Here's the problem with smart home security cameras: unless they can do significantly more than a simple motion detector, there isn't much of a point to them. In fact, they're kind of creepy!
Smart home cameras need to get smarter
Most cameras will alert you the second they see something move, but Netatmo has been doing things a little differently. Last year, it introduced an in-home camera that can identify individual faces and alert you — or not alert you — based on who it sees. And this year, Netatmo is introducing an outdoor camera that can tell the difference between people, animals, and vehicles.
Netatmo's new camera is called the Presence. It has a modern, boxy look that you'll either find sleek and sci-fi — like something that should be in Oscar Isaac's home in Ex Machina — or just boring and big. Its tall shape comes from a huge light on top of the camera. Because it's meant to be used outdoors, Presence doubles as a flood light, which can be set to automatically turn on based on what it sees. For instance, it could stay dark even when an animal walks by but then light up if a person arrives. (At night, Presence uses infrared to see when the floodlight is off.)
By doubling as a floodlight, Netatmo is able to give Presence a clear purpose and place. This thing might not look great beside your front door, but you should just be able to swap one in the next time a light goes out beside your garage.
Presence can alert you based on what it's seeing (and where that thing is seen)
Like with turning its light on and off, the Presence can send you motion alerts based on what it's seeing. If you wanted to, you could set it up just to alert you when it detects a person, since you probably aren't worried about animals breaking into your home. Alerts can also be tailored to where Presence sees something happening. A camera that has a view of the road could be set up not to send alerts for cars that pass by unless they pull into a driveway, saving you from constant false alarms. Unfortunately, Presence can't tailor its alert to specific faces like Netatmo's in-home camera can — it's an issue of clarity, the company says, since Presence won't always have a good look at someone.
You can view a live video stream from Presence any time you want, but more than likely you'll only want to check it out when something has been detected. If you don't catch an alert in time, Presence will also record and store the event; Netatmo says it should be able to hang onto about 100 recordings.
Everything is done directly on the camera
Some may see it as an issue that Presence stores its recordings locally — meaning, someone could destroy them by destroying the camera — but that also leads to one of Netatmo's biggest strengths in security cameras. Unlike other companies, Netatmo doesn't charge a monthly fee for use of its security cameras. All monitoring and storage is done on camera, so there's no need to pay a fee.
Presence is certainly starting to address some of the biggest issues with security cameras: it actually has some smarts inside of it, and it doesn't make you waste money month to month. But whether the ability to detect cars and animals outside your home is enough to push it into the realm of true usefulness is an outstanding question — cars, animals, and people are still broad categories, after all. Netatmo plans to put the camera on sale this fall; it hasn't yet announced a price.