The problem with the connected home is that it involves a lot of upkeep. Batteries need to be consistently replaced on smart thermostats, smart locks, smart door sensors, smart cameras. If they’re all connected and mobile controllable via the Internet, their power won’t last long.
You know what doesn’t drain batteries quickly? Bluetooth Low Energy. But Bluetooth LE can only send signals to mobile when the device is in range — as soon as a person leaves home, they can’t control their Bluetooth enabled smart products from their phone. That’s why the most popular connected home devices on the market rely on the Internet.
Internet draining power might not an issue for a smart thermostat like Nest or a smart surveillance camera like Dropcam, which can be equipped with batteries. But if we expand the idea of the connected home it gets a little more complicated. What if you wanted presence detection in smaller items, like smart dog tags? Light objects don’t have room for bulky batteries.
It’s clear what’s needed: one device to rule them all. A central hub for the connected devices in the home. The other products can communicate via Bluetooth LE to the hub, which is connected to the Internet and can communicate with the user’s mobile products when they’re far away. Product–>Bluetooth LE –> Hub –> Internet –> Mobile.
Dropcam‘s latest product, Dropcam Pro, launched today to position itself as that hub. On the surface, the camera seems like just an updated version of the old one. A crisper image, a bigger lens sensor, added zoom functionality, Bluetooth LE compatible.
But look a little closer. The surveillance camera company is going for world domination, and this is its first step. By adding Bluetooth LE capability to its system, Dropcam envisions that it will become that main device through which the user controls all others. It’s a strong next step for a company that prides itself on smart home surveillance, raised a $30 Series C two months ago, and now intends to scale.
CEO Greg Duffy sees the camera as the logical hub for the home. “Video is an important part of the connected home agreement, so can see what happens in your connected home as you control it from afar,” says Duffy. It’s the old age question: does a smart light turn on and off if its user can’t see it do so?
In Duffy’s perfect world, Dropcam will be the gateway drug for people’s connected home addiction. In the future, he imagines that people will add one piece at a time. First they’ll buy a Dropcam. Next they’ll get smart lights or a smart lock, a smart thermostat or smart sensors.
Look out little baby connected home companies: Dropcam is coming for you. But not all of you. The company will expand its product range through partnerships, acquisitions, and by building devices within the Dropcam brand. “We want to be good at a few things instead of mediocre at a lot of things,” Duffy says. “I have my ear to the ground for companies doing cool sensing applications.”
Will other companies get on board or agree to partnerships? It’s hard to tell at the moment. Perhaps the other smart device darlings Lockitron — the smart lock — and Nest — the smart thermostat — will decide they want to be the hubs and begin marketing themselves as such. Lockitron is Bluetooth LE enabled at the moment, although Nest is not.
The connected home is still a Wild Wild West, and the market is anyone’s game.
Duffy believes that now is the time for a functioning connected home platform. “What has made it unsuccessful in the past?” Duffy says. “We needed to ride the wave of things like mobile devices to make it happen.”
[Image via Thinkstock]