While some companies kept the hybrid working model after the stay-at-home orders, others went back to their offices. And with employees leaving their homes more frequently, the need for house protection increased.
There are various threats that can happen when a house is left unattended, so it’s not surprising when people get security cameras after experiencing theft or a home invasion. However, as Alex Song, the Founder and CEO of AlfredCamera, states, people also use security cameras for general reassurance – whether it’s checking up on the kids, pets, or valuables left at home.
To learn more about security cameras and their benefits, Cybernews caught up with Alex Song to discuss all things security and what lies in store for a company specializing in smart security camera solutions.
Let’s go back to the very beginning of AlfredCamera. What has the journey been like?
AlfredCamera was not our first time exploring the IoT consumer market. Before Alfred, we built a range of consumer IoT products that weren't successful. The biggest lesson we learned from this period was that the rate at which we sell hardware products globally can’t meet the kind of exponential user growth we’re looking for, especially when you have to deal with the logistics of global distribution.
That’s when we stumbled on the idea of repurposing old phones in 2015. It was a crazy idea from the start, but we saw the potential in prioritizing software development over hardware. No one thought we could make it happen – who keeps their old phone? 45 million downloads later, we’re glad we took the chance.
Can you introduce us to your camera solutions? What features make AlfredCamera stand out from the crowd?
The number of smartphone users in the world today is over 6 billion, which translates to 83.72% of the world’s population. It’s this landscape that makes software surveillance solutions like AlfredCamera truly accessible for most people in the world. People don’t need to break the bank just to feel safe. Instead, they can simply download our home security app on a spare phone, turning it into a fully-functional security camera.
We’ve been able to recreate some of the most popular security camera features on a smartphone device, including AI-powered Motion Detection, Low-Light Filters (similar to night vision), Two-Way Talk, and Siren. We’re proud to have brought such technical features to people in a simple and affordable way.
In your opinion, what are the most common reasons someone might opt for a security camera?
It’s easy to understand why people would want to get a security camera after personally experiencing incidents such as thefts, break-ins, or home invasions. Even if we’re lucky enough not to have experienced these things ourselves, almost all of us know someone that has. A security camera is a means of protection that can be used as evidence after an unfortunate event when something like this happens.
However, based on internal research we conducted late last year, we found that the majority of our users turned to our solution for peace of mind in a general sense. That means they wanted a security camera to make sure that everything is fine when they’re away from home, whether that’s to watch over their pets, children, or valuables. For many users, AlfredCamera is put to use for a fairly broad combination of things.
How did the pandemic affect your industry? Did you add any new features as a result?
At the peak of the pandemic, the global lockdown measures had a huge impact on our business. We saw our active users (DAUs) drop by around 10-20%. The United States was among the most affected regions. As people were at home constantly, there was less need for surveillance. But as the pandemic started winding down and parts of the population began to return to the office, things improved.
On the other hand, the pandemic pet adoption boom opened up another avenue for AlfredCamera. Up until then, AlfredCamera was mostly associated with home security. While the majority of US consumers still use AlfredCamera for monitoring their homes and property, we’ve certainly seen growth in other areas, not least of all in pet monitoring.
Since security cameras and other physical security solutions are becoming more commonplace, have you noticed any new techniques that threat actors started using in order to bypass or take advantage of these technologies?
Recent cases of cloud security cameras being hacked have shed light on cybersecurity concerns, urging more companies to take precautions to protect user privacy. Weak or repeated passwords remain a key way for hackers to gain access. From a software perspective, AlfredCamera is built on powerful, stable operating systems that use the latest high-level end-to-end encryption methods, combining cloud service and open source elements to deliver the most secure user experience.
With that in mind, we also devote extensive research into finding future solutions. In particular, the use of blockchain technology may prove to be the most thorough way to protect user data because it is decentralized, encrypted, and cross-checked. Though it is still a budding technology, we are currently exploring how this could be used in the context of security cameras.
What predictions do you have for the future of technology in the public safety field?
With more powerful consumer technologies now so much more accessible, we often see the term ‘smart home’ used to describe IoT-based hardware. These products are designed to make home life simpler and more ergonomic. But we have far higher expectations of smart homes which simply can’t be met right now. Our vision for smart homes remains well ahead of its time.
Smart homes are still in their infancy, and, as such, are still largely associated with luxury. Not to mention, artificial intelligence is simply not ready for what we desire to build, which is a home that actually understands the needs and behaviors of the people dwelling in it. We anticipate that within the next five years, the technology will have caught up, and a huge amount of the population will start to incorporate more advanced IoT products into their homes. The market will skyrocket, and, hopefully, diversify.
As more surveillance measures are being implemented, concerns around privacy protection have started to arise. What do you think these worries are based on?
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen all sorts of worrying headlines relating to privacy protection, data sharing, and surveillance. As people gain a greater understanding of how companies actually store and use their personal data, they have a greater expectation around privacy protection – and rightfully so.
As a security solutions provider, we obviously take this very seriously. AlfredCamera is equipped with the most advanced, decentralized cybersecurity mechanisms; these are hybrid peer-to-peer cybersecurity services and first-tier cloud services provided by industry leaders.
AlfredCamera has no access to users’ login credentials. Should users wish to delete their account, all their data can be erased along with it. Although the option for single sign-on with existing accounts is a feature of the app, we recognize that some users may have issues regarding the respective privacy practices of these companies. Hence, we allow users to create an account with AlfredCamera through an email address.
What security solutions do you think everyone should implement to secure not only their house but also their home network?
There are a number of simple ways people can begin to better secure their home network. Firstly, it's wise to avoid using old or free wifi routers provided by a carrier. Regular software and hardware upgrades across the board are needed to stay up to date with ever-improving security technologies.
When your Internet speed is fast and your connection is stable, it’s easy to forget about upgrades; try to replace your hardware and firmware as frequently as possible. After all, it can be difficult for most of us to identify potential threats on our own devices, so regular updates and upgrades are a good way to stay on top of your network security. Adopting newer protocols like WPA3 effectively enhances cybersecurity and makes it less likely to be breached.
Would you like to share what’s next for AlfredCamera?
AlfredCamera’s goal is to become the most accessible and most used home security service. As our users’ security needs evolve, so do our products. We will be launching a hardware camera product to provide more options for advanced, affordable security. Diversifying our product line will help us to further realize our goal.
As we identify more clearly the great variety of different usage scenarios our products are being used for, including home security, baby monitoring, and pet monitoring, we will continue to refine our security solutions via both hardware and software. We’re really excited and optimistic about the future of IoT products and applications.