Apps convert phones into private security systems

SMART AND SAFE::A slew of new apps can transform smartphones into motion detectors, security cameras and more to give users free private surveillance systems

Reuters, TORONTO

Tue, May 07, 2013 - Page 15

Worried about what your dog is chewing on when you are at work, or whether your home is secure while on vacation? New apps can transform old smartphones into remote security cameras for home monitoring systems.

“Presence,” which was launched late last month, converts a spare Apple Inc iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with Internet connectivity into a free video camera with real-time video and audio streaming, as well as motion detection and notifications.

“Essentially, we give you an inexpensive security system that you can use to monitor your house, or help you watch your kids, cats, elderly relatives or act as a baby or nanny cam,” said Gene Wang, chief executive of the Palo Alto, California-based company People Power.

Unlike traditional monitoring systems that can be expensive and need technical knowledge to install and use, Wang said “Presence” is a free, do-it-yourself system that can be set up by downloading and configuring the app.

To use it consumers install and log into their account on two devices, for example two iPhones. Then they can start the camera within the app on one of the devices and it can be viewed from the app on the other.

Triggers can also be set to record when motion is detected and to send alerts. The app can help to avoid false alarms because it sends a video clip in an e-mail to the user showing the motion that triggered the alert, Wang said.

“With these high-end security systems, you have a lot of false positives and then the security company and police come out and it turns out it was your cat knocking over a broom or something like that,” Wang said.

He added that many people have replaced their old smartphones with new ones and a monitoring system would be a good way to make use of the old devices.

Another app, created by a company called People Power 1.0 for iPhones and Google Inc’s Android phones, reads electricity meters in real time to show consumers how much they are spending and if they are going over budget.

“The center of computing has switched to these smart computers that we all carry in our pockets,” Wang said.

“What people are going to want to be able to do is control their personal Internet of Things from their hands,” he added, referring to Internet-connected devices in the home.

The company also plans to work with underfunded public schools to help them set up security systems using old devices donated by the community.

Other apps have similar functions. “AirBeam” is a home monitoring app for Apple’s iOS that allows users to access video feeds from a Web portal.

“Izon” is an app that streams real-time audio and video from iZon cameras to iPhone and Android devices, and “Ivideon” also lets iOS and Android users build their own surveillance systems.