How many times have you wished that you could silently check on your kids while they're with a babysitter and you're stuck at work? How many times have you wished that you could check to make sure the cat had enough food and water to go another few hours before you got home? There are dozens of situations where we wish we could have another set of eyes at home in order to quickly check on something but, until recently, it hasn't been very easy to do.
HomeCamera has asked that I provide a fair an impartial review about their service, and I'll be quite happy to do so.
HomeCamera is an internet-based home surveillance service that has been designed for anyone that wants an easy-to-use home monitoring solution without spending thousands on the fancy equipment, or asking the neighbourhood geek for help with setting the system up. So long as you have both a computer and a webcam, you have everything required to start monitoring the cat dish or living room. Oh, and did I mention that it's free right now?
Online surveillance systems have been around for a few years, but these have often had some pretty big limitations. Most of the time a home camera comes with software that allows you to see what's happening nearby, however, these often mean you need to remember your computer's IP address, or sign up for a named dynamic-IP service. While this is not an incredibly difficult thing to do, it's not something I would expect my parents to accomplish without a phone call or two.
HomeCamera solves this problem with the help of their intuitive software and a secured website that users can visit from a PC, web-enabled PDA or smartphone. One of the nicest features that I found with this software is the ability to connect up to four cameras to a single account (using one PC or multiples) and name them accordingly, which can be quite useful when you have multiple wireless webcams, or several PCs in key areas. Using more than 4 computers requires an upgrade to one of the Pro packages.
By naming them, you can log on to the HomeCamera site and select "Living Room" to see if the kids are studying or goofing off, or "Garden" to see if you can catch the person that's always hijacking your vegetables. The site is completely secure, and nobody has access to your cameras without your user name and password.
The nice thing about using this service is the limited bandwidth that is used. Rather than broadcast streaming video to the HomeCamera site (which could potentially consume a large amount of bandwidth), video is recorded only when you want to see what's going on. When you connect to the HomeCamera site and request a video from a specific camera, the home computer will then record a 10 second clip and send it back to you for viewing. There is also the option to have the camera record video every X minutes and store it on the HomeCamera server. Videos will not be kept for long (no more than 60 days) and you can set as many recording schedules as necessary for your cameras.
All in all, HomeCamera offers a pretty good solution for anyone needing a home surveillance system. One option I would like to see is the ability to store larger video archives on the HomeCamera servers. If I was unfortunate enough to live in an area with a high crime rate, then I would feel a little better if I could capture the faces of anyone that entered my home illegally. Since the computers could potentially be stolen, it wouldn't make much sense to record the data on the local hard drive, and because the cameras would either be stolen or destroyed, there would be a good possibility of capturing a clearer image of the perpetrators. While it is possible to have a JPEG image recorded every minute and uploaded to the HomeConnect servers, there is little chance that someone will rob a home at a liesurely pace.
On a lighter note, this would have been a nice option when I was still an ocean apart from Reiko. Occasionally she would be talking to me on MSN, and I would be in the kitchen unaware that she was trying to talk to me. It would have been nice if she could connect and see that I was home at the time.
This post was sponsored by HomeConnect.