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Critical Kit: the Nest Cam

Nest Cam Front Back Side

With Internet connectivity available just about everywhere, more and more people are buying connected home solutions for everything from monitoring their electricity usage to web-connected security systems that can be accessed when away from home. That’s exactly what the new Nest Cam is – a tiny, connected camera that uploads video to a cloud-based server for viewing on a mobile device (as well as a live feed). The latest version from Nest (a Google-owned subsidiary) takes all that was great about its Drop Cam predecessor and improves on it in almost every way. The Nest Cam costs around £159 and can be purchased in the UK on Amazon. As part of our Critical Kit series, we’ll take a quick look…

Nest Cam security camera

The new Nest Cam provides live video streaming and archived video at home or in the office, and is the first truly new product from Dropcam since it was bought buy Nest more than a year ago.

But it’s not a total reinvention – Nest has taken what was already a great product in the Dropcam Pro, adding new hardware features and a new DVR service (“Nest Aware”) and a new smartphone Nest app that allows you to access all the company’s devices in one place.

Nest Cam Video


Video quality and recording

The most noticeable improvement to the Nest Cam is full 1080p HD video, an increase from the 720p in the previous Dropcam devices. This provides much clearer video that can be streamed to any of your devices if you’re connecting over Wi-Fi. And just like its predecessor, the Nest Cam has a fairly wide 130 degree field of view.

For night viewing, there are a series of eight infrared LEDs surrounding the camera for night illumination. According to Nest, that gives more than six metres of visibility even at night:

“Eight high-powered infrared LEDs and new algorithms improve Night Vision and motion detection. Other home cameras give you a spotlight view at night, but Nest Cam lets you see the entire room. And because Nest Cam’s sensors know the difference between a flashlight and sunlight, Night Vision won’t get confused and switch to day mode every time a bright light passes in front of the camera. That can be hugely helpful if an intruder turns on a flash light, or if headlights flash across your window”.

Besides a better camera, security has been improved by adopting a 2,048 RSA key and secure communication via a 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection.


Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro
Nest Cam on the left and its predecessor, the Dropcam Pro, on the right.


In addition to video, Nest Cam features two way audio via a built-in mic and speaker. That means users could call the camera remotely and also receive a reply. Pretty handy to alert intruders that the police are about to turn up…

Interestingly, the mic will listen out for new and unfamiliar sounds. For example, it will send you an alert if there’s something unusual – such as a window smashing.

In most other ways, the Nest Cam looks strikingly similar to the Dropcam Pro, at just over 11 cm tall on its metal stand. There’s also a tripod mount that can be attached to a wall or a metal surface thanks to its magnetic base.

Nest Aware video recorder

Nest Cam AppFor anyone thinking of buying a Nest Cam, the most useful (but not cheap) add-on is the Nest Aware cloud-based video DVR (“Video History”), that stores footage for later viewing. For £8 a month, you can watch the last 10 days’ worth of video, but there is also a more expensive 30 day option (around £24). At the moment, if you buy and set up Nest Cam before 29 September 2015 you will receive a free 90-day trial of Nest Aware with Video History.

Using Nest Aware also generates highlights of any Nest Alerts that are triggered – that saves you from having to watch hours of recorded video to find anything picked up by the Nest Cam.

There are also some nifty software features such as the ability to make time lapse videos, or even stream to YouTube. You can also pinpoint special areas of the room that you want to receive notifications for, something that Nest calls Activity Zones.

Nest Protect and smart home integration

It’s all well and good having a collection of standalone smart home products, but thankfully Nest’s products can now talk to each other. For example, if Nest Protect smoke detector detects smoke, the Nest Cam will turn on and start recording. If you tell your Nest thermostat that you’re away, Nest Cam will turn on and record automatically..

The Nest app

Rather than separate apps for the company’s thermostat, cameras and smoke alarms, the company has a single Nest app that handles everything — available on both iOS and Android devices.

As the single interface for several Nest products, you can also use it to set recording and streaming times, as well as receive movement and noise detection notifications. There are several useful additions too, such as the enhance feature that allows you to focus in specific areas in the home.

The app works with Android 4 and iOS 8 or above.

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