App turns iPhone and iPad into security camera, motion detector

Presence, a new iOS app, turns old Apple devices into security cameras that people can use to monitor their homes.
(People Power)

Ever wanted to know what your dog was doing all day without having to set up a complicated video camera system?

People Power, a Palo Alto software company, has released a mobile app that can easily turn an old iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a security camera.


The company’s free app, Presence, makes it possible for users who have Wi-Fi to set up one Apple device as a video camera and another as a monitor. For instance, a dog owner could take an old iPhone, turn it into a camera and then watch the pooch on an iPad at work.

“We are breathing new life into [old devices] by turning them into a free Wi-Fi video camera,” People Power CEO Gene Wang told The Times on Thursday.

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Wang said Presence is an app perfect for users who may want to watch their pets while they’re out, watch their kids from another room or connect with elderly people who stay at home.

“A lot of people have told me that they would use this to yell at their pets -- for example, if their dog gets in the trash,” said David Moss, People Power’s chief technology officer.

The app can also come in handy if someone breaks into your home.

Users can program Presence to record a five-second video clip when motion is detected and send them an email alert. Homeowners can set multiple Apple devices to detect motion.

Wang, for example, said he used the motion-detector feature to figure out when his daughter really came home one night. He said he set up his old iPad 2 in his home’s hallway before going to sleep at midnight and woke up the next morning to an email that said motion was detected around 2:30 a.m.

“I asked her what time she got home and she said 1:30 a.m., and I’m thinking to myself ‘No, she didn’t,’ ” Wang said, laughing.

There is no limit to the number of devices that can be turned into cameras or monitors, although each device has to have the app and the device with the camera has to have the app turned on.

The company recommends connecting the devices to their wall chargers so that they don’t run out of power and stop streaming, but Moss said using old devices as plugged-in security cameras won’t run up users’ electric bills. At most, he said, users can expect to pay an extra dollar if they use their devices this way for an entire year.

“We really are creating this disruptive app that really creates an inexpensive security system,” Wang said.

The app is free, but People Power is hoping that users will go to the app’s “Market” and purchase accessories, such as device tripods and fish-eye lenses, to enhance their security system. Presence is available now from the Apple App Store, and People Power said it hopes to release an Android version of the app later this year.


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