HomeCamera enables people to securely see what’s going on at home without being an expert in geeky stuff like DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name System), NAT (Network Address Translation) and port forwarding, which are generally required for the home surveillance solutions on the market today. HomeCamera aims to be an easy-to-use home surveillance system, with any webcam, any PC, and any Internet connection; targeting the average PC user. The service is live and currently free because its in beta. Once launched it will remain free with ad-support, there will also be subscription models that add capabilities and remove the advertising. When I talk to operators about this simple proposition the common refrain is, “We thought about doing just that, we just never had the time.” HomeCamera is a spin-out from M1 (Singaporean mobile operator).
Google averages between 100k-200k relevant search terms per week on home security and monitoring, so there’s definite customer demand. The estimated number of global broadband homes with webcams in ’06 was 60m according to Logitech. IDC estimates 21m webcams will be sold in 2008 alone; average annual worldwide growth rate of 9%. More importantly to the HomeCamera proposition there were roughly 600k network cameras sold to homes in 2006. A network camera is a standalone unit that is used for surveillance not web chat. For example, D-Link has added HomeCamera support into its 2120 WiFi network camera.
The use cases include monitoring one’s home, kids, the elderly, pets, and domestic help. I also think HomeCamera provides a great example of how third party applications can use the Telco API. Take this use case as a simple example: Jim recently hired a nanny to look after his two young sons. When he’s on the road he can check-in from his mobile phone, just to make sure everything is OK. He also shares access with his parents so they can check in from their TV. The operator could expose capabilities such as Single Sign On (from Jim’s mobile phone or his parent’s STB (Set Top Box) they can access the camera directly without the hassle of entering usernames and passwords), service provisioning (Jim can set up the service for his parents, all they need to do it press the widget button on their remote), IPTV and mobile video streaming capabilities (to ensure quality delivery of video to both his mobile and parent’s TV without HomeCamera dealing with the hassle of video clients and QoS (Quality of Service)).
As discussed in the article on the Telco API, the operator could use this service either own-branded, co-branded or as a third party application. You could imagine a scenario where it’s an option on the operator’s Family Plan. The more challenging part is the business model, but as discussed in the Telco API article there are a number of options which generally will be dependent upon the customer and how the operator chooses to charge for use of its network capabilities. My recommendation is the model must be simple, common across many applications, and at this point in the commercialization of the Telco API its more important to get out there and experiment commercially (continuous beta) rather than spend time crafting complex models and agreements.