How This Ex-Googler Is Reinventing the Way Security Cameras Work
Carter Maslan’s idea for a smart security-cam app came about after he spent four-plus years at Google. As director of product management working on the Google Street View project, he learned through usability tests that people wanted the ability to access real-time video and search footage for noteworthy events.
“From the beginning, the idea was to make video smart and super-responsive,” he says. The result was an app called Camio. “We like to think of it as an ad hoc security camera that gives you exactly what you want.”
What distinguishes Camio from a basic webcam is that the app, which works with images gathered via a smartphone camera, leverages proprietary algorithms to be selective about what it uploads to its cloud-based storage. According to Maslan, the algorithms can differentiate between “ordinary” events (such as lighting changes) and “extraordinary” events (such as a rock thrown through a window).
Camio’s algorithms can also analyze footage to detect humans; users can then search archived video by keywords. Earlier this spring, the San Francisco Bay Area company unveiled Camio Daily, an email digest of still shots that the algorithms predict customers will find most interesting.
Maslan says that by reducing the total amount of data uploaded and stored, Camio can use significantly less bandwidth than a traditional webcam. He adds that because the service encrypts its video, all footage is safe behind a password-protected login.
“We see this as a different spin on the Internet of Things,” he says, referring to the trend to connect everyday devices to the internet and equip them with sensors to collect data. “Instead of giving you every possible second of footage, we’re giving you only the stuff you might actually use, and we’re giving it to you in a way that puts you in charge of how you might use it.”
Maslan has been developing the technology since he left Google in June 2011. Over the next 18 months, he kicked in $240,000 of his own cash to keep the project rolling. By 2013, a number of former Google colleagues came onboard as angel investors. Last year, Maslan closed a $1.6 million seed round led by Freestyle Capital, which helped him bring the app to market and his staff up to 12.
So far, the majority of Camio customers are individual users—dog owners, nanny employers, even moms and dads who want to keep an eye on sleeping babies. But Maslan says small and midsize businesses represent a growing segment of the customer base. And why not? The first smartphone setup is free (additional setups start at $9 per phone per month), and Camio stores 30 days’ worth of searchable video in the cloud.
That’s what got Maura Joyce, office manager for a dental practice in San Francisco, to try it. In April she spent $49 on an Android smartphone, downloaded Camio, then set up the device to monitor a back stairway at the office, 24/7. She figures that compared to installing a dedicated security-cam system, Camio’s repurposed smartphone will save hundreds of dollars per year.
“We have formal security on the doors and windows, but we wanted to add this for cheap,” she says. “Price and the fact that the system automatically alerts you when something happens were the two main reasons we decided to move in this direction.”