The advent of connected home technology in recent years has also greatly reduced the complexity of installing residential security equipment. Tasks like hanging cameras, motion detectors and alarm panels that were once the sole purview of security dealers can now be done with relative ease by do-it-yourself techies. But just when you thought things couldn’t get any simpler, a Utah-based start-up has developed a product that makes installing a camera as simple as screwing in a lightbulb.
LightCam is a new smart lightbulb camera that features 1080p HD resolution, as well as a built-in speaker and microphone to enable two-way communication. The product is the brainchild of inventor Daniel Swiss, who got the idea for LightCam after not being able to find a camera that was a good fit for his home’s design.
“I wanted to have a camera on a part of my house where wiring for traditional camera setups was going to be tricky. I didn’t have access to the attic space the way the home is laid out, so I would’ve had to do conduit or exposed wire and I didn’t really want to do that if I could help it,” Swiss says. “I was going to change the switches on my exterior lights anyway… so I thought, I need constant power which I have in my lights outside, maybe I’ll just tie into that for the camera and I will put in a (smart) lightbulb and it hit me that I was doing a lot of work to avoid putting in this additional wiring and there probably is a product already out there.”
However, much to his surprise, Swiss said he couldn’t find anything that would work, so he bought a number of different components and started tinkering to see if he could find the right combination to create the solution he was looking for. Though the original design of the LightCam “didn’t look good,” Swiss says it worked but that several other problems crept up in the product’s development, which gave him insight as to why nothing similar to this had been invented previously.
“There were some pretty substantial market forces that have needed to change in order to make this possible. For example, our detached lens that can move around, reduce glare and give you a better viewing angle, those were really, really expensive just a few years ago,” he says. “Thank goodness for drones and drone cameras helping to shrink the size of those components, up the quality and reduce their size, so this could be in a price-friendly range for everyone.”
One of the biggest challenge Swiss faced in designing LightCam, which can be used both indoors and outdoors, was figuring out how to capture video inside an enclosed glass light fixture. To overcome this, he had to develop yet another proprietary technology, a patent-pending lens skirt telescope that allows the camera to operate free from glare. In addition, Swiss also faced various challenges related to using motion detection through glass, leveraging multiple viewing angles and having reliable connectivity, all of which drove a high level of innovation into nearly every aspect of the LightCam.
“We started from the standpoint of, ‘how do we make this something that is awesome for the user?’ We weren’t in it to build revenue, build a company or anything like that, we were in it to build a product that people would like,” Swiss says
There was also the issue of the lightbulb itself and how to address the limited lifecycle that most bulbs have. To alleviate these concerns, LightCam uses LED lights that are rated to last between 15 to 20 years, however; when the time does eventually come for the bulbs to be replaced, Swiss said that it is built in such a way that the lighting and camera sections are kept separate which makes replacing the lights fairly simple.
And though some worry that the product could be easily stolen and used elsewhere, each LightCam features a unique QR code which ensures the only person who can use the device is the person who purchased it. “When you scan that into your account, it can’t be used by anyone else ever without your permission or transfer of those rights,” Swiss adds
Choice of Storage Options
LightCam has taken a unique approach to video storage as well, offering about a week’s worth of recording capacity on board the device with an option for users to back it up their phone, computer or online storage service. According to Swiss, this addresses one of the prevalent pain points for residential security customers, who may have cameras installed but don’t want to pay for ongoing costs related to storage.
“You pay your money, you get your camera but you don’t get any storage starting from day one, so that’s a big issue and people ask, ‘do I want to pay this company ongoing for this or not?’” Swiss explains. “Software-wise, most people already have some kind of storage location for a lot of their data anyway – internet-enabled hard drives, Dropbox, etc. – and we wanted to give people the ability and convenience of choice, so they just choose how they want to do their own backups, whether that’s with their own internet-enabled server or hard drive or paying another online service for backup.”
Not Just a DIY Product
LightCam has already raised nearly $318,000 as part of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and Swiss is looking to launch the product later this summer. In addition to the DIY crowd, Swiss is also hopeful that LightCam will appeal to professional security installers as he has already had talks with several industry companies about making the product interoperable with other technologies.
“We’ve had lots of significant security companies, integrators, individuals and distributors reach out to us and say, ‘hey, we would love for this to be compatible with Honeywell products, (UTC) products, this panel or that panel.’ We would be open to it and the answer is absolutely, but let’s lay out a roadmap and a plan to so that it can be integrated fully,” Swiss says. “It could be a piece of hardware that makes your systems better.”
Swiss says LightCam will likely retail for around $180 to $190 once it does hit the market but he added they are working to lower the MSRP as much as possible.
About the Author:
Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].