People Power turns old iOS devices into surveillance equipment

People Power's free app turns your iOS devices into surveillance equipment.

Fancy home surveillance systems may be out of your budget, but you can always turn that aging smartphone or tablet into a wireless security camera.

A new iOS app, People Power's Presence, helps you turn unused iPhone, iPods, or iPads into a makeshift security system that you can monitor remotely. You install the free app on your old device and your current smartphone, create a Presence account, and point the cameras in the direction you want to keep an eye on.

People Power demonstrated the app at the 2013 International CES, part of a prevailing theme of connected homes powered by apps. In the months between CES and the app's official launch this week, People Power added a new feature--Two-way video and audio streaming. Moss says People Power added the capability after users said being able to communicate with parents, kids, or pets in the event of an emergency was important.

There's no integrated alarm system, but the app alerts you if it detects motion at certain times so you can call the police if anything seems out of the ordinary. You can set rules so the app knows when to message you or when to turn on motion detection so you don't have to tweak settings every day.

People Power co-founder David Moss says he envisions the app being most useful for parents who want to use Presence as a visual baby monitor, pet owners, and caretakers with elderly parents. Moss says he was able to use the app to figure out that his neighbors weren't lying when they complained that his normally quiet puppy turned into a barking machine for hours on end while he was away.

People Power doesn't manufacture any hardware or accessories; instead, the app functions as a remote control for home automation. People Power is allowing other companies, such as long-time partner Monster, to build on the app's growth.

"We're trying to make an app that is extremely useful," People Power co-founder David Moss says. "What we want to do is build something that is so powerful and so easy to use. We'd love it to become pervasive. Then what we will be doing is enabling other developers, other manufacturers to add their Internet-connected products into this platform and be able to sell those products into the same target demographic of users."

The company does plan to expand beyond iOS, though. An Android version is in the works and will be released later this year.

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