Dropcam Activity Regions Feature Allows Users To Set Custom Alerts
May 7, 2014

Dropcam Activity Regions Feature Allows Users To Set Custom Alerts

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Security camera maker Dropcam continues to add new features to its Wi-Fi-based cameras. A new feature, custom activity regions, lets users define areas within the camera's view to set alerts, according to the company's blog.

With customizable alerts users can select and label specific areas in a camera's view. This might be an activity such as a person accessing a shelf or the dog jumping on the furniture. Dropcam has worked out new ways to detect motion, as well as specific activities.

"Traditional approaches to motion detection work by detecting differences between video frames. This can lead to false events, where shadows, light reflections or other unimportant changes can trigger a detection. While it may seem simple enough to reduce unwanted alerts by setting a region of interest, many of these unwanted lighting changes can still enter into those regions," wrote Jason Laska, on the Dropcam blog.

"In order to make activity regions work like you’d expect, we had to refine our motion system further. When you look at a video, your brain is doing something much more complex. It is tracking moving objects and ignoring things like shadows or reflections. You can probably do this without even thinking about it — but for computers it’s an incredibly difficult task. To enable something like activity regions, we had to figure out a way to teach Dropcam how to track objects," Laska wrote.

Users can set up alerts, such as text messages or an email sent, when an activity zone is triggered. Dropcam expects to make the feature available sometime over the summer. The new feature will come in a software update and will be available for all Dropcam units, Mashable reports.

"Since the detection uses Dropcam's cloud software, the new feature is coming to all Dropcam devices. So even if you have an older Dropcam HD or the new Dropcam Pro, you'll get support for the feature," wrote Mashable's Christina Warren.

Dropcam also discussed its upcoming product, Dropcam Tabs and people detection, in a blog.

Revealed on TechCrunch Disrupt, Dropcam Tabs are a wireless movement sensor for Dropcam Pro. The tabs use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and can be placed on doors or windows, among other locations, to detect when the door or window is opened. Dropcam also suggests Tabs can be used on valuables, to sense when an expensive object such as fine china, or an HDTV, are moved.

Dropcam also announced people detection, which is part of the custom activity regions feature. The new feature helps determine the difference between shadows, a person, and a pet in the camera's view. The Dropcam can be programmed to send alerts, though certain alerts will be set at premium levels.

"Although basic alerts are free for all users, Dropcam is adding a new feature called people detection for its Cloud Recording subscribers, which Duffy says is about 40 percent of its users. According to Duffy, people detection is one of the service's most-requested features," wrote Warren.

People detection and custom activity region alerts remain somewhat limited in that they cannot identify particular individuals -- though Dropcam said it is working on enhancing its features to be able to identify individuals. In the future, Dropcam units might be able to identify children when they come home from school.