For two years now, I’ve used the Presence app on our family iPhones as a home security system. It’s awesome: We took two old iPhone 4 models we had lying around, connected them to the Presence app on our current phones, and instantly used their cameras as live security monitors for the house when we’re away. It plays live sound, it’s reliable and fast, makes recordings if we want, and is simple to set up. Plus it’s absolutely free! Really, it’s biggest drawback is that those old iPhones need to be plugged into the wall, so that they don’t run out of juice after 10 hours or so. Which also means you’re kind of limited in where you place them, unless you want extension cords running everywhere.
But I think I may have found something I like even better. Blink is a new wire-free home security monitor system that operates on a similar premise. But the set-up is different. And while it costs money, it’s relatively not too much. You buy a tiny hub that plugs into the well — it’s a square plastic block that weighs next to nothing, and is maybe 2” x 2”, and about ½” thick. You also choose the number of cameras you want — each camera is roughly the same size and weight as the hub, but does not need to be plugged into the wall. And therein lies the beauty. Each camera runs on two AA batteries that last a year. And it comes with a snap-on hinge that can be screw mounted to a wall or taped (adhesive patch is included) to a picture frame, window, cabinet, kitchen wall tile, fridge door, wherever. The hinge can be rotated in several directions, allowing you to get the perfect camera angle. And it’s all completely inconspicuous.
The app works very similar to the Presence app, allowing you to easily select (and label) a camera, watch live high-definition feeds, take photos, listen in, and even record clips that it currently stores on the cloud but in the future will be stored right on the camera. In fact, there’s a micro-USB port on the camera, but officials say that’s not yet active. It also has a motion sensor that kicks in, activating the record function. Plus, whenever that motion sensor is activated, the app sends you a phone alert and video, to show you immediately that there’s activity in your home. Yet it’s smart enough to detect pets, so it’s not always kicking into that mode. I tested it, and it works amazingly well.
What I also like about the system is that you can set it to a night vision mode remotely, so that if you want to check your house out in the dark from miles away, you just log in and can turn on an illuminator to instantly see what’s going on. It shows up nice and bright on your iPhone.
There are no subscription fees or contracts. The hub and one camera will set you back $99, but you can also start with more cameras — five of them plus the hub goes for $299. Any camera you add later is $60 apiece. For a system this reliable and easy to use, that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.