Dropcam Pro, more cam, less drop.

Earlier in the year, I picked up a couple Dropcams.  The purpose was to set them up at the office so that we can get a look at what’s going on there.   Mostly to make sure the grounds crew was taking care of their end of the bargain.

I wrote about it here: Dropcam, the perfect name.

In that blog post I was very critical of the product.   We couldn’t keep them connected to our enterprise wireless network no matter what we tried.   In fact we jumped through hoops to do so with no support from Dropcam.  It was their lack of decent tech support that forced me to pan the product, and the company and send them back.   (Amazon return policy for the win).

Recently I got an email about the new Dropcam Pro.

image

Initially I had flashbacks to the crappy support.  But thought, maybe, just maybe they’ve fixed them.  So I ordered up a pair.  What they heck right?  Amazon will take them back if they suck, and dollar for dollar, feature for feature they do seem to have something going for them.

The Dropcam Pro features the following upgrades:

  • 130 degree field of view vs. 107
  • 8x zoom vs 4x (although zoom is misleading since it’s a digital zoom, or like a crop and expand).
  • Excellent low light vision vs. ‘Good’ what ever that means.   I love it when a company uses general words to describe things instead of actual numbers.  Would be nice to know the actual LUX sensitivity.
  • Superior Audio Quality vs. ‘Solid’ audio quality.  Again, no real data.    It’s like saying “My dad can beat up your dad”.

Absolutely no mention of any wireless or stability improvements.  None.

So really what makes all this work is this cloud based DVR solution they offer, and of course ‘take additional money for’.   Out of the box you get a camera, that’s pretty straight forward to configure using a web driven wizard with the camera plugged into your computer.   Once you’ve given I the details on how to connect to your wireless network, you unplug it, set it up and give it power.

It then boots up, joins the wireless network and starts streaming your video into the cloud to their cloud.  Where they will allow you one of three options:

  • No DVR, you just get a live view of what ever your camera sees.
  • For the bargain price of $9.99 a month or $99 per year, they will save 7 days of video for you to rewind and replay.
  • For $29.95 a month/$299 a year, you get 30 days worth of your video saved in their cloud to review.

There are other bonuses like motion alerts and what not.   But that’s the gist of it.  You bought a camera that you can only view through their website/portal, and/or can pay them for DVR services. 

There is no ‘bring your own DVR model’ or a way to store video captured locally.   Not that I’ve found yet, with a precursory look on the web.   I’m sure it can be done, but that’s not their business model.  I wouldn’t hold your breath.  They will likely never offer this, hopefully some thoughtful hackers will in the future.

In all honesty, their base free offering is all we really need for what we’re using it for.   Again, that’s mostly to ensure the grounds crew does their job and clears the parking lot during bad weather.

image

So far, at the time of this writing it’s stayed connected to our network for 3 days.   One small blip but not anything I’d consider a fail at this point.   So they look like keepers.

Video is good, night vision is decent, though this is behind a window, though our parking lot is fairly well lit. 

So what about their tech support?    Here’s where I get to hit them with a hammer again.   Upon disconnecting the service last time I was told (neigh warned), that we’re gonna delete your account, if you ever buy a drop cam again you’ll have to re-register.  I was OK with that.

So upon setup, I tried to ‘register’.   I couldn’t, that name was in use.  I thought, OK, so they didn’t really delete me.   Let me recover my password.

Sorry, that email is in use.  What?

Sorry, that email and that username don’t match up.  

Those were the only two items you can use to recover, and I’m certain nobody else registered that username with my email.  Not possible, not even to guess.

So I opened a ticket.   “Hey, I’m trying to set up a drop cam, and it says my password is no good.  I tried to use your password reset form and it tells me that the username and password don’t go together.   You recognize my username on one page, and my email on another, but I can’t make this account “GO”.    What shall I do?

image

The response?

Without reading and processing my request:  Go here and use the password reset form. 

Gee.  Thanks for that.   So while waiting, I just created another email alias, and registered a new username with that.   I was skeptical I’d get my two weeks free trial using that ‘recovered’ account anyway.

So if you’re in the market for a nice camera, that’s backed by a cloud ONLY storage solution.  One who’s tech support is sketchy at best.   I can highly recommend Dropcam.

If you’re not worried that the company will fail, and you’ll lose the ability to store (or potentially even view) video down the road, Dropcam is for you.

If any of this cloud monkey business scares you, as it probably should might. Companies die and go out of business all the time.   Then Dropcam might not be for you.  I really hope it’s still working 2 years from now.

For what it is, I give it one and a half thumbs up.   Which is significantly better than the previous experience.

Leave a Reply