Butterfleye Is A Home Security Camera That Can Learn What Not To Record

Butterfleye is a hardware startup aiming to build a connected home security camera that avoids coming across as creepily prying.

In our over-surveilled digital times, putting an Internet-connected eye in your home could mean opening a peephole to unknown third parties. Or create a temptation for domestic spying. Which is not the definition of relationship trust, folks. Ergo security and privacy are key considerations for any startups working in such a sensitive area.

Butterfleye is tackling the privacy challenges inherent in offering to sell people a remotely controlled wireless lens by putting a processing layer on the device which it says can run analytics to intelligently detect who or what is in frame before recording and uploading any footage.

So, for instance, it could decide not to record the person who’s just walked into the room if that person actually lives in the house, for instance. Or the family pet is just being its usual, boisterous self rolling around on the living room carpet. It’s one way the team is aiming to set its connected hardware apart from existing rivals in the space — such as (the now Google-owned) Dropcam/Nest Cam.

“There is image algorithm analytics. There is audio analytics. The microphone can recognize certain sounds. For example dogs barking, kids crying. And we’re working on a glass breaking algorithm,” says Butterfleye founder and CEO Ben Nader, explaining the startup’s patent-pending ‘Activity Based Recording’ tech. “Then on the video side we have a technology like face detect, we have a technology like pets and human detect. And learning algorithms to learn ‘oh this home has a pet. And it’s normal for a pet to move around the house and not have any alerts’.”

“There have been some [other companies] who have been trying to play with this by doing some analytics in the cloud but the key value is doing the analytics at the camera level, before you’ve uploaded hours and hours of video,” he adds.

“If you need to upload all the video into the cloud to be able to tell ‘oh the living room is empty — don’t record’ you’ve already recorded. And how do you know when to wake up when something does happen?”

This on-device processing layer will allow users to customize the system to preserve the privacy of particular family members, according to Nader. It also means the device will only record selectively — capturing notable events, not everything, or even every motion — thereby minimizing the quantity of footage generated.

The user will then get a feed of specific recorded events pushed to the companion app, rather than having to wade through hours of ‘nothing to see here/family life as usual’ footage.

The non-subscription version of the service will also only save footage for a rolling 24 hours, so data retention is minimized. Although Butterfleye’s business model will also allow users to upgrade to save footage for longer: either for a week, or 30 days, if they pay an additional monthly subscription ($9.95 or $29.95 respectively). The rolling 24 hour storage is included in the price of the hardware. And up to five Butterfleye cameras can be linked with one monthly subscription. (More can be linked for slightly higher monthly fees.)

The camera does also have a real-time viewing option, whereby users can remotely log in to check out/peek in on what’s going on at home. This will switch on a light on the camera to signify to anyone in the vicinity that someone is watching.

It can also be configured to send push notifications to any other users who are registered on the account (multiple users can be supported) if their phone is in the vicinity of the camera, as another warning that someone is actively watching. (Because, y’know, an LED can easily be taped over…)

The camera also includes a thermal imaging sensor to help distinguish people vs objects, and iBeacon tech to identify users’ smartphones as a further signal to help the camera determine who is walking into frame, and whether it needs to record or return to standby. Nader notes that a face might not always be clearly in shot, so using more than one identification signifier is aimed at reducing the number of false positives (and, if correctly configured by the user, helping to preserve family members’ privacy).

Other features he flags up: the camera is wireless and battery operated, with a rechargeable battery that can apparently last two weeks on a single charge. (Assuming, presumably, that the user isn’t spending hours per day remote peeking into their living room).

On the security side, he says videos are encrypted locally on the camera prior to being uploaded. Videos are encrypted using AES 128bit encryption. They’re also using Secure Shell Protocol to secure the connection between the camera and the cloud service. (NB: they do hold an encryption key so are not offering a ‘zero access’ architecture — at least not currently.)

The camera records at full 1080p HD, and has 12 hours worth of internal storage — so it can also store clips locally if/when the Internet connection fails, syncing footage to the cloud once connectivity is restored.

“What this device does for the consumer is it gives them peace of mind,” says Nader. “You’re going out of town and you want to make sure the landlord’s coming in, or you want to make sure the gardener’s coming in… Or you want to make sure that packages got dropped off.

“My personal use-case was I’ve had multiple break ins into my garage and I couldn’t find a simple, easy to set up camera to put up there, that didn’t need a power cord plugged in, that could work reliably and was easy to set up, and you didn’t need to pay for some professional installation.”

Butterfleye is kicking off an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign today, aiming to raise $100,000 to get the product to market by December. The Butterfleye camera will retail at $249, although early Indiegogo backers can pick one up for $199.

Nader stresses the team is very far along the development road at this point — so it’s more a case of turning to crowdfunding as a way to find early adopters and garner a little feedback while they put the finishing touches to the companion apps.

The startup was founded at the end of 2013, and has been funding development thus far via angel investment — including $1 million via AngelList, led by Jason Calacanis. The total raised at this point is $1.6 million.

“With the angels’ money we were able to finish the product. Now literally we are three months away from shipping the product. The hardware is done, our contract manufacturer is all selected and finalized in Taiwan, the prototypes we have in our office are all coming from the final manufacturing so we thought now is the right time [for the crowdfunding campaign],” says Nader.

“There’s a huge value in building an early adopter community, and there are still many things — specifically on the software side, that we could get feedback from. And fix and adjust. So this crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign is a fantastic platform to build that audience for us.”