People Power is the Silicon Valley startup behind your future smart house

| September 11, 2013

Calling all surveillance fanatics, supporters of upcycling and anyone who has ever dreamed of living in a smart house: People Power has an app that will satisfy all of you. It’s called Presence.

People Power

The Presence app from People Power.

We first wrote about the app that allows users to turn their apple devices into smartphone-controlled home security systems back in May, a month after its initial launch. Since then, Presence has been downloaded over 120,000 times in more than 150 countries at a rate of 1,000 downloads a day.

The CEO of People Power, Gene Wang, was inspired to come up with an affordable alternative to pricey home security systems after his mother’s home was broken into. Having headed other software and tech ventures, most recently Bitfone, becoming CEO of People Power was a natural step forward, and to call the Silicon Valley software developer a success might be a bit of an understatement. This year, People Power has won the TiE50 award for best startup, the CEF’s Innovations Award with Monster for their power control app and a $20,000 prize from AT&T for best energy app.

MySecuritySign recently spoke to Wang about Presence and the many hi-tech capabilities he envisions for the future. Here’s what we learned:

• The current app could be referred to as their “freemium model for home security, convenience, and energy management.” It allows users to turn their extra iOS devices into a Wi-Fi video camera (complete with basic motion detection, real-time audio and video, and the ability to take five-second video clips) and control it from their primary device—for free. All you need is a constant Wi-Fi connection, power source, and an Apple device with a working camera. Traditional security systems, by contrast, can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Users can then expand their system—whether they use it for home security, business security or child monitoring—by purchasing a variety of ad-ons including, more advanced motion detection, occupancy sensors, water leak sensors and more. An open developer platform makes these virtually limitless. “The idea is that you should be able to add anything, anything being a broad word, but you should be able to add or connect a device very easily and bring it out to Presence for immediate control,” Wang said.

People are loving it, no matter how they’ve decided to use it. So far, testimonials have turned up some surprising uses for the app. Presence has helped a small business owner catch an intruder in his warehouse, a homeowner discover which neighbor’s dog had been desecrating her lawn, and a vet keep an eye on his patients after leaving his office for the night. Wang also reports that an underfunded school in Arizona got people to donate their old devices for use in a campus-wide security system. “We think of it as a lightweight security system, but also a lifestyle app that kind of fits into whatever you’re doing very nicely,” he said.

Robots do indeed have an important place in our future. One of the most exciting elements Wang envisions for Presence is the incorporation of robots. People Power has partnered with three different hardware companies to “build a total solution.”

1. The Galileo by Motrr rotates to give panoramic views. With this robot, you can look around a room in any direction from anywhere in the world.

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Galileo by Motrr. From Kickstarter.

2. The Romo by Romotive can cruise around, letting you check on different rooms in the house or follow the dog around.

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Romo by Romotive. From Kickstarter.

3. KUBI by Revolve Robotics is a robotic stand that can hold an iPad and move it in different directions.

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KUBI from Revolve Robotics.

Eventually, People Power will provide customers with the technology to create customized smart houses. (And they’ll be much more efficient than the one in a certain 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie.) Along with Android support, the launch of an expansion of Presence called Presence Pro is slated for November. For a low, monthly price, subscribers will get two gigabytes of storage that will support more sensitive motion detection (the system will be able to tell a person from a windblown tree branch, for example), customized text and email alerts, and more. Plus, with devices like smart electric plugs and Wi-Fi radio thermostats, users will be able to control their energy consumption. And as is the case now, all of this can be done from miles away with just a few taps on the smartphone.

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Category: Surveillance, Technology