This one goes out to lovers of personal tech devices—and heartwarming pet stories. (You know who you are.) This past weekend, a troubling thing happened: Our family's indoor/outdoor cat of more than 12 years didn't return from one of his afternoon sojourns. To make matters worse, we were leaving for an overnight trip and had no choice but to hit the road while Henry's whereabouts were still unknown. But just as we were about to head out the door, I had a revelation: This was a job for Dropcam.
Now, a lot of devices claim to be plug and play, but within literally five minutes I had the Dropcam HD Wi-Fi video monitoring camera out of the box, hooked up to my network, and wirelessly sending a feed of my kitchen (and the window Henry uses to get in and out) straight to my iPhone. With the camera up and running, we left town knowing we could keep an eye out for him from afar.
And it didn't take long. In the car, barely 15 miles out of town, my wife grabbed the phone to check the view—over 3G, no less. There was no sign of the 15-pound tabby, but there was a crystal clear live shot of our refrigerator. And if you turned up the volume on the phone, even the hum of the appliances was audible. (There's also a function that allows you to talk remotely through a speaker in the device, so we said "Here, kitty kitty" a few times into the phone, but quickly realized that was just weird.) Throughout the weekend there were numerous peeks at the feed, including glances at my home page on the Dropcam website, where you can view your cam when you don't have access to a phone.
Though staring at the Dropcam feed is moderately interesting at first, it can also feel a lot like watching paint dry. Fortunately, there is a motion-detection function that automatically saves footage to the Dropcam servers if anything changes in the camera's view. One archived "event" overnight (Dropcam has night vision!) turned out to be nothing more than a bug flittering in front of the camera. (Note to self: Replace broken window screens.) And while staking out our kitchen was helpful, it's just one of several uses for Dropcam—which would undoubtedly make a great baby monitor, security camera, or even a pet cam (provided your pet is actually around).
I'd like to say that thanks to Dropcam, we saw Henry's head in the window at some point and were able to breathe easier, but that never happened. We later discovered that the cat got stuck in a neighbor's house that was being renovated and was trapped there for nearly 60 hours until I walked by and, on a hunch, asked a workman if I could poke around. If Dropcam had still been aimed at the window, it might have spied me in the distance, carrying a scared, lost cat back to safety. See—I told you it would be heartwarming.
—Greg Emmanuel (@gemmanuel), articles editor at Details