We’ve come a long way from the days of pale beige IP webcams with wonky interfaces and limited recording times. Today’s webcams, like the Zmodo Pivot, are motion-sensing, low-light seeing, and notification-rich cylinders that hide out in secret places and store video for days at a time. In essence webcams have morphed from wonky toys to actual tools and, in the process, have gone down in price.
Zmodo is a fairly new company that makes a few clever home automation systems including the Pivot, the Greet, and the Torch Pro. The Pivot is their home security product that works much like Canary or Dropcam. It’s basically a black cylinder with a low-light camera built-in and a pivoting head that lets you move from side to side and even pan to look at a door or window when you connect special sensors. The system can record footage to the 16GB internal memory and you can access the video from anywhere in the world which means you don’t have to spend anything on monthly video hosting fees.
Best of all, at $149, this is one of the cheapest yet feature-rich webcams I’ve seen. It’s a clever solution at the right price.
The system is straightforward. You pull it out of the box, connect it your WiFi via the included app, and watch your house. It includes two door or window sensors that will make the Pivot turn towards whatever just opened which means you can have it trained on a central location until someone comes in and then have it follow that person as they enter the house. It’s a lot of fun in theory but it presumes the sort of wide vantage point available to folks with bigger houses and, presumably, front and back doors.
The quality of the video, as shown above, is solid. There is an obvious fisheye effect thanks to the wide-angle lens but that’s to be expected. Further, the night vision mode works well but can often get confused if you’re viewing a room with one light in it. The system defaults to low-light mode when there are no lights shining directly in the frame so half of the room is black and white and the other half color on some evenings. Neither of these are showstoppers. The system notifies you when it senses a door open or movement along its field of view. You can change notification settings in the app.
The best thing, however, is that the Pivot stores video right to the camera. This means that you don’t have to trust a third party with your video and you have complete control over it. The company is working on some cloud solutions but the built-in memory is great. The system also includes a Bluetooth connection so you can turn it into a Bluetooth speaker as well as temperature and humidity readings.
I’ve used a number of IP webcams over the years and they’ve improved immensely since we first installed a pan and tilt model that scared our dog when we used to activate it remotely. The Pivot is silent, usable, and offers an interesting take on video surveillance that doesn’t depend much on the cloud.
While it’s not as richly featured as Dropcam it is a nice, simple solution and the door sensors are a clever addition to the standard webcam model. It’s not absolutely perfect but it’s good enough for use in situations where you want to keep an eye on a pet while you’re home or want a notification when someone comes through the door or window.
Best of all, and I’m just spitballing here, but the Pivot looks just like the Amazon Echo so you can put the Pivot and Alexa together and have them mate, creating a family of lipstick-tube sized webcam AIs that can populate the world. That, friends, is a dream I can get behind.