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  1. Jason Cockerham's Avatar
    If you stop and think about it, it’s actually a bit mind-blowing, and even a little disconcerting, just how many different ways there are to make your home “smarter.” Within just the past few years we’ve seen everything from Alexa to robotic kitchens and manufacturers are constantly developing new products to help us automate and protect our homes.

    Security cameras are one piece of smart home technology that is somewhat controversial. Most folks either love the idea of being able to constantly keep an eye on the house and their loved ones inside it, while others are nervous at the idea of having a camera always watching you, even if the manufacturer says it’s not always recording or storing the footage.

    Every company that makes one has their own take on it that they think offers the best features for you and SimCam is a new entrant into the market that is currently funding their first product, the SimCam, on Kickstarter. They claim to be the first to market with on-device artificial intelligence which enables some pretty cool features you can’t find in other cameras. How does that claim hold up? Let’s find out.

    **As I just mentioned, this product is currently on Kickstarter so some of the things I mention are because I am using a version of the camera and software that is not quite consumer ready.**

    Design

    Unlike robot vacuums that mostly all look the same, security cameras come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The one from SimCam has a circular base that looks like a hockey puck and the camera looks sort of like an egg sitting on top. The font face houses the camera and a couple of sensors. Around back there’s a speaker so you can actually talk to whoever is in the house. There’s also a reset button and a MicroSD card housed behind a small door. On the back of the base there’s a charging port and a port for the optional mount if you want to install your camera on a wall.

    [REVIEW] SimCam: A Good Start With Lots of Potential-img_20190304_205110.jpg
    [REVIEW] SimCam: A Good Start With Lots of Potential-img_20190304_205122.jpg

    All-in-all it’s a simple and effective design but the biggest downside is that it feels very cheap. It’s made entirely out of plastic and it honestly feels like pretty low grade plastic. There are lots of manufacturers building really high quality products out of plastic but this unfortunately isn’t one of them. There’s nothing premium about the design at all, but for the price, you can’t expect too much. I really would have liked the company to have used either a higher quality plastic, or had smaller tolerances on the build because it just feels cheap. This also means that the swivel that holds the camera up is a little weak and wouldn’t actually hold the camera at certain angles so that could be a problem. Hopefully the next generation will be a bit stronger.

    Function

    Smart cameras in your home are really designed to serve two functions. The first is to keep an eye on those inside the home such as kids or pets, and the second is to capture footage of any intruders into the home. In that sense, most cameras have the same basic functions. They can see and record pictures or videos at either specified intervals or when motion is detected. Most of them can also send instant notifications to your phone when unexpected movement is happening inside the house. The SimCam has all those basic functions as well. However, there are some things that it does a little differently and some things it promises to do down the road that could be a game changer.

    Setup

    Once you set the camera up where you want it, you download the app and connect it to your phone. As is expected, you’ll need to create an account but you actually have to use a phone number instead of an email address which I found a bit odd. Creating an account was a bit finicky for me and it took me a while to get it working. I actually had to reach out to the company to get it figured out. They recommended using an iPhone as it would work better than an Android which was a bummer. Eventually I was able to get my OnePlus 6T connected to it but it’s still not good for smart gadgets to only be able to work with iPhones in 2019. Hopefully they get that ironed out so they aren’t instantly blocking out a vast majority of customers.

    Once you do get it setup, the app displays a barcode that you hold in front of the camera that connects it to your phone and your WiFi as well. Again, this was a bit tricky for me but eventually we got it up and running.

    The App

    The smartphone app for the camera is pretty straightforward, if a bit lacking in polish at the moment. Again, there will hopefully be some updates before launch, but for right now, it feels very beta, especially if you’re on Android. If you use an iPhone it’s a little better but the Android app needs a bit of clean up.

    The apps is broken up into five tabs: Camera, Alerts, Magics (I’ll get to those in a bit), Library, and Settings. Very briefly, the camera tab is where you can click on your cameras to see their live feeds, Alerts is a list of all the alerts the camera has sent, Library is where you can view all the photos and videos you’ve recorded, and the settings are, well...the settings...go figure.

    [REVIEW] SimCam: A Good Start With Lots of Potential-screenshot_20190223-115906.png
    [REVIEW] SimCam: A Good Start With Lots of Potential-screenshot_20190223-115921.png

    The Camera

    Within the interface for the camera feed, there’s actually a lot going on. On the left side of the screen you’ll see options to take a picture, use the built-in microphone to actually talk to whoever’s in the room, and record a video. On the right there’s Object Selection and Active Zone Selection. I’ll touch more on these later. There’s also a third option that has appeared on the right side during my time using the camera but I’m not quite sure what it does.

    Attachment 299085

    Along the top of the camera feed you’ll see the live timestamp, the speeds of the data feed, the specific camera you’re viewing, a mute button that will let you hear what’s going on in the room, and even an option to switch from an SD feed to an HD feed. The HD feed never really worked for me though. It would stutter and get really slow and the picture didn’t even look that much better so I’m not sure how useful that will be.

    Back in the Camera tab, underneath each camera feed you have options to view the alerts, take the camera Private which basically just turns the camera off, turn person detection on or off, and explore the settings for that specific camera.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Truthfully there’s a lot going on here with this camera with a lot of great features that will be very useful.

    AI

    This is where things start to get a little more interesting. SimCam has built and Intel artificial intelligence system into the camera that it claims will give it some really cool features that you don’t get on other cameras. They claim this AI will eliminate false notifications because it can differentiate between things like a moving tree, a pet or animal, and a human intruder. SimCam can also recognize faces that you have setup and input into the camera and will alert you to unrecognized people in your home, such as an intruder, or even potentially a dinner guest.

