April 9, 2012

imageWhoever said 90 percent of life is showing up will be proven wrong in the next few years. We’re increasingly seeing more affordable technology that can work with Wi-Fi or cellular connections – and usually smartphone apps – to enable us to remotely control and monitor just about anything and video chat is becoming ever more feasible.

But there are certain applications for which the nearly complete removal of distance confines may have questionable utility. Take, for example, Evoz, “the baby monitor with unlimited range.” The idea of remotely monitoring a room with what is essentially a network-enabled microphone and companion app has obvious interest to those who practice espionage. However, I first saw the product on ThinkGeek, where a commenter snarked that the product was a good fit for parents’ “for when you leave your baby at home while you go to the grocery store.”

Then there’s the Viper SmartStart, which lets you unlock and start your car from afar. You won’t find any accusations of bad parenting to go along with this product; the remote range is a neat feature to have when, say, you are leaving an office building on a wintry day. Here, cellular is a real enabler, but the notion of unlimited range is again questionable. I can see the case of remotely unlocking a vehicle in case someone accidentally got locked out, but how often does one really need to be able to start one’s vehicle from across the country?

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October 2, 2009

Regular readers here and elsewhere and elsewhere know that I had high expectations of the Avaak Vue following in the tradition of products such as the Flip, Eee, Sonos, Peek and PogoPlug in simplifying and expanding the market for what has been a challenged category. It must be noted off the bat that the Vue is not intended to replace a full-scale monitoring system installed by a monitoring company such as ADT or even a DIY system strung together with IP cameras (such as the recently debuted Viaas system shown off at DEMO Fall ‘09). Rather, like so many other of these products, it is focused on secondary functionality, in this case, “checking in” on a property, people or pets for a few minutes at a time.

Previous whole-home video systems have been expensive, unwieldy and complex, partly because of the need to supply power to the batteries, but not the Avaak. Simply plug the base into your router, press the Sync button, and attach the AAAA battery-powered, golf ball-sized camera to one of the amazing tiny magnetic mounts. Then go to the Web site and enter a unique ID for your base station and you’re ready to view and record video from a browser.

It all works brilliantly. I would of course be nice of the Vue could perform the kind of self-identification magic that the PogoPlug can, but Avaak appears on its way to creating the first multi-room video streaming system that can be used by ordinary consumers. I’ll certainly have more to say about the Vue system soon.

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May 26, 2009

I had a chance to catch up yesterday with Avaak, the Demo-launched company that wil be bringing the Avaak Vue system to market later this year. One part of the company’s messaging that I hadn’t heard was the focus on its “peel and stick” cameras to encourage ad hoc webcasting.

The company acknowledged as i suspected that the first-generation Vue will be focused more on telepresence than security applications per se. That’s a bit of a strike against it as security seems to be the best justification for buying a bunch of networked webcams. Avaak also talked about social networking aspects of the system, which I think will be even more of a niche. But if it can be done securely, perhaps there’s opportunity to bring in remote relatives to a ceremony in a home and I can certainly see commercial applications. However, as PogoPlug is showing in relation to the NAS market, secondary applications (in its case, file sharing) can emerge as a viable alternative to a primary application (backup).

As to the Vue’s incredible battery life, I finally got an estimate on what the company considers to be the “typical use” that will enable a year’s worth of usage – ten minutes a day, which I think is more than fair. Some quick math, then, reveals that Vue should be able to broadcast straight for about 2.5 days from a full charge.

I also hadn’t seen any announcements from Avaak about pricing or archiving, but the news here was good overall as well. Avaak plans to include the first year of video storage (up to 2 GB) included in the purchase price. For subsequent years, the price would be an incredibly reasonable $19 per year for that amount of online storage. Avaak is also taking a smart approach to heavy users, saying it would welcome an opportunity to structure a tier of pricing to appeal to them. Overall, I remain very keen on this product and its potential to break open the market for networked cameras.

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