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Skycam camera would harness Skype to deliver streaming video

The would-be camera -- which its co-founder is looking to crowd-fund -- connects to the Internet using Microsoft's Skype service.

For the technically adept, setting up an IP video camera is an energizing challenge; for everyone else, it's a task that they'd rather avoid.

With that in mind, Skycam founder Roger Yiu has cooked up an easy-to-set-up alternative that he hopes to fund through Indiegogo.

Skycam is a wireless video camera that connects to the Internet through Microsoft's Skype service. It allows you to monitor whatever the camera is seeing on any device that runs Skype--smartphones, tablets, laptops and such. Using Skype to serve up Skycam's video means the hardware doesn't have to use a DNS server--the method typically used by IP video cameras--to handle that. The approach not only makes Skycam easier to setup--the company says it can be done in four simple steps--but it saves you from paying monthly DNS server fees. It also makes Skycam cost competitve with its IP competitors--$99 compared to $200, not including monthly DNS costs.

Skycam features

Unlike typical surveillance cameras, Skycam supports two-way voice communication, although a plug-in speaker is needed if you want the person on the other end of the camera to hear you. That can be useful if the people you're monitoring are technically challenged.

"My grandparents don't know how to set up a computer and establish a connection and all that, but we can talk to each other with a Skype call if Skycam is installed in their house," Yiu told PCWorld.

Skycam also includes a night vision feature for monitoring a location in the dark.

People interested in setting up networks of video cameras may find another feature of Skycam attractive: On-board storage. Typical IP video cameras store their video on a digital video recorder. For consumer and small business systems, that usually limits the number of cameras that can be used on the systems to four or six. Skycam stores its video on memory cards in the cameras themselves so they aren't limited by a DVR's maximum capacity. Yiu said that an 8GB memory card can store four days of video from a Skycam captured at maximum resolution.

Yu thinks most of the interest in Skycam will come from people who want to monitor their home or business when they're away. The camera also has an appeal as a baby or dog monitor

How secure are security cameras

In recent weeks, IP cameras have been criticized for being easy to hijack by hackers. For example, researchers at Qualys found that cameras made by Foscam contained serious security weaknesses that permit hackers to gain control of the devices and alter the firmware controlling them.

Similarly, researchers at Core Security discovered flaws in the firmware for some of D-Link's IP camera products. Those flaws allow attackers to access video streams from the cameras without authorization, as well as send commands to them. (D-Link published beta patches this week.)

Yiu believes that Skycam is more secure than IP cams because it uses Skype. "If people can hack Skype, then they can hack Skycam," he said. "But Skype is a really secure service."

Asked by PCWorld about Skype's security, Microsoft replied via email that "Skype was built from the ground up with security and privacy in mind, and our product is supported by some of the world's best software developers and engineers who are both vigilant and extremely focused on making Skype as secure as possible."

Yiu is looking to raise $50,000 to get Skycam off the ground. With 27 days left to raise the money, he has taken in $3633.


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