Dropcam: The Simple & Inexpensive Way to Keep Tabs on Your Home

by  Mike Barish | Dec 19, 2012
Camera / Supersmario/iStock

While it's great to get away from the stresses of work, bills, and chores by going on vacation, being away from home creates a new cause for concern: the well-being of your house, belongings, and even pets that remain at home. When you head out of town – or even just out for the day – you leave behind many things of value. Alarm systems are great, but they don't allow you to check in on what's happening when you're somewhere else. If you've left your kids with a babysitter, dogs with a friend, or your cats alone for the weekend, being able to see what's happening can offer more than just a little piece of mind. Many alarm companies offer home monitoring systems, but they can be expensive and require professional installation. Additionally, they provide an opportunity for someone else (in this case, the technician) to know how your house is protected. That's why we're so impressed by Dropcam HD. It's the do-it-yourself, easy-to-install, no-tech-savvy needed home monitoring solution that's perfect for while you travel.

Dropcam allows you to view your camera from your computer (via their secure website), your iPhone and iPad (via a free iOS app), or Android phone (with a free app, as well). The camera transmits video in 720p HD, though the amount of light in the room definitely impacts the clarity.

Unlike many web cams and apps that run into errors when you attempt to view them, Dropcam works as it should right out of the box. There's no need for port forwarding or changes to your router settings (if all of that makes no sense to you, you'll appreciate the ease of use). You simply plug the Dropcam into your computer to connect it to your wireless network and then choose a place in your home to set it up. That's the only time you'll ever need to connect it to your computer. After that, you just need to place it close enough to an outlet to keep it powered.

It comes with a base or a mount to hang on your wall. The wide field of vision allows you to keep an eye on a large room, assuming that you've positioned the Dropcam in an elevated, unobstructed spot. I situated my unit on top of a dresser and have been able to monitor my two dogs while out of the house with only a few blind spots created by furniture.

Both the desktop and app interfaces allow you to zoom (digitally, so image clarity is affected), enable night vision (or set your camera to turn on the feature automatically based on the amount of light in the room), access the camera's audio, and receive alerts based on movement or sound. These alerts can be turned off if you expect a fair amount of movement from pets, children, or anyone else that you anticipate showing up on camera. You can both listen to sounds in the room and speak to the camera remotely. This might seem a tad creepy, but it's an amazing addition if you're a parent using the camera as a baby monitor. I was even able to tell my dogs to stop barking while I was miles away (something that I'm sure my neighbors appreciated).

In order to view your camera, you need to create a Dropcam account, which is free. With your login and password, you ensure that your camera feed remains private. While I did have some difficulties accessing my camera feed initially, those were based on some firewall quirks at our office that are not typical. Everywhere else, from a friend's house to the streets of New York City, I was able to keep an eye on my home via my iPhone without any interruptions in the feed.

Additionally, you can opt into the paid DVR service to record your camera feed. With plans starting at $9.99/month, it's a reasonable option if you're away often and truly want your Dropcam to be part of a home security system. Considering that the Dropcam is only $150, it's a much more affordable investment than commercial cameras and video storage.

If you're looking for an affordable, easy-to-use, comprehensive home monitoring system, the Dropcam HD is an outstanding option. Whether you travel often or just head to the office daily while leaving your dogs, kids, or a contractor remodeling your kitchen behind, you'll want to keep an eye on what you're missing. The Dropcam lets you do just that and more at a great price.

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