Straight talk. Here's why our camera costs $299.
We launched to general availability last week, and thanks to some great coverage, we’ve been seeing a lot of new interest in our company and our camera.
This is great news, of course! But with new interest comes new questions, the loudest of which revolve around our $299 price tag. While comparable to a few smart cameras on the market, we know it’s on the expensive side — and we’d like to talk about it.
Straight to the point: Why does the camera cost what it does? Though we can’t share a straight cost breakdown, there are two reasons. The first is that we prioritized quality, focusing on building a secure and well-made product. The second is that we made the decision to invest in specialized 3D sensing, because of what we knew it could do.
The hard facts on hardware
Here is the unembellished truth: Adding 3D capabilities to our camera roughly doubles the hardware cost of each unit. 3D sensing is still a new technology; our camera, designed for use within the home, is literally the first of its kind. We built the camera from scratch, with custom optics and a wider field of vision than existing time-of-flight cameras. And we didn’t cut any corners when building it, because it plays such a critical role in what we do (and, while we’re being honest, also partly because we’re technology purists).
So why did we elect to go this premium route, and invest in still-expensive technology?
Because 3D sensing is the future. This may sound like hyperbole or marketing spin, but think about it with us for a second. Motion detection is the current industry standard for picking up activity via cameras — and chances are, you already know it’s not very reliable. Search for “motion detector false alarms” and you’ll find entire forums of complaints and advice on how to prevent your curtains, light changes and even gusts of variable-temperature air from setting off your alarm.
3D sensing, on the other hand, brings two game-changing aspects to the table:
It’s highly accurate. It’s a newer technology, yes, but its accuracy is why it’s been the key to developing self-driving cars, for which errors can be a matter of life or death. In our case, since the camera creates a 3D map of the environment, only significant 3D movement triggers any alerts. While minimizing false security alerts is not quite as high-stakes as stopping a moving vehicle, they’re annoying enough to make people turn off alerts entirely, which leaves your home vulnerable — and negates the purpose of the camera.
It opens the door to even cooler capabilities. Because a 3D sensor measures depth, it provides more data to AI algorithms than traditional cameras, which enables computer vision techniques like differentiating between adults, children and pets. This further fine-tunes our accuracy: we can tell the system to ignore things like fluttering curtains and even your dog, because we know Fido isn’t out to steal your TV.
The 3D sensor isn’t the only component we invested in. From a Qualcomm processor for faster performance to night vision, siren and two-way microphone and speaker, we used premium parts to build a camera that we could genuinely get excited about.
The AI service price tag
Here’s another unembellished truth: 3D sensing is only as useful as what we can do with the data. The truly heavy lifting happens on the back end, under the umbrella of what we call our AI services.
Though we know nobody likes a features dump, it’s the most efficient way to go through what our AI service covers:
- 3D movement-based security alerts, as previously explained
- People and pet recognition, which is what tells adults, kids and furry friends apart (no other camera can specifically distinguish these from each other without 3D sensing, no matter what their claims)
- Daily recaps that compile all people and pet footage into a timelapse video
- Gesture recognition such as waving, kids running and pets jumping
- Facial recognition so you can watch out for new faces, and tag family members and frequent visitors
- Pings, or custom activity alerts you can set up using facial recognition, arrivals and departures and 3D sensing
- Save and share, which lets you download clips or share them online
- 30 days of video history, which is important but comparatively almost an afterthought
Some of these features work directly in conjunction with the 3D sensor; others we developed to enhance and improve the overall experience. We even built other systems that would help fully maximize the technology: once we realized that a natural language interface would allow users to easily and intuitively access complex functions, for instance, we built our own natural language processing engine from the ground up, tailored for home-specific searches and commands.
In short, our AI service is not a monitoring fee, nor is it just cloud storage. It’s what makes all these different technologies work together for a fluid user experience. A five-second interaction within the app is calling upon the collective time, effort and expertise it took to build neural networks, train and improve our deep learning models, and hone our NLP. And it’s never finished. We work on improving and adding features every day; the continual progress is what’s really included in the price tag.
A question of value
At the end of the day, value is determined by what’s important to you as a customer. While we feel pretty strongly about the various benefits Lighthouse provides, and how those benefits relate to our prices, we would never presume to make that choice for anyone.
Lighthouse may not be the right camera for you, especially if you’re looking for straightforward, no-frills motion detection and are fine with its accompanying quirks. But if you’re interested in a premium product that you can use for more than just security, which blurs the line between the pragmatic and the innovative, we hope you’ll take a chance on us. In the end, it’s a question of value — but it’s also one, if given the opportunity, we think we can answer.