever since they came onto the scene. The idea of using them as security camera is an excellent one. However, the actualization of this idea by various for-profit companies has been a little on the disappointing side. The problem was not with the video-recording aspect of the technology, but with the amount of effort required to set it up.

When a few readers recommended that we check out the Dropcam HD, we initially decided to pass, but not because we didn’t think the Dropcam was going to be any good. The camera certainly has excellent specs:

  • Color, 720p HD (1280×720 , 30fps)
  • Field of view: 107º
  • Zoom: 4X digital
  • Low light vision (IR LEDs)
  • Audio
  • WiFi: 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz (WEP, WPA, WPA2 security support)
  • On-camera encryption / SSL encryption-secured access

We passed because we didn’t want to spend the time futzing with setting one up. However, the same readers who made the original recommendation countered our objections with explanations of their experiences using Dropcam’s “easy setup” and strongly suggested we reconsider. Their insistence piqued our interest and we decided to give it a closer look.

When we got the Dropcam, our first impression was that there wasn’t much in the box: camera, USB cable, wall plug, stand, wall mount (w/screws). This is a GOOD thing; the less there is, the less there is to setup! Physically, the Dropcam is small, unobtrusive, and should have no problem blending into most decor.

The fresh thinking behind the Dropcam is that the camera can be placed any place where there is a WiFi signal and an AC power outlet. No need to run wires back to some central box. Also, unlike the BirdCam or the BlackVue car cam, the Dropcam has no user-accesible internal storage, because the video data is encrypted and streamed directly to a server in the cloud.

So if we are just streaming stuff out to the web, how then is the Dropcam different than a webcam? Well, in some sense, the two are similar. The difference is the camera is self-contained. Unlike most webcams, the Dropdam does not need a computer for it to work.

Also, the Dropcam is able to:

  • Encrypt live video automatically sent to the cloud.
  • Optionally cloud-record and cloud-storage.
  • Remotely view live videos via a smartphone
  • Remotely control the camera via a smartphone

The Dropcam self-contained camera is puck-shaped and snaps snuggly into the stand. The stand is easily adjustable, whether sitting on a table or mounted on a wall. One end of the USB cable plugs directly into the camera and the other end into the AC plug that plugs into the socket in the wall. That is all there is to the physical setup of the Dropcam. No electrical engineering degree required.

OK, what about actually getting it hooked up to the home WiFi network and onto the cloud storage on the other end? Is it REALLY as easy to set up as Dropcam claims? Come back next week and find out 🙂

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