Dropcam HD VSaaS Examined

By: John Honovich, Published on Jan 22, 2012

Last October, Dropcam received an investment of nearly $6 Million, the largest funding any VSaaS provider has yet received. Now, Dropcam has announced its first major new product in nearly 2 years. The new HDcamera is a significant step forward in functionality and cost competitiveness. In this update, we examine the new offering and its competitive positioning.

To get a sense of the improvements, it is important to contrast to the previous / original series:

  • Original series - a straight Axis OEM (M11 series); New series is their own design
  • Original series - SD only; new series is HD 720p
  • Original series - color only; new series - integrated IR LEDs
  • Original series - minimum price - $199; new series price - $149
  • Original series - recording at CIF; new series up to 720p

The subscription plans remain fundamentally the same (e.g., free for live viewing, $9.95 per month for a single camera, 7 days recording, etc.).

Notable concerns include:

  • The camera has a very wide angle lens (~110 degrees) creating a warped effect for objects on the side and delivering very low pixel density (e.g., see their demo cams). As such, it is unlikely to deliver the same image quality as a more traditional HD camera.
  • The camera does not have a mechanical cut filter yet allows IR light to pass for their LEDs. While this will clearly improve night time performance, it is likely to create some imaging artifacts during the day.
  • Dropcam says the HD camera will stream at bandwidth levels of 200Kb/s to 500Kb/s. This is extremely low for 720p/30fps video. We assume that they will be dropping frames and/or inreasing compression in more complex scenes. Dropcam confirms that 'adaptive bandwidth shaping will be used'. This may reduce quality compared to traditional HD cameras.

Those noted, the company is clearly positioning this for home / residential users which clearly has a much lower threshold of features/performance than business users. At its new low price point, with built in IR, and the same easy setup capabilities of the original Axis/AVHS offering, we think it is going to be quite attractice to home users, far far more than their original offering.

For home users, a couple of common alternatives exist that Dropcam matches up well against:

  • Avaak Vue: Vue's main advantage is that it is completely wireless and battery powered at a similar price point to Dropcam HD. However, the image quality of Avaak is much worse, especially in low light, plus Avaak cannot record continuously.
  • DIY: A number of IP cameras such as Lorex offer simple setup remote viewing. Typically, though, these are SD cameras and do not offer any off-site recording (just live view).
  • Viaas: Probably the most sophisticated VSaaS offering and closest rival to Dropcam HD, Viaas has not matched the progress recently as Dropcam. However, Viaas has an impressive SD VSaaS offering.

The embedded video below, from Slashgear, provides a short physical review of the Dropcam HD camera:

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