Smart home on a shoestring: Perch turns your old phones into smart security cams

Can't afford the smart home of your dreams? This is a great place to start

Perch is a new home monitoring service with a tech tinkering twist. All you need to set it up is your old Android phone, a stand and Perch's app.

The free app works with any Wi-Fi connected Android device running 4.1 or higher, including smartphones, tablets and Android cameras, and can also be used with standard USB webcams on desktops. Video can be viewed on your current phone with full functionality available via Chrome.

Read more: Nest Cam vs Piper NV vs Canary

One of the most interesting features of Perch is that you can contact anyone in your house through the included video messaging features. So if your rowdy pup is making a ruckus, you can give him a verbal scolding from your connected tablet. It's like Skype for your household, with similar less than a second lag, just without having to wait for someone to answer.

The service also includes motion detection, which allows the user to set up a defined activity zone. If you told the kids they couldn't have any treats before dinner, the motion detection monitor will send you a notification if anyone goes near that coveted cookie jar.

Perch came out of Samsung's New York accelerator and it's clear that this is no standalone security cam fix. This is an 'in' to a do-it-yourself smart home. If you have connected gadgets, say, like smart lights and door locks, you can access them inside the Perch app. For instance, if you get a notification that there is motion in your activity zone, you can turn on your smart bulbs to make it seem like you are home when you're on holiday.

Essential reading: Best smart home security systems

Currently, Perch is in public beta and has some limits. For now, you can only access the service through a Chrome browser and mobile devices are limited to Android, though the company does plan to add iOS and smart TV support in the future.

One perk to enrolling in Perch's beta program is that the service provides seven days of video archive for free. Most high end security cameras like the Nest Cam charge you for this privilege. So, if you have an old Android smartphone lying around, give it a try and tell us what you think.


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