When Big Brother hit the airwaves back in 2000, millions of people leaped at the chance to intrude on the personal lives of 10 douchebags house guests. The show’s success, and the success of all “reality” TV shows, is based on the continued popularity and support of voyeurism. With 100% accuracy, I can say that I’ve never watched any of these shows from start to finish. Sure I popped in on occasion to see what the hubbub was about (and b/c I had a certain salaried allegiance to CBS), but the shows never really did anything for me.
Quick aside. I met Richard Hatch in an elevator right after he won the first Survivor. He looked at me as if to say, “What? You don’t want my autograph? I’m Richard Hatch!” And I reciprocated with a big smile that said “Prick.” Seriously dude. You were on an island. You lied and cheated your way to a million bucks (and later cheated on your taxes). You are not good famous. You’re stupid famous (not to be confused with stupid famous).
Reality TV has been around for a while via security cams, webcams, flip cams, phone cams, cam cams. And, these cams have been catching crazy stuff for years: ghosts, looters, nutjobs, and tragedies. With the invention of portable cameras and websites such as YouTube, Vimeo and uStream.tv the real world is constantly in our business. So how can you get in on the action? Short answer: iCam. Long answer: keep reading.
The iPhone is a great tool for helping you capture the absurd. With apps like uStream LIve Broadcaster and Knocking Live Video you can stream your business to the the masses (uStream) or b/t mobile devices (Knocking). And for those who would like to use a webcam as a security device…there’s SKJM’s $4.99 iCam iPhone/iPad app.
iCam is a remarkable app that lets users stream video w/audio from up to 4 webcams from anywhere in the world to their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch over Wifi, 3G, or Edge. And, for an extra Washington sans a copper Lincoln for the motion detection add-on, users can receive push notifications and record images when there’s movement in front of their webcam. Brilliant! Ever want to get see what’s going on when you’re not at home? Ever want to see who keeps stealing your food stash at work? Ever want to listen in on someone without them knowing? iCam can handle it all.
Setup. Configuration couldn’t be easier. First, download and install the iPhone app (iTunes link). Then, download and install the desktop app (PC or Mac). Once installed open the desktop app, select your webcam (USB, Firewire, Built-in, or IP), an audio source, enter a login/password (same for the desktop and iPhone), and (if you’ve purchased the .99 add-on which is currently free with version 1.3.1) turn on push notifications and motion detection. When you’re done click Start. The final step requires you enter the desktop login/password information into the iCam app. That’s it. Setup is so easy my mother could do it. Hi mom! Setup 5/5.
Features. The streaming video by itself is pretty cool. Being able to check in on my dogs and get alerted when they’re moving around is nice. Except when they take a dump in the living room and all I can do is watch. That sucks. But that’s rare (I swear honey). Beyond the simple watching, iCam provides other tools that make the app worthwhile. Add audio to your video, receive push notifications when motion is detected, record images and set the motion sensitivity levels…all from the app. Sharing with non-iPhoners is easy. You just send them a link to the Web version and give them your credentials (if you do share credentials you should always change them afterward for security reasons). While they won’t be able to hear anything, they will be able to see the action. The only thing you cannot do (app related) is start the camera from your iPhone. Yes, you have to manually start the desktop app to begin streaming. So what other features are missing? Personally, I can only think of one other essential feature that iCam is lacking—on-motion video recording. While it’s not a deal breaker, and the image capture feature is pretty nice, video would be so much awesomer. Features 4/5
Support. I’ve rarely had issues with the iPh or desktop app (installed on PC and Mac). When I have run into problems, I’ve either e-mailed the SKJM support team or visited their support forum. Within hours (or sometimes minutes) of posting I get a response (thanks Stefan and Jay!) See for yourself. Go to the forum and see how much interaction there is between SKJM and iCam users. Support 5/5.
Overall Rating: 14/15
What’s a review without some tips and tricks (besides shorter)? Have a look:
- Auto-start. If you’re like me, you have your computer set up to automatically download and install updates. Sometimes that means the comp will restart itself. Set your desktop app to auto-start and place a shortcut link in your startup folder, you won’t have to worry about losing your video connection for long (no Windows boot time jokes please).
- Password. If you forget your password, it’s not a big deal. Just create new login credentials on your desktop and enter those credentials into the app. No need to contact SKJM support since you are the master of your own account.
- Remote-start. On occasion I stop iCam desktop at the source. Since iCam doesn’t have a remote start option, I use the remote client LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99) which is an iPhone extension of their free LogMeIn web/desktop application. A few clicks and iCam is up and running.
- Sync. The iCam desktop app saves motion photos in a folder. Why not sync that folder across computers and to the cloud? It’s pretty easy. Choose a program like DropBox. . Create a folder for the videos. Open the iCam desktop app and select the folder you just created. Blammo! Wherever you go your images are sure to follow.
- Share. My brother and I live in different regions. We’re both nerds and like to see what the other is doing so we use agreed upon credentials to make this happen. Similarly, if your family is of the iPhone/iPad persuasion, you can enter the credentials into all the apps and share your video feeds.
- No iPhone/iPad. No Problem. If you’re reading this and you don’t have an iPhone or an iPad (I’m not really going to ask why you made it this far) you can still utilize the iCam software. Download the desktop app, configure it, and then open up the Web interface. Tadah! You’ve got iCam sans iPhone/iPad.
You don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a home/work video monitoring system. You just need an iDevice, your PC/Mac, a cheap webcam, and the iCam app. In fact, if you think my write up sucks or is biased feel free to check out JumiCam, My Webcam, and OrbLive. They’re okay, but iCam is my favorite. It’s easy, chock full of features, and the developers provide superb technical support. Just do me one favor. When you go to buy the app, be sure to tell ’em Large Marge sent ya.
Share your experiences with iCam below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.