Startup: Blink Sells A Million of New Security Camera Tech

By: John Honovich, Published on Sep 05, 2014

A semiconductor company has launched its own security camera offering, selling over $1 million from a crowdfunding campaign that it bills as "the first ultra-affordable, totally wire-free smart HD home monitoring and alert system."

Despite the hype, the architecture has a number of key weaknesses. In this note, we break them down including comparisons to Google Dropcam and Netgear VueZone.

Blink Background

Blink consists of wireless cameras and, at least, one base station (called Sync Modules) in each deployment.

The two big differentiators are:

  • Blink's claim that it delivers a 'full year of battery life', eliminating the need to run power cables to the camera.
  • Low product cost  (~$50 per camera, TBD) and no ongoing monthly cost (free remote access).

Here's their pitch video:

Key Weaknesses

The wireless / battery based approach has a number of critical key weaknesses:

  • No continuous recording
  • Limited motion based recording based on PIR detection
  • Delays in starting to record and probability of missing short events
  • Limited viewing ability without draining battery (only ~5 total hours of video watching projected per year / battery)
  • Weak night time performance (the company is still deciding what type of LEDs to use / include, however, LEDs consume significantly more power, a problem with batteries)

Beyond that, wireless range could be an issue, as the demand to minimize power constrains range. Blink estimates 100' of range but acknowledges they need to do more testing in real world environments, where walls, obstructions and other wireless systems may reduce coverage.

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Compared to Google Dropcam - Worse But Cheaper

The two big advantages that Blink has over Dropcam is elimination of power cables and lower cost (Dropcam's camera cost is $150 to $200 per camera plus $10 per month minimum for recording).

However, for that premium, Dropcam offers continuous recording, ability to always access your camera for as long as you want, no worries about replacing batteries, and solid night time video.

For someone to pick Blink, they will have to be willing to sacrifice some major features and will most likely be driven by Blink's lower price.

Compared to Netgear VueZone - Same Approach, 5 Years Later

What is astounding about Blink is that it is the same basic approach that Avaak Vue (now Netgear VueZone) took 5 years ago. Vue / VueZone offers battery powered, wireless cameras with a base station. Despite $10+ million in funding, the products remains a niche and was eventually sold to Netgear.

Blink, as proposed, should deliver higher resolution (720p vs SD) and moderately lower prices than VueZone (retailing at $130 for a one camera / base station it). However, VueZone claims triple the wireless range and triple the effective battery (with 15 video hours of battery life).

Great PR Campaign

Beyond the value of the $1 million secured in the Kickstarter campaign, Blink gained a ton of mainstream attention. With over 6,000 people committing and hundreds of thousands seeing the campaign, this has quickly built the beginnings of a brand.

Equally important, it has generated lots of free press, from articles in TechCrunch to the Boston Globe, EETimes [link no longer available], GigaOm, etc.

Our favorite article though was from Brit & Co, a poster child for Silicon Valley excess, whose Blink article was titled, "Finally! An Affordable Home Monitoring System Even Renters Will Love," quite bullish for a prototype. 

Money Not Needed As VC Funding There

While Blink has a way to go in development (its own timetable for general release is 8+ months away), it has the resources to get there.

Blink's parent company is Immedia Semiconductor, a Massachusetts firm that has raised nearly $12 million in January 2014. They are using their own chip (ISI-108) to power their camera system.

Indeed, this is an interesting move itself, as Immedia is competing with its own customer base, by offering their own camera system. It remains to be seen if this represents a fundamental shift of chip manufacturers selling end user products or over exuberance in leveraging crowd funding campaigns.

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