Camio turns your spare phone or tablet into Dropcam

Camio is a device-agnostic cloud service that lets you build a feature-rich home monitoring system from smartphones, tablets and webcams.

For all their out-of-the-box convenience, advanced features and constant improvements, cloud cameras such as Dropcam and Netcam HD aren't exactly the cheapest home-surveillance option. In addition to the upfront cost of the unit itself, there's usually a recurring fee for cloud storage. But what if you could get your webcam or a spare iOS or Android device to work like Dropcam?

You can do just that with Camio, a cloud-based service that transforms smartphones, tablets and PCs into smart monitoring devices, complete with live streaming, motion detection, alerts, and more. Where it truly shines, however, is in the cloud recording department and the various ways in which it allows you to access your recordings.

Unlike some competing products that indiscriminately dump the entire feed into the cloud, Camio only uploads stuff when it detects actual motion, giving it a remarkably small bandwidth footprint. According to Michael Bloch, head of product marketing at Camio, an all-day recording session typically yields no more than two to three hours' worth of video when filtered for motion, and out of that most people only find about 1 minute or so interesting.

To make things convenient for those who don't want to sift through the long-form video highlights, there's a feature called Camio Daily that delivers a 51-second clip of the most interesting bits straight to your inbox.

But come to think of it, sifting through all that footage isn't as tedious as it seems. Camio has a pretty nifty search feature, which allows you to access exactly the content you're looking for using natural language queries (e.g., "outdoor people approaching walkway").

This is probably to be expected from a company founded by an ex-Googler; Carter Maslan, formerly a director for project management at Google, started the company in 2011.

Real-time alerts are something no home-monitoring product worth its salt can forgo, and Camio is no exception. It notifies you when it detects interesting events, either via IM or push notifications. And you can also setup motion-detection zones à la Dropcam and Simplicam.

There's a free service tier that includes real-time search and alerts, as well as 30-day cloud recording for one device. But if you want to record with two or more devices, including IP cameras, the $9 per month Plus plan is what you'll need. And lest we forget, now you can even use Camio with Dropcam.

Why this matters : The ability to string together a monitoring system for your home from existing hardware makes Camio a convenient and affordable option for those who currently don't have one. Most homes are teeming with spare camera-bearing hardware these days, so why not put that to some good use? It's not a bad option for those who have an IP camera-based setup either.

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