    The potential for this is actually pretty awesome. SimCam claims that once you set up someone’s face, you can set it up to automatically turn on lights, fans, TVs or anything else you can connect to a smart plug. I honestly don’t know if this will work with any smart plug or only SimCam’s but they seemed to imply that it would only work with theirs for now.

    The AI also enables things like object tracking and activity zones. From within the camera feed, if you click on object tracking then you can draw a box around a specific object in view of the camera and if that object is moved, it will let you know. So if your roommate tries to borrow your laptop again, you can catch him in the act. This can also be useful to for keeping tabs on very important items in your house if you’re worried about them going missing.

    Activity zones are zones you can set up within the camera view that will alert you when there’s movement detected. For instance, you can be notified when the kids come in the front door after school, if the dog happens to sneak his way out of the bedroom.

    SimCam also says that the AI software will allow for something called first sight. Basically if you want it to, the camera can start recording a video the instant it detects a human in the frame and will send you an alert. They claim this is much faster than the standard infrared sensors on other smart cameras. The benefit of this is that the camera will be able to record up to 10 seconds of footage before a motion event is even triggered meaning you can capture every second of what happened. I’m not quite sure how all this works, but if they can make it work, that’s awesome.

    Magics

    This is probably the feature of the camera that has me the most intrigued. Due to all the fancy hardware and AI software SimCam has put into this thing, it claims that you can turn on one of these “Magics” and the camera will detect whatever you have told it to look out for. For instance, right now there are three in the app: Smile, Gesture, and Pet. This means that when the camera is set to the Smile Magic, whenever it detects someone smiling, it can take a selfie or start recording a video. The same is true for Gestures. You could set the camera to take a selfie when you wave at it. The Pet Magic will turn the camera into a Pet monitor for you. Once the feature is fully developed, you could basically have the camera alert you if your dog is doing something it’s not supposed to, like eating something off the counter.

    [REVIEW] SimCam: A Good Start With Lots of Potential-screenshot_20190223-115913.jpg

    There’s a lot of different ways this could be useful once it all makes it to prime time. The company says that the person detection is so good that the camera can tell whether the person detected is a child or an adult. This could be helpful, for instance, to notify you if your child opens the fridge or a window. The coolest part of this is that they are opening up the API to developers to do with whatever they can think of with it so the potential is virtually limitless.

    The Cloud

    It wouldn’t be camera or connected technology without talking about the cloud. My favorite thing about this camera is how they handle cloud storage, or more precisely how they don’t. This camera has the ability to store and analyze all the footage locally so there is never anything uploaded to any servers, anywhere. Any footage that is stored in your library is local to the camera itself so any saved footage you’re viewing on your phone is just footage you are accessing on the local SD card. SimCam is able to analyze the footage locally on the camera because it has the Intel hardware and AI software build into the camera itself so nothing has to get offloaded somewhere else to be analyzed. It’s all done locally and securely. This is really cool to see and I wish other companies would take note.

    Other Good Things

    There’s a few other cool things to note. The SimCam has night vision that can see up to
    50ft in the dark which is super helpful. They also claim that it’s usable outdoors with an IP65 rating but honestly I’m not sure how I would feel putting this thing out in the rain. It doesn’t seem like it would do too well but they do say it’s weather resistant so you do you. 1080p video recording is cool as is dual band WiFi. There’s also an extension cable included in the box so you don’t have to worry about where you set this thing. SimCam also includes some mounting hardware if you want to install it on a wall or ceiling.

    Other Not So Good Things.

    I found a few other things with it that weren’t that great. The company claims that you can turn the camera from within the app if you want to see a different view but I could never get it to work. No matter what I did, the only way I could move it was by physically turning it. Also, the company claims you can use the camera with Alexa and Google Assistant but I could not find anyway to get my review unit to do that. I don’t know if that’s something coming down the road but they clearly advertise it so I would assume it’s supposed to be able to do it. I just wasn’t able to find any way whatsoever to connect them up.

    By far the biggest annoyance was the freaking voice on the camera. There is a voice the audibly lets you know when the camera is connecting to the WiFi after first being plugged in, or when the settings have been changed or something to that effect. However, if you have the camera set to a Magic, every time that Magic is activated, the voice will sing out “It’s Magic, It’s Magic.” Every. Single. Time. Why in the name of all things holy the developers decided they needed to alert everyone every single time a Magic is activated is completely beyond me. When I had it set to Pet, every single time, my dog walked into the camera, that little voice sang out to let us know that magic was happening. That experience is anything but magic.Please, please, fix this.

    Final Thoughts

    Honestly, I really like what the SimCam is trying to do here. Bringing the power of AI directly onto a camera and storing the footage locally on the device are both pretty great ideas. The concept of the “Magics” is also very intriguing and I sincerely hope they can get some developers involved to come up with some fun and useful things to do with this camera.

    However, there are some fairly serious downsides that make it challenging to recommend. The cheap, plasticky construction, the lack of promised capabilities, and the annoying nature of some of the UI features make this a camera I probably wouldn’t want to spend money on.

    That being said, for around $100 there is a lot that this camera does well and the potential for what it could become with some new software updates may well be worth the price. If you’re looking for a fairly inexpensive way to add some peace of mind to your home and like the potential of what this thing could do, definitely go for it. There are a lot worse ways to spend $100.

    If you want to check out their Kickstarter campaign, head on over here. They’ve got about 10 days left in their campaign and who knows? This guy might just surprise you. There’s a whole lot of potential in this camera and a whole lot of promises coming from the company. If they can pull it off, it will be well worth the money.
    Last edited by Jason Cockerham; 03-06-2019 at 11:23 AM.
    Annie_8plus likes this.
    03-04-2019 09:01 PM
  2. Annie_8plus's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing your very thoughtful and thorough review!
    03-05-2019 07:38 AM

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