Set up an iOS-powered spycam with Presence

Presence is a new iOS app from People Power. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store. An Android version is reportedly on the way.

Presence is a simple but sensible idea: it turns iOS devices into remotely-viewable security cameras with motion detection capabilities, making it an ideal solution for those who are accumulating past generations of Apple devices with each new iteration and have little use for the old ones.

Setting up Presence is very simple, and requires only that the user create an account using their email address and a custom password — no further information is required. Once an account has been created, other devices may be signed in to the same account and used either as a camera or a monitor. Once a camera has been set up, it must be left turned on (and preferably plugged in to the power), at which point it will constantly stream its video and audio to any devices monitoring its output. The screen of the device being used as the camera will display what it sees and will also display a message when another device is monitoring it, but an optional “sleep” mode switches off the display without turning off the device and interrupting the streaming. This allows the camera to be more easily concealed if necessary, and also saves energy.

The app features motion-detection capabilities, which allows the camera to be used as a security system even when away from home and not actively monitoring it. If the camera device is switched into motion-tracking mode and the user has indicated that they are not at home using the monitor app, they will receive an email with a five-second .MOV format movie file attached any time motion is detected — but in case there is a large amount of motion (or on-screen movement interpreted as motion) there is a short delay before another notification is sent. When tested, the motion detection did indeed seem to work well for the most part — but also occasionally incorrectly detected the camera adjusting its focus as motion. Users may also set up “rules” to determine at what times of day motion detection should be automatically activated, allowing the app to be used as a home security camera even while the users are at home if required.

The app also features a two-way conversation mode, allowing the monitor device to switch on a stream from itself at any point and communicate with the remote camera. There are a variety of possible uses for this — some users have cited it as being particularly useful when using the app as a pet monitor and they see their pet doing something it shouldn’t!

The app itself does not feature any explicit monetization, either in the form of advertising or in-app purchases, but it does carry a link to a “marketplace” where various accessories suitable for using with the app (such as tripods and wall mounts) may be purchased. Most of these accessories are sold via Amazon — it’s not clear from within the app, but it’s probably reasonable to assume that People Power are making use of referral links to these products so they benefit in a small way from users’ purchases.

On the whole, Presence is a good, simple app that provides an excellent use for old, redundant pieces of technology that the user might have lying around their home. While a few aspects could use a little tweaking and optimization — most notably the slightly-inconsistent motion detection capabilities — it’s a solid solution for those interested in improvised security setups, and since it’s free there’s certainly no risk in trying it out.

You can follow Presence’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.